Many say they are Christians. But does today's Christianity give the answers to personal, social, health, even financial problems? Has it made your life happy, full of hope, free from worry and fear?
MAKE no mistake about it. When Jesus was on earth he taught a remarkable and different way of life. He described it as the way of "abundant" life (John 10:10) — life that is full of interest and accomplishment, overflowing with happiness and contentment, crowned with a sense of purpose and peace of mind. These are characteristics of real Christianity — the Christianity Jesus announced. Why are so few experiencing that kind of Christianity today? Why is it that many who would answer "Christian" if asked which religion they belong to are frustrated, worry-filled, empty, unhappy? Whether they attend religious services regularly, rarely or not at all, for these vast numbers of professing Christians, the story is pretty much the same: They lack purpose in life. They don't know why they are alive. They just "tough it out" from day to day. They are "hanging in there." But "hanging in" where? In an existence that is little more than an endless series of problems and disappointments interrupted only by whatever fleeting moments of escape entertainment, diversions, in some cases even drugs or alcohol can provide? Is that what life is meant to be? Not at all! Plainly, what those people have viewed as Christianity has not given them the abundant life Jesus talked about. How can that be? Many are greatly surprised when they learn that the Bible speaks of two kinds of "Christianity" — one that is genuine and one that is imitation. Would you know how to distinguish between the two? Let's look at a few of the hallmarks of true Christianity — the way of life Jesus announced.
Peace of Mind
This is a troubled age. If there is one characteristic most people have in common today it is that they are troubled in heart, worried. They are worried about nuclear war. They are anxious about their health or the health of their loved ones. They are fearful of being a crime or accident victim. They fret about their job, or about not having a job. An increasingly complex society has created more things to worry about, rather than more opportunities for peace of mind. The stress and strain of having to cope daily with the unpleasant, the tedious, the ugly, the unknown, the threatening, the unpredictable takes its toll. It is killing people. If not driving them to suicide — an option statistics show to be tragically increasing even with children and adolescents — then it is taking lives through stress-related diseases. The Bible foretold long ago that in the tumultuous times at the climax of this civilization we would witness "men's hearts failing them for fear" (Luke 21:26). How different is Jesus' instruction to his followers! "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). True Christianity produces peace of mind. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," Jesus declared (same verse). The religion Jesus founded is more than a list of beliefs. It is a total way of life that produces, as its fruit, peace of mind, happiness, contentment. How? Listen to Jesus. First, Jesus declared that it is not sufficient to call him "Lord," — as many do. Making a "decision for Christ" and reciting the "sinner's prayer" is not enough. "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord," asked Jesus, "and do not the things which I say'!" (Luke 6:46). He is not. looking for lip service. "Jesus is Lord," wall plaques and bumper stickers advertise. "He is Lord of my life," many proclaim publicly. But is all this talk accompanied by action — by obedience? The word lord means "master," "boss," "ruler." A lord is one who gives orders that are to be obeyed. It is useless for a person to call Jesus "Lord" if that person does not do what Jesus said in the Bible to do. So stated Jesus himself! What does obedience to God's Word have to do with peace of mind and ability to cope? Jesus went on to explain, in the next three verses, a vital principle. To the degree a person follows the precepts of Jesus he receives strength to stand unshaken against the storms of life. The reason is, he both hears Jesus' words and does them (verse 47). His durability is comparable to that of a house built on a firm foundation — a rock. Contrast this with the kind of Christianity most people unwillingly follow — the kind that does not involve living the way of life Jesus laid out for us. Those who do not put Jesus' Word into practices have great difficulty coping with the problems and trials of daily existence. Like houses built on sand, when the tempests come, they collapse.
The Holy Spirit
What a paradox! The Bible says anyone who is a true Christian — without exception — must have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). By definition that is essential to being a Christian. Nevertheless, many people, even after a lifetime of churchgoing, are not aware of what the Holy Spirit's function is nor do they know how to utilize it. The Holy Spirit is the "spirit ... of power" (II Tim. 1:7). Yet so many professing Christians are powerless. They are overwhelmed and defeated by events in their lives. They are unable to deal with the pressures in the world around them. They lack the power to overcome wrong habits, or to master their own feelings and drives. The Holy Spirit is the "spirit... of love" (same verse). Yet there are supposed Christians who harbor grudges, who refuse to forgive, who spread gossip and engage in back-stabbing. Through the centuries Christians have even fought each other on battlefields, Christian killing Christian, both sides praying to the same source for divine help in doing away with their brethren. (Other religions have done similarly.) Where is the "spirit of love" in all that? If that's Christianity, why should any nonChristian want a part of it? The Holy Spirit is the "spirit ... of a sound mind" (same verse). Yet the Western, supposedly Christian, societies are plagued with what amounts to an epidemic of mental problems. Confusion, psychoses, depression, hang-ups, complexes and scores of other manifestations of mental illness are rampant even among professing Christians. How can this be? Instead, in some churches the emphasis is on temporarily arousing emotions during religious services. In other churches various forms of reality — denying "positive thinking" or "spiritual science" are promoted. In still others form and ceremony are stressed; little actual effort is made to address spiritual matters. All this is very different from the biblical description of true spirituality. The characteristics of God's Spirit are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22, Revised Standard Version). Is this what the Christianity you have known has made available to you as a definite force in your life?
