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Christianity:  Reality or Bogus Religion?

by David A. DePra

     Where did Christianity come from?  Is it the creation of religious
people, two to three hundred years after Jesus lived?  Is it merely a  
"belief system" -- another list of teachings people have contrived to
try to appease their insecurities?  Is Christian a bogus religion, or
is it exactly what it claims to be:  A relationship with God through
Jesus Christ?
     First of all, if this were merely a matter of a philosophical argument,
then who cares?  But we are here talking about something that you and
I cannot afford to be wrong about.  If Christianity is the Truth, and I
reject it, where does it leave me?  I had better make sure I'm right
before I allow the mentality of this age to lead me to reject the name
of Jesus Christ as the only one under heaven by which I can be saved.
     Today Christianity has been redefined.  It has been redefined
according to a "politically correct" world, and the cynic's mentality.
As the Bible predicted, many have fallen away.  But the ironic thing
about this is that those who have fallen away, and those who reject
Christianity, usually do so -- not because they understand Christianity.
They reject it without understanding it, or worse, because they
misunderstand it.
     This, in large part, is the church's fault.  The church itself does not
generally teach the Truth of Christianity.  We teach a religion we have
called "Christianity."  It carries many of the correct Biblical terms.  It
has lots of the right teachings.  But somehow there is something
missing.  Or perhaps better said:  There is SOMEONE missing.  Where
is Jesus Christ in many of our churches today?
     Oh, Jesus' name is used in churches.  But is He really the focus and
the center of our churches?  Is HIS will our single desire?  In a way that
we are willing to pay a price for?  Do we see changed lives in our
churches, or merely changed religious practices?
     In the final analysis, there are only two options here:  Either
Christianity, as defined in the Bible, is the Truth of God, or it is NOT.
And the claims made by Jesus Christ limit us to just those two options.
For He did not say, "I am a Way to God."  He said, "I am THE Way, and
THE Truth, and THE Life."  It's time we decided whether He was a liar,
a mad-man, or exactly who He claimed to be:  God in the flesh.

The Early Church

     If we go back to the beginning of Christianity, we begin to
understand exactly what it was.  We see that rather than merely a
religion, it was a relationship with a PERSON.  Christianity was a
new birth and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

     The disciples of Jesus spent three and one-half years with Him.

They were the beneficiaries of much teaching, and were privileged

to witness many miracles. Then Jesus was crucified. But three

days later, He was raised from the dead. They saw Him. In fact,

they were so sure of what they had witnessed, that most of them

died testifying to the fact.

     These disciples, however, did not at first grasp the real meaning

of all these tremendous things. In fact, as Jesus was about to

ascend to heaven, they continued to be confused and somewhat

downtrodden. They had followed Jesus expecting to be part of a

soon-coming kingdom. But now every dream they had about this

kingdom of God seemed to be slipping away -- just as Jesus

Himself was about to physically leave them.

     Picture it. At least 120 disciples huddled around the risen Christ

on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. Do we actually think

they had any idea what was about to happen? That Jesus would

be bodily carried up and out of their sight? No. They were probably

wondering what they were doing there that day. Perhaps they knew

something was about to happen, but did not know what.

     But they did have to ask one final question. In what almost

seems like a final plea to try to salvage this kingdom which was

slipping away, they asked Jesus, "Will you, at this time, restore the

kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)

     Now there IS something new in this question. Before, they had

assumed that Jesus was going to establish the kingdom in their

lifetime. But now there was doubt. In fact, an openness. They used

the words, "at this time." It shows that they had now made room for

the fact that the kingdom might not happen right away at all.

     And, of course, it was NOT to be restored "at this time." Jesus

did not, however, leave them without direction. He told them that, no,

it was not for them to know when the physical kingdom would be

restored. But He did tell them "that they should not depart from

Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said He,

you have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water, but you

shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."

