This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Li An (from China, pseudonym used to protect this well-known Christian), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Christ, who is your life. (Colossians 3:4)
A brother was put into prison for his faith in Jesus Christ and was only tried after having spent a long time in jail.
The following 'conversation' was recorded during the trial: 'Do you still believe in Christianity?' the prosecutor asked scornfully.
The brother replied: 'I don't believe in Christianity.' The prosecutor laughed: 'Finally, we have reformed you.' But the brother responded: 'I never believed in Christianity; I believe in Christ.'
'Don't play with words,' the prosecutor yelled. 'Christianity and Christ are the same.'
'No there is a big difference.' 'What do you mean?' the judge asked. 'The difference is that Christianity is a religion. It has churches, sets of rules and regulations, ministers and other church workers. You can close down the church, dismantle the regulations, arrest the ministers, but Jesus Christ lives in my heart, He is my life. You can never take that away. He is with me, always, even today in this court room. How can I reject Him who saved me? I just cannot NOT believe in Him.'
If we put our trust in a religion, we may be restricted. But if we live in Christ we can never change, whatever the circumstances. Better in jail as a Christian, than outside jail as a 'religious person'.
And more than that, who can separate us from the love of Christ? He lives in us and that makes us victorious, wherever we may be.
A moment of introspection: Trivial? No. Picky? No. Mundane? No. Important? Yes! Why? Let's consider this distinction at greater length, and perhaps "see the Light". First and foremost, distinction must be drawn between Christianity and Christianity; no doublespeak here. The Christian mentioned in Li An's account drew this differentiation himself. He balked at Christianity as a religion, and preferred Christianity as one's belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For it is one's belief in Jesus Christ for one's own salvation that denotes him as "Christian" and the state of his/her belief as Christianism or Christianity. Li An's account promotes one's belief in Christ--not one's belief in a religious set of rules and regulations--as described in the story Li An has told us.
Throughout the New Testament, and even pre-saged in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is the focus of belief; readers are warned against subscribing to the legalism or religion of the Jewish Pharisees. In Hillsong's song, "Cornerstone", we are directed to Jesus Christ:
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Savior’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
He is Lord
Lord of all
Jesus's earthly life, His sacrifice on Golgotha, as well as His resurrection and ascension, demonstrate for us the worthiness of venerating Him, and the Father, and Holy Spirit (Who are One). The imprisoned Christian in Li An's story noted the singular belief and worship we owe to Jesus. We do not believe in the fallible man-made religion that is Christianity; rather, we believe in and worship the Risen Lord, King of Kings, Ruler of all. Our hope and trust, like that of the Psalmist, is in Him (Psalm 71:5). To Him we say, "Thou art the way, the truth and the life. Without the way, there is no going. Without the truth, there is no knowing. Without the life, there is no living." (Thomas à Kempis, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 1) Jesus Christ is the rightful object of our adoration and reverence. Frank Pollard (senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Jackson, MS; "Our Greatest Victory," Preaching Today, Tape No. 175) beautifully describes our Lord:
Out of the light that dazzles me,
bright is the sun from pole to pole.
I thank the God I know to be,
for Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since he's the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance,
my head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears,
that life with him. And he's the aide
That spite diminished of the years
keeps and shall keep me unafraid.
The Master of our fate, the Captain of our souls--this same Jesus Christ deserves our adoration. The apostles, knowing this same focus, consistently drew people to Jesus Christ--not to a religion or set of rules, but to a Person. This was their Christianity--shining the spotlight on Christ, consistent with His own words, that many would be drawn to Him. (1 Corinthians 2:2; John 12:32) One's belief in Christ, one's Christianity, is what separates us believers apart from others. An account of Aleksander Menn, relates even the religion of Christianity to the One who died for us, rose to heaven and reigns immortal:
Two months before [Orthodox priest] Aleksandr Menn was felled by an ax, he was asked in a radio interview broadcast across Russia, "Does one need to be a Christian, and if one does, then why?"
"I think there is only one answer, and it as follows," he said:
"Man always seeks God. The normal state of man is, to some extent, to be connected with a higher power, even when the higher power in the human mind is distorted, and turned into something secular. Eras of Stalinism... and all other isms seek some false god even if God is taken away. This turns to idol worship, but still the inner instinct of seeking God is there...
"The question is totally different when it is put this way: Why Christianity? Is it because of the sacred scriptures? No, every religion has sacred scriptures, and sometimes with a very high quality of spiritual content...
"Then why Christianity? Morality? Certainly. I am happy that in our society the high moral values of Christianity are accepted, but it would be totally erroneous to maintain that there are no moral values outside Christianity...
"Then why Christianity? Should we embrace... a position that God is revealed and therefore can be found in any religion? No, because then the uniqueness and absolute character of Christianity will disappear. I think that nothing will prove the uniqueness of Christianity except one thing--Jesus Christ Himself." (Larry Woiwode, Books & Culture, Vol. 2, no. 2)
No, we should not seek that which is found in any religion; such syncretism demeans and cheapens our faith. He Who defines our faith is He Whom the world denies. He however, must be our unique Lord and Savior. Rufus M. Jones asserts that "Jesus Christ Himself is He upon Whom hinges the uniqueness of our belief. Our belief is rooted in Christ, our spiritual growth the supreme education of the soul comes through an intimate acquaintance with Jesus Christ of history." The apostle Paul had such a relationship with Jesus Christ, as he informed the church in Galatia, that the gospel he preached came not from any man, but from Christ Himself (Galatians 1:11-12) and he went so far in warning against looking elsewhere for Truth, that he spoke a curse against heeding teaching other than from Christ: Galatians 1:9 - As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. The apostle warned the church at Colossae to be wary: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:8)
Jesus Christ deserves the throne of our lives. Lloyd John Ogilvie describes: "As every Scot knows, salt must be put into the oatmeal from the start, before cooking, not afterward. In a similar way, Christ can never be added as an afterthought to an already full and committed life. It's possible to attempt to use the Master and his power to fulfill our desires and plans for the people we love and still give him the one position he will not accept: second place." Jesus said of Himself "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) If Christ is the Way, we waste time traveling any other. With the Christian in Li An's account, may we believe in Christ alone, not in man-made institutions, as moral as they try to be.
"In Christ Alone"
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone! Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
("In Christ Alone (My Hope Is Found) Lyrics." Lyrics.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 24 Apr. 2019. <https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/5485948/Geoff+Moore>.)
In the power of Christ let us stand! Believing in Him who has saved us, not in Christianity, the religion, which has no power of its own--may we know Christ, trust in Him alone, love Him and serve Him gladly!