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.
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.”
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 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.
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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