(Acts 1:4-5)

     Jesus then ascended to heaven. Thus, in a matter of 6 weeks,

the disciples had seen Jesus brutally crucified, and then raised

from the dead. They had witnessed Him for forty days after that

resurrection, and been taught by Him as before. And now, before

their very eyes, they saw Him taken up to heaven. This is a lot to

ask these disciples to grasp. It is a lot to ask anyone to grasp. And

the incredible part is, things were just getting started.

Wait For the Promise

     Some critics deny the resurrection altogether, and attribute the

disciple's account of it to a conspiracy. Of course, these critics

have never been able to explain why each of the apostles was

willing to die for what they said happened. In that day and age,

remember, Jesus was not yet "big business." So the only thing

you had to gain by preaching Christ was execution. This takes

away the motive for conspiracy. It doesn't make any sense at all.

     Another thing which points away from conspiracy is that in the

Biblical accounts of the resurrection, not one person is said to have

seen Jesus walk out of the tomb. Many saw Him alive after He

walked out. But no one was there, saw the stone roll away, and

witnessed Jesus Christ's resurrection first hand. Rather than cast

doubt on the accounts, this serves to verify them. If you were

conspiring to fabricate a resurrection, why not say you saw it

happen first hand. But no. All they saw was the empty tomb, and

then later, the risen Christ appeared to them. Not the stuff of which

conspiracies are made.

     The list could go on. Women being the first witnesses of the

resurrection. Unthinkable that in that culture that the story would be

fabricated to tell it that way. Woman were not considered reliable

witnesses in that day. And of course, the fact that there exists not a

single record anywhere that suggests that even one of the disciples

recanted his story -- despite the fact that they all died alone, apart

from each other.

     Some critics, when faced with this evidence, revert to the "mass

hysteria theory." All of these folks simply hallucinated. They could

not give up Jesus, so they had to resurrect Him and keep the ball

rolling in the form of a religion centered around Him.

     The trouble with this theory is that all of these disciples would not

only have to imagine that Jesus was resurrected, but would have to

keep imagining it for 6 weeks. But worse, then they would have had

to have imagined his ASCENSION. They would have had to have

imagined this collectively in such a convincing way that they were

then willing to dedicate their lives to it and then die for it. Does that

seem likely? Does it seem likely that they would imagine a risen

Christ, and then imagine Christ ascended? Imagined it to the point

where the rest of their lives were spent preaching Him? All of them?

     Someone could point to various events today where people get

caught up in imaginary miracles. But this is not the same thing. First

of all, today if you say you saw the virgin Mary's face in the sky, you

may get another thousand people to see it too. But no one is going

to arrest you for it. You won't be put to death for it. A threat like that

hanging over your head sobers you up in a hurry. Such threats do

not exist today.

     The fact of the matter is, these disciples had just seen Jesus

Christ arrested and crucified. To suggest that they would conspire

to continue His message is nonsense. There was NOTHING to

gain from doing so except the same fate -- which IS what happened.

     Have you ever considered that the REASON God allowed these

disciples to suffer such a fate is because He wanted it to stand as

a witness to their testimony? And to suggest that these disciples

were a victim of mass hysteria is a big cop-out -- for reasons already

mentioned. People will go to any length to deny that what these

disciples witnessed was REAL.

     So these disciples, probably exhausted emotionally, and still

in fear for their lives, huddled in an obscure upper room in the city

of Jerusalem, not far from the tomb, and not far from the site of the

crucifixion. They had been told to go there and wait. They likely

did not know what they were waiting for. You can almost hear them

asking, "The promise of the Father? What is that? How is it going

to come? And how will we know what to do when it does?"

     Yet despite the uncertainty which gripped them, there does seem

to be a renewed vigor among the disciples. They met together and

prayed. They even replaced Judas. If nothing else, this shows that

they were expecting SOMETHING. It shows that they did believe

Jesus and were waiting and expecting.

     Even this much is a lesson for us. Perhaps we know God is doing

something in our lives. But we don't know WHAT He is doing. Can

we wait in the "upper room" for the "promise of the Father?" If we do,

we may find that what God wants to do was fully outside of our frame

of reference. Something we will only understand when it happens.

Something we could not have anticipated.

     Don't think of this only in physical terms. Spiritually it is so. There

is much more to Jesus Christ than our present perspective of Him.

Perhaps God wants to reveal something of Himself to us that we

could not have imagined. The upper room is where He does this.

If we will wait for His promise.


     What happened on that Pentecost day could not have been

anticipated by any of the disciples. Not by the smartest of them.

Not by Peter, James, or John. This had never happened before.

There had never been anything like it.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with

one accord in one place. And suddenly, there came a sound from

heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where

they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues

like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled

with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the

Spirit gave them utterance.

     Today, in those churches and groups which practice tongues,

most of us learn "how to speak in tongues" by watching other

people do it. In some cases, people even teach others "how to

speak in tongues." But in the disciples case, they had no one to

show them how. In fact, they were completely free of any notions

of how to act when the Holy Spirit came upon them. In effect, what

happened here was totally spontaneous and fresh.

     Notice what I'm saying: What we find here in Acts 2 is a

description of what happened when the Holy Spirit baptized men.

It was not rehearsed. No one saw it happen on television, and

then said, "We need that in our church." No one had been to a

healing service, or a miracle rally. No one had any pre-conceived

ideas about how they were supposed to act. What happened here

simply happened.

     What this should say to us is this: The Holy Spirit does not need

our help. If He baptizes people, things will happen. But let's not

make a pattern out of things and say, "This is how we must act if

our baptism is real." Let's not, ought of fear that our experience

might not be real otherwise, do what we have seen others do, or

react the way others have reacted. Let's just yield to God.

     Many people won't do this. They see people get slain in the

Spirit, so when their turn comes, they go down. They are taught

they MUST speak in tongues, so they speak in tongues. Rather

than allowing the OUTWARD manifestations of the Spirit be the

result of His INWARD dwelling, we have by-passed the inward

and duplicated the outward by "acting" a certain way.

     We must see this. The outward manifestations of the spiritual

gifts -- if they are real -- must be the result of the inward dwelling.

But it is entirely possible to duplicate the outward by acting like you

think you should act. And you can do this believing it is real.

     Is this insincere for most people? No. They have been taught

to "act a certain" way -- if they want their experience to be real. They

just want to experience God. So they do these things.

The solution is to put aside forcing the outward. Relax. Just

focus on the source. And if we do, the gifts will be there. Some of

them right away. Others gradually. But they are not OUR gifts.

They belong to the Holy Spirit.

     So these disciples had no idea of what was about to happen to

them. They waited and expected -- for who knows what. But then it

came. And we read how they reacted in Acts 2. The spoke in

tongues. Peter preached in the spirit of prophecy. In the coming

years, other gifts would be evident, too. Many of them.


     When the disciples emerged from that upper room, they had no

handbook for Christian ministry.  They had no list of teachings or
doctrines.  They did not go around telling people, "This is a list of
teachings you need to follow to be a Christian."  No.  They simply
knew Jesus Christ and were beginning to experience Him in a new
way.  They were experiencing salvation and freedom.  Their message
was that others could find this salvation and freedom through faith
in the resurrected Christ.

     It is here that we begin to discover exactly what Christianity is.

It is not a belief system, or a religion.  It is real.  It is "Christ in you,
the hope of glory."  The life and experiences which follow are the
result of Christ in us.  
     One area which illustrates this distinction is that of the spiritual

gifts.   If you turn to I Cor. 12, Romans 12, and a few other places,

Paul lists these gifts. Now let's ask ourselves a question: How did

he know what the gifts were? Where did he get his list of gifts?

What I'm getting at is this: Before Jesus ascended, did He give

the disciples a LIST of spiritual gifts they were about to receive?

Did they have this list to refer to, as a guide for what to look for? Or,

for that matter, did Jesus give them a LIST of Christian doctrines that

would comprise this new religion called, "Christianity" -- a list of

teachings that they were to go forth teaching and preaching? No.

