Before I came to understand the Scriptures, I stayed in a continuous state of spiritual confusion. I had several translations of the Bible: King James Version, English Standard Version, and a paraphrasing of the Bible called, “The Message”. You would think that from a variety of translations, that I would have understood one of them. Unfortunately, I did not understand the Scriptures as I should have from those translations and thus, I lost the desire to try and understand them. I was lazy in my faith in that I relied on everyone and everything BUT the Bible to give me God’s Holy Word. I gained most of my knowledge about God from sermons, pastors, Christian influences, Christian books, traditions, and word of mouth.
I grew up in the Southern Baptist church, and I still attend a baptist church. However, it no longer has anything to do with church traditions. It has everything to do with knowing God’s Word. I am a different Christian today than I once was.
When you desire the truth enough, you will put forth the effort to find it. I simply did not understand who God was in the way I should have. I had developed an ungodly fear of Him that is contrary to what the Scriptures describe. This fear led to other fears until it eventually branched out like roots underneath a tree.
When you do not understand something, you can develop a fear of it; a fear of the unknown, so to speak. To my credit, I did try to find a translation of the Bible that was easier for me to understand, but it still did no good. What did I do? I started to research other church denominations and visit those churches.
I left the baptist church for a few years and joined a non-denominational church. There, they spoke in tongues, raised their hands in worship, wore “cool” clothes, and spoke on the gift of prophecy. This was intriguing to me as we did not do such things in the baptist church. I thought that, perhaps, the baptist church had it wrong, and the non-denominational church had it right. So, I joined the choir, got involved in other ministry activities, and enjoyed worshipping God more freely with fellow believers. Or so I thought. Once the emotional high of something new wore off, I was still left with an emptiness that is hard to explain. I still had unanswered questions.
I signed up for the church’s Christian counseling to see what could have been the cause for my confusion. I explained to the kind counselor that I did not have the assurance of my salvation. She said I exemplified all evidence of being truly saved and that it was the devil. Even though I was doubtful about it, I accepted her analysis and shrugged off the daunting thoughts about my salvation.
Another friend of mine begged me to try out his church: the church of Christ. Now, let me tell you, I had heard some strange things about the church of Christ and was unsure. Despite any reservation, I remained open-minded and attended for a few months. The sermons were great, but the lack of music saddened me. My entire life, I’ve felt the calling to music ministry, more specifically, with the piano. Yet, the church of Christ did not allow musical instruments of any kind. This bothered me greatly. How was I going to serve and worship God in a church where I could not honor my calling? I did not understand. Visiting the pastor’s house one Sunday after church, I asked him why their denomination did not believe in the use of musical instruments. The book of Psalms is bathed in using musical instruments to worship God! He explained their convictions are based on the fact that Christ never specified in the Scriptures to worship God with musical instruments. I debated with the pastor in hopes of convincing him otherwise. But hey, did I really believe that I could change an entire denomination’s conviction on the matter? I still cannot believe I argued with him about it. Needless to say, I never returned to the church of Christ denomination. Although, I respect and admire their devotion to God and teaching His Word.
Another year went by, and I still wasn’t satisfied. I began dating my husband, and he introduced me to his church – a reformed baptist church. I thought to myself, “Great, maybe they will have some answers for me about my confusion.” I met with the pastor of his church and shared with him my lack of assurance for my salvation and expressed how my confusion on which church had the truth of Christ. He gave me the same, unsatisfying answer the non-denominational church had: “You show evidence of being a born-again believer. Confusion is the source of your lack of assurance. We are the true church.”
I know what you’re thinking, “Unsatisfied answer? Two churches told you that you were in good standing with God! Why did that not relieve your concerns?” Because of the differences in every denomination, I did not have trust in the church to give me the assurance of my salvation. Looking back, I now know that I was looking for the church to give me hope of my salvation instead of the Word of God.
As you probably guessed, I attended the reformed baptist church for a year and moved on. Something still did not sit right with me about my salvation and faith.
