Tuesday, April 15, 2014

American Christianity

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. ~ Luke 9:23

We were American Christians.

The "Christianity" I was born into looked like this; 23 Easter's of baskets of chocolates, coloring eggs, hunting for candy eggs and plastic ones with money in them and as I grew older, champagne brunch. In fact when I got married at 29 I was still looking at "Easter" baskets when Spring rolled around and gravitating towards them like some strange tractor beam had locked on me.

Then there was Christmas, 23 of those also.  Memories of a fat man with a fake beard in a red suit and a tree that literally had gifts that stretched out 12 feet for 180 degrees.  Vivid memories of food and family and ingrates within my family who complained with body language or verbally that they wanted more, something better, as if what they received was not enough.  If there was a mirror, I would have seen myself too. You see, we were American Christians.

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
             and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3–4

Yet, not one, not a single one, no, not a solitary memory of my ears ever hearing the name Jesus Christ.  Did I mention there was not once I ever heard the name of Jesus Christ?  You see we were American Christians.

Not only had I never heard the name Jesus Christ in my 18 years at home or the following 5 years coming home for the "holidays" except as a curse word, but I only went to church once, when at about 13, my dear aunt lovingly took me to a foreign place that taught a spooky false gospel.

Because you know, there was no need to actually worship or dare go further and follow Jesus because my mother covered that for us by singing in the choir when she was eight.  Even more safety was provided because my grandmother did the same as an eight year old.  That's it!  That's all it took and we were good, we were in.  So my mother was taught.  You see, we were American Christians.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven... ~ Matthew 7:21a

My dad?  He was raised a good Irish Catholic, being a Celtic mutt, in New England.  He, along with the rest of my Celtic kin, could drink some beer with the best of 'em and still be ok because he never killed anyone and he worked hard to provide for our family, never stole.....well except for that good natured fun with my uncle and younger brother when we helped ourselves to a few avocados in the rolling hills of Fallbrook. Despite being somewhere near 7-13 years old, neither my brother nor I can ever forget that shotgun and the yells as we hurried away to the safety of dad's getaway vehicle.  But no worries, you see, we were American Christians.

but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. ~ Matthew 7:21b

So Easter and Christmas were quite alike, they were all about us, all about me.  After all, we were American Christians.

But then one day this kid, while thriving in his sin and enjoying his mockery, was knocked off his horse and thrown to the dirt.  This Jesus who he was intrigued by, by of all things, a wicked and depraved rock band, suddenly became reality and the greatest threat to his life he'd ever experienced.  (Funny how God used that wretched band to prompt him into a bookstore to buy a bible and sneak away before someone caught him.) A very real horror of the weight of his sins was like the burden of carrying an elephant placed upon his weak, frail frame.  Those crazy religious zealots that were his neighbors 8 years earlier were strangely looking quite sane.  All the "tomorrows" had disappeared and it was time, God's time, to bow his knee and call Him Lord.

You see, it was necessary because after all, he was an American Christian.

Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not______ and _______? (Matthew 7:22)

Pick your good deed.  It doesn't have to be prophecy or miracles or casting out demons.  It can be helping granny across the street, being nice to your sister, giving money to MS.  It might be going to church on Easter or Christmas.  It might be saying a prayer for someone who is sick.  But know this, that without holiness you nor I nor great-grandma Jean will see the Lord.  Why?

Because without faith it is impossible to please God.  Because your sins, yes you are a sinner, your sins will keep you out of heaven.  Because the wages of sin is death, spiritual death.  Because you must confess those sins.  Because you must forsake those sins.  Because you must follow Christ.

for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he is guilty of all. ~ James 2:10

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23

the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23

That was mine, that is your condition, before saving grace.  The problem is my sin and your sin keeps us separated from God only to be brought near by the blood of Christ, the blood of His cross.  That is the bad news and the good news.  The gospel.  What must be done is to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15) and trust fully in His work on Calvary.

Foul!  Foul?  The cries come forth from many at such a thought.  How dare you classify my life as Christless, Godless, as one damned and going to hell!  Because after all, we're American Christians.

He must increase!

~ Kevin

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