There was no list. There was no list at all, of anything.

     So where did Paul get HIS list? Well, he got it by experience and

observation. The Holy Spirit had come down and the gifts were

one of the results. Paul's "list" is a record of those results. He is

basically saying, "We have seen that these gifts comprise much of

how the Holy Spirit is manifesting Himself through people in the

Body of Christ."

     Thus, we see that Paul's list of gifts, and his doctrines, were the

"putting down on paper" of what had happened because of the

Holy Spirit. His teaching and doctrine were nothing more than a

formal way of communicating what happens when man meets God

through Jesus Christ.

     Now we can state a fundamental Truth about doctrine. It puts

doctrine in it's proper place, and helps us to grasp more of what

Christianity is. That Truth is this: Christianity did not emerge from

doctrine. Rather, doctrine emerged from Christianity. Or, to take it

a step further, Christianity is NOT a list of doctrines. Rather, our

doctrines are a list of Truth we have discovered by knowing Jesus


     Jesus Christ is a Person. And you can no more capture HIM by

a list of doctrines about Him, then you have the REAL George

Washington by reading about him. The doctrines we hold about

Jesus Christ may be true -- indeed, they NEED to be true. But the

doctrines are not Christ Himself. The doctrines are not Christianity

itself. Christianity is a relationship with God through the Person of

Jesus Christ.

     Now, once we realize that there is a distinct difference between

Christ, and even the true doctrines about Him, we can see how it is

possible to believe the doctrines about Christ, but have little faith in

Christ Himself. There are thousands of Christians today who do

believe essential Christian doctrine. But they don't trust Christ. And

then can't see the difference.

     For example, suppose I say that I agree that I must repent of sin

to become a Christian. I know that is a true, Biblical doctrine. Does

it mean I HAVE repented of sin? Not at all. But I can get a lot of

mileage out of the fact I believe the doctrine, yet remain deceived

about the condition of my own heart.

     None of this reduces the need for doctrine. We must have it to

communicate the Truth; to state the Truth. But the doctrine of

salvation cannot save us -- not matter how much we agree it is true.

We can only be saved by placing our faith in the Living Christ.

     As the disciples who were baptized by the Holy Spirit on that

first Pentecost went forward, they began to discover what God had

done for them. They began to grasp what salvation was, how to

receive it, and what it meant for our living. They began to

understand everything which Jesus Christ had done for us. In order

to help others understand these things, they put it all down on paper.

Some of these letters are the epistles. The direction and teachings

they contain, we call "Christian doctrine." But it is not an end to itself.

Behind it all is a personal relationship with the living Christ

     Now we must understand something about this.  This does not
mean that we are free to discard the Bible.  No.  The Bible was given
to us to follow.  There is nothing God will do today except that it be
in full harmony with His written Word.  There is no revelation, gift, or
experience which, if it is of God, will not stand the test of scripture.
The Bible is our written guide.  But scripture and the Bible is not the
reality itself!  Jesus is in US -- rather than just an historical character
in the Bible.  The gifts are real -- not just in Romans 12.  
     We must see this.  The Bible IS the Word of God.  ALL of our
experience will agree with it.  But we will have the experience!  If
Christianity is real -- indeed, if Jesus is real -- then everything we read
about in the Bible can be lived and experienced.  

The Doctries of Christianity

     The early disciples were used of God to write the letters and

accounts which were later included in the New Testament. But as

the years went past, and the first generation of Christians passed

on, things began to unravel. Heresy and false teaching began to

invade the body of believers. This was something which had to

be dealt with.

     The way in which the church of the 3rd and 4th century dealt with

heresy was to form the great church councils. There were also

works published by those we call the early "church fathers." These

councils formulated official church doctrine. We might call it a

"statement of faith" today. They put down "on paper" what they

believed the Bible taught, and consequently, what they believed

it meant to be a Christian.

     This was necessary and wonderful. It provided in doctrinal form,

and in the form of teaching, direction as to the Truth of God in Jesus

Christ. It defended the Truth and tended to bring a certain amount

of unity and clarity to Christian churches.