Two years after I left the reformed baptist church, my mother informed me that she had left the southern baptist church to join the catholic church. I panicked at first! I had heard so many sketchy things about the Catholic Church. They possibly could not have true Christians! Or so I thought. I eased my mind by remembering the one year I had played piano at a methodist church. The methodist church has some similarities to the traditions of the catholic church. (Yes, I joined the methodist church for a while as well.)
It really complicated things spiritually for me when my mother joined the Catholic Church. She spoke about how they prayed the rosary, talked to Mary, and didn’t eat meat on Fridays. My spiritual confusion started to spiral out of control. She talked about purgatory which contradicted the Protestant Church, and how the Catholics taught that THEY were the true church. Here’s the thing: Every single denomination I visited taught that they were the true church. Every one of them taught that Christ was the way to God, but only their traditions and beliefs were the true way.
I became curious about the Catholic Church and purchased the book on the catechism. I studied their views on things and compared them to the other churches. Then I became overwhelmed and even questioned the existence of God. Then I researched the other churches again and their views and interpretations of the Bible.
Then, there was the BIG question: Why did the Catholic Church have more books in the Bible than the protestant churches?
Whew was I troubled by the lack of solidarity! What was the truth? It was questions like these that fueled my desire to further research for truth.
I found myself researching websites and television documentaries that discussed the scientific proof of God’s existence. Thank the Lord for showing me those websites and documentaries as they helped get me on the right path. For instance, the sun is in the absolute perfect position for life to be sustained on Earth. Should the Earth or the sun move slightly from its current positions, life would cease to exist. Everything in the universe is mathematically organized. This cannot happen by chance. This realization taught me that God is truly real. Now to find which church had it right!
Believe it or not, I returned to the reformed baptist church but a different church. I sought Biblical counseling and was reminded of God’s holiness and sovereignty. This helped me to view the Bible in its proper authoritative manner: It is the Word of God.
During this time, I stumbled across the New Living Translation Bible in my husband’s office. I had never looked at that translation before. I read a few pages and was amazed! It was as if the sentences were jumping out of the Bible and into my heart. I understood the content better than I had ever understood it before. I couldn’t get enough of it! I wanted to know more about God’s thoughts and what He had to say about everything. Even Scriptures I had read my entire life suddenly a had different meaning to them. Simply put, I finally understood them!
The more I read the Bible, the more my confusion on the churches and God began to clear up. Most importantly, I was able to see FOR MYSELF what God had to say about salvation. No longer do I lack the assurance of my salvation. God’s Word clears up any and all confusion when you understand what you are reading.
One day, as I was reading through the book of Romans, I came across Scriptures that answered my questions on the different denominations and their traditions. Take a look at it below:
“Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshipping the Lord are trying to honor Him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord.” Romans 14:1-8.
When I read those verses, not only did things make more sense, it convicted me over my lack of knowledge. God had corrected me. Just because the non-denominational churches pray differently than the baptist churches, doesn’t mean they are wrong for it. Just because the Catholic Church frowns upon eating meat on certain days whereas other churches feast on everything doesn’t mean they are wrong for doing so. Just because the church of Christ chooses to not worship with musical instruments whereas the other churches do does not mean they are wrong in doing so.
Everyone is following their personal convictions on the matter. They are doing their best to HONOR AND LOVE GOD. According to the Scriptures, a church is true when they teach that the only way to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Never will you find a perfect, sinless church. Do you know why? Because the church is filled with sinful humans! It is our duty to read and know the Word of God and to teach it to those who do not know God. Our job is not to find the “right” church as it is to find Christ in that church. How closely does the church abide by the Scriptures? That question is key in choosing your church.
And to anyone who has been struggling with finding the truth about Christ, my advice is to always read the Bible in a translation that you can understand. You cannot learn from a book in which you cannot read the language. I don’t know about you, but I think the English language has evolved quite a bit since the early 1600s. I’m just saying.
Photo Credit: “North Church Steeple” by jcbwalsh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0