Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Way


When I am having a conversation with people and the discussion turns to God and the Bible, as it almost always does, I often get asked, “What denomination are you?” The answer to that question goes all the way back to the first century A.D. and the very beginning of Christianity itself.


The puzzling thing is that the Christianity that most people practice today is very different from the Christianity Jesus taught to those first 120 people (Acts 1:15 KJV) who were lead by the 12 apostles He personally chose to establish His church. So when they hear the truths that we have learned from our own Bibles, they sound foreign to what they’ve heard before; it’s different somehow. 

For some their question is posed as if they had encountered a strange insect on a walk in the woods searching for something familiar by which to categorize it. "What species or family of creatures is it? I’ve never run across anything like it before so help me to file it in the proper box in my mind.” They struggle to fit the plain truth of the bible into the ideologies they have been taught by today’s traditional religious leaders and though certain elements may ring true it doesn’t quite fit in with what they already believe.



Occasionally though, the question, “What denomination are you?” is asked in such a way that the person is genuinely curious and interested in hearing more about the truth. They sincerely want to learn more about what’s being said and are inquiring as to the source and how I came to know it. I’m still learning how to answer gracefully, choosing my words carefully seasoned with salt to guide them into all truth. (Col 4:6 KJV)



I don’t want to offend them by condemning their Sunday worship and pagan holiday keeping ways but I don’t want to be overly defensive about mine either. As I’ve thought about it and studied it I’ve come to realize that this calling of ours, it’s not any denomination. The very word denomination implies it’s one of the Protestant branches that broke away from the Roman Church. It’s not a religion either, teeming with the traditions of men. And it’s not a cult. It’s a way of life. It’s simply a way of conducting our lives, a way to live in accordance with God’s Law, a way that is pleasing in His sight. (1John 3:22 KJV)



Let’s look at Matthew chapter 7 to see what it says in the Bible about this Way of life.



Matt 7:13-14 (KJV) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, [the way of Cain] and many there be which go in thereat:  (14)  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.



We have a tendency to think of the broad way, the way of Cain, (Jude 1:11 KJV) as that of a non-believer, an atheist. However, those who enter the wide gate do go in at the wide gate; they entered the gate! They believe in God or they would have stayed outside. Cain wasn’t an atheist! He believed in God; he made an offering. The problem was that he wanted to decide how he worshipped God much like the mainstream Christians do today. When Christ took on the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 23, he wasn’t rebuking them because they didn’t believe in God. He was chastising them for the way they chose to demonstrate their belief and worship of Him. That’s the reason there are so many religions and denominations today. They know there is a God but they each want to worship Him in their own way instead of by the simple instructions He gave us in the Bible.



The narrow way of life runs counter to the rest of so-called Christianity. It is not for everybody. It is not easy to find and it is not for the faint of heart. (John 16:2 KJV) It requires constant vigilance against the deceit of this world (Rev 12:9 KJV) and a constant refocusing of our attention with patience and endurance. (Col 1:10-11 KJV) It is the strait gate, the narrow path, the road less traveled, against the flow of the mainstream. We get lumped in with the rest of Christianity because we preach Christ crucified, (Col 1:23 KJV) but upon closer examination we don’t quite fit in with them. And because we’re in the minority, the judgment is made that this way of ours must be wrong somehow, even heretical; that our way, the narrow way through the strait gate is leading us down the path to destruction instead.



In Acts chapter 9, just before Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he was renowned as the hateful Saul that was actively seeking out that sect who chose to follow Christ, persecuting and slaughtering them. Fresh from the stoning of Stephen, before he left Jerusalem, he asked the high priest for letters that he could deliver to the leaders of the synagogues in Damascus. The letters were written and signed in the name and by the authority of the Sanhedrin. The high priest actually signed them as president of the Great Council. The letters instructed them to turn over any Christians they might find to him so that he could bring them back to Jerusalem to stand trial and be executed. Notice how he referred to them, those that followed Christ, that is.



