The Mystical Teachings of Christianity by Jim Lewis
If Jesus appeared on the scene today, which Church would He recognize as being the true Church? If He selected one, the others would probably say He wasn’t really Jesus.
There are some Christians who not only believe that Christianity is the only true religion but that their particular denomination is the only true Church. The even more conservative element would say that unless one actually belonged to their Church that person could not be saved.
When I was in my middle twenties my mother and another woman that worked where my mother worked tried to match me up with the other woman’s daughter. We met and went out a few times but it would have been a tragedy for two people with such opposite attitudes to even consider any type of relationship. She belonged to a very conservative Christian denomination and she was very emphatic that unless I belonged to it also I didn’t have a chance. And I had the attitude that she didn’t have a chance because she didn’t belong to the one I belonged to. The interesting and amusing part about the whole thing is that both of us have long since given up the denominations we belonged to. Thank God that we do eventually grow up spiritually.
There are probably something like 200 different Christian denominations. Some are large and very powerful and influential; others are very small. Each one probably feels that it has the right interpretation and is following what Jesus intended us to follow. The question I would ask is this, “Did Jesus intend to start a Church organization that would develop to where it is today?” Also, “Did He really intend for us to follow such elaborate rituals?”
I say He didn’t have any intention of starting what has turned out to be a Church today, although this doesn’t mean that I am advocating overthrowing the Church. Most people today need the Church as it is, an authoritarian body controlling the masses. There would be more chaos in our world than we now have if there were not some means of trying to get people to live a higher life. Most people are not prepared for the Truth and freedom taught by Jesus Christ. They not only need someone to tell them what to do, they want someone to have that responsibility.
I trust you are ready. I trust you are preparing yourself for the challenge of spiritual growth, the development of spiritual maturity. The true Church demands much more of us than the traditional Church has ever or will ever demand of us. There is one great difference and that is when we are obedient to the demands of the True Church leader, God within us, we find life to be a very rich and rewarding experience. There is no need to fear Him. We find that He is not a taskmaster, but a loving Father Who is constantly seeking a way to get through to us the message of Truth and how great it is.
For those who are ready, there is an awesome choice that must be made. It is the choice of deciding whether to continue to submit to an outer authority, performing all the rituals it demands, or whether to follow the Christ, the Spirit of God in us, no matter where it leads, no matter what ties must be broken and no matter what beliefs we must give up.
The Church leadership has no right to control your life. When this truth first dawns on us we rejoice in the prospect of freedom. Then we are overwhelmed with guilt and fear. We think that if we do not obey the traditional rules and regulations, if we do not profess to believe what is traditionally taught, we might wind up in eternal damnation. We experience this fear even when something within us and maybe even someone outside of us assures us there is no place for people to suffer forever. We find ourselves fearing we will go to a hell that we are already in, the hell of inner turmoil and conflict of interests and purpose.
There are many people today who are ready for their freedom and are experiencing this fear. They continue to submit to a traditional authority even though they do not really and sincerely believe what they have been taught. There are many who do not believe but are fearful of saying or even acting as if they do not believe. A woman who took issue with church doctrine was excommunicated from her church; it was broadcast over national television. No doubt she feels rejected and isolated, but she ought to rejoice and give thanks for her freedom. The pull and influence of human attachments is so strong and in the beginning the prospects and uncertainties of freedom are so unclear that we often opt for our bondage rather than take a chance on freedom. The Hebrews felt this way when Moses led them out of bondage. They had been in bondage so long they did not know how to act or even to think as free persons. They knew what to expect from their slavery; it was hard but it was certain. They did not know where this Jehovah-God would lead them or what would happen to them. They probably thought it would get worse. It’s a good thing they had a Moses to urge them on.
Throughout its history the Church has sought, quite successfully, to control us through fear. For almost 2,000 years we have been controlled, but the giant is beginning to shake and totter. More and more people today are leaving the traditional fold. They are seeking something greater than that which has been taught in the past. They are searching for a God of love that encourages them to have self-respect, confidence, and a sense of divine purpose. Many of those who remain in the traditional fold are not supporting it at all, or are supporting it half-heartedly. Some denominations would have fallen already if they were not supported by the state. In some countries people are forced to give to support the Church. And the Church is still operating even though on Sundays it is more than half empty. Some denominations get a major portion of their income from business investments and this keeps them going.
Over the years the Church has become fragmented by splitting hairs. Theological doctrines became more important than the truth that Jesus taught. The seeking of positions of power and wealth were more important to many of its leaders. There is a great need for a genuine revival, not a revival as is presently conceived, but a revival of the truth that Jesus taught. This is quite different from the tradition as we have it today.
The struggle between Church and State was a long series of conflicts. Many suffered and died because of this conflict. There is the danger that it is being revived today out of sympathy and economic necessity. It was an operation that was needed, the separation of Church and State. But another operation is needed which can only be performed by the individual: it is the severing of traditional ties and beliefs. Instead of rejecting certain beliefs and practices that are known to be false, many are trying to redress them.
