Friday, March 4, 2011

“How to” (step by step) formula driven, prescription Christianity

Some Christian persuasions have a
rigid "step by step" mentality. Often
their frame of reference is
"anthropocentric," [man orientated]
 rather than "theocentric" [God
I remember a conversation with a well meaning sincere Christian, who attempted to tell my wife and me, the correct formula of prayer. His line of [faulty] reasoning was [paraphrase]: “You must be (utterly) specific in all of your prayers; otherwise the Lord will not hear you and answer your prayers.”

I don’t remember if this person ever actually heard [listened to] what my wife and I attempted to say, in response. Most often, “A person convinced against his own will, is of the same opinion, still.” We essentially conveyed to this dear Christian Brother that our prayers don’t necessarily have to be verbally spoken in specific detail. Here's what the one hymn lyric beautifully states:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, unuttered or exprest, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear, the upward glancing of an eye, when none but God is near.

Nor prayer is made by man alone – the Holy Spirit pleads, and Jesus on th’ eternal throne for sinners intercedes. [TLH - 1941 - CPH]

People are often brutal in their expectations of Christians

Non Christians are highly critical of Christians. They will often unfairly brow beat Christians for just being “human.” If Christians misbehave or do not meet certain expectations, they become the [almost endless] subject and topic of discussion and / or ridicule.

A common [erroneous] ploy directed to Christians by non Christians, is, as follows:

“How dare you involve yourself in politics! You claim to be a Christian – yet you are so out-spoken on political issues!”

Then comes the zinging [illogical] mindless argument that Christ did not involve Himself in politics. That may very well be true. But if every Christian were to fully model his or her life after Christ, there would be a lot of frustrated Christians, because we can never emulate Christ’s sinlessness, or His many Divine attributes. It is best to admit who we are - sinners. After all, Martin Luther was said to have humbly observed (on his deathbed):  "We are all beggers."

Of course, this argument that Christians should stay out of politics because Christ [allegedly] did, is a very weak argument, indeed. I’d rather think that when that mindless assertion is made, most of the founding fathers of our nation would roll over in their graves. If any one group should be involved in “politics,” it should be Christians, as good Christian morals elevate society and culture, rather than assisting in its demise. Following is Webster’s original definition of “Politics:”

POL'ITICS, n. The science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity; comprehending the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals. Politics, as a science or an art, is a subject of vast extent and importance.

General ignorance and especially Biblical ignorance, abound with Christians, unduly holding out, expectations for other Christians. Christians will require spiritual litmus tests, as the one Christian did with my wife and me, regarding the issue of Christian prayer. Spiritual litmus tests have been in existence since after Christ’s Resurrection. The Apostle Paul instructed Christians of his day [and also, for our day] not to be entangled with ["litmus test"] legalism. Colossians 2:16 -- Note also the context, - Colossians 2:6-23

Some segments of Christianity erroneously
attempt to simplify that which is God the
Holy Spirit's work of bringing the sinner to
repentance and faith in Christ. John 3:1-21
Christian pastors and Christian leaders often are guilty of "formula driven," step by step, Christianity"

Christian pastors and Christian leaders are often guilty of formula driven Christianity, when they “prescribe” certain litmus like steps, to arrive at a certain destination in the Christian life and walk. Preachers are prone to emotionally lead earnest people, seeking spiritual relief, into formula driven prescription prayers. Once having led the soul searching individual into a step by step [“repeat after me”] type of prayer, the person is told that they have fulfilled the spiritual requirements to now label and proudly proclaim for themselves the title of “Christian.”

Often, part and parcel of a “repeat after me” prescription step by step prayer, led by a Christian pastor or evangelist, is, immediately following the preached message. It is proclaimed a quiet time of “every head bowed, and every eye closed,” in which the preacher incorporates a combination [quasi / pseudo] prayer along with an emotional plea to “come forward” to the altar to “accept Jesus Christ.” I have never been comfortable with this well-intentioned practice, as I believe it leads both sinner and Christian saint into believing that an individual, can, by personal fiat, determine his own soul’s “salvation.” I respectfully disagree with this practice, as the impression and practice it invokes, flies in the face of the clear teaching of Holy Scripture:

1 Corinthians 2:14 ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; John 1:12-13 ; Romans 9:10-16 – especially Romans 9:11 and Romans 9:16 ; James 1:18 ; Ephesians 2:8-10 ; 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 ; 2 Timothy 1:9 ; Titus 3:3-6 and Philippians 2:13