     But it would seem that everything has another side to it. Doctrine

is great. But only if it points us to a Living Christ. It is not so great if

it points us to itself as the beginning and the end. And this is what

happened. The church, which was supposed to be a living

organism, because a institutionalized organization. Doctrine, which

was supposed to be the letter of Truth which points to the spirit,

became the rules and regulations of that institution of the church.

And because the Living Christ was no where to be found in this

mess, it was not long before even the doctrine itself became

corrupted. It no longer reflected the relationship between God and

man. It no longer told the Truth about the Person of Jesus Christ.

     In the final analysis, all true doctrine tells the Truth about the

nature and character of God, and His plan and purpose through

Jesus Christ. All false doctrine corrupts and distorts this. What a

teaching, when all is said and done, says about God, is what

defines it as either Truth or error.

     Do you see why? If doctrine is a formal "on paper" record of

who God is and what He is doing, then true doctrine will rightly

represent Him. Nothing could be more simple.


     All of that definition of doctrine is necessary if we are to

understand what Christianity IS. Christianity is not a doctrine. It is

not a teaching. Rather, Christianity is a relationship with God through

a new birth in Jesus Christ. The doctrines describe this.

     Once we understand that doctrines and teachings find their

"trueness" in the Person of Jesus Christ, we can now make another

statement: There ARE essential Christian doctrines. There are

certain doctrines which you will believe if you are a Christian. Why?

Because there are certain things about God and His Son you will

believe if you have been born again and are saved.

     Now note something here: I did NOT say that you must believe

certain things before God will "let you" be a Christian. No. This is

NOT a matter of God telling you, "I will save you if you will agree

that such and such is true." No. Rather than say you MUST believe,

I said you WILL believe it.

     For example, you will know you are a sinner saved only by grace

if you are a Christian. You will. How do I know that? Because the

only way you became a Christian was by seeing that. You saw you

were a sinner and embraced the grace of God in Jesus Christ. That

is why you are a Christian.

     There are certain things that define a Christian AS a Christian.

These are the ESSENTIALS. They must BE -- or we are no longer

talking about a Christian. We are talking about something else.

For example, can I say I am a Christian, but I don't believe Jesus is

my Saviour? That would be insane. In that case, I'm just taking the

name of Christ, and denying Him in my next breath.

     Things have definition in a sane universe. Is it sane, for example,

to say, "I am a vegetarian, but I eat meat."? How about, "I am an

atheist, but I believe in God."? No. I am saying I am one thing, but

then defining the opposite. Neither can I do this with Christianity. If

I am a Christian, then that carries definition and certain essentials.

I will see them, believe them, and live them.


     One of the church father's wrote "In Essentials, unity. In non-

essentials, liberty. In all things, love." This is a good guide. The

only trouble is, it doesn't tell us what to do when we cannot agree

what the essentials ARE. That's when the trouble comes in. And

the fact is, when there is not unity on the essentials, it can actually

be wrong to force unity.

     Why? Because when there is disagreement on the essentials,

there is disagreement on who Jesus Christ IS. There is actually

DISUNITY -- whether we force unity or not. The only unity which is

pleasing to God is unity in His Son. And it is a lie to say we have

unity when we don't have the same Christ.

     If, for example, I say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and

you say there are many ways to God, there is no possibility for us

to have unity. Why? Because you don't have the same Christ I

have. I follow the one which said, "I am THE Way." You follow the

One which says, "I am A way."

     Now again, don't imagine I am talking about doctrinal disagree-

ments. I'm not. Doctrinal disagreements aren't where we live. I'm

talking about the Lord of our lives. If you are a Christian, it DOES

matter whether Jesus is the only way to God. If you are not, it won't

matter. So I'm not talking about doctrine here. I'm talking about the

One in whom we "live and move and have our being." I'm talking

about a person's relationship with God.

