Why would anyone who professes Jesus Christ not want to identify them self as a Christian? One would think the religion of Christianity and believing in Jesus is synonymous. There was a time in my life I also believed you found Jesus through the Christian church. Unfortunately, the Christianity I am witnessing today does not look anything like the person of Jesus. In fact, I cannot find much evidence it ever did.
Before we go any further I want to be clear about the purpose of the article. It is not to debate whether or not to call someone a Christian, nor am I attempting to say that one way is better than another. Others who call me a Christian does not offend me. I am honored to be identified as a follower of Jesus Christ. My reason for choosing not to call myself a Christian is I no longer believe the religion of Christianity represents Jesus Christ. There is no religious organization Jesus established or sanctioned. For centuries the religious systems have proclaimed they have been called to be the voice of God to the people. In truth the priesthood belongs to every believer born into His Kingdom. The church has never been and never will be in the hands of men.
Over the years I have seen many, many things wrong with organized churches, read tons of books and articles, as well as, listened to countless sermons justifying doctrinal positions. We could spend countless hours discussing all the good and bad things of the Christian religion although I find this generally leads to little more than a battle of opinions of our own beliefs. I know because I have done this more times than I can count. It has very little to do about which church you attend or the doctrine you decide to believe. It has everything to do with hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, surrendering your life to the Lord Jesus and walking into His Kingdom.
At one point in my life I was deeply entrenched in the Pentecostal doctrine. During those years I actively participated in church activities and became a leader among the congregation. So why did I leave? I was led by the Spirit of God to follow Him. It was time in my journey to learn more about surrendering my life to His will. Does this mean those still in churches are all wrong? This type of thinking is one of the greatest reasons we have division. Wherever I have been led by our Father is a blessing. I count my time in churches as another part of my journey to be who I am in Christ. To this day I keep relationships with brothers and sisters that attend churches. It is not about who is right. It is about walking out your own faith in Him. Jesus did not come to create another religion. He came to show us a new way of life. I love Him as my God, my Savior, my Father, and my King. He is my ALL in ALL. Leaving my past behind I am finding a newness of life that leads me into His love. This kind of love is not self seeking and strives to love one another as He loves us.
My journey began in 1958 in Portsmouth, Ohio. I was born into this world with loving parents. In my household I was taught to believe in Jesus Christ. When my father was a young man he went to a Methodist church. My mother was from an Apostolic Pentecostal family. As for me, being the youngest sibling of four children all I knew were memories in the Pentecostal church. I was in and out of church during my teen age years and preferred playing sports over going to church. As I grew older and experienced church life I witnessed the victories and the struggles my parents faced as they walked out their own faith in Christ. Being a teenager at the time, all I saw were so many rules to follow. I tried to figure all of them out but could never understand how this made us closer to God. I was also having a difficult time believing others who saw things differently than us were wrong. I distinctly remember a very important conversation I had with my father one day. I asked him why we attended the Pentecostal church. He answered, “This is the closet thing to the truth I have found.” I said, ” The closest thing?” He responded,”Yes.” I was so glad to hear him speak honestly to me. This was a father and son moment I always kept with me. I had the opportunity to work with my father and be a part of his life. More than anything I saw his love for others. He was my example of loving others and I am honored to call him my father. I believe if he were living today he would be honored having a son that is following Jesus and doing his best to love others.
It was during these same teen age years I experienced the power of God. I was lost from within and had no direction about my future. When I was sixteen years old my mother did all she could to convince me to go to church camp. Looking back it was good for me to see things in a different perspective. During one service I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me and I walked up to the front of the tabernacle. I bowed my knees and deep within me I was overcome by the Holy Spirit. From that point on I knew He was not just a story in a book but a living God that desired to dwell in me. This had a major impact upon my life and I was never the same. Over the next few years I spent most of my time running away from Him. All I could see is what I wanted. By His mercy He came to me again in such a powerful way. This time I was singing “Blessed Assurance” with the congregation on a Sunday morning. Looking back at both instances He revealed Himself when I was at the end of myself and willing to surrender to His ways. Each time was not when I was doing the right thing but when my life was an absolute mess. Did these experiences change everything in an instant? No, I still dealt with the same issues but now it was not just me trying to do it by myself. He sought me and desired to be in my life. There was a change inside of me I could not explain. More than anything I knew He loved me and I was trying to love Him. So I am thankful for my parents, my upbringing and the grace bestowed upon me. Was it a church that saved me? Even though I was in a church building it was not the building or the doctrine. It was others who loved the Lord opening their hearts to receive Him. There has never been an end to His presence in me. Throughout my lifetime I could tell you story after story of experiences that changed me.
Walking out my own faith over many years I find myself seeing life much differently than I did in my younger days. As I have learned to trust Jesus I have no confidence in my ability to accomplish His will. I rely on His Spirit to lead and guide me. It is not my way anymore. I live to please Him and am honored to be wherever life takes me. I trust Him more than I trust myself.
I know when He comes to you by the power of His Spirit you will never be the same. Wherever I go my interest is recognizing a common bond of the Holy Spirit regardless of a person’s upbringing or beliefs. Relating to others who also seek Him is such a joy. I have learned the work of the Holy Spirit is not bound by our theology. He operates like the wind and you don’t know where He comes from and where He is going. No longer am I looking to find the ways of Jesus through a lens of Christianity. I have found Him in the hearts of so many in all walks of life. He is far more than any religion.
I agree with Mahatma Gandhi when he famously said, “God has no religion”. He also said, I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ.” Finally, he concluded that, “If all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian.”
Do you see Him as your “All in All”? No matter where you are He desires to lead you and knows exactly what you need. Trust Him with all your heart! He loves us all.