Ralph L. Starling
“Join the church of your choice” is a common expression today. This is a right granted to man by God. Never has God forced man to obey him. From the beginning man was made a free moral agent; he was granted the right to choose for himself either good or evil. He has the right to join any church he may desire.
One must remember, however, that any reward received from service must come from the one served. If a man serves sin, he receives the consequences of sin. If we serve God, then the blessings of God and everlasting life shall be the reward.
Your Own Way?
Are you looking for a religion in which you can have your own way? That very desire has created many religions, and, no doubt, will continue to create them. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). He again reminds him that,
in the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:1-5). And he warns that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrines; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables 2 Tim. 4:3-4).
If you are looking for a church or a religion in which you can have your own way, you do not want the religion of the New Testament. You have no use for that book for it explicitly says that we are to hear Jesus Christ. “And Jesus, when he vas baptized, went up straightway out of the water and, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Later, on the mount of transfiguration, “behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud which said, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Peter, still later, quoted Moses as saying, “A prophet shall the Lord, your God, raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you” (Acts 3:22).
Furthermore, this book, the New Testament, does not give one the authority to have his own way in matters of religion, for the All-Wise God has placed all authority in Jesus Christ. To conform unto any other authority, is to rebel against God.
Man is forbidden to follow any way religiously other than that which has been pointed out by the apostles, that is the gospel of Christ. Hear Paul:
There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven preach unto you any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9).
Perhaps you are looking for a church or a religion that would offer worldly prestige or power. Many people choose their churches with this as the paramount objective. For the most part, perhaps this desire is held secret, but sometimes it is openly admitted. All too often people moving into a new community look out among the religious organizations of that community the one that is the most popular, or most socially inclined, with little or no thought at all as to whether or not this church is doing God’s will.
That this was a very prevalent condition of religious people in the time of Christ is pointed out by Matthew:
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All therefore they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not” (Matt. 23:2). Now notice:
But all their works they do for to be seen of men. They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost seats at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi (Matt. 23:5-7).
If this is the type of religion you seek, the Bible is not the book for you. The religion of the Bible requires humility. “He that is greatest among you shall be your minister” (Mark 10:43) and, “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 24:12).
The religion of the New Testament requires a life consecrated to Him, not to ourselves. To choose our religion for worldly prestige and position is to place religion on a selfish basis indeed—a basis of self-exaltation. Instead, religion should be for the purpose of exalting the Lord Jesus Christ, that through Him men may be raised up in the last day. Paul expresses it in these words, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20-21).
A True Life For Christ?
If it is your desire to be a Christian, a truly consecrated follower of Christ, the Bible is the book for you. It was given for people with this very attitude. John says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). How foolish to hope for salvation from any other source! Peter says; “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If you are actually seeking salvation, then this Book tells you the way.
How then do we put on Christ? Paul gives the answer, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). This step that puts us into Christ is preceded by faith, repentance, and confession of his name. Thus through obedience to the gospel we become Christians; we receive with meekness the engrafted word.
Now what do you seek in a church? Your own way? Prestige and social positions? Or, are you truly seeking the salvation Jesus offers? If the latter, then the Bible is the book you want, and it is yours in its entirety. Learn to love it; read it often; meditate upon its truths. Allow it to make you into the likeness of God’s Son. Obey its every command.