I have found from talking to various people that the Christian faith has a bad rap. Not only that, the true Christian faith is hidden under the smoke screen of religion. This is not to say that all churches are bad. However, generally speaking, many churches are more in tuned with church activities and functions as well as social agendas, than they are with the true Christian faith and perpetuating that faith to others. Many churches are busy with services, banquets, anniversaries, outings, and other similar activities. Very rarely is there a definite and sustained promotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the bible, and living the Christian WAY.
Listening to the news these days, one would think that Christianity is some kind of club or organization that people belong to. I also see how people compare Christians with Muslims or some other religion when the truth of Christianity is far from religious. The religious counterfeit of Christianity often binds people to a set of rules that must be followed in order to be a part of that religion. The people may not realize the truth of Christinaity unless they read their bibles, which unfortunately many do not. I hope to show you in this article the simplicity of the Christian faith. I hope to show you that Christianity is not a complicated set of doctrines imposed on its followers, but rather a gift from our heavenly Father to simply receive.
Galatians 1:6–7 (ESV) — 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 3:1 (ESV) — 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Background for Your Reference
Let me first share some background information concerning the Epistle to the Galatians to help place these scriptures in their proper context. Christian Jews, known as Judaizers, were teaching new Christians, including gentiles, that they had to abide by certain ceremonial practices in order to be saved. They believed that the Old Testament (OT) rites still applied to the New Testament church. The Judaizers were Jewish Christians, who believed, among other things, that a number of the ceremonial practices of the OT were still required for the church. The Judaizers challenged Paul's apostleship. They also charged that Paul was compromising the Gospel by taking out the OT rituals in order to make the gospel more appealing to the Gentiles.
A Close Look
Now let’s look at our topical scriptures. First of all, Paul says in Galatians 1:6 that we are called to salvation by the grace of God. This highlights the fact that we have nothing to do with the acquisition of salvation except to believe what God has already given us, namely Jesus Christ. Salvation isn’t acquired by following a set of rules and regulations as we are led to believe in the religious community. It is freely available to anyone and is acquired by simply believing. Consider the following scripture.
Rom. 10:9 through Rom. 10:10 (NCV) If you use your mouth to say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we use our mouths to say that we believe, and so we are saved.
Again consider John 3:16, which tells us that salvation is for anyone that would simply believe in Jesus Christ.
Paul then continues by saying that he is amazed that the new Christians were so quickly tricked into believing another gospel, which isn’t really the gospel at all. Simply put, the Judaizers were deceiving the new Christians into believing that they had to do works in addition to what they were told by Paul in order to be saved. Paul continues in verse eight by saying that the new Christians were being thrown into confusion by perverting the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now let’s take a closer look at Galatians 3:1. Paul again describes his amazement in the fact that the Galatians heard the truth and yet they were drawn away by deception to another "gospel."
THE GREAT DECEPTION
What Paul wrote to the Galatians apply to us today. We have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ yet we so quickly believe another gospel. The great deception is faith through works. In the case of the people of Galatia, it was the following of Old Testament rituals and ceremonies, primarily circumcision. Though the object or objects are different today, the principle still applies. If we would carefully weigh what we were told in the typical church, we will find that we hear more works and less true Christianity. For example, salvation or the Christian life can be summarized in the following representative list by many churches.
Unfortunately, the list above is a representation of the definition of Christianity to many people. Christianity is usually defined by what their church or pastor believes and does not believe. It is perceived as the things that the pastor permits and prohibits. These people don’t realize that such is not true Christianity. Christianity is not defined by do’s and don’ts. We have replaced the true Christian way with what the church has given us in its gospel of "faith by works" message.
The great deception is "faith by works." We believe that if we are good people then we will make it to heaven. We believe that if we are good and follow the rules of our church then God will accept us. We are unaware that true righteousness does not come from doing things.
The Christian faith is so simple that it is not believed or accepted. It is so straightforward that people don’t see it. It is so non-complicated that people instinctively believe that there must be more to it. There isn’t. Keep in mind that the lifestyle of a Christian does take discipline. There is a straight and narrow way that we must walk (See Matthew 7:13-14). However, the Christian life is the result of being a Christian and not a prerequisite of rules and regulations.
WHAT TO BELIEVE
What then should we believe? If we are careful when listening to various ministers then we will sooner or later hear different teachings on the same scripture. We will sooner or later hear two or more ministers differ in their instruction on what Christians should or should not do. What should we believe? It is quite simple! Believe God. We have the entire Bible as the source for all we need for living the Christian life and for becoming a Christian (being saved, born again). Anything outside of what the Bible really says is religion and should not be perceived as necessary for the Christian faith.
First believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. Second, believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that Jesus Christ lives today with the Father. Believing in Jesus Christ means that you believe this gospel. See 2 Corinthians 15:3-5. That’s it. That is all there is to salvation. Let me quote the well-known scripture regarding salvation.
John 3:16 (NCV) "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.
The key phrase to remember is "whoever believes in him." Being saved (accepted and forgiven by God) is not dependent on anything we can do. Consider the following scripture.
Gal. 3:11 through Gal. 3:12 (NCV) Now it is clear that no one can be made right with God by the law, because the Scriptures say, "Those who are right with God will live by trusting in him." The law is not based on faith. It says, "A person who obeys these things will live because of them."
We cannot earn salvation. We can’t go before God and say "Hey God. Look I’ve done this and that so I should be allowed to have eternal life with you." Consider the following scripture.
Matt. 7:21 through Matt. 7:23 (NCV) "Not all those who say that I am their Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On the last day many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, we spoke for you, and through you we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ Then I will tell them clearly, ‘Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you.’
It isn’t about what you do. It is only a matter of what you believe. If you believe in Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord then you are saved. Period. Of course this is not a mere confession with the mouth. This belief is from the heart, which means that it is real—you really believe in Jesus Christ and are not just saying it.
So the first thing we need to believe and cling to is the foundation of the Christian faith. Namely, we just need to believe in Jesus Christ and know that to be a fact. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn away to other beliefs or to another "gospel." Know the truth. You are less likely to believe a lie if you know the truth.
Know the Deception of Religion
I alluded to the following point earlier in this lesson. Please understand that I do not believe that all churches are bad. However, I do believe that many churches are off when it comes to the true Christian faith. We have to know how to recognize religion. Religion is full of rules and regulations. Its center point is man and not God. If we do this or that then we are considered right with God and in some cases we are considered more holy than others are.
The deception of religion also falls in some churches or religious organizations. We can passively come to believe that we should be in church all day, we should support our pastor as a rule, and we should give 10% of our money to the church. All of these have nothing to do with the Christian faith. They are extra requirements placed on us by ministers, pastors, and other church leaders. Attending church is a good thing if you are able to learn. Supporting the pastor is good if his or her ministry blesses you and if you want to. The tithing law of the church is simply WRONG! It is very unbiblical and yet many Christians will get extremely upset if you oppose their tithing law. The point that I am trying to make is that we need to cling to the truth and not focus on the minors. If your church requires you to wear certain clothes and you don’t have a problem with that then OK. However, if that church says that wearing certain clothes effects your salvation or standing with God then there is a serious problem.
You can see from this lesson that the Christian faith is rather simple. I have spent much time describing the legalistic system to you then the actual gospel of Christ. This is because the gospel of Jesus Christ is really that simple. The rules and regulations are the items that complicate and confuse Christianity and Christians.
The Christian faith centers around what Jesus Christ did for us. The lifestyle of a Christian can be found specifically in the New Testament and indirectly in the Old Testament. The Christian faith is simple in that it isn’t a series of rules and regulations that we have to remember and follow. The Christian faith leads to a Christian life, which is a direct result of the word of God that you know that you hold in your heart. You don’t have to strive to be accepted by God. All we have to do is take Jesus as an example and live according to what he taught us in the Bible. We also have the Holy Spirit, the power of God, to aid us in living the Christian life. It is nothing that we do alone. Consider what Jesus said.
John 15:5 (NKJV) "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
So our lifestyle is not totally up to us to do alone. It is up to us to allow God to work through us and to perfect (mature) us into what He wants. Rules and regulations won’t accomplish this. As a matter of facts, focusing on the rules and regulations may actually take us further away from Christ.
The Christian Faith is simple. There isn’t much too it at all. All we have to do is believe in the Lord and savior Jesus Christ. That’s it. After that comes the life of the Christian. At that point we learn how to live the Christian life. However, becoming saved or accepted by God is very simple. Just believe in Jesus Christ. All of the rules and regulations that we hear in many churches are a counterfeit gospel. They are man made rules in an attempt to deceive us into believing that we can save ourselves by our own good works.
Remember that Christianity is not a complicated religion. As a matter of fact, it is not really a religion at all. Christianity is a way of life—a life in Christ Jesus. Christianity is a life where we have experienced the full forgiveness of God for our sinful way. We are not held guilty for our sinful way. Instead, God sent Jesus Christ to die for those sins so that we can be declared righteous by God. Christianity is indeed simple but a religion is not.
THE SIMPLICITY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
There are many people who do not believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually happened...