The Church is an outgrowth of the practice of Jesus’ followers of meeting on Sunday to pray and discuss the ideas He left with them. These ideas were challenging and they did not know what to make of them. In the beginning Christianity was a Jewish sect. The people, who were Jews, did not sever their ties with Judaism. They kept going to synagogues and the Temple and remained obedient to Jewish Law. In fact those in the early Church had to decide if Jesus’ teaching was only for Jews. Was it for Gentiles also? When Gentiles were included the problem was magnified: would Gentiles have to keep the Jewish law? The conservatives said yes; the liberals said no. Paul was the liberal voice. The controversy came to a head and a Church Council was called to meet in Jerusalem; a decision had to be made. It was thought this would bring harmony into the organization. Peter and Paul went to Jerusalem for the meeting. The Council was presided over by James, the brother of Jesus. Peter was not the recognized leader of the Church at that time. He was a conservative fence sitter. He sympathized with the Gentiles but found it difficult to go along with them all the way. It was Paul who led the way. Even Jesus’ brother was a conservative with permissive tendencies. He probably thought Jesus would return soon and He could settle the issue once and for all.
The decision was handed down that Gentiles did not have to obey the Jewish Laws on circumcision and dietary requirements in order to become Christians. The Judaizers were unhappy with this decision and it brought a split; Christians were on their own now. They would no longer have tradition and acceptance working for them; they would have to go it alone. They did and they made it; they developed their own tradition. Those who feel the tradition has departed from the true teachings of Jesus will have to make the break and they will not have a long tradition to support them. They will not have the majority to strengthen them. They will have to find their support and strength within them. They will find it in the very teaching of truth that they want to follow.
The Church leaders claim their power and authority through the dogma of Apostolic succession. This holds that the power and authority of Christ was passed down through the apostles, mainly Peter. This is not true, but it has the long history of people thinking it is true. Jesus taught that One is your master, the Father within you.
What is the True Church? The word “church” comes to us through German and Latin from the Greek. It means “that which belongs to the Lord.” Literally this refers to those who have been thought to be “saved”. It is a group of believers who think of themselves as belonging to God now that they think they are saved. They also think of themselves as the “chosen ones”, “saints”, “the elect”, and as Paul would describe it, “the Body of Christ”.
But the True Church must be more than a group of people. What is supposed to go on in a Church? The worship of God. The True Church therefore is a state of consciousness in which we recognize and know and feel our oneness with God, rejoicing and giving thanks in this realization.
Worshipping God can take place only in consciousness. It is more than the performing of rituals that one may think God wants performed. To worship something is to give it a place of supreme importance in our thought and feeling. It is to recognize the great value in that which we appreciate. God is the greatest thing in our lives. We may have worshipped things in the outer, thinking they were the greatest, but once we enter the True Church in consciousness and discover our oneness with God we find that He is the Source of all the good we have been seeking. God within us is the Source of health. God within us is the Source of peace, happiness, joy, and prosperity.
God needs no rituals; He wants only our minds and hearts. He doesn’t want us as slaves, but as the free beings He created us to be. He wants to lead us, not force us. He wants to guide us, not compel us. He gives to us freely but He would never say we had to accept what He gives.
Our purpose in Unity is to help people build the True Church in consciousness. It is in consciousness that much demolition and building must take place. Old beliefs must be uprooted, no matter how long we have cherished them. This must be done willingly. False beliefs must go if we are to be able to build a consciousness of Truth.
This may not be easy to do but the results are worth it. In this new Church you will find peace. You will be guided in making wise decisions. Continual revelations of Truth will come to you. As in all construction we can build a quick, easy, flimsy building or we can build one that is more enduring. The more enduring one will be more challenging and it will be more costly. It may take as much as five or six times as long to build. Think for a moment of such buildings as the Pyramids in Egypt. It took a long time to build them but they have endured.
To get long-lasting and enduring results in the building of consciousness, the True Church, we must be willing to settle down and begin the work on a daily basis. We must have daily periods of meditation and prayer. We must be willing to find time in our daily lives for the development of the things of spirit. It will not always be the easiest thing to do. There will be inner struggles. There will be beliefs that we thought were true that we will discover to be false. These beliefs will try to hold one.
Building the True Church consciousness is like developing physical endurance. Three years ago I realized the need for improving my physical condition; I began running. Oh, was it ever hard to get started, and slow to make progress! But I am glad today, three years later, that I got started. I am not advocating this for anyone but merely using it as an illustration. I did not really want to do what I knew must be done in order to improve my condition, but I thank God that He helped me in my moment of weakness of will and purpose. Now I can honestly say that I love doing what makes me feel better and stronger. There were days when I wanted to quit, and days of discouragement, but there were also many more days of the joy of achievement.
The building of the True Church consciousness is very similar. When I first began studying truth I thought I would never learn all that I thought would be needed to bring peace of mind, self-confidence, success, and health. I had never read or studied the Bible and knew that was what I must do. So much of what I believed was based on some kind of interpretation of Bible Scriptures. It is amazing what regular, persistent, systematic effort can do. When we first discover truth we want to make giant leaps in our spiritual growth and progress. These often lead to failure and discouragement for we have not prepared ourselves to take such giant leaps in consciousness. I have since found that it is much better to take smaller steps. It doesn’t take many small steps to cover the same territory as one giant leap. We cannot leap over what we must or need to learn. Every brick in the construction of a building is important and it must be in its proper place.
In the True Church of Jesus Christ, there are no outer authorities. There is only one Authority and that is God. When we listen to Him and follow His guidance we find the inner fulfillment and outer fulfillment that we have been searching for.
© 1981, Dr. James C. Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.