The churches I see as I drive around my town are of great interest to me. Yes, I have belonged to several churches and yes, I do not belong to a church now. I just can’t and if I did I would be doing the Church and myself a disservice.
Imagine a world where there are no churches, and if we go back far enough in time that was the case; simply a world full of individuals that had within them varying spiritual, or religious, inclinations. Some would have had no inklings at all, but the vast majority would have. And, of those so inclined, there would have been many different manifestations of those religious, or spiritual, inclinations. Over time, those that held personal, organically-derived spiritual inclinations came across others that held the same beliefs. Those individuals eventually banded together and formed what we typically call a church.
This is a church I can believe in.
Later on, a person that is new to the area is walking by that church and sees that some neighbors are members of that church. It is also noticed that the members of that church are fairly well established in the community as they are prospering and thriving. Based almost entirely on variables related to the here and now, this passing-by person decides it is best to join the church. It is true that inside this person that wants to join are religious beliefs, but they have not been fully explored, finalized; properly emphasized.
The church graciously accepts this person into the fold without much ado and the church has grown in its membership, a sure sign that the church must be very good. Sure, there are probably classes the person joining needs to attend so that they understand the doctrines of the church, but this type of transitioning into a church holds little value more often than not to the person that wants to join for, how shall we say, primarily social reasons.
This is a church I cannot, and will never, believe in. The church has diluted itself, fallen away from its origin. More importantly, the individual that just joined is in grave danger of not developing a genuine, organic, religious framework.
I am quite certain that I could go to every church in my community and express an interest in joining and furthermore, I’ll bet my rapidly-decreasing-in-value dollar to your COVID-19-donut that not a single person at any of those churches would sit me down and ask me what I believe in as far as God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, our lives here now, or the afterlife goes. I am pretty sure, though, that sooner than later I would most gracefully and tactfully be inquired upon to declare what type of monetary effort I am prepared to exert to demonstrate my faith in the Lord. I clearly recall the exact words I was told regarding this matter as I joined the last church I’ll probably ever join; “We are not telling you how much you should give each year, but it should hurt to give it”.
So, I’ll leave it at that for now. All I will say is that I have heard of no church like the one I want to join, and so here I am in my own developed understanding of Christianity and how it relates to my rapidly approaching afterlife.
If, after you come to understand my position on religion and what it means to me to live in a manner that leads to everlasting life, you know of a church that will integrate me into the fold with substance, please do pass the information onto me. I will certainly consider joining in a most thorough manner.
I am going to present all that I have to say and show to you in a series of essays, much like this one. Each essay may be comprised of individual, cordoned off comments, again, like this one, or not. Furthermore, the ordering of the topics may appear a bit, how shall I say, out of order to you but when I am entirely done I will have covered all that is to be covered. Also, I will try to keep each essay around 2,000 words, and I see this one approached around 2,700 words before I found a good place to pause. Also, these essays will be published with no more than a week in between each publication. If you notice that more than a week has elapsed since the publishing of my last essay, odds are great that I’ve been scooped up and whisked away in a most authoritative manner. I can always be reached at [email protected]. I only respond to inquiries from encrypted email accounts.
I am a devout Christian and everything I believe comes, or originates, from the Gospels. There is no greater starting point than the words of Jesus Christ.
I consider myself to be a Religious Sinner. I have capitalized those two words, and it is to properly emphasize their importance. In my very existence, in every moment, I sin. I was born into sin and I shall go to the grave full of sin. It is only through the grace of God through Jesus Christ that I can be given what I call an eternity of everlasting life living in the Lord. I wholly reject all that is evil and it is my desire to rid the world of evil, and that includes that which has made its way into my own existence and also the evil I see around me. And, just like the greatest of the greatest baseball players, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, for example, that strived with all his might to never swing and miss, I know that at the granular level of life I will be at times successful and at times I will fail wonderfully. But, I will not stop in that quest and these essays are now a part of that effort. Evil can only be fully eradicated once the rider brandishing the Word of God weapon arrives. But, as you shall come to understand, standing around doing nothing in the face of evil until that moment happens is not an option, for we will not be permitted to stand around much longer. And, although this next comment deserves additional commentary which you will not be afforded until later, it is my goal to contribute to the drawing of that weapon from its sheath.
The Gospel of John has a fantastic opening salvo. It goes on for a while but basically it states the following: In the beginning was the WORD and from the WORD came forth God. And from God came forth Jesus in the flesh. Jesus came to this earth and he was with us in the flesh at that time. Once Jesus completed all that he was to complete while in the flesh he returned to from where he came.
So, where did Jesus go when his life in the flesh ended? Yes, he went back to God but really, he returned back to the true origin, the WORD. And, with the eventual creation of the Gospels, and the coupling of that with the Old Testament, and the remainder of the Bible, from the Book of Acts through the Book of Revelation, I must say that the only sound conclusion to be made is that the Bible in its entirety is the body of Christ.
Pick up the Bible and you are holding in your hands, quite literally, the body of Jesus Christ. Yes, this is a hard, unusual concept to the typical tangible-thinking person to grasp to be sure, but this position is justified. It is also a cornerstone of my belief in Jesus Christ.
