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Nearly two billion people call themselves Christians—followers of Jesus Christ's teachings. Yet they are divided into more than 450 different sects and denominations, with contradictory doctrines and styles of worship. Just what is a true Christian? Is a Christian someone who follows the customs of today's professing Christian sects? Or does the Bible reveal a very different answer?
It is high time someone pointed out what true Christianity is all about! So-called "mainstream" Christianity is losing millions of members. Scores of different ideologies and different types of "New Age" teachings are now coming to the fore, but the pure religion of Jesus Christ seems to be totally neglected by most religious leaders.
And what is WRONG with the mainstream Christianity that millions have grown up in and are taking for granted? Do not all these churches teach the Christianity of Christ?
The truth is that the greatest and most bloody wars in all human history have been waged primarily in Europe—the very heart of western, "Christian" civilization. In fact, the professing Christian church directly instigated a series of "holy wars" during the Middle Ages, called the "Crusades" (Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed., Crusades). The article describes the supposed BLESSING put on the murderous and blood-thirsty activities of the Crusaders: "The knight who joined the Crusades might thus indulge the bellicose side of his genius—under the aegis and at the bidding of the Church; and in so doing he would also attain what the spiritual side of his nature ardently sought—a perfect salvation and remission of sins. He might butcher all day, till he waded ankle-deep in blood, and then at nightfall kneel, sobbing for very joy, at the altar of the Sepulchre—for was he not red from the winepress of the Lord?"
Were THESE men true followers of the humble carpenter of Nazareth who said: "Love your enemies"?
Yet remember that these men called themselves by the NAME of Christ—Christian. It seems that nearly all western religions, philosophies and sects must persist in applying the name of Christ to their ideas, teachings and practices. In ancient times, the pagans openly and honestly acknowledged their worship of the various "gods" and demon spirits of their own choosing.
Since the life, death and the resurrection of the Son of God, a great DECEPTION has resulted in the placing of Christ's NAME on every type of pagan, heathen, perverted philosophy of man that has come along!
Shocking as it may sound, the fact that many churches, doctrines, ideas and practices of men are called "Christian" proves absolutely NOTHING!
Did Christ start these ideas and institutions? Do they follow His teaching and His example?
How can you KNOW?
Almighty God inspired the Apostle John to describe the Devil as "that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, who DECEIVES the WHOLE WORLD" (Revelation 12:9). Again, in Revelation 20:1–3, God describes how Satan will soon be restrained "that he should DECEIVE the NATIONS no more."
These inspired scriptures certainly show that most people and nations have been misled and DECEIVED by Satan the Devil! This, very frankly, is the "key," which explains WHY there are so many obvious contradictions in our supposedly "Christian" society. It shows why this world is so mixed up and CONFUSED about what the word "Christian" really means. It shows that our civilization has NOT been following Christ, but has been DECEIVED into going many different ways under Satan's confusing influence!
Strangely, yet at least honestly, some of this world's noted religious leaders and scholars have acknowledged that our professing "Christianity" has NOT EVEN SERIOUSLY TRIED to follow the literal teaching and example of Jesus Christ—its supposed Author!
Observe also this revealing and even shocking quote from highly respected historian Will Durant:
Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretist result. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity… and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child, and the mystic theosophy that made Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, and obscured the Christian creed; there, too, Christian monasticism would find its exemplars and its source. From Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother; from Syria the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps, the cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god… The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with inventing these similarities to mislead frail minds. Christianity was the last creation of the ancient pagan world… [The Eucharist] was a conception long sanctified by time; the pagan mind needed no schooling to receive it; by embodying the "mystery of the Mass," Christianity became the last and greatest of the mystery religions [The Story of Civilization, pp. 595, 599].
This noted historian here plainly acknowledges that church leaders did NOT take Jesus' life and HIS TEACHING as the standard for their so-called "Christian" churches!
Ask yourself, honestly: What other true standard could there possibly be?
Our dictionaries have preserved part of the truth about what a "Christian" is supposed to be. The American College Dictionary states: "Christian, pertaining to or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings… believing in or belonging to the religion of Jesus Christ."
But what was the teaching of Jesus Christ? What was His religion— Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, "Mind Science"—what?
The only authoritative answer is found in the inspired record of what Jesus did teach and of the perfect EXAMPLE He set for us to follow. Your Bible contains this inspired record!
With the above questions in mind, we need to look into it—honestly— openly—without prejudice.
What DID Jesus—the Author of true Christianity—actually TEACH and DO? And remember that a true Christian is one who follows Christ and His teaching!
At the beginning of His ministry, "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14–15).
The word "kingdom" means government. Jesus was talking about the coming government of God over this earth. He commanded: "REPENT, and believe in the gospel!"
To "repent" means to be so sorry that you are not only willing to quit—but to turn around and go the other way. Of course we must repent of SIN. But what is sin? God answers: "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV).
So we must repent of disobeying God's Government—of breaking His LAW!
Again, notice Jesus' own inspired words on the subject: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). In other words, Jesus in His own life perfectly performed the spiritual intent and purpose of God's law. Why did He do this?
