Your Christian Life (Part I) CC-6
The following several posts will deal with the application of the Christian faith in everyday life. I will start first with a brief description of the Christian life and its meaning, followed by the assertion that we Christians are citizens of two kingdoms: the temporal and the eternal.
Your Christian Life Part I - Meaning of Life
God's Great Family
Christianity is the largest religion in the world. According to a 2015 demographic study conducted by Pew Research Center, out of a total world population of 7.3 billion, about 2.3 billion people consider themselves Christians. Nearly thirty-eight percent live in the Americas, thirty percent in Europe, twenty-three percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and thirteen percent in Asia Pacific. Major Christian traditions are distributed as follows: Catholics fifty percent; Protestants thirty-seven percent; Orthodox twelve percent; and others one percent.
In 2014, the United States had the largest Christian population of any country on earth, numbering about 226 million. This makes up about seventy percent of all U.S. demographics of 320 million. Six years later, in 2020, we can assume that the U.S.'s Christian population is about the same, perhaps a bit smaller. But still, America is not only a country of deep Christian traditions, but it is still mostly a Christian country. The American motto "In God We Trust" was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and is being engraved on all coins and banknotes minted in the U.S. Yes, we are a Christian nation, and we should stay this way!
Christian denominations in the United States are usually divided into three broad groups: Evangelical Protestantism, mainline Protestantism, and the Catholic Church. There are also Christian denominations that do not fall within either of these groups, such as Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, but they are much smaller. A 2014 Pew Research survey of the United States identified the percentages of these three major groups as about twenty-five percent for Evangelical, twenty-one percent for Catholics, and fifteen percent for mainline Protestant.
Evangelical Protestantism is a trans-denominational movement within the Protestant Christianity that includes powerful and influential entities such as Baptist, Pentecostal, Reformed Presbyterian, and other nondenominational churches. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, has over 15 million members, thus being the largest Protestant denomination in America. Evangelicals maintain the belief that the essence of the Gospel is the doctrine of personal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement and emphasize the importance of evangelizing other people. The Baptists further distinguish themselves from other denominations by believing in the necessity of being born again, baptizing adult believers as opposed to infant baptism, the direct connection of the individual to God, and the autonomy of local churches. Among the most well-known pastors of Baptist tradition are Martin Luther King (1929-1968), the civil rights leader, Robert Schuller (1926-2015), the founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, and Billy Graham (1918-2018), considered "one of the most influential religious leaders of the 20th century." The latter provided spiritual guidance to every American president, starting with Harry Truman in 1950 and ending with Barack Obama in 2012.
The Mainline Protestant denominations are those that were brought to the United States by its historic immigrant groups; for this reason, they are sometimes referred to as heritage churches. Most known are the Anglican and Episcopal (English), Presbyterian (Scottish), Methodist (English and Welsh), and Lutheran (German and Scandinavian) churches. Mainline Protestantism teaches that the Bible is the Word of God in action but tends to be open to new ideas and societal changes, for example, the ordination of women. Some of the most influential and wealthier families in America are the mainline protestant faith, such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Roosevelt, Forbes, Bush, and Trump. America's most famous Ivy League colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, etc., were built by mainline protestants in the early years of colonization.
Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the oldest Christian institution globally, having been founded by the apostle Paul himself in Rome, the capital of the mighty Roman Empire. Over more than twenty centuries, the Catholic Church has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western Civilization. The Catholic Church regards herself as the "mother church," and its head, the Pope, is considered the direct successor to apostle Paul. However, Catholic doctrines are regarded by many as being too conservative and not adaptable to modern times. The Catholic Church's contribution to American society is impressive: 230 colleges with over one million students, thousands of Catholic schools educating 2.7 million students, 625 hospitals, and countless clinics making up the nation's most extensive non-profit health care system.
So, irrespective of what denomination we belong to, irrespective of what church we go to, regardless of how the temporal world sees us, we Christians must be very proud of our faith, heritage, and the work we do. We live in the most blessed country in the world where we can practice our faith in peace. Despite its many faults, America is God's nation benefiting from the most profound religious liberties and individual freedom, as attested by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Therefore, we American Christians should love our country from the bottom of our hearts and become the undeterred defenders and steadfast protectors of its Constitution.
YOU BELONG TO CHRISTIANITY,
THE GREATEST RELIGIOUS FAMILY IN AMERICA
Your Purpose-Driven Life gives Meaning to Life
Forbes Magazine has called Pastor Rick Warren "a spiritual entrepreneur" due to his enormous impact on contemporary religious life in America and elsewhere. In 1979, he founded Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, which now has tens of thousands of worshipers in 200 ministries in 11 locations. His prominent book The Purpose-Driven Life, first published in 2002, has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. It is a blueprint for living in the 21st century, using the time-tested teachings of the Bible.
The major points made by Pastor Warren are that your life is not an accident, and its purpose is not about you. It is about God. Your life has a primary goal that was established by God long before you or your parents were born. God has placed you on this earth and has established a purpose for you, but you don't know it yet. The question therefore becomes: "How do I find out God's purpose for my life?" And the answer is simple: "Ask God." By talking to God, you will get the deep insight needed to run your life in accordance with his plans. This "conversation" with God does not happen only once; on the contrary, it will happen many times during your life. And it won't be easy. It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes perseverance.
Your Moral Compass
A purpose-driven life provides your moral compass during your journey on this earth. . A purpose-driven life is a life guided, controlled, and protected by God. By living it fully, you will gather several significant benefits:
(i) knowing your purpose gives meaning to life. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.
(ii) knowing your purpose simplifies and streamlines your life. It defines what is important and what is not, what you do and what you don't. It becomes your moral compass.
(iii) knowing your goal focuses your life by concentrating your energies on what is essential. You become effective in what you do by being selective of what you do.
(iv) and finally, knowing your purpose motivates your life. Purpose and direction always produce passion, and passion keeps us going when the going gets tough.
One important fact to remember is that God has a different view of your life than yours. You may think of life as a struggle, a puzzle, or a game of cards you have to face in the short years you're going to walk on this earth. For God, your life is a blink of an eye existence on earth, followed by eternity. Yet, despite its brevity, your temporary life is essential to God. That's why he has prepared a plan for you to fulfill in preparation for eternal life.
Living for God's glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish with our lives.
"You are worthy O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created." (Revelation 4:11)
We cannot add anything to God's inherent glory. But we are commanded to recognize, honor, declare, praise, and reflect his glory. There are many ways to bring glory to God, but the key ones are embedded in God's five purposes for your life.
They will be addressed in the next blog.
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