I’ve been a devout reader of the Bible since 2005. With the current year being 2021, that would be roughly 16 years. Starting in 2005, I read the Bible in its entirety three times, front to back, like one would read a book. After I completed the first and second reading I started in immediately with the next subsequent reading. I was also filled with the Holy Spirit during that time period of my life to the point that insights were afforded to me that would have not been afforded otherwise. I’m not quite sure how long it took me to complete those three readings of the Bible. I was supporting a family so I was working. I do know that at one point I was making sure I read 40 pages a day, and I never missed a day. Of course, that ‘40 pages’ comment depends on the version and the font, but I will say the Bible I read during that period contained a rather small font.
Are you wondering what version of the Bible I read? I will not disclose that as all I have ever found to be the basis of that question is a desire for confrontation from the person asking the question. But, I will say this – the KJV and the NIV and even the TNIV (gasp) have been held in my hands.
I remember telling my Dad about my reading of the Bible. He asked, “How did that come about?” I recall saying that it seemed like it would have been a shame to have lived life on earth and to go to the grave not having read it.
As I was working through the first complete reading I more or less read it out of enjoyment, not really grasping much as it was really the first time I was being presented with much of the material; the various biblical events. I recall the Book of Numbers drove me mad at times and I had some mild negative thoughts about portions of the books that are to be found between the Book and Acts and the Book of Revelation. In general, I took some notes, mostly bookmarking things that were of interest to me. I must say that was the first time that I found out that at one point God told someone to cook some food and to use human excrement as fuel for the fire. And, the Book of Ezekiel, talk about some great imagery; it is simply incredible. Of course, much more as well which I won’t specifically reference now.
During the second reading things began to unfold a bit. I began noticing a recurrence of events that are in the Bible. Really, what I am getting at is that I began to go beyond the words themselves at times and see how the form of the Bible was of importance. I took many notes this time through; when I read the Old Testament for the second time I was now able to see how it tied to events and statements made by Jesus in the Gospels. I was beginning to see a connection between the Old Testament, The Gospels, and the New Testament based on form. Also, I must let you know, that during this second reading, when I encountered Isaiah 44:5 which states …:
Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
and will take the name Israel.
.. I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to integrate this passage into my life.
Obviously, some different things were happening now with this second reading.
With the third reading of the Bible everything opened up. The form within the Bible brought a completely new understanding that I had never before considered. What I found was that events in the Gospels could be tied back to the Old Testament by seeing the similarity of form between events in the Old Testament and the Gospels. My best example is that in the Old Testament Moses was in the desert for 40 years, and during that time he was on the mountain for 40 days, and was tempted by the devil at that time. Jesus, in like fashion in the New Testament, was in the desert for 40 days and he also was tempted.
Based on form, they are the same story.
Now, I am certainly not the first to point this out, and this in and of itself is of no great significance to many people but it proved to be the starting point of how I now view the Bible in its entirety. Eventually, I identified some 16 instances of where the Gospels and the Old Testament were one and the same through similarities in form. If you can picture the Old Testament existing on a continuum coupled with the Gospels existing to the right of the Old Testament on that continuum, you can then picture arrows arching up out of the Gospels and descending down into the Old Testament at the various places that the forms are identical on both sides of these arching arrows. Here is an example of what that would look like if we picture three instances where form between the Old Testament and The Gospels coincide.
OK, still not the most life shattering news at this point, but what I realized is that as I progressed through each of the four Gospels, that as I came closer to the Crucifixion of Jesus, I was no longer able to tie the Gospels back to the Old Testament in a meaningful manner through the form of the various events and statements in the Gospels I was considering.
What I eventually found was that the form of the various events and statements in the Gospels that took place close to the Crucifixion of Jesus should be tied not to the Old Testament like I had be doing, but to the New Testament. Specifically, I was finding that it was events taking place in the Book of Revelation that these events in the Gospels were pointing to. So now, with this realization, we have this:
Again, we’ve made some progress here in getting a handle on what is happening in the Bible based on a look at the form of various areas of the Bible and their similarities, but what is to be gained from all this?
Well, a couple things are worth reaching a conclusion on. First, the famous statement in the Bible, “I am what is, what has been, and what will be” (Rev 1:8) now takes on a very tangible meaning as it now can be applied to a book we can hold in our hands. If we incorporate that statement into the above picture we see that they are in synch perfectly.
I now understood that potentially everything taking place in the Gospels could be tied through form to some past or future event. Of course, what this means is that if we are connecting the Gospels to the New Testament through form, and if that event in the New Testament is one that has not yet occurred, we can, in effect, predict the future; we can explain what will take place in Revelation with a pretty high degree of finality by examining the Gospels.
This is worth repeating, thus emphasizing – if we understand, based on form, the interrelationship of the Gospels with events in the New Testament that have not yet transpired we can, in effect, predict the future.
We must now conclude that sufficient progress has been made; we can no longer say this analytical endeavor I have dragged you through is meaningless.
The Old Testament is which was
The Gospels are which is
The New Testament is which is to come
Though we have certainly made some good progress in gaining an understanding of how to consider the Bible, the body of Christ, this realization is just the beginning of a very long profound journey that continues to this day. Much has been realized and I intend to share it all with you through this series of essays.
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