Understanding the Bible
The Bible is the basis of the teaching of Jesus — a book of vital information concerning the meaning of life and the proper relationship with God. It contains instructions and guidelines for successful living. It is the Word of God — God's message to his people. How can it be, then, that so many professing Christians know so little about the Bible? Few make a serious effort to read it and fewer yet claim to understand it. To most it is dull reading; they get very little out of it. Those who have any real interest in the Bible at all would often rather read what some human beings have written about the Bible than the Bible itself. Even theologians have a problem understanding the Scriptures. Obviously this is so, or there wouldn't be so many different church denominations making contradictory declarations about what the Bible says! It is popular to play down the contradictions by claiming that most churches are united in spirit on the "essentials." But when you get right, down to what those "essentials" are on which they agree, they are limited and narrow indeed. The truth is, unity of view among the churches as to what the Bible says is wishful thinking, not reality. Such statements as "we have our fellowship in Jesus, not in doctrine" are clever attempts to gloss over the fact that different denominations cannot agree on what God says. But God doesn't speak with a double tongue. His one Holy Spirit cannot lead two churches to understand and teach the Bible differently. Jesus declared truth in doctrine to be extremely important — so important that he stated that if a person doesn't have doctrines right, it is possible to worship him in vain. Those are his words (Mark 7:7)! How about you? Has today's Christianity made the Bible clear and understandable to you? Can you read it on your own and grasp its meaning? Can you substantiate your beliefs from the Bible?
What Is Sin?
While most denominations in Christendom teach that Christians should avoid sin, who can explain exactly what sin is? Some say sin is merely going against one's conscience. But that's no definition, because everybody's conscience is different. What seems wrong to one person may seem right to another. If it doesn't bother a murderer's conscience to kill, does that make murder acceptable? Surely no one believes that. Others say sin is whatever does not "show love" to God or neighbor and that's as specific as they can define it. But here again each individual is left to decide for himself what does and what does not constitute "love" to God and neighbor. That's not a workable, dependable standard or guide for conduct. Still others would have you believe sin is mostly dancing, playing cards and drinking liquor. But based on what authority do they make such a claim? There are even some who seek to solve the problem by saying sin and evil don't really exist in the first place. What confusion! These are all human efforts to define sin. When it gets right down to it, though, it doesn't matter what humans say sin is. What matters is how God looks at the subject and what he says sin is. How does God define sin? After all, Christians cannot put sin out of their lives, as they are expected to do (Heb. 12:1), if they are not taught God's definition. "Sin is," the Bible declares, "the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). That is the real Bible definition of sin, plainly and clearly stated, yet ignored by most church denominations. Sin is the breaking of God's law as detailed in the Ten Commandments and other biblical precepts (verse 24). But the reason most church denominations cannot use the biblical definition of sin — that sin is the breaking of God's law — is that they claim God's law is no longer in force, that it is no longer necessary to obey it. They especially do not like the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath. How different from what the New Testament teaches! Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). The apostle Paul wrote that "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom. 2:13). The apostle James wrote that "faith without works is dead" (Isa. 2:20). The apostle John wrote, "He that saith, I know him [God], and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4). God must consider the matter extremely important to have inspired and preserved such strong language! The question is, Why then don't most church denominations consider it equally important? What about the Christianity you are familiar with? Has it enabled you to identify what is and what is not sin? Has it helped you understand the Bible? Is it supplying you the answers to your day-to-day problems? Is it showing you how to receive answers when you pray? Does it give you real hope, confidence, peace of mind? Does it answer the big questions: Why are you alive? What does the future hold for you? How should you prepare for it? Exactly what is it doing for you?
Filling the Void
What could be more important than to find out what true Christianity, according to the Bible, is all about? To help you discover the answer we have made available for the asking a selection of eye-opening publications: Over the years we have sent out hundreds of thousands of copies of the booklet The Seven Laws Of Success. The formula for success on the job, in business, in the home, as well as in personal living, consists of seven basic laws. This information, based on sound biblical principles, cannot be sold. It is priceless. We are giving it away gratis because we are interested in helping people lead more satisfying, productive lives. You don't have to be bothered by doubts, fears and anxieties. The Bible reveals a definite step-by-step plan to rid yourself of mental turmoil. Why has so-called Christianity neglected to make this plan known? Learn about it by asking for the reprint article "You Can Conquer Your Fears." Financial problems? Our free booklets Managing Your Personal Finances and How to Ending Your Financial Worries contain the sure solution. They show what the Bible says about your finances and give practical information on planning and budgeting. Believe us when we state that you cannot afford to be without this information. Who, these days, does not desire better health? True Christianity is a way of life concerned with the total person. Accordingly, it places the proper emphasis on living in harmony with the divinely ordained laws governing health. Many of these laws are explained in the booklet Principles of Healthful Living. Strangely enough, the Christianity of the world pays little attention to the immutable spiritual laws that govern a person's relationship with his neighbor and his Creator. God gave to mankind a set of rules — known commonly as the Ten Commandments — that are absolutely vital to human happiness here and in the life to come. When was the last time you heard each one of them thoroughly explained? Do you even know what they are? You need this information more than you realize. Read our free booklet The Ten Commandments. When you read the Bible, do you have a problem understanding what you are reading? Then the free Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course was designed just for you. In the privacy of your own home, it takes you step by step through an exciting study of the Scriptures. You don't need a college education to join the more than one million people who have requested this course. True Christianity, as Jesus meant it to be, will change your entire life. Why not learn more about it?