I am a Christian.
Many people in the world claim that, but they have different understandings of what it means. A common answer people give is that they are followers of Jesus. As I hope to show they don’t really know what being a Christian means.
This post series describes my personal journey into Christianity. It is quite controversial at times. I know I found it shocking too – can this be correct? Please do read to the end of the series to “learn the end of the matter!”
I did not grow up in the religious home. In some ways I am grateful for that. So I had no idea about Christianity, or any other religion, until I was sent to boarding school. Here I was introduced to the Dutch Reformed form of Christianity. It would be called a protestant denomination, not that I ever saw them protesting. I now often saw images of Jesus and found it strange that Jesus looked more white than his disciples, and then he had long hair…!
I learned about a Jesus, that even though he was God’s son (hence the glow around his head in the pictures), was crucified and so paid for my sins. I remember that at that time reading A Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – I was really moved. It was an allegory but I could not even spell allegory let alone understand what it was all about. I knew I was a sinner but that was not yet real to me
A Seventh day Adventist colleague later introduced me to the book of Daniel. Now this was exciting stuff! I now knew about the “last days” and the Armageddon events that were prophesied to take place then! It was at this time that I found out about the Worldwide Church of God and I studied their extensive literature. I was sort of convinced that they were the true church! I started attending WWCOG.
A Seventh Day Adventist colleague later introduced me to the book of Daniel. Now this was exciting stuff! I now knew about the “last days” and the events that were prophesied to take place at that time!
It was at this time that I found out about the Worldwide Church of God and I studied their extensive literature. I was sort of convinced that they were the true church! I started attending WWCOG.
I think being right, or knowing more than other people, had become part of my coping strategy that I had learned in boarding school. That is what initially attracted me to this church.
I learned a lot at WWCOG – there were many bible studies and services were two hours long! I am grateful for that. But again, I had no idea what it was really about, that I was a sinner and that I needed saving! At this point I accepted Jesus as my savior and I was baptized. I was sincere in my beliefs though, but God wanted more.
After the death of Mr. Herbert Armstrong, the WWCOG fell apart. So, they were not the true church after all! Now what? I think it was for the better.
So who was Jesus really?
People tend to say “Jesus Christ” as if “Christ” was his last name. Many preachers will draw the name out so it sounds more like “Geeezous” and they refer to Jesus as “Christ” when they want to sound fancy. I started to rank/judge preachers by how they use Jesus’ name’; I could tell if they really knew Jesus.
But I learned that Christ actually meant “Anointed“. It was a title not a name. God anointed him to be king over God’s kingdom in the age to come.
What Jesus looked like, we don’t know. But probably nothing like he is depicted in art. More likely much more muscular after years of hard work as a carpenter and bronzed from being outdoors a lot.
So we read that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The name Christian became associated with the followers of Jesus because they believed the good news as Jesus had told us: he had been anointed as king, he was the christ!
So to put it in today’s context, imagine the excitement of the followers of political leaders of today like Trump, Xi Jinping, Mandela etc. when they attend a rally of their leader. Then you will have some sense how excited and proud those early disciples were to be called Christians! If they had social media back then they would be posting about their anointed leader often. Just like today, people like to label others. So these followers would be labeled of course as that group that is always posting about Joshua being anointed as King; and thus the label would be “the anointeds”, or if you will “Christians”!
Note: I stressed the use of “christian” to highlight that they were given the label because they believed Jesus was anointed to be king. In all probability they were called Messianic Jews as “messiah” means anointed in Hebrew, and Jew, many were probably not Jewish but they were part of the Jewish community, or synagogue.
I kept on studying as God guided me. The internet had become a great source of information – and misinformation. I had made so many mistakes in the past, like thinking that the WWCOG was the only true church, how can I be sure the new information I was getting was correct?
God knows where you are at with your understanding and works with you accordingly. I used to think there are so many denominations, they can’t all be right, i.e. ours must be right – not.
This is very presumptuous, for Jesus said that he will build his church (Matthew 16:18), I will leave it up to him to deal with the situation.
The bits and pieces of new information I dig up all help me to get a deeper understanding. I have found out some really shocking facts about Christianity as I will describe in the following posts in this series. I will not be trying to convince you of these things, but rather help you understand my journey of faith/
So, what does God expect me to do now? I am searching for his will; I desperately want to be part of his kingdom and work on Jesus’ team.
Next we’ll look at what I learned about the gospel.