"I am a Christian."
That can be a very vague statement in today’s world. Typically, when I tell someone that I am a Christian their immediate response is, “What kind of Christian are you?” This can be a tough question to answer. Not because I don’t have an answer, but because in today’s world people expect that there must be some secondary label associated with my Christianity; Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc. When I try to explain to someone that none of these secondary labels explain my faith, they often stare at me with a look of confused pity as if I have failed to come to a conclusion on the direction of my walk with God. First, foremost, and of highest priority in life is my relationship with God, so I can assure you I have thought long and hard and reached conclusions on my foundation of Faith.
Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus and said,
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” (Ephesians 4:4-5)
Since there is only one faith that can lead to God, to answer the question, “What kind of Christian are you?” I would have to say the only kind. At least the only kind there should be.
Why so many?
Yes, today there are many “kinds” of Christianity. Most people will tell you that this is ok. "As long as we are all striving to follow Jesus, we are all right." But is that how it was intended to be? Should we simply accept that there are multiple ways to be a Christian and that your way is as good as mine? Contrary to popular opinion, I would have to say the answer is no.
Jesus said that on the belief in Him he would build His Church [singular]. If He built one, why do we have so many? The apostles wrote constantly about unity and about Christians being like-minded. If that’s how Jesus intended it, what’s up with all the division and the differing views/practices? This clearly isn’t how things are supposed to be. The Bible makes it clear that division and various types of Christianity is not the way it was meant to be done.
Though what the Bible says can be the end of this discussion, lets also consider the logic of what we [by this I mean anyone who claims to be “Christian”] are doing. We all claim to be following Jesus the right way. We all claim to be teaching truth. Yet we teach and do very different things. If Jesus said there is one way to follow him, we can’t all be doing it differently and still be right. If Jesus says there is one faith, then we can’t all have that one faith if we believe different things.
Consider this; If I tell you that 1+1=3, but you tell me that 1+1=2, can we both be right? No. In this crude example, both of us are making a statement that we claim to be the truth, but they are different. Not only are they different, they contradict. Therefore both statements can’t be the truth. There is only one correct answer to the question. So, if you and I disagree, let’s face it, at least one of us is wrong.
This same logic is true of different kinds of Christianity. Jesus says there is one faith; one church; one way to be a Christian. So if you and I disagree on matters of doctrine and practice then let’s face it, at least one of us is wrong. That’s not what the world wants us to think. We live in a culture of “Everyone is a winner and everyone can do what they want and be right.” That is simply not true and can not be true regarding Christianity. So that leaves us with the question: Who is right? With all the labels and types of Christianity in the world, which way is the right way?
Like I said earlier, I believe that I, like many others in the world, am the only kind of Christian that is right in the eyes of God. Now you may be saying, “Wow Cody, that’s mighty arrogant of you.” But I don’t believe it is arrogant. I don’t believe this is a matter of arrogance at all. I would say it’s quite the opposite of arrogance. I choose to surrender my life fully to Jesus and what He wants of me. I choose not to model my faith by the teaching of whatever “denomination” or “group” I could claim to be a part of. My faith is modeled only by the words of Jesus. I believe that this is what Jesus intended for us. He told us to “take up our cross and follow Him.”
He didn't tell us to be Catholic. He didn't tell us to be Methodist. He didn't tell us to be Baptist. He told us to be HIS. Christian simply means to be "like Christ." It's a called out group of people that are ONE body. Again, this isn't a matter of arrogance. It's not a matter of "what I do is better than what you do" or vice versa. What is most important is this; are we doing what Jesus wanted of His church?
Does it really matter?
"As long as I am serving Jesus, does it really matter where I go and what I do?"
Not everyone or every church that claims to follow Jesus actually does. And those people may not even know it. Jesus spoke about this very topic in Matthew 7.
"Not everyone who says to Me, ' Lord, Lord.' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Many will say to Me on that day. 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?"
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matthew 7:21-23)
This is something many people miss. God & Jesus care very much if we are following them the right way. These people Jesus speaks of were doing good things. They were calling on Him and trying to follow Him. But something about the way they were doing it caused Jesus to be unhappy with them. He says He doesn't even know these people. He says what they are doing is LAWLESSNESS.
The good things they were doing were LAWLESSNESS because it wasn't exactly what Jesus wanted. This is why it’s so important to be sure you are doing what Jesus wanted. These people weren't trying to do the wrong thing. I'm fairly confident that they were doing these things with a sincere heart. But they still weren't doing it right, therefore, they were condemned. Sincerity isn't a saving faith.
"Cody, I attend a church with one of the "labels" you mentioned. Are you saying I shouldn't go there?" Well let me put it this way; If the church you attend isn't doing things the way Jesus wanted, do you want to go there? I won't say one way or another whether the church you are a part of is right with God because I don't know your church. You need to figure that out!
Here is what I suggest that you do:
Read the book of Acts. Determine exactly what it was that was expected of a church and disciples that truly followed Jesus. What did they do when they gathered together? What did they not do? How did they spend their time? Does my church do the same things they did?
Read the epistles of the New Testament [Romans through Jude]. Here you will read much more about how churches are to act as well as the individual Christian. Look to see what kind of instructions churches were given. Also, take note of what kind of acts and behaviors were condemned.
Again, it's not a matter of arrogance, it's about complete submission to the instruction of the Lord. You need to be a part of a group of people who follow Jesus. No labels, no opinions, no teachings of men, nothing but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Simply, Christians.
This isn't an easy task. It requires study and work to make sure that the people you identify with as a church are following the pattern that Jesus and His apostles laid out in the first century. But it's a task that is of the utmost importance. Do you really want to get to the end of your days, stand before God and be told by Jesus, "Depart from me. I don't know you and you don't know me. You told people you followed me but you never have. I know you were sincere, but you weren't doing the right thing. I wish you had been sincere enough to study my word thoroughly to know the right way."
Put your faith, beliefs, and your church to the test of the scriptures. Do a harsh comparison between your Christianity and the Bible. If you don't see in your life and church, the pattern of the New Testament, then it's time to make a change and find a group of like-minded Christians, striving to serve God the way Jesus intended. We all need to be the kind of Christian who diligently strives to obey every command of God in the way He intended.