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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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THE ESSENCE OF BEING A CHRISTIAN

Someone told the story of a pilot who was experiencing difficulty in landing his small plane in a fog. The airport decided to bring him in for an instrument landing. As he received directions from the ground he suddenly remembered a tall pole near the approach path to the runway, and appealed in panic to the control tower about it. The reply was blunt — "You obey instructions, we'll take care of obstructions."

Obeying instructions is not only for pilots. Since 1887 John H. Sammis has reminded millions that the essence of being a Christian is to "Trust and Obey." The first verse and chorus of his beautiful gospel song by that title tell us — "When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. " First John 2:3-5 has been teaching the same truth for 1,900 years — "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him." Incredibly, some in John's day (like some in our's) were asserting you could know God and be in a saved relationship with Him while at the same time not keeping His commandments.

But the essence of Christianity never changes. Essence is defined as "the basic nature of a thing; the indispensable element." What is the indispensable element in Christianity? Is it simply saying, "I know Him?" while showing no concern for the doctrinal and ethical content of Christ's teachings? Can we have a focus on Jesus while being fuzzy about such things as baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)? Is "knowing God" and being spiritual a mystical, high-powered experience that is better felt than told, more an experience of the body than it is of the brain? Can we alter the Holy Spirit's message that "there is one body. . .one Spirit.. .one hope. . .one Lord, one faith, one baptism. . .one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:4-6) to teach that there are many faiths, Lords, bodies, and baptisms? Christians in every age are challenged by people who say yes to these questions. But John has a word for people, ancient or modern, inside the church or out, who claim deep concern for God while demonstrating shallow respect for His commands — He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments is a liar." The essence of Christianity is not emotion but obedience. To know God, there's no other way but to trust and obey.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