Herald Journal Columns
April 4, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

I’m Christian, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ

By Rev. Bill Baldwin, Prairie Community Church, Lester Prairie

I’m Lutheran . . . I’m ELCA . . . I’m Missouri Synod . . .I’m Roman Catholic . . .I’m Presbyterian . . .I’m Continuing Congregationalist . . .I’m United Methodist . . . I’m Assembly of God . . .I’m Evangelical Free . . . I’m Baptist . . . I’m Charismatic . . . I’m a non-denominational fundamentalist . . . I’m an independent non-instrumental a cappella Church of Christ . . . I’m a Sister of St. Benedict . . . I’m a James Dobson Evangelical . . . I’m born again . . . I’m baptized and confirmed into my church . . . I’m this . . . I’m that . . . I’m, I’m, I’m.

Everyone loves to tell you what they are, or more specifically what church they go to, if they go to one. A person’s identity can be strongly connected to their church, and their specific church can say much about a person’s dearly held values and loyalties.

This is all super duper in an age when it is harder to find people who go to church at all, but I still think there is a problem with denominationalism. Sometimes, I want to ask, “I know you are United Church of Christ, but are you Christian?

I mean, have you acknowledged your sinful nature, vowed to turn away from that nature (known as repentance), and made a sincere decision to follow Jesus Christ faithfully in your life?

Have you made a decision to start living in a different way from this day onward because of your faith commitment to Jesus Christ?

One’s denomination can say whatever it wants about what it means to be a member in good standing, but it often shies away from stressing basic Biblical Christianity.

What is basic Biblical Christianity? It is carefully reading the New Testament and listening to what the Bible tells about having a healthy relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.

Now, I must admit, in many ways, I am quite progressive and liberal. I gladly voted for John Kerry. I can’t turn the dial fast enough away from anything to do with James Dobson or Focus on the Family.

I believe that abortion should be safe, legal, extremely rare and only after a woman realizes she is making a decision that could haunt her for the rest of her life.

I believe we should practice the maxim of Christ that we focus on getting the logs out of our own eyes before hounding about the possible specks in someone else’s eyes.

There is no shortage of sin in the world, but our focus absolutely must be on bringing people to Christ and letting Christ decide what needs to happen, if anything, in a person’s life.

If you are reading this, you are likely a member of a church. If you are a non-church member and are reading this, you still probably have a whole set of beliefs and mantras about what is wrong with this or that church that keeps you from it.

All of this is a smoke screen that separates us from the most important relationship we could ever begin in our life. Jesus Christ, the risen Savior of the world, died for your sins, rose from the dead, and is waiting for you to respond in the positive to his offer of forgiveness and eternal life.

You may be progressive enough to say that all of this Bible stuff is just outdated myth and an attempt to manipulate people’s minds. That may well be. I can’t prove that you are wrong.

Search you heart. Examine your soul. Are you happy? Peaceful? Joyful? Satisfied? Fulfilled? You wouldn’t lie to a preacher now, would you?

Be really honest. Is it well with your soul? If it is, congratulations. If not, what do you need to bring inner alignment and peace?

I am, by nature, a skeptic, a questioner, a free thinker, a doubter, a cynic, a sarcastic person at times, known for bawdy and caustic humor. Yes, it’s true. I don’t always fit into the image and pattern of what you would expect from a preacher.

A little girl asked me at the Kids Against Hunger drive if, as a pastor, I ever swore in my life. I was tempted to say “Hell, yeah, how about you?”

I am in the world, not totally of the world, but I certainly have at least one foot well planted in it.

Why do I say this? I say it because whatever my faults, lacks, quirks, or human oddities about myself, I am, first and foremost, a Christian, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, a stamped ticket to the next world in my hand because my Savior has forgiven me and loves me forever.

I desperately need the help of God in my life. I definitely need the support of a community of believers at church to help sustain me.

I need the power of prayer above, under, below, and ahead of me. I need the bread and cup of communion to remind who owns my life and what is my focus.

I have always loved to go to church. When not pasturing a church, I rarely miss a Sunday. I find it an adventure to go to different churches and worship in their style.

One thing I always look for is the place of Jesus Christ in the life of their organization. Is this a glorified social club, or a place where I can encounter the Savior and be reminded that I can experience a peace that passes all understanding because I know who I am, what I stand for, and the direction I’m headed.

That kind of a church is a church that makes Christians and develops them, and leaves the denominational stuff to the sidelines.

A denomination never saved a soul. Jesus has saved everyone who ever had a legitimate claim to heaven.

Think about it. Is it well with your soul? Well?

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