Let God answer! In His inspired prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, Isaiah wrote: "The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will MAGNIFY the law and make it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21, KJV).
To magnify does NOT mean to destroy but to show forth and enlarge an object or a thing to the fullest possible extent. Jesus perfectly fulfilled and magnified God's law to show us its fullest spiritual application and also to set us an EXAMPLE that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
Jesus continued in this same discourse: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever DOES and TEACHES them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19). So according to Jesus' literal teaching, you have to both DO and TEACH even the LEAST of God's commandments if you are to become great in His Kingdom.
Isn't that PLAIN?
Throughout the rest of this teaching, commonly called the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus continued to MAGNIFY God's law and bring out the spiritual intent and purpose of that law for Christians with God's Spirit.
He showed that we are not only to restrain ourselves from literal murder, but that to even HATE a brother—involving as it does the spirit of murder—is bringing us into judgment before the spiritual law of God. He vividly illustrated how one can commit adultery not only by performing the literal act, but by LUSTING after a woman in his heart (Matthew 5:21–31).
Read these examples in your own Bible. Think about them. In every case, they obviously do NOT do away with God's law but rather make it all the more binding!
Matthew's fifth chapter ends with Jesus' instruction: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (v. 48).
Obedience to God and His law is the keynote in the entire Sermon on the Mount. Jesus declared: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
Later, notice Jesus' own words—His teaching—on how to be saved. "Now behold, one came and said to Him, 'Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?' So He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS'" (Matthew 19:16–17). Then (vv. 18–19) Jesus proceeded to name some of the Ten Commandments.
Speaking about the New Testament Gospel, which He preached, Jesus stated: "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:16–17). Here Jesus clearly showed that God's Kingdom or GOVERNMENT— is inseparably connected with God's Law. He showed that the law would NEVER fail! Then He went on to show what law He was talking about (v. 18) by commenting on the commandment concerning adultery—one of the Ten Commandments!
So the good news of God's Kingdom is inseparably related to the Law of God as contained in the Ten Commandments. Jesus always magnified and kept THIS LAW during His lifetime. He said: "I have kept My Father's commandments" (John 15:10).
After His resurrection, as Christ was commissioning His disciples to preach His message to ALL NATIONS—certainly including the Gentiles— Jesus commanded: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL THINGS that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19–20).
Here Jesus is clearly and plainly telling His apostles to go out to all nations preaching exactly the SAME message of obedience to God's LAW and His government as He Himself had taught them!
But carnal-minded men REBEL at the teaching of obedience to God's commandments. They say it is IMPOSSIBLE for human beings to obey God's law. They come up with many different excuses for disobeying the commandments of God and teach that you are saved by a sentimental acceptance of Christ's NAME or PERSON without any real obedience to Him or God as your Lord and MASTER!
Remember that a Christian is one who literally follows the example of Jesus Christ! Jesus was the "light" that God sent into the world to show man HOW he ought to be living. "That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9).
Peter was inspired to write: "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an EXAMPLE, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth" (1 Peter 2:21–22). Jesus OBEYED God. He did NO SIN—and sin is the "transgression of the law." He obeyed God and suffered persecution willingly and in all this set us an EXAMPLE that we should follow His steps!
The Apostle John wrote: "He who says he abides in Him [Christ] ought himself also to walk [to live] just as He walked" (1 John 2:6).
This passage clearly shows that the true Christian must LIVE just as Jesus Christ did live—following His example. The New English Bible renders this in more modern English: "Here is the test by which we can be sure that we are in Him: whoever claims to be dwelling in Him, binds himself to LIVE as Christ Himself lived."
So we are LITERALLY to follow the inspired EXAMPLE of Jesus Christ's perfect life! And we have seen that Jesus DID KEEP the Ten Commandments—LITERALLY (John 15:10).
If you really study the inspired record of Jesus' life carefully, you will see where Jesus prayed constantly on both knees to God the Father and fasted when He was in need of being especially close to God (Mark 1:35, 2:20, 9:29). You will see where Jesus literally OBEYED the fourth commandment—setting us an example (Luke 4:16, 31).
You will see where Jesus refused to be drawn into worldly wars and politics (John 18:36–37). You will see that Jesus OBEYED the commandments of God both in the letter AND in the spirit; that He lived a life of GIVING and SERVICE; and that He conducted Himself as an ambassador of a foreign kingdom or government—God's Government in heaven, which will soon come to replace ALL governments on this earth. Therefore, Jesus had no part in the religions, politics, wars and disputes of His time.
True Christians are LITERALLY to follow His marvelous example! AND Paul was inspired to write: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Christ has NOT CHANGED. He will guide you to live the same kind of life today that He DID LIVE in His own human body more than 1900 years ago! And remember, Jesus "was in ALL POINTS tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15, KJV).
The Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9). In plain language, if you are without God's Spirit you are NOT a Christian!
But what good is the Holy Spirit, some will ask, what does it do? Jesus answers: "If you love Me, keep My COMMANDMENTS. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:15–17).
