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What Is the Spirit of Real Christianity?
Good News Magazine
May 1976
Volume: Vol XXV, No. 5
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What Is the Spirit of Real Christianity?
C Wayne Cole   
Church of God

Member Since: 1951
Ordained: 1954
Office: Evangelist

The world is full of "pseudo-Christians" — but what is the spirit and attitude of a true Spirit-led Christian?

   God has perfect character. He is consistent. He is an unchanging God (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). You can count on God to fulfill His intentions and promises. He is reliable, trustworthy, faithful. God is predictable! God's character and purposes are immutable — you can rely on God to come through in a pinch. He won't let you down. He will not fail!
Humanity Is Fallible. But in contrast human beings fail. Men make mistakes. Human beings are fallible, inconsistent and unpredictable. God reveals that "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
   It is to God's glory and credit that He is what He is! But all of us here below are subject to the weaknesses and inconsistencies of the flesh. Jesus Himself acknowledged that human flesh is indeed weak (Matt. 26:41).
   Human life is a training ground. We are here on earth training for eternity. It is here, on this earth, that we are to learn to control the powers God has given us. For example, we strive to control the power of speech and to rule over our tongues (James 3:1-10). We seek control over our God-given emotions. God says: "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (Prov. 25:28). We must rule over the physical power we have to harm others. John the Baptist said: "Do violence to no man" (Luke 3:14).
   So it is in the area of human relationships that we all encounter the greatest difficulties. Because humanity is flawed, imperfect and fallible, human problems arise. Yet God loves this wretched world in spite of its problems and overall lack of spirituality.
   We are told by the apostle John: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..." (John 3:16). God deeply and affectionately cares for His human creation. All men and women are created in the very image of God.
Future Family of God. As we mortals look back at our track record and witness the tragic story of man's brutality to man, it is easy to conclude there is no hope for mankind.
   But God has confidence in the ultimate future of mankind! There is reason for hope and expectation: God knows that many — perhaps even the majority — of mankind will ultimately fulfill their human destiny, being born into the very family of God. Jesus Christ is the firstborn of many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Jesus did not die in vain! His death, burial and resurrection were the most meaningful and important events in human experience. Because of it, the bulk of the human race will be saved — but everyone in his own order (I Cor. 15:22-23).
   How, then, did God resurrect Christ? By His vast, spiritual power. By the power of the Holy Spirit.
   And it is this same power that resides in every truly begotten Christian. Jesus promised His disciples that they would "receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come" (Acts 1:8). That power, which is the very mind of God, will bring about the resurrection of all who possess it (Rom. 8:11). That portion of the Holy Spirit granted to each Christian is merely the down payment, or "earnest" of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14).
   God has faith in mankind! Faith that His purpose for mankind will be accomplished. Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church of God, is called the Captain of our salvation. He is the leader, the One who will see His Father's plan through to completion. God and Christ have a personal interest in every last human being who has ever lived and died. If God knows even the sparrow that falls, how much more is He concerned with His human creation? (Matt. 10:29-31.)
   The wonderful truth is that God is creating a family. God is expanding His own family by the transformation of His human children into spirit beings. Remember that God is a Spirit (John 4:24).
   We are instructed by John: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (I John 3:2-3).
Basic Christianity. This wonderful plan of salvation, God's reproduction of His own kind through Christ, is at the heart and core of Christianity. Can you possibly comprehend what it would be like to be just like Jesus Christ? Can you wrap your mind around the concept? Can you visualize in your mind's eye what it would be like to be composed of spirit? To share the kind of power that resides in the person of Jesus Christ? The mind simply boggles at such thoughts!
   Yet the Bible reveals that God does indeed have such a plan. That great master plan of salvation has been revealed to those who are led by His Spirit. Paul wrote: "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Eph. 1:9-10).
   So God does have a definite plan — a purpose! That plan is being worked out by Jesus Christ. Ultimately, at the completion of Christ's work, all things in the universe will be united under the rule of God.
   In the final analysis, even death will be banished from the universe! Paul explained to the Corinthians: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.... And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (I Cor. 15:22-29).
   What a marvelous plan! What a wonderful destiny God has in store for mankind! No hyperbole is sufficient to describe the glory that awaits those who are born of the living God!
   Man is to become literally born into the very divine family of the Creator of the whole vast universe! God is a family of supernatural, divine, all-powerful Beings. God is actively expanding that family. He wishes to include you and me in it! Peter explained that God is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
The Ultimate Goal. Those who truly understand the will of God and the meaning of His plan await a resurrection or "change," at which time they will enter into God's own family and continue to exist for all eternity as powerful beings with Christ. They seek to become members of the very Kingdom of God.
   It is vital that Christians everywhere keep their eyes on this transcendental goal. Christ commanded: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." (Matt. 6:33). This should be the first and foremost goal of every true Christian. This vision of the Kingdom, of life eternal in the family of God, should dominate our lives. Nothing is more important! Everything else in life should be scaled down in relationship to this overriding goal and preoccupation.
   No idea, no esoteric doctrine or teaching, no ideology or philosophy, is more important than the concept that man is destined to become born into the family of the living God. No goal is more noble, more worth working toward. Those who are privileged to understand God's great goal and purpose being worked out through the ages have the "pearl of great price" within their grasp! Never let it go!
Doctrines in Perspective. A true Christian is not convened to a few esoteric doctrines or prophetic understandings. He is not converted to a "talmud" of dos and don'ts, rules and regulations, or ecclesiastical decisions. He is converted to Christ and to God! At baptism each Christian enters into a one-on-one relationship with his Creator that is not dependent upon the shifting sands of theological thought. It is that relationship with God that is the anchor of every truly Christian life.
