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Do Denominations Invalidate Christianity?

I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches.

~ C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

From Caleb,

First, I want to clear something up. It has too long been an issue among Christians about which denomination you follow. Too many people think they go to “the best” denomination church, and sorry to be blunt, but I am sick and tired of it. Whether you attend a church that is Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Nazarene, Catholic, or any other, you’re not anymore of a Christian than the next guy that goes to a different denomination church.

What is important is what you think about who Jesus is and the things that he did. There is no one “right” or “better” denomination. We are THE CHURCH; we are all followers of Christ. Reality is, no matter which kind of church you attend, there are people who go every single Sunday that could be dying and going to hell.

There are people who go to Lutheran churches that aren’t actually saved.
There are people who go to Presbyterian churches that aren’t actually saved.
There are people who go to Nazarene churches that aren’t actually saved. There are people who go to Baptist churches that aren’t actually saved.
There are people who go to Catholic churches that aren’t actually saved.

Attending a specific denomination of church doesn’t save you, following Christ wholeheartedly and trusting in his sacrifice does. When these divides go up based on “denomination,” the Church as a whole is being weakened. From the outside looking in, this conflict within God’s people makes us look foolish to non-believers.

Parents and older believers, listen up! We must stop indirectly creating this mindset in the minds of young believers through how we speak about other churches. Making stereotypical jokes, speaking bad of another church, or simply vocalizing assumptions we have about a particular church based on their denomination further encourages this mindset among other believers. It must be stopped for the sake of uniting the church in the future.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the answer is no: Christianity cannot be invalidated simply because there are many different denominations. The truth is The Church is all of the people that love Christ and believe that they have received salvation by grace through faith and because of that, repent and turn from their sins. Furthermore, the Early Church differences in many denominations are what I would like to call “Nonessential pieces of Doctrine”, these are things that even though they are slightly doctrinally different, they are not a deterrent to the truth of the Church. Ultimately they have no bearing when it comes to trusting in salvation from Jesus by grace and through faith.

How Can I Share My Testimony?

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 corinthians 5:20

This past summer I had an amazing opportunity to travel across the world and share my faith with those who have never heard the name of Jesus. In doing so, I gradually learned how to effectively share my testimony so that others would see the forgiveness of sins that is in Jesus Christ. I was taught a method that I shared with many believers in remote areas who needed to be discipled.

This method is simply called the 2, 3, 4 method. There are 2 parts to the Gospel: Your story and the story of Jesus. Remember that your story is only a part to the whole, much like a slice out of an apple. Your story is important, but keep it in the context of Christ. Your story includes 3 parts.

  1. Your life before you met/accepted Jesus into your life. When talking to people, tell them about who you were and how you acted before you accepted Jesus into your heart. In Acts 26:4-11 you can see Paul’s life before Christ.
  2. Next you share about how you met Christ and your transformation. Paul talks about his encounter with God on the road to Damascus in Acts 26:12-18. Many of us probably don’t have a story like Paul’s where God appeared to us on a road and blinded us, but some of us do. The fact is, however you met Jesus is just as important for Paul as it is you and I.
  3. Finally, the life you live after you accepted Jesus in your heart is what you share. Compare it to your previous life before Christ. Tell how you were once dead in sin, but now have assurance of eternal life. This part of Paul’s testimony is in Acts 26:19-23.

Sharing your testimony is crucial when you are trying to share the gospel with a neighbor or friend. Your story may be similar to theirs. They may be able to relate to your life before Christ, which may spur them on to learn more about this Jesus you are telling them about. Constantly practice sharing your story with friends and family so that you will be ready when God presents you with an opportunity to share your testimony.

Now, the second part to the Gospel is Jesus’ story. There are 4 parts to the story of Jesus.

  1. Judgement- We all face judgement for the sins in our lives. Romans 3:23 states that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all born with a sin nature and can do nothing on our own to fix this issue. Hebrews 9:27 says that “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” We will all be judged.
  2. Repent– Jesus taught us that we must repent- turn away from the sin in our lives. We must realize that we are all sinners and chose to run from that sin. In Matthew 4:17 Jesus said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Without repentance, their cannot be turning away from sins, and therefore no forgiveness.
  3. Death– Through judgement and the knowledge that we have all sinned, it is then evident that this will lead to death. We all deserve death, both spiritual and physical. Romans 6:23 says that “The wages of sin is death.” The Bible tells us that Christ died for all; in Romans 5:8 it says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ took death so that we don’t have to, he brings us hope!
  4. Resurrection/ New Life- Christ did not stay dead. He rose from the grave, conquering death and sin, enduring the sin so that we don’t have to. If we chose him, he will stand for us on judgement day, taking our sin and shame so that we can spend eternity in heaven with him. John 3:16 says that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. We have an inheritance in heaven with Jesus.

