Shopping For Jesus
A young couple was introduced to Christianity by some friends and decided to consider this new way of life. So, not knowing what else to do, they opened the phone book to find a church to attend. To their amazement, there were hundreds of different churches in the Yellow Pages all claiming to be Christís true church. After contemplating which one to attend, the couple agreed to undergo a search in order determine for themselves where they should go in order to have a relationship with Jesus and follow His teachings.
The young lady said, ďItís absolutely essential we know all about Christ and what He taught before we totally commit our lives to Him. If we do not have all of the details of Christ and what He stands for, we will not be able to fully live our lives as His faithful disciples.Ē
The man was confused because he did not know how to accomplish this task. He said, ďThis is going to be an overwhelming project! I do not know how we are going to even start this process of learning about Christ.Ē
ďWhy, thatís easy,Ē said the woman, ďitís just like cooking. All we have to do is get all of the correct ingredients and then we know when they are all mixed properly together, the desired results will be obtained.Ē ďAnd,Ē she added, ďif God is really who He said He is and can do all that He claims He can do, we need to know all about Him and not just parts of His teachings in order to be a complete Christian.Ē
Itís essential to have all of the components and use them in the way they were intended to be used in order to make a proven dish. Just like cooking, if one or more ingredients are missing or if they are not used properly, then the outcome will fall short of its full potential. ďWell,Ē the man said, ďI sure do not want to be shortchanged in my having all of the ingredients in the proper amounts in my understanding of Christ. Also, we should not be caught up in consumerism where we pick and choose what we think is best for us, but rather follow what God has revealed in how He wants us to follow Him. But, how are we going to do this?Ē
ďThatís easy,Ē the lady replied, ďall we have to do is go to the recipe book and see what it tells us.Ē So they both began to read the ultimate recipe book that would explain all of the ingredients they needed to know about being a Christian.
The recipe book the couple began to study was the Bible.
Before the couple began to gather the ingredients, they first had to determine the dish or essential reason for wanting to become a Christian. They concluded the ultimate reason is eternal salvation. The coupleís initial task is to find the recipe that would give them all of the ingredients that would tell them about how to live in fellowship with Christ on earth and later in heaven. Once the ingredients are found, their next task is to find a church that has all of the ingredients. They will then go shopping for Jesus and His Church.
Godís salvation plan is the main recipe in the Bible. Salvation is the free gift God offers to every person without exception (Eph. 2:8-9). We cannot do anything to ďearnĒ it because it is totally Godís gift to us if we have faith in Him and receive His grace. This is what gives us hope in an eternal relationship with the Father.
Now, that the essential recipe is known, we need to identify the central ingredient. What is the main component that binds all of the other ingredients together in our faith?
God, during the course of salvation history, spoke to us so we can know how He would reconcile mankind back to Him (Heb. 1:1-2). It was through Christ we would know the fullness of Godís plan of salvation. Jesus, by example and teachings, was the way in which the ultimate plan of Godís salvation would be known to His people. Christís teachings were credible because He was Godís truth (Jn. 1:17; 14:6).
When shopping for Christ and His Church, we must begin our search looking for the main ingredient of our faith. Only when this ingredient is known and understood can it be used as the building block in our recipe. We can do this by understanding the Basic Gospel Message. (Acts 2:22-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 13:16-41). This is what was initially preached to nonbelievers in order to teach them about salvation through Jesus Christ. The essential ingredient and the foundation of Christianity is Jesus Christ and the necessity to know about Him and have a personal relationship with Him.
It is through Jesus Christ that salvation comes to the whole world (1Thes. 5:9-10; 1Tim. 2:5-6; Acts 4:12). There is no other way!
We must beware of following those who preach a gospel contrary to what Christ taught (Gal. 1:8-9; 2Cor. 11:13-14; 2Pet. 2:1).
Initially, we must believe and accept the Basic Gospel Message. The absolute foundation of Christianity defines who Christ is, what He did for us in order to offer the free gift of salvation, and what we must do to accept this free gift.
Once we have this essential ingredient, we must not stop there. Christ is the main ingredient in our recipe to eternal salvation, but God has revealed much more to us in order for us to experience His love and grace in abundance.
Many people are satisfied with just a personal relationship with Christ. But, since recipes requires more than one ingredient, so does our relationship with Christ (1Cor. 3:1-2; 1Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:13-14). We all need to continually grow in our understanding of the faith. We are commanded to grow in our spiritual lives by continuously learning of the many ingredients God gave us in order to know and serve Him.
Once we know Christ and have accepted Him as Lord, we need to find the rest of the ingredients and where they are found. Just as when a recipe mixes several ingredients, they become one with each other, so too with Christ. Christ does not exist by Himself. Rather, He is joined with another component that makes up the complete essential ingredient (Eph.1:22-23; Eph. 5:21-32). Christ and His Church are one. Jesus linked Himself so intimately with His Church, they cannot be separated (Col. 1:18; 24). In the Church, the Lord is fully present and its leader.
Just as other ingredients supplement the main component, so too is it with our faith. Christ is the foundation and the Church is built upon that base. The Church gives us the tools and means to fully know everything God has given to us through Christ.