Acts 9:1-2 (ESV) But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest  (2)  and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, [the King James says, “this way”] men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.



Those who followed Christ belonged to “the Way”, that is, the Way of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ, the way of the Lord, that way of life. This way of the Lord is also spoken of all throughout the Psalms and Proverbs. Let’s look at Psalms 119 for example and look at a few passages that refer to “the Way”.



Psa 119:1 (KJV) Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

Psa 119:14 (KJV) I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.

Psa 119:27-37 (KJV) Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.  (28)  My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.  (29)  Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.  (30)  I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.  (31)  I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.  (32)  I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.  (33)  Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.  (34)  Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.  (35)  Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.  (36)  Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.  (37)  Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
Psa 139:23-24 (KJV) Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  (24)  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psa 143:8 (KJV) Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.



The Way, who walk in the law of the Lord

The Way of thy testimonies

The Way of thy precepts

The Way of truth

The Way of thy commandments

The Way of thy statutes

Thy Way (God’s Way)

The Way everlasting

The Way wherein I should walk



In Acts 19, this Way was spoken of again specifically in reference to those who followed the Lord Jesus Christ when Paul spent 3 months speaking in the synagogues in Ephesus.


Acts 19:8-9 (NKJV) And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. (9) But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way [that way KJV] before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.

And again it was referenced when those of the Way were making it difficult for Demetrius the silversmith to sell his statues of Diana.


Acts 19:23-27 (NKJV) And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. (24) For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. (25)  He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. (26) Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. (27) So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”



In Acts 24, when Paul was brought before the unrighteous governor of Judea, Antonius Felix, on charges of sedition and heresy against the Jews, Paul himself referred to following Christ as the Way and that it was thought of as a heretical sect.



Acts 24:14 (NKJV) But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, [heresy KJV] so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.



Felix, the Governor of Judea also knew of it as, the Way -



Acts 24:22 (NKJV) But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.”



In John 14, Christ Himself also spoke of the way. Let’s see how He described it.



John 14:1-6 (KJV) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  (2)  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  (3)  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  (4)  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.  (5)  Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way(6)  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.



Jesus Christ set the example! He showed us the way! That where He is, we may be also. Where is He? With the Father! (Heb 1:3 KJV) Do we want to be with the Father? Do we want to live in His presence, to be in God’s Kingdom living in the joy of our LORD? (Rev 21:3 KJV) Then He that says he abides in him ought to walk, even as he walked. (1John 2:6 KJV) God gave us His Spirit so we would know the way. (John 16:13 KJV) That still small voice leading us in the way wherein we should walk. (1Kings 19:12 KJV)



Now when anyone asks me “What denomination are you”? I reply, “I’m not of any denomination. I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I live according to the Way, keeping the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 24:14; Rev 12:17 KJV)



We need to always be mindful of this way of life; bind it for a sign upon the hand, and as frontlets between the eyes, so to speak. (Deut 6:8 KJV) We are set apart, sanctified by God (John 17:9; 1Cor 6:11 KJV) to be an example to others; to be different, (2Cor 6:17 KJV) to reveal to them the Father for His glory. It is not grievous or a burden (1John 5:3 KJV) but we delight in His Law and His Way. (Psa 1:2 KJV)



God gave us His Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us along the way. We must stir up the gift of God (2Tim 1:6 KJV) and not grieve it (Eph 4:30 KJV) nor quench it. (1Thes 5:19 KJV) We must listen for its gentle instruction in God’s way, that still small voice. (1Kings 19:12 KJV)



Isa 30:21 (KJV) And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.



May we all hear that still small voice, thy lovingkindness in the morning leading us in the way, the way wherein we should walk, through the strait gate, down the narrow path which leads to life.


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If you are sincerely interested in learning more, you might examine the site hosted by the congregation where I attend worship services - The United Church of God


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I strive to be as the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-11 receiving the word with all readiness of mind, and searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so. Check up on me in your own bible. Should you find me in error please let me know immediately. We must prove all things (1Thes 5:21) and rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim 2:15) together lest we be deceived. (Matt 24:24)

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