Real Church or Fake Church, Which is it?

Fresh Manna
by Pastor Tim Burt

Something I’ve said repeatedly throughout my 41 years of ministry is this: Not all churches are created equal. In America, churches are scattered across every state, every city, every community, and every neighborhood. The fact that these buildings are called churches, implies they are Christian communities and the people in these churches are Christians. But unfortunately, that is not close to the truth. Let me tell you a story to better help you understand what I mean.

Years ago, while traveling out of town, I picked up a local newspaper and was reading it when I came across a story by a local journalist I’ll call Mary. Mary had been invited to visit a church in her city. She was so pleasantly surprised by her visit, she decided to publish a story about this church.

Mary had prearranged a tour of the church with the Pastor an hour prior to the start of the church service.
Mary had grown up without religion being a part of her life. Neither of her parents were churchgoers and so the church had never been a part of her upbringing. As Mary walked into the sanctuary where the services were held, she notice many altars representing different religions—each with its own religious statues and/or artifacts representing Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and so on. I believe she said there were about nine altars—eight representing better-known religions, and one other altar representing all other gods not represented individually. Mary thought this was so wonderful that all religions were respectfully represented and honored. She thought, If all churches were like this, there would be such a greater unity of people amongst people of religion. The rest of her article was about this church and the thought—Why can’t all churches be like this? I understand how Mary could think like this. She really knew nothing about the church.

Reading this article made me more determined to help people understand what God had created the church to be! Becoming a Christian is not this automatic happening from growing up in a religious home. A person isn’t a Christian because they were baptized as an infant and attended a religious church through their early years of childhood and adolescence. Christianity is not even a religion. Christianity is the redemption of a broken relationship between man and God through sin. It is the redemption of being personally reunited and restored with almighty God through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of one’s life. The people who have personally and individually received Christ as Savior, upon this experience, are called born-again. This is what makes them a Christian and all Christians together are called “the church.”

Let me explain further! Jesus said it like this: John 3:3-8 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he/she is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus (a religious Jewish leader) asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with  everyone born of the Spirit.”

What was Jesus saying here? Jesus was saying that when you come to realize and have faith (belief) that He died on the cross to pay the price for the punishment you deserved for your sins and substituted His life for yours on the cross, and you surrender your life to Him as the Savior of your life, a miracle happens. You are born-again. In God’s eyes, your life starts over. Though you can’t see or know where the Holy Spirit comes from, like the wind, you can sense it. You can feel it. In that moment of faith where you realize what Jesus did for you, and take the step to receive Him into your heart as Lord and Savior asking Him to wash away your sins, this is the moment you are forgiven and washed and cleansed from all sin. In that moment of prayer, your sins are washed away and your life starts over. The Holy Spirit comes to live within you. For the first time, you begin to see life through God’s eyes. This alone is when and how you become a Christian. Baptism is then the personal choice to make your public declaration of what God has done for you because of your faith in Jesus.

In this moment, a Christian instantly becomes a part of God’s universal church. The gathering of these believers together in community is what we most perceive as the local church. Unless a church teaches these truths, it isn’t a church at all!  It is a religion and a false one at that. And this is why all buildings called a church aren’t necessarily so! This is also why Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 24:4-5 (NIV) Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” The word “Christ” means anointed one meaning the one sent by God to save mankind.  Religions claim to exalt Jesus but then make people have to earn their way into Heaven. We can never be good enough to receive Heaven. Heaven is a gift of God’s grace, that you can’t earn. Salvation, forgiveness, and Heaven is a gift Jesus died for and gives freely to those that put their faith in Him and receive Him into their heart. There is no other way to Heaven. Acts 4:12 (NIV) says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” 

The church that Mary visited and wrote about was anything but a church. Other gods are an abomination to God because they deceive people from the one true God and His Son Jesus—the only one who can save us from our sins. And this is why God inscribed the words, we read in  Exodus 20:3-5 (TLB).  “You may worship no other god than me. “You shall not make yourselves any idols: no images of animals, birds, or fish.  You must never bow or worship it in any way; for I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other god… ” 

Churches matter. It matters first that they truly are a church—a place where people can come together to learn how to give their life to Christ, and then as new believers learn how to live their life for Christ. It matters whether churches teach the Bible so that believers are taught God’s ways. Many places called churches are simply religious institutions. If your church doesn’t teach you how to give your life to Christ and how to develop a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus, you are in the wrong place. If your church doesn’t teach you God’s word and help you understand it in a way that relates practically to how to live it out in today’s world, you are in the wrong place.

Churches Matter and  God wants you in one! If you aren’t in the right one, or if you haven’t ever personally prayed and asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior then pray right now. Ask Jesus to forgive and wash away your sins, to fill you with His Holy Spirit, and to begin leading you through His Word the Bible in how to live for Him. And pray and ask Him to lead you to that right church that teaches the Bible. I promise you, He can and He will. It will happen and your life will change, find direction, find purpose, and become rich in blessing through Jesus Christ. Churches matter because Jesus is the head of the church and calls all mankind to His church—not to follow false gods and religions that keep us from Him.

Matthew 16:18 (NLT2)  “…I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt

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Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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