In order to fully know Christ, we have to also know His Church. These two components cannot be separated. Christ and His Church are one! Both have to be embraced in order to fully experience all of what God wants to give us.
Now that the couple knows it is essential to find the church that is built upon Christ, they must search for the Church that gives fullness to Christís presence.
Knowing where all of the Lordís presence can be found helps the couple to decide on just what kind of church to look for. If you are shopping for a particular ingredient such as aged cheese, you would not expect to find it at a corner convenience store. The same is true when shopping for the Lord. Letís discover the best place to find Jesusí presence in its fullest.
Jesus is found in the Church where two or more are gathered in His name (Mat. 18:20). The presence of the Lord is always among people who gather in His name. We are not called to just worship God by ourselves (Heb. 10:25). We are a faith community when we come together in His name and become members in the Body of Christ because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:4-5; 1Cor.12:12-26). Evidence of our faith is in our actions (James 2:24-26).
Jesusí Church must contain two or more people gathered in His name and show the results of peopleís faith in Christ.
When we know Christ, we need to grow in our relationship with Him. Just as good friends talk with each other and build friendships, we must do the same with Christ. We can directly communicate with Christ by prayer. We are told that God hears and answers our prayers (Mt. 21:22), we should pray continuously (Lk. 18:1), and we can also pray for others (1Tim. 2:1-4). Christ is present when we pray to Him.
We can be in the presence of Christ by communicating with Him in prayer.
Jesus is present and speaks to us through the Sacred Scriptures. When the written Word of God is proclaimed, the Lord is really present and speaking to us (2Tim. 3:16-17). A true relationship with the Lord allows Him to speak and gives us the opportunity to listen (Lk. 10:38-42). It is essential that the Bible is read at each worship service because the Lord speaks through the Scriptures. This is important because faith comes through hearing the message of Christ (Rom. 10:17; Acts 8:27-35).
Church shoppers need to look for the place that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety. Too often, the Bible is regarded as one might regard the aisles of a grocery store, taking only what is wanted and leaving everything else behind. Since the entire Bible is the inspired Written Word of God and not just parts of it, we have to look at everything God has revealed to us. All of the Bible must be proclaimed.
Just as vanilla tastes terrible outside of a recipe, seekers of the truth need to avoid places that use only select passages from the Bible or use verses out of context. Since all ingredients of a recipe need to be used to get the proper results, all Scripture passages must be read in context gives a complete understanding of Christís teachings.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not always make one feel good nor does it bring peace between brothers and sisters (Mt. 10:34-39). If proclaimed with the same conviction as the Lord, the Gospel can challenge us to not follow our own desires, but Christís (Jn. 6:60-69; Mat. 7:5; 22:18; 23:27-33).
All of Sacred Scriptures must be proclaimed in Jesusí Church and be used to define the beliefs.
Many people stop their shopping when they have found a church that has these components. However, there are more essential ingredients required in fully knowing the Church Christ established. Jesus promised He would be present with His disciples another way in addition to the ones already listed.
At the Last Supper, Jesus did something unique. While celebrating the Passover, when a lamb was sacrificed and its flesh eaten, Jesus changed this Old Covenant rite into the New Covenant where He would become the Passover Lamb. Now, instead of eating the Passover lamb, His disciples ate of Christís body and drank His blood (Mat. 26:26-28; Mk. 14:22-24).
Jesus gave His Apostles a command during the Last Supper that was to be observed in the New Testament Church (Lk. 22:19-20; 1Cor. 11:23-25). The command was to, ďDo this in memory of Me.Ē This was not a suggestion, but rather a command for all of His followers to obey. This command was taken seriously (Acts 2:46; 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2).
The main focus of our worship of Christ is expressed when we celebrate the Eucharist (1Cor. 11:26).
The Lord is actually present in the Eucharist (Jn. 6: 48-56). Jesus said the bread is His flesh and the wine is His blood. Jesus eagerly desires to share Himself with you (Lk. 22:15). This is a way in which we can truly know Him (Lk. 24:30-31).
In successful shopping, the product has to do what it says it is and has to perform as it promises. You need not only have to be satisfied with its presentation, but also its promise is fulfilled. When eating the bread and drinking the wine, we are really tasting the goodness of the Lord as the bread becomes His flesh and the wine His blood.
Christ is present in His Church through the Eucharist.
The worship practice of Christís Church should be one that follows how the apostles worshipped. The early Church recognized specific criteria in worshipping God (Acts 2:42; 46; 20:7). By what authority can a church change the worship practice in order to meet the desires and wants of the people?
So, while shopping for the Church Christ established, we need to find a church that has all four ways to experience Christ.
Just as in most recipes, it takes more than just a few core ingredients to complete a dish. Usually a component or two is required to bind all of the other ingredients together. So too, with the Church. It takes a source to make sure all of the ingredients are used properly so they will produce the desired outcome.
While on earth, Jesus was the ultimate authority (Jn. 1:1-5). He taught His people what God wanted them to know about His salvation plan. Since Jesus knew He would not remain on earth forever, He called 12 apostles who would be taught by Christ personally (Mk. 3:13-19). These men followed Jesus and were instructed in what it took to be disciples of the Lord and were witnesses of what Christ did (Acts 1:8).