Christ would instruct His disciples that His Presence would be with them

When asked by some of His own disciples to “increase our faith,” Christ never directly responded. [Luke 17:5-6] Christ was not in the practice or “business” of prescribing step by step instructions to His disciples. He promised them, [and those, presently, who believe] however, that He would be with them until the end of the age. [Matthew 28:16-20] He promised His disciples that His Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth. He promised them the “Comforter,” ["Helper"].  John 14:16-31

Friend, if you are looking for step by step instructions to be, and / or continue to be a Christian – please don’t play that frustrating game.

There is no end to book learning. [Ecclesiastes 12:12] There are literally tons of “Christian” books on the market. For every conceivable subject, there are prescription type formulas on how to live the Christian life and how to survive the sinful culture. This pastor will give you no formula prescriptive steps. What I will relate, is, that there is no alternative to reading the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures – the Bible. It is, in and through the Holy Scriptures that God-given faith will come alive in your sinful soul. Romans 1:16 ;  Romans 10:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:13 ; James 1:18 ; Acts 8:26-39 ; 2 Timothy 3:14-17 ; 2 Peter 1:16-21

How did the spark of faith prompt the Ethiopian eunuch to enquire about the Savior, Christ? [Acts 8:26-39] He was reading the Scriptures. Those of you burdened by the weight of your damning sins, and, with questions, abounding – know, that God’s Voice is, [in] the Holy Scriptures. [2 Timothy 3:12-17 ; 2 Peter 1:16-21] You who seek more out of this life than selfish pleasure or vainglory, know that it is Creator God who has made you – and not you, Him. [Psalm 100:3 ; Psalm 39:4-6 ; Colossians 1:16-18] Know that it is His perfect will for your soul to be rescued from [your] human sin that will damn you, forever. 1 Timothy 2:3-6 ; Romans 3:23 ; Romans 6:23 ; Romans 5:1f

As a Christian, and as an emeritus Christian pastor, I urge you to discover, through earnest and humble search, what is, of priceless eternal worth. Proverbs 1:1f ; Psalm 1:1f ; Mark 8:34-38 ; Luke 12:13-21 ; Luke 16:19-31 ; Luke 18:9-14 ; Luke 15:1f

May you come to realize that all human efforts, formulas and prescriptions are worthless, and that only in the Lord, Creator Jesus Christ, will you find the truth –- and not only the truth, but eternal peace for your ongoing life, after death. May you, come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent over your personal sins. [Luke 18:9-14 ; Luke 19:1-10] -- [John 3:14-21 ; Matthew 7:13-29] May you be blessed  with life eternal, rather, than experience, death eternal.  Matthew 10:28 and Matthew 10:32-39


Related Scriptures [below] -- Intended to be utilized in a simple worship format:

Scriptures that testify to the reality of Creator God, initiating the process of a person coming into the Christian Faith:

1 Corinthians 2:14 ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; John 1:12-13 ; Romans 9:10-16 – especially Romans 9:11 and Romans 9:16 ; James 1:18 ; Ephesians 2:8-10 ; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 ; 2 Timothy 1:9 ; Titus 3:3-6 ; Philippians 2:13

Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak" -- by Victor Buksbazen -- Isaiah 53:1-12 -- an in-depth view of and the prophecy of Christ, hundred of years before his birth. Isaiah 53:1-12 underscores the truthfulness of Divine Revelation as exemplified in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.


Pastor (emeritus) Nathan Bickel

Please also note:

The "Words in Season" topical messages and related worship format are not intended to discourage or replace the Christian worship and assembly of Christians at their particular places of church worship. As this website's author, it is my prayer and hope, that many souls will find the topical messages, related worship format and other material, a useful and valuable Christian resource.

The Christian Faith: Parts 1-3

Note: The above message (with minor editing) was previously posted online by Nathan Bickel



  2. Anonymous -

    Thank you for the web link. The hymn, "Prayer is the Soul's Sincere Desire" is wonderfully sung. And, the 5 minute video has some nice pics!

    I often think of this hymn - especially, the first verse as I have copied it in the above topical message. It is attributed to its author, James Montgomery (1818) and appears in "The Lutheran Hymnbook," the same hymnbook with which I became familiar, [with] as a young child.