So, Alisha read my blog and posted a response on her own blog. Her and I have kinda discussed it between us, and neither of us are judging each other, it is actually a really great challenging conversation that we feel needs to be shared publicly - hence the blog posts. =) You can find her entry here.
This is my response to her, which has been posted as comments on her post.
The ONLY way to get to Heaven is through Jesus Christ.
Allow me to clarify some stuff... I know we've already talked face to face, but for those reading this, I'll share it here too =)
No I don't believe we should be forcing our faith on other. Yes I believe we should tell people about Jesus. We should tell people our faith stories. There could be people out there who have not heard of Jesus at all and has no idea he exists. Whether they're Muslim, agnostic, atheist, whatever. They need to at least hear about Jesus in order for them to learn about him and perhaps eventually make that decision to follow him and live for him.
There are people who have also been taught wrong things about Jesus, such as Muslims, Jews, etc. They need to hear the TRUTH about him.
So whether you share your faith in Christ with a fellow Christian, with a non-believer, or even a complete stranger on the street, that's what I believe makes a true Christian.
Think of it this way: you know Christ is the only way to Heaven, you believe with everything in you that you know the way there and you are going there yourself, but would it be right to hold that information to yourself and thus prevent someone else from being able to get to Heaven? Don't get me wrong, I believe that if you miss an opportunity to witness to someone, God will provide someone else to do it instead...
Another thing: living out our faith. Yes! St. Francis of Assisi once said, "Preach the gospel at all times - if necessary, use words." But as I said, when we do those good deeds, they need to be as a response to what has been done for us - i.e. redeemed from our sins - rather than just to make us look good or to try and earn our salvation. Rather than "good deeds leads to salvation", it's "salvation leads to good deeds." Does that make sense? =)
As for you being challenged at every turn in your faith, that is so great!!! =D That means that you're not just settling down to one thing. God is working in you Alisha, and the fact that your faith keep being challenged proves that. If you were to stopped feeling changed and challenged, your faith would become stagnant. Jesus was a radical, and every part of himself that he reveals to us should totally throw us out of whack. So don't be discouraged! This is a good thing! =D
I think something that might help you would be to really dig into the Scriptures and find God's promises in there. And when God really points them out to you, you can be sure that those promises are for you. Trust me, you'll know when he is pointing them out. I can't explain how, you just will. =) Perhaps memorising some Scripture passages would help too, so you can have God's word hidden in your heart (Psalm 119:11). I'll admit that I don't even have many passages memorised by heart and know exactly where to find them, but I know concepts and paraphrases, and there's always the internet - biblegateway.com is a great resource!
There will never EVER come a day where you will have to tell someone that their faith (or lack thereof) makes them a bad person. I believe that that is NOT what we are called to do. It's not very loving... In fact, if I was told that, I'd want nothing to do with what the person was offering me. Praying for people is a great way to start, never stop praying! Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." The way I read that is that God made us all, and so we are all his people. So pray, pray, pray! The rest will come in time =)
When it comes to denominations, I think it's all a load of hooey. Seriously, it's basically just all man-made rules and what you should believe in. When it comes down to it, what's the bottom line of being a Christian? Basically, to be like Jesus. Jesus was a radical in such a simple way! For example: in Matthew 5 Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (vv. 43-47). So simple right? And yet it caused such controversy with the Pharisees - who were the religious leaders of the day. So when you say, "what is 'right' in the eyes of God often doesn't come from what a certain denomination says is 'right' but rather what I feel God believes is right through my prayer with Him," that is great! I would caution though to make sure that it is truly coming from God and not from your own mind... I don't doubt you, but I fall for that often myself... But study it. See if you can back it up with Scripture. Which is another reason why studying Scripture is good ;)
Believe me, there is no such thing as a "perfect Christian." So don't be discouraged if you don't get everything right down to the letter. We all get things wrong more often than just sometimes, that's why we need Jesus, right? =) I don't profess to have all the right answers, that's impossible. Check this out:
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)
Keep pushing into God, and he will keep pushing you. As hard as it is sometimes (all the time? =P), think about what our reward will be in the end =D