Denominations

Jesus loves His people who live in denominations.

The notion of churches “branding” themselves in churches is not limited to church buildings and their organizations, but also denominations and major Christian faith groups whose members have in the past literally fought tooth and nail over their own doctrines.

Jesus loves the Calvinists. They are absolutely right in that God created time and space, we are figments of His imagination, our universe is as a movie reel, He planned everything out to tell His own story. Being eternal, both the beginning and the end, He knows everything we will say or do before it happens.

Jesus loves the Arminianists. Mankind does have free will. See, God entered into time and space and is actively participating in the passage of time, the story of us and of Him, and as such God gives us free will to accept or reject Him.

One might liken this to the designer and programmer of a computer game; he set the stage and knows exactly how all the characters play, and what they will do, but he himself enters into the experience and enjoys the experience as it plays out. This is a ridiculous metaphor, but perhaps no more ridiculous than Jesus’ own metaphor equating the wind with God’s spirit. Just as an omnipotent entity can and literally did decide to come to us in human flesh, so can the same entity enter into the timeline of His own creation and experience it with us, so that we can make choices, and even He can “change his mind” from time to time (example: Exodus 32:7-14, 30-35; 33:1-6, 12-17) or be swayed by our prayers (e.g. James 4:2b).

Jesus loves the Catholics. True, the Catholic church has encumbered itself with false gods (deification of sleeping saints, for example), has amended God’s word with “Apocrypha” as Catholic scripture not unlike the many laws that the Jewish leaders attached to God’s laws, and has put its own leadership on pedestals fitting for kings. But despite all these errors, the Catholics have managed to do something incredible: they carried the torch. God’s word, encased in all kinds of excess paraphernalia, managed to stay intact for centuries. Once people like Martin Luther started chiseling off all the baggage, His word unscathed was able to be furthered. Were it not for the Catholic church, you would not have access to the Bible today. In the end, there are many born-again Catholics, blessed leaders of Jesus’ dominion who may still cling to the Catholic church but who ultimately know Jesus, Son of God. They know Him, and He knows them, however many or few they may be.

Jesus loves the Protestants. This term “protestant” has become to mean, relative to Catholics, what “gentile” is to “Jew”. That is to say, one might say that “protestants are all Christians who are not Catholics”. So, what are protestants protesting? Ultimately, they are protesting anything and everything that denies them absolute freedom in Christ. Freedom to meet together in homes, to read God’s word and comprehend it, to know God deeply, and to pray freely and constantly, all without the encumbrances of the established brand of a church. Freedom from incumbrances including any supposition that participation in the body of Christ must be dispensed by the clergy’s wielding of bread and wine (symbolic gestures Jesus produced at his last supper before his crucifixion). Protestants are not without their flaws; as many Protestants have gone their own way and blasphemed the blood of Jesus by their lifestyles and arrogance as have Catholics or anyone else.

Jesus loves the Southern Baptists. They believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant word. They believe that we are saved by grace through Jesus. They believe that believers should be baptized in water. So some believe that you’re not saved unless you’re baptized in water. So what if that might go too far? So what?! Get baptized in water and be done with it!

Jesus loves the Pentecostals and the Charismatics. In the book of Acts, God’s spirit was poured out like a massive multi-ton bucket of water all over crowds of people, beginning the new arrival of the kingdom of Jesus across the Earth. Alright, so some believe that you don’t have the Spirit unless you babble like a baby and call it “speaking in tongues”. Let us at least settle on this: if you confess your sins, and believe that God came to us as a man, His only begotten son, to save us from our sins, that He is alive today and on His throne, and that He dispenses Himself to us by His grace, we can be family. Yes, some believers violate 1 Corinthians 14:26-27, while many more often ignore that entire chapter. Can we all agree that Jesus is King?

Jesus loves the Cessationists, but be warned. Cessationists are those who believe that the miraculous powers among God’s people portrayed in the book of Acts ended in the book of Acts, that the early apostles and only the apostles were given such power by the Holy Spirit. Jesus loves such people. Indeed, people are justified in being skeptical of all miracle stories and of dreams and prophecies that people disclose, because so often, indeed more often than not, these stories prove to be bogus. But be extremely careful about what you say in light of your skepticism. If you ever actually witness someone being healed or restored in the name of Jesus, and you call it “demonic”, you might have the forgiveness of Jesus, your judge on Earth, but the Holy Spirit may hold it against you for eternity. Watch yourself!

Jesus loves the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Which Jesus,” you might ask. The real Jesus! Jesus Himself! The son of God–God, who invented time and space and constructed the entire universe from His mind! Jesus loves these! He even loves those of completely isolated faiths, whether Muslim or Hindu. Botched, twisted, and amended theologies have their share of dangers to humankind, to be sure, but at the end of the day, Fred, do you think you have the perfect understanding of theology? Do you think your understanding of scripture is completely, 100% pure and flawless? Even with an inerrant Bible under your arm to get you through each day, your understanding of it is flawed, one way or another, because you are a flawed, finite human. What Jesus has done in situations like these is shine right through the theology and reveal Himself as the Person of love that He is. Sound theology educates us and validates Him. But He remains alive and He loves us even when the theology is tainted or just plain wrong. Anticipate, Fred, that when you waltz through the pearly gates into Heaven you will find a few select people who had originally followed some tweaked faith or some other religion. They will be there because they knew Jesus–Jesus Himself pressed past their theology and revealed Himself to them.

These things said, there are heresies that are dangerous. These heresies are wrong on their own accounts; their proponents are still deeply loved by Jesus.

Modern Heresies

Doctrines and theology do not save humankind. Jesus does.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Jesus came to save people in every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. He did not do all that He did in order for us to fight over doctrines and interpretations of scripture. What matters is that we recognize the King, that we follow the King, that we submit to the King, that we acknowledge the King in all our ways, that we let God’s spirit teach us in our own lives exactly what we need to learn about Him as He relates to us.

1 Corinthians 1 (the apostle Paul writing):

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.