Creek Wood and Clarksville Friends: Am I Your Enemy
I come from a rather storied past. Many of you have known me since 6th grade or even before. If you are one of those people then you know I was an atheist, and a hateful one at that. Once I finally realized the error of ways, I attempted to find God, but I made a mistake. I thought I could find Him anywhere. I didn’t go far. I found the closest church building to my house and I began attending Sunday and Wednesday, without fail. As time went on, I read more and more of the Bible, and I realized there were things the denomination I was attending was doing which were not lining up with Scripture. The very idea of denominations seemed foreign to God’s teaching. I would go to the minister and ask questions, but I would only be directed to the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s creed book. I brought up John 17:17 where Jesus prayed for sanctity in the truth, God’s word. He prayed also for those who would believe on Him through the words of the apostles, that we would be one as He, the Father and the apostles were one. Paul warned in Galatians 1 of leaving the gospel he delivered for another one. In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul corrected the Corinthians for dividing themselves according to who baptized them or who they believed in more. My mind was doing circles. If we were to be sanctified in the truth, then who’s truth? The truth decided upon by individual denominations? The truth in the creed books? Or God’s truth? And who gets to decide what truth is? A panel? A “pastor”?
When I went off to college at Freed-Hardeman University I was instructed to not let “those church of Christ people” change me. The “church of Christ”, according to this high school teacher who I trusted, had tried to keep this certain person accountable to God, but they felt that God “would want them to be happy” so this person left the church of Christ. This person looked for another way to God where there would be no consequences here on earth for their actions. I was determined to stay true to what the Book of Discipline told me to believe about the Bible. I was determined to stay out of this church that had attempted to hold this dear friend of mine accountable. There were just two problems: I was already questioning the Book of Discipline and “those church of Christ people” were answering my questions with the Bible. AND IT MADE SENSE! I would go back to my room at night in tears, calling the worship minister back at the local denomination saying, “I don’t know what to do! What they’re telling me seems to be true, but if I change then I can’t do the things I did there.” I would then be instructed to follow my feelings and pray a prayer after reading the Book of Discipline.
Now, this is where I will take a page out of the apostle Paul’s playbook. “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16) To all of my friends who are attending any denomination or non-denominational church, I want you to know how much I love and appreciate your love for the Lord. You’re there because you are seeking truth and want to know a better way to live. All of us have a common goal and that is Heaven. I think we can all agree on those things. Now, here’s the rub. You may have been taught that all of us are just taking different paths there, but consider Jesus’ prayer in John 17. He prays for the apostles to be sanctified, made holy, in the truth and He says God’s word is truth. The word which Jesus received, he delivered to the apostles, and they were instructed to write it down for our instruction. So, we are to be sanctified in that truth. Truth doesn’t change and it can’t be voted upon. Consider all of the denominations just in your town and all of them teach something different. How can we be sanctified in truth, teach something different and all still consider ourselves to be the Lord’s church? It’s an impossibility. If we are sanctified in the truth then we would all teach and believe the same things, right?
God placed one church (Ephesians 4:4) here on earth and He expected that church to keep His teachings. “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” (Romans 6:17) There was a certain form of teaching that everyone was to adhere to. Let’s think logically about this denomination thing. If you gave me a one hundred dollar bill and said you wanted it back at the end of the day and I gave you two 20’s, three 10’s and six 5’s would you have gotten back what you asked for? No. It may seem like it all adds up to the same thing, but it’s not what you asked for. It’s the same when it comes to God. Jesus purchased the church with His blood and some day He will deliver it to the Father. Only the “one hundred dollar bill” will be acceptable to God.
So, here’s my plea to you, friends and family whom I love dearly. Consider what your church taught you to do about how to gain a relationship with God, a covenant if you will. Maybe they told you to pray a prayer and ask Jesus into your heart. Maybe they told you to just believe and confess Jesus. Maybe they had you be baptized as just a good thing to do because others needed to see your faith. Friends and family that is incorrect. More than likely they did not tell you to do these things because they wanted to mislead you, but they thought in all sincerity they were doing the right thing. It’s what they were taught. It’s what their family had done for generations! Whatever they told you to do, if they left this very important step out, which I am about to discuss, then they have left out a lot of truth from their teaching.
When I was still in this particular denomination I would look at verses like Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16 Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:26-28, Colossians 2:11-13, Titus 3:5-7 and 1 Peter 3:21 and wonder how it was that this denomination could pour water on someone’s head or even immerse and say it was because we were already saved. It made no sense, and yet I stayed, because that’s where all of my friends were. All of these verses have something in common and it kept nagging at me. They teach that baptism is essential to the forgiveness of sins (sin separates us from God [Isaiah 59:1-2]), we are clothed in Christ (in the old testament the priests had to be clothed properly before they could go before God (Exodus 28:43), God washes away our sins in baptism when we call upon His name (this is the confession in Romans 10:9-10), we find mercy, grace and salvation by God’s working (Titus 3:5-7), not our own works. Jesus said forgiveness of sins is found in His blood and we find forgiveness of sins in repentance and baptism according to Acts 2:38. There is only one church that teaches this in its entirety and that is the church of Christ.
The church of Christ is not a denomination. We seek to teach the truth in its fullness and we continue to study to make sure we stay within the teachings of Scripture. Our worship must conform with the teachings of the New Testament and our lifestyle must align with the example of Christ. If you are worshipping in a denomination today, it is my prayer and my hope that you have taken these words in the kindness they were intended and are willing to follow the Lord wherever His word takes you. I’m sure you have made many friends and have family members who have been longtime members of a particular denomination, but once you know the truth about the Lord’s church and His salvation you must realize you are only accountable to yourself and to God. I have lost many friends and family because of the realization of truth and how it really will put a sword between families. The best understanding I’ve come to is that even as I have made enemies because of the truth, I have gained an even larger family in the church.
If you read this all the way through please don’t hesitate to call me (303) 653-6095 or your local church of Christ. I’d be more than happy to talk to you if you have any questions or even if you think I’m wrong. Truth isn’t an island. We must discuss it, but please remember I love you and want you to be able to enjoy salvation in eternity and that’s why I wrote this article.