It is always important to talk about the story of Jesus when sharing the Gospel and your testimony. Make sure who you are talking knows that your new life is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, taking our sin and our shame.

Apply It!

Pray that God would give you 3 people this week that you could share your testimony and the Gospel with. Practice sharing your testimony with your family to figure out what you will say. Take courage and remember that God’s word will never return void! Follow his voice and share your story with those around you. If you don’t tell them, who will?!

How “Creed II” and Philippians 3:8 Connect

“He’s got nothing to lose! As a fighter, when you got nothing to lose you’re dangerous!”

~ Rocky Balboa, Creed 2

From Caleb,

I want to take a second not to answer a question, but rather to share something that has been on my heart recently. I hope this challenges you, spurs you on in your faith, and encourages you to share about the goodness of faith in Jesus Christ and make more disciples.

In the movie Creed II, Adonis Creed is the son of former fighter Apollo Creed, whom Ivan Drago killed in Rocky IV. Ivan Drago’s son, Victor Drago, comes to America from Russia to fight Adonis. This was such a big deal because Victor’s father had killed Apollo Creed in a fight years ago.

Rocky, former fighter and trainer to Adonis Creed, knew that in his young ambitious ways, Adonis will jump on the fight, even though Rocky knew it wasn’t the wisest decision. Rocky warned Adonis by reminding him that Victor had nothing to lose, and because of that he was a dangerous fighter. Adonis was angered by Rocky telling him this, because he implied that Adonis wasn’t a dangerous fighter. This scene in a way rocked me.

As followers of Christ we must identify ENTIRELY with Christ; He IS our identity.

It really got me thinking: it’s the same way with Christians and following Christ. Jesus called anyone who wanted to be a one of his followers to give away all that he had and follow him (Luke 18:22). We need to be ready to sacrifice everything we have because this life we live isn’t ours. As followers of Christ we must identify ENTIRELY with Christ; He IS our identity.

We Should Fear Nothing

Christ is our identity; when we allow that to fuel us, we will fear nothing. When he is our complete identity, we have all that we need and ever will need. Accepting this, cherishing this, and making this your identity is the exact thing Christ calls us to do. We are his, and just as Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

When we accept and live in this true identity as Christ followers, we are “dangerous” to the world around us, because then we will have nothing to lose; we have all that we need. Then, we will truly able to make an impact and be effective in evangelism. This is how Christ designed it to be; however, sometimes we get distracted and manipulated by the world into thinking that we have something to lose.

The world wants you to think that you have so much to lose: your family, your friends, your possessions, your money, your job, or even your life. God tells that all the world has to offer is worthless compared to knowing Christ and serving in his mission (Philippians 3:7-8). But again, the world wants to convince us otherwise. When we accept the truth that when we find our true identity in Christ we have nothing to lose, we are dangerous to the Kingdom of Darkness. But what happens when we start to believe we have something to lose?

What’s the result of thinking we have something to lose?

When Christians think they have something to lose, we end up losing sight of Christ’s mission. We lose our heart for lost people and for the mission of reaching the nations. To those around us we appear as just an ordinary Joe-shmoe; we lose the fire that obviously marks us as a follower of Christ.

To be dangerous for the Kingdom of God we must remember we have nothing to lose; this world has nothing to offer us. Stay focused, having eternity in mind, so that we can always be ready to share about the goodness of Christ.

Why Materialism Must be False

If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

– C.S. Lewis

From Ben,

One of the issues with an evolutionary perspective is the idea of materialism. First off, let’s define materialism in these terms. Materialism is the idea that everything can be traced back to physical matter; there is no spiritual aspect to things or even a mind apart from a physical brain. Everything can be explained as a chemical interaction. But how can this be logical?

How can anything be logical if all thoughts are chemical reactions occurring in our brains.

The largest issue with this point of view that often comes to my mind is the conscience found in every person- the moral compass inside of us all that separates right from wrong and produces feelings of guilt. How are human beings born with an idea of what is good and what is bad? Materialism would say that it is all matter, there is no true good or bad because everything is simply chemicals reacting to create a response. Does materialism explain this idea of a conscience in humans? I believe it does not.