     Most of the time the people who preach unity at all cost are those

that have no consciousness of reality in Christ. If they did, they

might let others believe what they wish, but they will never call it right

or acceptable. They would see it as a misrepresentation of God

Almighty Himself, and a distortion of His Son Jesus Christ -- which

will eventually hurt people spiritual lives.

     The pendulum has swung today. Today if you say there is such

a thing as absolute Truth, or that Jesus is the only way to the Father,

you can be branded as exclusive, and even hateful. Fine. I'm

saying it anyways. And this would be my word of advice to you, my

friend: Before you scoff at Christ, and deny Him, and dig your

trenches, you had better be sure you are right. You cannot afford to

be wrong about this.

The Essentials

     The essentials of Christianity are those things which DEFINE

Christianity. Take any one of them away and you are no longer

talking about Christianity. You are no longer talking about the God

of the Bible. You are no longer talking about the Jesus Christ of the

Bible. The essentials are the foundational Truths out of which the

non-essential Truths emerge. They form the basis; the trunk of the


     Incidentally, when we use the term "non-essentials" we are NOT

saying they are unimportant. They are vital. The Truth sets us free

and error binds us in our Christian walk. So these non-essentials

can have a tremendous impact on our lives, and upon our

relationship with God. But they do not define God, Christ, or the

basis of our relationship with Him.  Rather, they emerge out of

essentials and have to do with our walk in the Truth.

     So what are the essentials? The first essential is that we believe

in one God -- the God of the Bible. If we don't believe He is God,

then we cannot progress any further. We won't even get to Christ.

The Bible says, "There is one God and Father of us all." (Eph. 4:4-6)

     The next essential is Jesus Christ. If we are a Christian we will

have seen that Jesus is God, and that Jesus became man. This is

the incarnation: That Jesus was one-hundred percent God, and

one-hundred percent man. Obviously, we cannot say we believe

this if we deny the virgin birth -- no matter how we try to reason

around it. Besides, the Bible is perfectly clear on this Truth of

Jesus' birth.

     The incarnation is so vital a Truth that John tells us in three places

that to deny it is a matter of walking on dangerous ground. Anyone

who says that Jesus is not come in the flesh is NOT speaking the

Truth. John wrote this to combat the Gnostics, who denied God

would have become a man. (see I John 4:2-3; II John 1:7)

     A third essential is the Redemption of Jesus Christ. If I am a

Christian, I am one BECAUSE I have seen and embraced the Truth

that Jesus died for my sin, and was raised. I cannot become a

Christian in any other way. I am saved by grace through faith in

Jesus Christ.  God offers us no other way.

     Now along that same line, I must believe I have a sin nature. Or

why would I say I need a Saviour? Thus, the sin nature of man is

another essential. Deny it, and you deny not only the Bible which

teaches it, but you deny the need for a Saviour from sin. Included

in the essential Truth of the sin nature would obviously be the

need for us to repent of sin. We cannot be a Christian unless we

have done so.

     This does not mean we ever stop repenting. But repentance

means a change of mind about sin. So it is talking about turning

around and heading in the right direction. If I am not repenting

from sin, therefore, I am NOT heading in the direction of Christ. I

am NOT a Christian.

     The resurrection is an essential because by it Jesus was

declared to be the Son of God. (Rom. 1:4) Furthermore, without it,

I have no salvation. (Romans 5:10 and many other places.) And by

the resurrection I am born anew.

     So far we have God as the only God, Jesus is God, and Jesus

became a human through the miracle of the virgin birth. We have

the sin nature of man, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

which delivers us from it. Another essential is that Jesus is the ONE

ONE and ONLY way to God. The ONLY means of salvation. (Acts


     This one often makes people mad. But the same people that

reject that Jesus is the only way of salvation are the ones who deny

we have a sin nature. After all, if you don't have a sin nature you

need to be delivered from, you don't need the One who died for it.

Your only need is for a teacher to come and tell you about God.

And you can find lots of teachers you have done that -- or at least

claimed to.

