In my faith journey, I've experienced many other traditions as well in various ways, from reading books to watching sermons.
So, let's look at what other faith traditions do and believe to see how can we follow Jesus better.
We're going to look at 7 groups: Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptist Evangelical, the Apologetics movement, Pentecostals, and the Wesleyan holiness.
I'm a truth seeker. I'm always looking for the truth, sifting through the Word of God, seeking to understand it more clearly and practice it more faithfully. I think we should all be truth seekers. So as we consider these 7 areas, I want you to put your truth seeker cap on. Take what you can, to apply to your faith practice, so it's more beautiful and more biblical in Christ.
1. Catholicism – Catholicism and Protestantism are the two major categories of Christians in the world today. We fall under that Protestant umbrella. Catholicism is something completely different.
Here we find the value of various concepts like liturgy and physical manifestations of faith. There are also candles burning, confessions of faith repeated, the smell of incense, stained glass windows, the wafer, and wine in the mouth.
Though I was raised Catholic, I never really connected to it until later in life. I eventually discovered great joy in the reciting of the truths of the scriptures. It can be Spirit-filled, is what I learned when reconnecting with it later in life.
The beauty of the physical is at work in the ornate chapels and basilicas of the Catholic faith. The reciting of the truths of the Christian faith bring a fresh theological depth to the increasingly lukewarm, shallow Christianity of today. The repetition of liturgy can help guide us toward a more theologically deep and meaningful practice of our faith. Physical manifestations can remind us that God is the God of our world.
2. Lutheranism– I studied Martin Luther and the reformation a great deal in college at Liberty University, graduate school at Olivet Nazarene University, and on my own. In studying Luther, I find the value of the all-sufficiency of Christ.
Everything is about Jesus Christ and he is the savior. He's the one who washes away our sins. Of the millions of sins on record, there is not even one I can scrub away on my own. I could scrub all day. I could scrub, repent and do good deeds all day long, but I can't wash away sin. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus is the reason. Jesus is the hope. Jesus is the atonement for sin. Jesus is sufficient.
Thank you Luther, for that.
3. Calvinism – Calvinism is an off-shoot of the reformation movement started by Luther. John Calvin was very focused on pre-destination and developed the TULIP, the five main points of Calvinism.
Really today the majority of the most popular preachers and speakers in the United States today are Calvinists. These include speakers like John Piper, John MacArthur, John R.W. Stott, Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, Paul Washer, Tim Keller, I could go on and on. Many big names in evangelical Christianity are Calvinists. So I found myself heavily influenced by these speakers in my faith walk.
Though I strongly disagree theologically with some of the five points of the Calvinist TULIP, there was a lot of good to learn from Calvinism.
The most important truth I took away from Calvinism was the utterly highest regard for scripture. They call this biblical inerrancy.
How much do we trust the word of God? In my experience, our regard for the Word of God is so utterly low; it's absolutely appalling. We turn up our nose at Scriptures we dislike. We skip over the difficult Scriptures and emphasize the lovey-dovey ones. We white-wash and blot out the Scriptures about hell and judgment. We even question Paul, John, and Jesus. It's sad.
Inerrancy shows the highest regard for the Word of God. If only we loved it this much and had such a high regard for it.
But often I find that Christians give lip service to the Word of God. Instead, they seem to live by whatever the latest pop philosophical or psychological trend is, or by whatever the news media and pop academic establishment repeat.
4. Baptist Evangelical movement – This for me really encompasses much more than Converge Great Lakes, Converge International, E-Free, or non-denominational churches. This is really the "in-between the lines" representing so many churches across the country. My grandpa got saved in a Baptist evangelical church. So did my mom. And I later joined a Baptist evangelical church and attended faithfully for several years where I was baptized and born again.
Here, I really took the importance of sharing the Gospel. Usually, we think of sharing the Gospel as the job of the minister or the elders, but that's not biblical. It's the job of every single Christian to know it and share it with others.
This lit my faith afire when I realized the great need of the world for Jesus.
Do you have that attitude of sharing the Gospel everywhere? Are you a man or woman of God blasting the Word of God out there everywhere you go? It's your job and nobody else will do it for you.
5. The Apologetics movement – This isn't really a denomination per se, but a movement within a lot of churches, seminaries, and particularly on the internet.
About a year after I became a Christian, I had a simple prayer: Lord, help me understand my faith. God led me to learn apologetics from some of the greatest Christian apologists of the past and present.
I learned the key arguments for the existence of God, the kalam cosmological argument, the argument from design, the moral argument, the ontological argument, and so on. I also learned about the historical evidence for Jesus, the manuscript evidence for the Bible, and scientific evidence that confirmed the Christian God's existence. It was an incredible time in my life and I still draw on that wealth of knowledge as I grow in my faith.
6. Pentecostals – I began to learn to experience God directly. For a long time, I had an over-abundance of orthodoxy. I had a great deal of head knowledge. And with many Calvinists and Christian apologists, I turned my nose up at the supernatural in many ways. But over time I came to realize I was missing a passionate, deep, experiential relationship with God.
I've come to realize that I can experience God. There's no word for it. But it's joy. It's love, a special love, between creator and creation. We ought to have a Pentecostal faith, a faith that believes and expects more from God than we do now.
We ought to expect the supernatural from God. God is still at work. And the heights of connection with Him are still to be found and explored. It's a dangerous level of experience, which can make us feel uncomfortable. We often say "it's about a relationship" and then we don't really live that out. It is a deep relationship and God pours into that relationship if we'll just dig deeper and stay longer with Him.
I've read books like Heaven is so Real by Choo Thomas, and A Land Unknown: Hell's Dominion by Brian Melvin. I've listened to various speakers like Mary K. Baxter, Sid Roth, and Mark Brown. I would've missed out on so much if I hadn't gone down these ancient roads.
7. The Wesleyan Holiness movement – I'm part of The Salvation Army, which is nestled within the Wesleyan Holiness movement along with denominations like Church of the Nazarene, Methodism, and Wesleyan churches.
I had gone through basic Christian training from Christian Leaders Institute. I had studied the Christian religion in my studies at Liberty University, but it wasn't until later that something changed my faith forever.
The Lord brought before me Wesleyan-holiness theology: the radical idea that Christians today were not only washed clean from sin's penalty, but that in Christ, Christians can live holy and pure, victorious over sin. This was a radical proposition to me because every Christian around me, including myself, was living in various active sins of the flesh. I had always been taught Christians will always keep sinning in this world; they can't stop.
But soon I discovered there was no Scripture in the Word of God that gave me permission to remain in active sins. Instead, I saw that we're called to live pure in Christ, go through the process of sanctification, grow in conforming to the image of Christ, and "be holy as God is holy" 1 Pet 1:14 - 16.
I realized that if I as a Christian died living in active sins and came before God, I would be judged and condemned to Hell because after putting on the perfect garment of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, I had dirtied my robe and had refused to repent of active sins.
I had to live a life of holiness unto the Lord.
As time progresses, I continue to grow as a Christian and I'm excited to see what God teaches me next.
That is my theological and practical journey thus far, and what I've learned by exploring various traditions. So, how can you grow closer to God and believe and live out His word fully? That is the question I leave you with today.
Justin Steckbauer is the founder of Lifestyleofpeace.com. He is a graduate magna cum laude from Liberty University, currently holding an associates degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a bachelors degree in the study of Religion. He is currently a graduate student at Olivet Nazarene University working on a masters degree in the study of Ministry. He is a minister (officer) with the rank of Lieutenant in The Salvation Army Central Territory.