Then Jesus continued by saying: "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you" (v. 18, KJV). Obviously He was going to come to and "comfort" BY this spirit, which would dwell IN the disciples. He stated in verse 23: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My WORD [obeying His commandments]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." It is obvious that both Jesus and God the Father do not come down and live INSIDE of someone in bodily form! Rather, they live IN the Christian through the Holy Spirit!
And Jesus continued by stating: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (v. 26). Notice that the same Spirit emanates out from Christ and the Father. That Spirit TEACHES Christ's true followers and helps them remember and apply the Truth.
So it is that the Apostle Paul could exclaim: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Here we see that— through the Holy Spirit— Christ comes to live His LIFE literally IN the true Christian who not only lives by faith in Christ, but by the very faith OF Jesus Christ—the same faith that guided and motivated Him in His human body over 1,900 years ago!
Through the Holy Spirit, then, you receive the very nature and power of Christ to obey the commandments, laws and ways of Almighty God! But it is actually CHRIST doing it.
However, you must surrender your will to Him, and you must REPENT of your lawlessness and ACCEPT CHRIST as your SAVIOR and as your Lord and MASTER! Then you must yield and strive to be an effective instrument in His hands!
Now can you understand?
It is actually CHRIST who keeps the commandments all over again—just as He did over 1,900 years ago—in your mortal body! It is His righteousness operating in your body, which you have willingly yielded to Him as His instrument.
The inspired formula for receiving God's Holy Spirit was given by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, 31AD "Then Peter said to them, 'REPENT, and let every one of you be BAPTIZED in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 2:38).
Since your old self must be buried or baptized for the remission of SIN, you must REPENT of sin! Recall that "sin is the transgression of the law." So you must repent of BREAKING GOD'S LAW!
You must be baptized in a watery grave as an outward acknowledgement of the death penalty you have brought on yourself by disobeying the LAW of your Creator, and of your willingness to let the old self die. Then, after real repentance of your rebellion against God and your own carnal ways and desires, and fulfilling the ordinance of humility in being baptized and accepting Christ's shed blood as payment for your past sins in FAITH, you are PROMISED the "gift" of God's Holy Spirit. Then, through His Spirit, Christ places His nature within you—His love, His faith, His strength to overcome your own weaknesses and the temptations of Satan and of this world.
The LOVE you receive through God's spirit is not mere human love, but the very love of God, because the "LOVE of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5).
Now how does this love operate?
Let Christ's Word give the true answer! "For this is the love of God, that we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
It is through God's love placed in us by His Spirit that we are enabled to KEEP His commandments!
Not through your strength, but through the spiritual POWER, which God's Holy Spirit imparts, you CAN follow the perfect example of Jesus Christ. You CAN yield to let Jesus live the same kind of life in you, which He DID live over 1,900 years ago—keeping the same laws of God, worshipping on the same Holy Days which God ordained, remaining separate from this world's society, politics and wars, and—through constant Bible study, earnest prayer, occasional fasting, and consistent spiritual overcoming and GROWTH— you can yield to let God fashion you in His spiritual image to be born of Him in the resurrection as His LITERAL SON—possessed of His very nature!
This is, in fact, the very PURPOSE of your existence!
Down through history, God has always set apart and marked those who truly serve Him by keeping His commandments and His LAWS. The Apostle John was inspired to write: "He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a LIAR, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).
The true God does not even hear our prayers unless we keep His commandments! "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22).
God further states: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the DOCTRINE of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the DOCTRINE of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do NOT receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 9–11).
This true teaching—the matter of OBEDIENCE to the true God and His LAW—is of PARAMOUNT importance in the eyes of God! Even in the final book of your Bible, the book of Revelation, this standard of OBEDIENCE is used as a sign of IDENTITY of God's true Church down through the ages.
Notice! Speaking of the true Church, which has to flee from the Devil at the time of the end, God says: "And the dragon [Satan the Devil] was enraged with the woman [the true Church], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).
And, at the very END of your Bible, as His final message to YOU, God states: "Blessed are those who do His COMMANDMENTS, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).
True Christianity then, the Christianity of Christ—is a WAY of life! It involves the Living Jesus Christ living His life within us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can truly worship God in the way He tells us to. We will be given spiritual LOVE to have the genuine out-flowing concern, the patience, the kindness and the mercy we need toward our fellow human beings.
Through His Spirit, we will "walk with God" on a daily basis—reflecting Jesus Christ in every facet of our lives. We will overcome the downward pull of sin and—through Christ in us— we will SURRENDER to let God form within us His very nature and character. And so God Himself will prepare us and qualify us to RULE with Christ in the coming Kingdom of God soon to be set up on this earth! "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from My Father" (Revelation 2:26–27).
For real Christians are called not just to be "nice" people— NOT just to "roll around heaven" all day with nothing to do. Rather we are called to join with Christ in RULING this world and bringing genuine peace and JOY to the earth when Christ's Kingdom becomes a glorious reality at His Second Coming. That is the very purpose for those called now to be true Christians.