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Posted: April 24, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Discerning the essence of Christianity

"My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world," (1 John 4:1, The Message).

"Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character," (Matthew 7:15, The Message).

These are but two of the myriad of passages that bring an important reminder and stern warning to us: not everyone who comes in the name of Christ belongs to or is speaking for Christ. As a pastor I am constantly amazed at how undiscerning this generation has become. Over and over again I hear people proclaiming to be Christian yet at the same time they deny the very essence of the faith. They view Christianity as simply another religion aimed at making us moral people, and as a result they tend to accept the moral teachings of Jesus while jettisoning His basic claims. C. S. Lewis puts it best when he writes, "Jesus told people that their sins were forgiven. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin… I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to," (Martindale and Root, Editors, "The Quotable Lewis," Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1989 p. 340).

I was listening to the radio this morning, and we were being warned about some pending legislation that will greatly hinder the proclamation of truth to protect the feelings of a select group. In my e-mail last week I received three different letters from three different sources informing me of a memo sent out to law enforcement agencies by the Department of Homeland Security identifying people of the pro-life movement as "the greatest form of domestic terrorism in our country." (That’s another article for another time). On and on the list goes.

This growing trend in our society has many professed believers wringing their hands in worry. Certainly these are things we should be concerned about, but in my opinion the greatest threat to the faith today is not the persecution that comes from outside the church but the compromise that comes from within. By and large I find very few professing believers who are discerning in any sense of the word; we don’t know what we believe or even how to think it seems.

The old saying, "If you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for anything," seems to mark the church today. We don’t know what we believe anymore, let alone why we believe it. I heard one good Baptist church member comment recently, "God, Allah, they’re really the same you know. Jesus and Mohammad, they are just different names for the same person." Wow. Excuse me, but how ignorant can one get? This person obviously has no clue either of the faith she claims to follow or of world religions in general. Sadly such thinking is rampant not only in our pews but being proclaimed from several pulpits as well. It’s no wonder the church is floundering.

It’s time we wake up and smell the coffee. Those of you who claim to be Christian, let me challenge you to discover what that really means. 2 Corinthians 13:5 is an interesting verse and challenge to all of us who claim to be Christian. "Check up on yourselves. Are you really Christians? Do you pass the test? Do you feel Christ’s presence and power more and more within you? Or are you just pretending to be Christians when actually you aren’t at all?" (2 Corinthians 13:5, The Living Bible). Christianity is not about the moral teachings of Jesus. Christianity is about the person of Jesus — who he is and what he accomplished. Don’t fool yourselves, you cannot be a true Christian if you deny the deity and claims of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, Ga. He can be heard on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights. For more information visit the www.gatewaycommunity.org

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