     There are some other "essentials." Believing the Bible is the

Word of God is one of them. How could you not believe that and

be a Christian? If I deny the Bible, I am denying the very book

which contains revelation of the other essentials.

     The essentials of Christianity, again, are those things which a
converted Christian will believe.  They will believe them, doctrinally
yes, but more importantly, they will have experienced them.  Those
who are truly converted to Christ will embrace the essentials because

they have embraced HIM. The two go together.

Christianity is not......

     Christianity is good news. It is the good news that God has

delivered man from sin through His Son Jesus Christ. It is the good

news that everything that is wrong with us has found redemption in

the Son of God.

     Of course, if I don't embrace the essentials, I won't think any of

that is necessary. If I don't believe man is born with a sin nature, I

won't think I need deliverance from it. Neither will I see the

necessity for the virgin birth. And the Redemption becomes totally

unnecessary as well. Christianity might as well be nothing more

than a belief system with rules, laws, and nice teachings. But with

nothing real behind it.

     So the next question is, how do I come to see that these

essential Truths are, in fact, THE Truth?   How do I become a


     Even Christians are confused about this. That's why many who

seem to be converted at first, later prove not to be converted. It

wasn't real. Why? How can we be sure our conversion is real?

     We have seen that Christianity is NOT a list of doctrines. So

that tells us that giving assent to the trueness of doctrine is NOT

how I become a Christian -- although giving such assent will happen

if I become one. Just as Christianity, in the beginning, did not

emerge from doctrine, but doctrine emerged from Christianity, so it

must be with me personally. MY Christianity cannot emerge from

a list of teachings or doctrines -- no matter how true they are. But

the teachings can emerge from my Christianity.

     Neither is Christianity the result of an intellectual process. I

cannot think myself into knowing Jesus Christ. Some of the most

intellectually gifted people who have ever lived never became

Christians. Furthermore, if Christianity were the result of thinking and

then understanding the Truth with the mind, then some folks would

be lost merely because they were not all that smart. This simply

cannot be.

     The same thing can be said for the intellect as was said about

doctrine. Intellectual understanding may emerge from my

Christianity, indeed, it should. For God wants to "renew our minds."

But things do not start there. They are expressed there AFTER we

enter into a relationship with Christ.

     Here's another one: Christianity is not the result of emotions. It

has nothing to do with how you feel. Emotions are great liars. You

can't trust them, although many people live totally by them.

How about logic. This relates to intellect. But some people try

to use logic and debate to convert others to Christ. But Christianity

is not the result of cornering someone logically, and forcing them

to finally accept Christ. No. None of that works. None of it.

     If you have noticed, everyone of these things which we have

said is not what Christianity is, have the same theme: They are

all function which WE generate. They are all attempts by us to

bridge the chasm between us and God, and to reach up to Him.

That's why none of them can bring to birth Christianity in us or in

anyone else. The best we can say is that they are all good tools

and expressions which may later reflect God's glory and the Truth,

but only AFTER and AS we walk with Christ.

Christianity IS......

     Ok. Enough delay. What IS Christianity? We've already seen

it is a relationship with a Person. It is the outcome of God meeting

man in Jesus Christ. But more specifically, how does that happen?

If not through doctrines, then how?

     Well, how did the disciples come to know Jesus Christ? By

reading teachings about Him? No. In fact, we need only turn to

a passage which discusses this issue directly. It is found in the

gospel of Matthew.

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter

answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon

Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my

Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 16:15-17)

     Peter spent three and one half years with Jesus. He heard all of

His teachings, and saw all of His miracles. He even heard Jesus,

on at least six occasions which are recorded in the gospels, tell

them He was God. But once Peter finally confesses that he has

seen the Truth, Jesus does NOT say to him, "At last, Peter! I have

been trying to tell you this all along. It is about time you finally

understood the Truth." No. But what does Jesus say? He says

that "flesh and blood" did not reveal this to Peter. God did.

