It's no secret there are many different ideas about religion and spirituality. I've studied different religions, and even within my own faith of Christianity, I have discovered there are many conflicting opinions concerning what God wants us to be and how we are to live.
At this time, I will limit my views to the Christian faith because that is where I have spent more time in research and also declare my allegiance. I must add that I have not "arrived" at some type of wisdom plateau, nor should I be considered a Bible scholar — I have a long way to go in my spiritual understanding. In fact, it seems the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know.
I was raised in a traditional Baptist church in the 1960s and '70s. As I began to study on my own, I realized there were many other creeds and ideologies in the religious world that at least deserved careful consideration. I've also discovered the more time we spend sincerely praying and researching the Bible, the more questions we have about what we have been taught. It's true that every denomination has different ideas and uses certain Bible passages to prove their points. With so many conflicting opinions, we can see why there is so much division, which also explains why God advises us to seek out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
I'm not suggesting that we turn away from reading and listening to other people's views, but we have a personal responsibility to seek the Lord and search for divine truth on our own. 1 John 2:27 says, "But the anointing which you have received of God abides in you, and you need not that any person teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things and is truth and not a lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in Him."
Bible teachers can help us learn, but it's much easier to trust and even pay someone else to study and explain their views than it is to become a disciplined Bible student. Since we are referring to personal accountability, why would our private studies and prayers not be our highest priority?
It's common knowledge that many ministers and teachers have certain areas they like to focus on. For example, similar to how we have primary physicians along with a wide array of medical specialists, we also have pastors and evangelists who regularly preach salvation messages. Some are known for Bible prophecy and eschatology, while other members of the clergy have a reputation for instructing about faith, positive thinking and prosperity, etc.
Ministers should do what God is telling them to do, but I am also convinced that with each area of expertise, there needs to be a more complete presentation within the context of the full gospel. There is something wrong when someone picks out all the passages about how God wants to make us wealthy but does not emphasize that it's more important to demonstrate God's character.
Yes, we all want to eat chocolate cake and live a comfortable, carefree life of blessings, but this is not the foundation of our salvation, nor the true meaning and purpose of life. We should be alarmed how the olive press, the threshing floor and God's refining fire, which are critical components of the Christian faith, are being replaced with deceptive feel-good philosophies.
There is a divine order to the way God wants us to live, and his desires must be first and foremost. Our highest goals after we are born again are to know and obey God's voice, to learn and receive his word, to yield our will, develop faith, love and live holy. The Bible was not written to satisfy or justify our carnal flesh or to make us comfortable in our sins, and neither are blessings given so that we might be absorbed in pleasures that distract us from knowing spiritual truth.
The disciple's mission is not easy or a popular subject because being crucified with Christ and taking up our cross is all about surrendering our will and allowing Jesus to be our Lord and to control our lives. The lifelong commitment and responsibility of a Christian requires for the mind and conscience to be renewed into his image. Unless we are changed from the inside out, Christ cannot be seen in us.
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