Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Christian Heritage... What Is It Really? (Part 1)

I come from a long line of traditional Christianity. My great-grandfather was a Baptist preacher, my grandfather a leader in the church seemingly his entire life, clinging tightly to conservative Baptist ways. My great-uncle (his brother), also a pastor. From as long as I can remember I was taken (at times dragged) to church services. It’s in my family tree – Christianity. Where I am today though, as a Believer in Christ, is surprisingly not a result of what I was raised to know Christianity to be. In fact, they’re so vastly different it’s baffling. Everyone just went to church – it’s what you did. When I left home and chose to forgo any church-related activities I fully understood that I was a sinful, rebellious one. No one had to tell me. I was simply raised to know this inherently in the countless hell-fire and brimstone sermons I had heard throughout my early years. Indoctrinated to go to church and mysteriously please God or go it alone and bring Him great displeasure. How sad a life really, these two options. Riddled with guilt and condemnation at every turn and set up for failure. I was destined to disappoint God and I knew that I would never be good enough to stay on His good side.

It kept me from truly knowing Who God is for many years as I carried this twisted view of Him into my adult life. Thankfully, after a couple of stints on church staff positions I unplugged from all that I knew God to be (religion) and ventured out to discover Him for myself. What I found, free from all skewed and prideful, Christian-American Christianity, changed my life forever. The God of all the ages revealed Himself to me and I’d never be the same. I had discovered God for myself, without coercion or mandated service. It was no longer forced or obligatory just because it was somehow what I was “supposed” to do. It was as if I had been set free to know Who He really is… for myself - a personal revelation of Jesus Christ that cannot be mandated upon anyone… ever. Salvation is a personal choice – period.

Although a Christian heritage for many Americans is like oxygen in level of importance, it’s important to understand that salvation/spiritual regeneration (the only true defining event of biblical Christianity) cannot be inherited or passed on. Religion and the traditions of men however always are. Knowing how deeply the traditions of American Christianity run in my family, how is it then that I sit here now completely disinterested in continuing these legacies of religion? Many would consider this quite disrespectful, I know. It in no way lessens my respect for those who have come before me. (In fact, my grandfather is one of the greatest men I’ll ever know). But today I have a son of my own and all that I desire him to pursue is a personal relationship with the LORD – a relationship that he possesses as his own, not something simply passed on by anyone else, including me. I will gladly teach him all that I know, but more importantly, I’ll teach him what I have personally experienced. I’ll guide Him to the Father the best way that I know how – by living a Christ-life. What I’ll pass on won’t just be felt-board Bible stories that are told like fairy tales or how he has to do this or that in order to make sure God isn’t mad at him his entire life. But rather I’ll tell him of the things I’ve tasted and seen of my Father. I’ll speak of God’s patience, kindness and unfailing love above all else.

Although one would assume that everyone knows this simple fact, it’s worth discussing that a solid Christian heritage, although valued and good, does not ensure one’s lineage will arrive at biblical salvation. Most would say that of course it’s sure better than “insert whatever other way of life here”, right? Honestly, I just don’t know. I view it this way: Anything, I repeat, anything that is a form of godliness, is not godliness and will not lead to spiritual regeneration. It’s a counterfeit. So, let me pose it this way, is a plastic apple that looks authentic and genuine any better than a paper one that is a poor representation just because it looks more like the real thing? Of course not. This same principle applies with salvation. I don’t care how spiritual or religious one looks, if it’s not rooted in authentic transformation, it’s of no use – period.

A lot of times traditional Christianity is even allowed to be a tool that runs family members off, should they be disinterested in just falling into line with all of the religious rules and regulations. (These occurrences are almost entirely found to be associated with church service attendance.) Many a youth has been turned away with scarring words of how disappointed God is with their rebellion in regards to attending religious activities. The truth is, I think we’d all be highly more likely to stay within the mindset of true Christianity as we mature if it were more than just weekly activities and sleep-inducing repetitions. (I fully understand that many a man enjoys such a lifestyle.) If the largest quantity of one’s Christianity is made up of attending services each Sunday, then it’s no wonder that the knowledge of God seems so disinteresting.

I just see so many people discuss their Christianity (and, of course their denominational affiliation) as they would their political preference – as if they were born into it like their family forefather before them. Let me make this clear, although nearly everyone would say that they of course know this simple fact…

Salvation, unlike Christianity, cannot be inherited or passed on throughout generations. It absolutely must be a personally experiential event. It’s not simply a tradition, program or national custom. It’s a supernatural transformation of a man – any man despite race, nationality or upbringing.


Andrew said...

Well Joel this is interesting especially since I had a conversation about the difference between salvation and Lordship and how most people can give you all the answers but when it comes to Lordship it means absolutely nothing to them. Although Christianity is the only religion that doesn't actually "pass down" from one generation to the next like some of the other ones religions, although that really was prevalent in past generations but as the generations grew we began to question more and ask why and just not accept on blind faith like our parents did. Like you said salvation has to be experienced personally if there is no personal conviction or decision then it's just plain worthless: Just random thoughts of course

Joel Spencer said...

Andrew: Agreed. Many have completely bailed out but some are rising up saying, "who is this God of our fathers?". As upcoming parts discuss, there's been somewhat of a shift within The Church recently. I think it's healthy to ask questions, even voice doubts and unbelief. It's time transparency and freedom to examine one's Christianity becomes the norm.

As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts.