A Few Questions from a New Believer - 04/18/2004

there are some things I do not understand. when reading this email, please realize that I am NEW in my faith, having recently resolved to seek God out, and try to become closer to Him. I was one of those guys, that got saved when he was a teenager, and then went about his life like nothing changed. therefore if i am not trying to condemn anyone, I am merely trying to understand why some things are.

I don't understand the division of the Churches. Protestant, Baptist, Lutheran, Epsicopalian, Methodist, etc. what is the difference? Do we not worship the same God? the same Jesus? when someone asks me what Denomination I am, I tell them none. Denomination, seperation of churchfolk seems foolish to me, but then again I am no expert. so perhaps you could enlighten me on the reasons and effects of this Denominational Seperation.

Also, I've recently seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Me, knowing just the basic story of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection, I saw the movie as entertaining. Also, watching the extent of Jesus's suffering in this depiction, moved my heart to seek God more. I felt a great swell of guilt while considering that Jesus went through such torture and crucifixion for my sake, yet I had always thought nothing of it. am I wrong in this view? I read a website which offers a negative review of the movie, passing it off as merely Catholic propaganda. the review is found here:

http://www.challies.com/archives/cat_the_passion_of_the_christ.html

is the movie not an accurate representation of what happened? and I don't mean in a nitpicky sort of way. I mean a broader form of accuracy, which is all I would know at this time. This article took the time to go through extreme details(such as lines from the movie not being in the bible and things like that) that I did not know while I was watching the movie. the reviewer seemed quite nitpicky, but I would not know better. I am wondering, is he really just being nitpicky, or does he have plausible points in his opinion?

also on the above linked site, within the discussion topics concerning the actual article, there are several articles which provide different views on the article. from this discussions, which were more like arguments, there seemed to be a very real sort of hatred for Mel Gibson because he is Catholic, and Catholicism in general. As I said before, I have no denomination that I know of, I simply believe the Word of God, and I believe that Jesus came and sacrificed himself for my sins. that is all. I don't know much in terms of theology and such, but I will try to learn. however, I think it wrong to express such dislike for one particular denomination over another. so why the apparent hate? I'm not trying to condemn, i am simply trying to understand.

Also, I am not quite sure of the 'correct' way to pray and study my bible. praying, does it neccessarily HAVE to be out loud? can I pray in my thoughts or in writing, or anything like that? when I read my bible, most times i simply open it up to a random book and read random chapters. is there a better more focused way to read it? I'm not exactly looking for anything specific, but i don't get much out of just random reading.

I don't really have the time to type out the rest of my questions, but I will soon. thanks for the consideration.

John





CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:


Hi John. Thanks for writing to Contender Ministries. Like you, Jennifer and I consider ourselves to be non-denominational. We attend a non-denominational Christian church that teaches the Bible faithfully. It is unfortunate that there are denominational divisions within Christianity, but they're not all bad. Many denominations are separate simply because they prefer a particular style of worship. Some are very reverent and liturgical, while others prefer modern praise music and spontaneity. Some denominational divisions occur over doctrinal disagreements. For instance, some denominations interpret the Bible as saying that baptism is necessary for salvation, while others feel the Bible teaches that salvation is based on faith, and baptism is simply an external profession of that faith. Some denominations make the gifts of the Spirit (tongues, prophecy) an integral part of the worship service, while other denominations either believe the gifts of the Spirit are a relic of the Apostolic age, or simply prefer not to overemphasize the often misused gifts in their services. Most of these denominational divisions are not relevant to the issue of salvation, and I welcome members of many of these denominations as my brothers and sisters in Christ -- even if we do disagree on some doctrinal issues.

Other pseudo-Christian religions and denominations have very unbiblical and heretical teachings though. Many of them are profiled on our website (such as Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.). Their doctrines are not simply a matter of differing biblical interpretation, but rather a perversion of the true gospel. In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul said, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" While we are not distressed by minor doctrinal disagreements, we do challenge beliefs that are outright unbiblical, and present a "different gospel." Following Paul's example in his letter to the Galatian church, as well as the admonition in Jude 3-4, we counter these beliefs on our website. To us, the sign on the front of the church is not nearly so important as what is taught within.

Regarding praying out loud versus praying silently, you're not the first person to wonder about this. Jennifer and I both pray frequently, but we do so with our mind and hearts instead of with our mouth. That's not to say we never pray out loud; sometimes we do. But sometimes it is difficult to verbalize the burdens of one's heart, and that can interfere with the communion we share with the Lord when we pray. Paul spoke of this as well:

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Romans 8:26

"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." 1 Corinthians 14:14-15

As far as your Bible study goes, sometimes it is fruitful to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, as He may desire for you to read a certain passage on a certain day. This can sometimes be distracting though, if you're skipping around without feeling led. I recommend picking a book of the Bible, and reading a few chapters per day. Then pick another book of the Bible. Or, read the New Testament straight through, a few chapters per day. Then read the Old Testament the same way. Another idea is to go to a Christian bookstore and find a devotional that takes you through the Bible a little bit each day. The most important thing is that you are reading your Bible, so whatever method you find works for you, follow it.

I have heard and read many objections to The Passion of the Christ. We saw the movie, and will be writing an article for it on Contenders soon. It's true that there are lines in the movie that aren't in the Bible. It's true that Satan's appearances in the movie are also not in the Bible. It's true that the demonic children taunting Judas is a story not found on the Bible. However, as a whole, I found that these do not detract from the gospel message that is easily understood by watching this movie. We are critical of Roman Catholicism's unbiblical doctrines, and Mel Gibson and I would have much to disagree on, doctrinally speaking. However, rejecting this movie simply because its creator is Catholic, would be like criticizing the humanitarian efforts of Mother Theresa. I thought Gibson's inclusion of Satan in the story was creative and compelling, even though that was not found in the Bible. The Passion moved me to tears, as I was reminded of the tremendous love Jesus has for us to make such a sacrifice of Himself. I have encouraged others to see it.

John, I hope this has answered your questions. Continue reading your Bible, and cling to the truths found in the Word of God. Pray often, and we will also pray for you. Let us know if you have any more questions. We'll be happy to answer them. May the Lord richly bless you and direct your paths.

In Christ,

Ben and Jennifer Rast
Contender Ministries