Another major issue with the idea that all things are only physical is the idea of truth itself. If every thought is simply chemicals interacting, then how can we trust anything that we say, or others say? The materialist point of view says that you have no control over what you say, think, and do, because it is all simply a physical interaction within your brain that does not involve immaterial feelings or knowledge. Once again, how can we believe in ourselves and those around us to make “good” choices when they actually have no control over their thoughts or actions.

How do beliefs and values play a role in a materialistic evolutionary perspective on the world? They simply don’t make any sense. The thought that unguided evolution would produce beings that hold believes, pursue truth, and have values does not directly align with evolution, nor materialism. Evolution simply cares about behaviors, not beliefs. Materialists have no substantial argument as to how the ability of humans to think and hold personal views on things developed from only physical matter.

This leads us to the incredible complexity of the world and all processes that occur within. As science has progressed and academia has been able to study life on a much more microscopic level, the simple theories of evolution have begun to fall apart. The chances that a random occurrence would cause such complex and incredibly-designed life forms is just not plausible or rational. In this case, there had to be something (or someone) immaterial, that is supernatural, that created and designed such processes. This view completely clashes with the views of a materialist who would believe that random events caused unguided evolution, which produced human beings.

Practical Application:

When talking to someone who you know as an evolutionist, bring up the idea of materialism. Ask them if they truly believe that every thought they have and every belief they hold is simply a chemical reaction occurring in their brain. Bring up the fact that if materialism were true, how could we know anything to be trustworthy or moral. Also, ask your friend about their conscience and if they feel guilt when they do wrong, then ask them to explain how this developed simply through matter. Always be polite and respectful, showing the love of Jesus in every response and interaction.

If you want to educate yourself further on the idea of materialism, I highly suggest researching and reading articles on Thomas Nagel. Nagel is an atheist, but is not afraid to say controversial things on reason and evolution itself.

Miracles: How do we know Jesus Performed Them?

The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticated and children

~ Richard Dawkins

From Caleb,

Miracles are what make the Gospels not only extraordinary but also cause for rejection by many people. If the Gospels were simply records of the life of a normal human being, people would have no problem accepting Jesus as a crazy Jewish rabbi that had some wacked-out teachings and created a large following. Historians and archaeologists support and validate that Jesus of Nazareth was a real man that walked the earth around two thousand years ago.

Josephus, who was 1st century Jewish Historian, was one of many historians to validate the life of Jesus. Many times in his writings he mentions Jesus. While there is record of a man named Jesus people may suggest the fact that it could have simply bee another man that went by the same name; however, this possibility it ruled out when we see how these historians specified the characteristics of Jesus and those who followed him. In these historical documents, most writers consistently talk about Jesus as “The King of the Jews”, or they mention how he gained a great crowd of Jewish followers.

From these sources and evidence within, it can be understood that these historians were writing about the same Jesus from the New Testament in the Bible. Although, despite having these external pieces of evidence, many people will deny the entirety of the Gospels because of the accounts of Jesus performing miracles.

How might you defend the fact that Jesus performed miracles? People won’t often deny the fact that he lived, but people will more often than not deny the things he did while he lived on earth. Josephus wrote not only about the life of Jesus but also the things that he did. Some speculate that Josephus had his writing edited and changed by a Christian writer after his death, which makes them unreliable; however, his writings have been sifted through by scholars and this is how they have determined the original copy of his writings were reliable. In his original Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3, Josephus wrote this about Jesus:

“a wise man. He was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Greek origin.”

These startling deeds are deeds far beyond what would seem in the natural realm of possibility; this greatly supports the claims of Jesus’s miraculous actions in the New Testament.

Since some may question the reliability of Josephus’s writings, another piece of evidence is from the Talmud, a collection of Jewish teachings based around the Old Testament, where they briefly document the nature of Jesus’s actions. The Talmud describes Jesus as a sorcerer who used the magic arts he learned in Egypt. All of these are great pieces of evidence for Jesus performing miracles.

Practical Application

How do you use this knowledge to share the Gospel with people? If someone directly objects to it, it is easy to simply answer the question with evidence, such as historians’ writing about the deeds of Jesus. When in a conversation talking about things that are doubtful, it is easy to transition and start talking about this topic. You could talk about how incredible it is that the miracles of Jesus seem so far fetched, yet there are even people that back it up. Then behold! The conversation has just begun!