For 2,000 years, we humans added enough of our own traditions to make murky the waters of the church flowing from the cross.
It was simpler then. The church had scrolls from the Old Testament to help understand God and the coming of Christ into the world.
Through personal recollection—and the Apostles—the newly founded church followed the teachings of Jesus as their guide. His sermon given on the side of a mountain outlined Jesus’ doctrine for new believers to follow.
Preaching in the Book of Acts always followed the same four-point outline. Point One: God sent Jesus into the world. Point Two: You killed Him. Point Three: God raised Jesus from the dead. Point Four: Repent.
The response of listeners was always the same throughout the Book of Acts. Either listeners rejected the cross sermon or listeners responded with repentant hearts and entered baptismal waters to identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus and to receive the Holy Spirit.
With that simple yet profound sermon from the cross, thousands upon thousands responded, and the church moved across the face of the world.
The heart that beat within the new churches was the heart of Jesus. Believers were not checking doctrinal lists. New Christians understood their salvation to be a gift from God. They were busy loving and caring for each other and sharing their new found “Jesus-Joy” with friends and neighbors. Church was that simple.
The letters recorded in the New Testament are examples of life in the new churches. In these letters, the Apostles—by Godly inspiration—further clarified Jesus’ teachings for application in the daily life of churches.
With the Four Gospels as my guide, I have the core Jesus’ teachings for being a member of His church. The Acts and the Letters fill in some procedural gaps for entering into a relationship with Jesus and for helping me navigate the road to reach heaven.
Two thousand years later, I see a church robbed of its simplicity.
Councils, rules, organizations, and traditions hide the church from lost people and confuse the fellowship of the saved.
To focus again on the simplicity of the core of the church, I will attempt to follow Jesus’ teaching to love God with all of my heart, soul, and might, and to love my neighbor as myself.
If I can do just that, I will find myself in fellowship with other believers and will take a step to remove the church from the hypocrisy of attempting to witness to the world as a divided body.
Secondly, and perhaps of equal importance, to focus on the simplicity of the gospel will make Jesus attractive to people unlike me who hold different traditions and different social norms.
To make my time honored traditions a high hurdle for lost people to jump successfully is not fair to them. When I elevate a tradition to doctrine, I may in fact cause others to spend eternity in hell.
Let’s sharpen our focus on the simplicity of Jesus’ call.
Gary J. Sorrells – On Cross Church.