     Now ask: If God had to reveal this to Peter, despite having Jesus

Himself in front of him, then who are we? Do we expect to arrive at

the Truth about Jesus Christ through some "flesh and blood" means

when Peter did not and could not? Do we hope that emotions,

thinking, the intellect, or arguments, can discover for us the Truth

about Jesus Christ? Do we think that WE have the equipment

necessary to find the Truth Himself?

     The reason that our total helplessness to find the Truth on our

own may be shocking to some people, is that the church, in general,

does not see it. For centuries the church HAS used "flesh and

blood" means to try to bring people to Christ. We have created a

Christ who is carved out of stone, and decorated Him with doctrines,

Bible verses, and religion. Good stuff, too. But when we are done,

the real Jesus says to us, "I'm not in that. I'm over here."

     You see it all the time. Altar calls. Signing a card agreeing to

accept Christ. Taking classes on how to receive Christ. Going to

Bible school or seminary in order to acquire the spiritual gift of

pastor. The list goes on. It isn't that any of these things are wrong.

No. There is much good in them. But when they become IT, and

substitute for HIM, then there is a problem. These things are not

what gets us there. Only God can reveal Christ to us.

     Jesus said, "No man can come to Me except the Father who sent

Me draw Him." (John 6:44) God can use us in this. But just as Jesus

told Peter, it isn't flesh and blood that does it. It is the Father in


     So Christianity is a relationship with God through Christ, and it is

initiated by God. It cannot happen any other way. God draws us.

God reveals Christ to us. THEN, and only then, we make our

choices. Then we begin to grow and express our faith through our

thinking, intellect, and emotions.

     Now someone is bound to say, "Now wait a minute.  If you are
saying that God must initiate our relationship with Him, then we can
create any kind of religion we want, and say God did it."
     Nope.  Sorry.  Why?  Because we have the written word.  We have
a written account of what those who knew Christ and had the real thing
experienced.  And as we have said, we will not experience anything
outside of what the Bible records.  The Bible is the final word on
whether our experience is of God.

Experiencing the Essentials

     When God reveals Christ, a great light is cast upon us -- the light

of His love, holiness, and greatness. This light will expose us as

sinners in need of Redemption. This must be so, because in order

to come to Christ, and embrace Him, God must deal with all that is

in you that has stood between yourself and God. Thus, it is a fact

that if you did not come to Christ as a sinner, you did not come to

Him at all. You may have been interested in Him for other reasons,

but you did not actually come to Him.

     Here we see again why "the essentials" ARE "the essentials."

The door through which you must walk to embrace Christ is that of

repentance of sin -- as revealed to you by God. If you don't walk

through that door of repentance, you don't receive Christ. Thus, we

are able to say that the sin nature, and the need for repentance, are

essentials of the Christian faith. Why? Because they are doctrines

to believe in? No. Because a Christian IS someone who has

repented. That is WHY he is a Christian. You can't be a Christian

without repentance of sin.

     We must get this. A Christian is someone who repents of sin and

receives Christ as personal Saviour, because God has revealed

these Truths to him. He sees Jesus is God incarnate, who has died

for all his sin, and was raised from the dead. THAT is why he

embraces Christ by faith. Later, he is able to say, "Yes, I believe

and hold to these essential Christian doctrines. I know they are

true. This is what happened to me."

     How different this is to saying, "I believe these essential doctrines

are true," but never experiencing the reality of any of them. Many

people who profess Christ have done this. That is why there is so

little reality of the Son of God in the churches today.

     The first disciples had no formal Christian doctrine. So they

were not deceived into thinking that acceptance of doctrine was

equal to faith in Christ. We are the benefactors of their labor. But

we must beware, lest we bypass the reality of Jesus Christ and

settle for doctrines which speak of Him. We must experience what

the essentials describe. Then our doctrines will point to the real for


     So Christianity is not a religion. It is not a belief system. It is not

a game. It is a process of redemption back again to God through

the one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus. And

regardless of how long a list of failures one can attribute to those

who call themselves Christian, Jesus Christ will eventually have

victory over them all.

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