These men were ready to go out and teach what they learned from Christ. However, just as yeast sitting on a store shelf is useless, it has to be mixed with water in order to grow and be effective. Jesus promised that, although He would leave them soon, He would give them the power to be His representative (Jn. 16:7-15). Once the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles, they were ready to speak for Christ (Jn. 20:21-23). After receiving the Spirit of God, Jesus energized them to go out with His authority and power (Mt. 18:18; Mat. 28:18-20).
Since the apostles were mortal, they would eventually die. So, Christ allowed them to transfer their authority to others who could carry on the apostolic mission (Acts 1:20-26; 13:2-3; 2Tim. 1:6; 1Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2). These successors had the same authority and mission as the apostles (Titus 1:7-9).
We must find a church that has ministers in it who have the authority given to them ultimately by Christ through the apostles and their successors.
It always takes a manager to be able to control what is happening in a busy store. Even though many have been given the authority by Christ and their successors (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 2Tim. 1:6), there must be one person who is head of all of the ordained ministers.
Jesus gave this special authority to a single person who would be head of all of the other apostles (Mt. 16: 18-19; Lk. 22:31; Jn. 21:15).
The true Church must have a single person who is given the special role of an authoritative leader of all of the other ordained ministers.
There needs to be a way for the leaders of an organization to formally establish the beliefs or objectives. The leader and the successors of the apostles have the duty to infallibly define and protect Christís teachings (Acts 15:1-29).
Authoritative leaders formally preserve and define Christís teachings.
Not all people go shopping with a written list. Some go with just verbal instructions that are passed on to others. Since we did not have a canonized Bible until the 4th century, the early ministers of the church verbally proclaimed their shopping list. One way the truth was authoritatively proclaimed verbally (2Thes. 2:15; 3:6; 2Tim. 2:2; 1Cor. 11:2; Jn. 21:25). This verbal Tradition was protected from error by a promise from Christ (Jn. 14:16-20; 25-26). The Holy Spirit would guard the spoken Word of God from error.
Christís true Church also contains His teachings in the form of Apostolic Tradition.
When we buy something, we usually want to touch, taste, hear, and see an item. The same is true when shopping for a church. Since we know Christ is an integral part of His Church, we should expect to be able to use our senses in experiencing Christ (1Jn. 1:1-2).
Jesus provided His graces to people by physical acts in His ministry. He used visible signs to demonstrate Godís love for us in ways we could understand (Jn. 9:6-7; Lk. 8:43-48). Jesus heals and sanctifies us through things of the created world.
Christ gave His Church ways in which His special graces can be given to His believers through the seven sacraments. These are Baptism (Jn. 3:5; Rom. 6:3-4; Titus 3:4-7; 1Pet. 3:20-21, Acts 2:38), Reconciliation (Isaiah 43:25; Jn. 20:22-23; 1Jn. 1:9), Confirmation (Acts 8:14-17), Eucharist (Jn. 6:53-58), Marriage (Gen. 2:24; Mk. 10:7-9), Holy Orders (Acts 1:15-20; 1Tim. 4:14), Anointing of the Sick (James 5:15-16)
Sacraments are physical ways to receive Godís grace through His Church.
We need to make sure the church we choose is authentic. A test for this is to find a church that has withstood the test of time and has been built upon the bricks of Christian martyrs, saints, and witnesses who have gone before us (Mt. 16:17-19; Eph. 2:19-20; Heb. 12:1-2). Also, we know that Christ gives us His personal guarantee He will always be with His Church (Mt. 16: 18; Mt. 28:20; Jn. 14:16-19; 25-26).
When shopping for a church, there are often many different advertisements trying to persuade you into joining a particular church. Sometimes these ads are contradictory and seem to cause more confusion. When shopping for a church, there can be only one true Church (1Cor. 1:10; Rom. 16:17, Jn. 17:20-22)
Does the Church allow me to believe in anything I want or does it challenge me to accept the Gospel in its entirety, whether I always agree or not? In this Church, am I challenged to go beyond my emotional feelings to accept the Lordís presence in the people, Scripture, the Eucharist, and in its authority? Can I obtain Godís graces through the sacraments?
So, how does one make the decision on what Church to attend? There are so many churches all claiming to be teaching the truth, but we know all cannot be teaching the fullness of the truth. We can turn to God and learn what He has taught (1Cor. 14:33).
To be successful, it is essential that the shopping experience end with a positive result. The true Church has nothing to hide (Mat. 5:14-16).
In order to find Christís true Church, one must go shopping at a well-stocked Church rather than at some discount church that only offers part of what God what us to experience. A person needs to make sure that the Bible, Tradition, Authority, and the sacraments are all central ingredients in the search for Christ and His Church.
There is only one Church that has all of the ingredients listed in the Bible. It is the one (1Cor. 1:10), holy (Eph. 5:25-27), catholic (Mt. 28:18-20), and apostolic (Eph. 2:20-21) church.
Christ can be experienced to the fullest in the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, and APOSTOLIC Church. Why go anywhere else?