“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
St Paul to the church at Philippi.
Christians are, by their definition, disciples of Jesus Christ. This bit of self-identification requires those professing Christianity to adopt two beliefs that those outside the faith would have us abandon in favor of “evolving” as a person and embracing diversity.
The first of these beliefs is our exclusive identification with Jesus as the embodiment of God. While Christians, like me, hold a heartfelt certainty that all human searches for God lead ultimately to both a knowledge of and a spiritual experience with the Divine, we cannot forsake our belief that the culmination of that search eventually leads to an acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ, the very person of God.
You may hold a contrary belief about the ends of such a search for God and a Christian will support your right to that belief. However, you may not hold a contrary belief and accurately call yourself Christian. That is not a church doctrine per se or even a matter of religion…it is a matter of language. You may study the teachings and person of Jesus and even adopt Christian concepts and not be a Christian much like I can quote a few saying of the Buddha without being a Buddhist.
Of course, my comparison breaks down when one compares the teachings of Christ and Buddha. As far as I know, the Buddha never claimed to be God. The same holds for Mohammed and Islam. While Jews hold to the doctrine of a Christ, they deny Jesus is that Christ. Christians do not believe Jesus was a great teacher, or a prophet, or a revolutionary. Christians believe Jesus is God in the flesh.
Without this belief, there is no Christianity. There might be religion, spirituality, moral goodness, and a host of other positive benefits, but there is no Christianity. That kind of exclusiveness bugs the hell out of modern society. They see it as hateful and bigoted because it denies them access to manipulate a faith they do not possess. So be it. Christianity without the divinity of Jesus is simply not Christianity.
The world needs to understand that they are not dealing with the Boy Scouts here. While a court forced that group to accepts girls into their number thus requiring them to change their name and membership…there is not a court in the universe that can force Christians to recognize someone outside this fundamental belief as one of their number. Attempts at this throughout history have only sent true Christians underground for a time only to have them reappear in the same form as they previously existed.
The resurrected Jesus told Thomas to put his fingers in the wounds in his hands and put his hand into Christ’s spear pierced side. He told Thomas not to be faithless but believing.
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”
This confession of the Lordship and Divinity of Jesus, after some fashion, constitutes the foundation of Christianity. If Jesus is not your Lord and God, you have no claim to Christianity.
This being the case, we then enter upon a corollary definition of Christian injected by Jesus and essential to a true confession of faith in him. Jesus contends that calling him Lord is not enough. To be a Christian, one must also be recognized as such by God.
“Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day (the day of judgment), Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me…”
This naturally leads us to the second belief required of Christians…working out their unique relationship with God. Those who call themselves Christians and demand that every other person, to claim the name, must be like them is, in fact, hate-motivated and bigoted. In that, the world is correct and many Christians in the wrong.
The upshot, for those who missed it, is that Christians are constantly working on themselves and their relationship with God. This course of instruction, or disciple (that’s where the word disciple comes from), must occupy the place of top priority for the rest of a Christian’s time on earth. This is not a demand for a sheltered monastic existence exclusively made up of reading, prayer, and church services to the exclusion of all else. It is a requirement to live life to the fullest in God.
What will God require of you, if you become a Christian? That is strictly between you and God. Remember our opening admonition? Work out your own salvation…that’s for real. I can promise you this, God will not come down and drop it on your head complete and whole. You will work for this “free” salvation and it will cost you dearly.
When the Bible speaks about the free gift of God, it is speaking of the price of our redemption from the curse being “free” because it was accomplished in the work of Christ. But even then it is not free, Christ paid for it, nor is our acceptance of salvation free because, if done right repentance costs us…first, emotionally and then in every other way possible.
David refused to offer something to God which cost him nothing. It is a lesson well worth remembering as you build a relationship with God. God’s “gifts” to us cost Him something dear. Christianity, working out our salvation, costs us something in return. If it does not, it is worth nothing.
While working out one’s relationship with God, it is important to know who is directing the process. That task belongs to the Holy Spirit. It’s fine if we have an agenda, but be sure God does too and they may not always agree. Be ready for God’s agenda to probe deeper, include more details, and require more dedication than those we choose for ourselves. God is the original holistic healer. While we may be content with God getting us out of a jam or those “one or two” little imperfections we have, God is not.
“Be ye holy as I am holy,” that’s God’s end game. Where your good and future are concerned, God will not stop short of that and the truth is…we should not want nor settle for less. Bear in mind when you accept working out your life with God, the only and last example of complete success was crucified by a mob lead by the religious authorities and sanctioned by the political powers of the day.
If you are ready to take on that kind of spiritual quest, get to a quiet, private place, ask for God to meet you there…and listen…God has a plan for you.