   One should not build his faith, his hopes and dreams, around some doctrinal or theological opinion. A Christian is not converted to a set of doctrines! He may embrace, accept and live by them. Indeed, he should; but he is converted to God! It is in God that we "live, and move, and have our being" (see Acts 17:28). We are saved through faith in Christ — not through belief in this or that teaching.
   Paul wrote to the Galatians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
   Our faith is not in an opinion about doctrine — it is in Christ!
   This does not mean correct understanding of the teachings of God and Christ is not important. Certainly, the Spirit of God will lead the converted mind into an understanding of the will and purpose of God. But, I have observed people haranguing about, striving over and contending about specific points of technical -biblical understanding and obscure, hard-to-understand passages of Scripture to the point that they lost sight of this wonderful, majestic meaning of true Christianity — to become born members of the very God family.
   Paul said: "For to me to live IS CHRIST"! (Phil. 1:21.) Jesus Christ was at the very center of Paul's life and ministry. And that relationship placed Paul above the petty arguments of religious hobbyists who sought to argue about every imaginable technical point.
   Paul instructed Titus: "But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile" (Titus 3:9).
   A viable, spiritual relationship with God cannot be built upon subjective, theological arguments. Rather, a Christian must anchor his life to his belief and faith in Christ and in God the Father. Paul, and the other early apostles and Christians, found meaning to life in their relationship with God. They were not burdened by a sectarian "talmud" of petty regulations. Yet, they were not without law to God (I Cor. 9:21). Paul and the others taught a way of life, a way of love. Paul said that love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:8). Faith, coupled with obedience, constitutes the basis for this Christian way of life.
   Of course, Paul did say that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [teaching], for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17). But our human understanding of biblical teaching changes as we grow and learn through the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. We are gradually led "into all truth" (John 16:13).
   So it is very unwise to "freeze" imperfect human understanding of Scripture into solid concrete. Inevitably, doctrines, teachings, ideas and opinions of men come and go. Prophecies fail (I Cor. 13:8). Decisions are rendered, reversed and revised. But "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb: 13:8). God does not change (Mal. 3:6). In character, intent and purpose God remains the same. He is reliable, consistent and available to those who seek and need Him. One can always rely on God and on His Son, Jesus Christ. But human beings change. We all by nature tend to be somewhat capricious, inconsistent, up and down.
Coping With New Truth. As the Church of God is led by the Holy Spirit, we grow into new understanding — better understanding. Doctrines may change from time to time in the light of new insight and study.
   This, in itself, is not negative. It is a very positive indication that God is still working with the Body of Christ. The Spirit of Truth is leading the Church into all truth. But this is a process which continues throughout the ages of man — and will do so right up until the return of Jesus Christ!
   Mature Christians are not shaken by carefully researched doctrinal development and growth. Rather, they are encouraged by the progress that is being made. Truly converted children of God are exhilarated by the continual influx of new truth and deeper understanding.
   Because their lives are anchored to Christ! Since some idea or understanding about a specific point of doctrine is not the central anchor to the purpose of life, they are not particularly disturbed by the positive process of growth which includes change.
   Their faith, their confidence and hope, are all in Christ! They look to His leadership in the Body. Their love remains consistent because of their relationship with their Savior and High Priest — Jesus Christ. Nothing can shake them. Nothing can diminish their love because that love is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
   As Paul wrote: "Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect ..." (I Cor. 13:8). A Christian loves, and is in return loved by Christ. Paul said: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:35.)
Not Handling the Word of God Deceitfully. God's children are honest in their use of the Bible. They do not use it as a club, but rather as revelation from God. They are not preoccupied with the cunning, clever arguments of unscrupulous hobbyists who would twist Bible teaching to serve their own personal, sometimes dishonest, ends (see II Peter 3:16).
   "We have renounced," wrote Paul to the Corinthians, "disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (II Cor. 4:2).
   Paul did not vaunt himself in the sight of men. He was not puffed up with his own importance. Instead he looked upon himself as merely a servant — a minister of Christ. Paul pointed his followers not to his own person, but to Christ: "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord [Master, Boss!], with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (II Cor. 4:5). And: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1).
God's Church Preaches Christ! We preach Him crucified, buried and resurrected (I Cor. 15:1-8). We preach Him as the Head of the Church (Col. 1:17-19; Eph. 1:22- 23). We preach Him as the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10); as our High Priest in heaven (Heb. 9:11); as our Savior (Titus 1:4). We preach the Christ of the Bible: masculine, vital, powerful, dynamic. We preach Christ as Healer, Forgiver and Comforter. We preach Him as Creator — the "Word" or "Spokesman" of the family of God who was there at creation and who said: "Let there be light..." (see Gen. 1:3; Col. 1:13- 16; John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2).
   The Church of God preaches Christ as our Redeemer, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 3:16). And we preach Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords who will soon arrive to bring all human governments under His rule (Rev. 19:16).
   Jesus Christ is at the very heart of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Paul spoke of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). He continued: "Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me" (verses 28, 29).
   That is our great goal as a Church. We seek to proclaim, with all of the power and energy that God will grant us, the gospel of the glorious Kingdom of the living God. We preach Christ and Him crucified and resurrected for the salvation of all mankind.
   When you grasp the depth and beauty of the heart and core of true Christianity — that is, Christ in you, the hope of glory — it is not easy to be blown about by winds of doctrine, change, strivings and opinions. Your life is then anchored to solid rock — the Rock that is Jesus Christ. Why don't you try it?

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Good News MagazineMay 1976Vol XXV, No. 5
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