Myth #5 You have to go to church to be a Christian.
How does the old saying go? "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in the garage makes you a car." So what does make a person a Christian?
Our involvement with God's revelation doesn't put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else's sin. But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:20-24 (The Message)
I know plenty of people who go to church who aren't Christians. They go to look good to the community or to make their wives or husbands happy; they go because they are expected to, or because their parents took them to Sunday School and thing their kids should go also... The list could go on for a while. But if being a Christian depended on our outward actions, we could never live up. First and foremost, God is interested in our hearts. Do we believe Jesus died for our sin? Do we trust him with our life and look to live according to his will?
There are many good reasons to go to church. Some even better ones to go to the same church each week. But these reasons our not for God's benefit; they are for ours. For fellowship with other believers and for the benefit of the community the church serves. To reach out to those who are hurting, to restore those who are broken, to love those who feel unworthy.
Myth #4 Christians are judgemental and believe they are better then everyone else.
Yes, we are judgmental. No, we are not better than everyone else. And when we are judgmental, we accomplish nothing but frustration. God must be up there in heaven laughing his butt off when one of us crazy Christians cries "fowl" at another's sin and then watches the pride in our hearts grow and grow. Many of us are judgmental and believe that we are better than everyone else. But we are wrong. That's a sin of which we need to repent.
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Galatians 6: 1-3 (The Message)
And straight form the horse's (Jesus) mouth:
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6: 37-38 (The Message)
Myth #3 Christians aren’t allowed to think for themselves.
I've had plenty of people accuse me of this. If you are reading this post and are not a believer, read some of my other posts. Trust me, I think for myself. And I think a lot. Then I write about here. Ad nauseum.
I'm not entirely sure why so many non-Christians think this about us. Is it because God is seen as "all-controlling" and we're just puppets? If so, that view of God is incorrect. He gave us a free will so we can question and choose. He wants us to think for ourselves. God doesn't want us to HAVE to love him and HAVE to obey him. What kind of life would that be? What kind of relationship would that be? Not a good one, if one at all.
'I'm sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I'm sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.' Acts 26: 17-18 (The Message)
Myth #2 Christians think they're perfect and that they never sin.
For a while there was a really popular bumper sticker that said "Christian aren't perfect, just forgiven." We like to act perfect sometimes. We get on our high horse and point fingers at the sinners of the world. But we aren't allowed to do that; it kinda pisses God off when we do. There is not one single person in the world without sin, and judging each other accomplishes nothing. In fact, all it does is make me mad. There is a need for accountability, there is a need for repentance. I get that. Contrary to popular opinion - i.e. this myth - Christians are not out to get non-Christians (even though many act like it. But they shouldn't.). All we really [should] want is for everyone to feel the freedom we feel. The freedom of knowing you're forgiven and loved no matter what.
This new plan I'm making with Israel
isn't going to be written on paper,
isn't going to be chiseled in stone;
This time "I'm writing out the plan in them,
carving it on the lining of their hearts."
I'll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.
Once sins are taken care of for good, there's no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them. So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into "the Holy Place." Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The "curtain" into God's presence is his body.
So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Romans 10: 16-25 (The Message)
Myth #1 Christian believe that if they don't do good God will punish them.Here's the tough thing about myth #1. I deserve punishment. We all do. That's hard for some people to accept, because all we are taught "Be a good person and you'll be okay." Anyone who's a good person and had faced hardship knows differently. Anyone who's watched a "bad" person succeed also knows differently. For evil to exist, there must be good. For right to exist, there must be wrong. These must be justice to keep order in the world. So for years and years we sacrificed alters and burnt offerings to God in order to please him. But God is perfect, so how could we ever reach him? We couldn't. That's why he sent his son. That's why Jesus died. He took my place and your place and everyone's place. He took my punishment. God loves us so much that he would rather die than spend eternity without us. God still carried out his justice and he chooses to accept his own son's death as payment for my sin. It breaks my heart every day.
Because the bond required for my pardon has been fulfilled [the first person to recall the song this line comes from and the artist who wrote it will get a surprise gift from me] my life is joyful. I choose to glorify God and enjoy him forever. (Someone else has always said it better, even if they are Presbyterians.) There is no punishment for me. "My sin, (not in part, but the whole) is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more."
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. 1 John 4: 17-18 (The Message)
I know my efforts to dispel these myths have fallen short. If you've taken nothing from my two posts on this, that's okay. That's simply my failure to communicate well. I am still thankful I did it, because if nothing else it turned into a time of worship and praise for me to marvel at all he's done for me.
So I end this post with the God's word, which communicates better than I ever will. I leave you with the very heart of the Christian message:
It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2: 1-9 (The Message)