By Webb Harris, Jr.
Are you disgusted with modern religion?
In recent years, multitudes of men and women have turned their backs on the religious world and the shameful “divine” charades that have invaded the airwaves and the printed page. On the one hand we are faced with the cults which glorify some spaced-out guru or a wild-eyed radical and call upon us to migrate to a communal paradise established for our perpetual pleasure. On the other hand we are confronted by the “mainstream” religionists who, too often, are nothing more than money-beggars or shysters pan-handling cassette tapes or posters. Psychiatry has replaced prayer; the Bible has been discarded for self-help books; and the all-too-familiar clarion-call of the T.V. evangelist is, “more money, please!”
Though many religious publications report to us that more people than ever before are espousing religious convictions and boasting church membership, it is obvious that increased numbers are disenchanted with today’s style of religion and are growing weary of the endless spectacle. They view every Bible-toter as a hypocrite and respond to all preaching with suspicion. And these disgruntled people are not to be blamed. The religious world is reaping what it has sown.
What has been described above is very sad. In a nut-shell, people are turning away from Christianity, when true Christianity is not at fault. Today’s philanderers, cultists, pretenders and dollar-chasers are not true Christians at all! They are counterfeits. They are frauds. Today’s monstrous religious organizations and conventions are not representative of the true church of Jesus Christ! People are disgusted with a sham and are blaming Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” The very founder of Christianity taught emphatically that religion was never to be a show or a put-on. It was to be heart-felt and personal. Jesus also said “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth . . . you cannot serve God and mammon (wealth).” The Christ spoke zealously against the covetousness and greed that has infected the hearts of too many “preachers.” Please be aware that when men turn their backs on all religion, because of the nauseous antics of the phonies, they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Jesus Christ and His church stand separate and apart from the gross debacle that 20th century “Christendom” has become.
The New Testament presents a portrait of Jesus Christ and His people. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (commonly referred to as the Gospels) reveal to us important events in the earthly lifetime of the Saviour. They also tell of His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. The book of Acts tells of the establishment of Christ’s church and the first preaching of the gospel. The remaining twentytwo books are actually letters, or epistles, that give us insight into the beliefs, practices and teachings of the first century saints. A reading of the New Testament is very revealing.
For instance, did you know that the church of the New Testament met its financial needs by free-will offerings on the part of its own members? (See Acts 4:32-37; 1 Cor. 16:1,2.) No bake-sales, cake-walks, car washes or covereddish galas were ever a part of the church’s function. The first Christians never dreamed of begging the uncoverted community to support their work financially!
Did you know that Christ’s church had no ecclesiastical hierarchies; no denominational super-structures; no nationwide, or even state-wide, organizational schemes? There was a congregation of brothers and sisters in a given community. And each congregation had its own elders and deacons. (See Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.) The head of the true church is Jesus Christ, not some board of directors.
Are you disgusted with modern religion? Maybe so. But don’t confuse modern religion with the religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Do not confuse today’s counterfeit churches, preachers and doctrines with the real things.
The message of the church was a simple one: “Jesus is Lord” (Matt. 28:18-20). Their mission was clear-cut: To win souls for Jesus by their plain teaching and godly examples. Their lives and their work were filled with joy, humility and gracious deeds. Real Christianity was, and is, a beautiful and wondrous thing.
Jesus lives today. He reigns at the right hand of God. And His church exists on the Earth. It is easy to recognize, for it is described in detail in your New Testament. Seek it out. The Lord awaits you and His people are searching for you. They are interested not in your pocket-book, but in your soul.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 18, p. 560
September 18, 1986