Those of you who are particularly observant may have noticed a rather unusual sight as you arrived at church on Sunday mornings during the month of October. A number of patches of the grass on the green to the left of the chapel have recently been covered in fungi of some sort, a deep brown in colour. I guess the warm wet autumn that we are having has provided the exact conditions that they need to grow. As the weeks have gone by I have wondered whether they would still be there, or whether a forager would have come and picked them, perhaps to take them home to eat. But as I write they are still there.
I suppose the reason for that is because picking mushrooms, or fungi of any sort, is a rather risky business. Though some varieties make superb additions to a casserole or a salad, others can make you seriously ill, and on rare occasions, apparently kill you off completely! Getting the wrong sort can have serious consequences. That’s why the only mushrooms that the Cooke family ever eats are those that come from the local supermarket!
Looking at those fungi reminded me about mistakes that we can make about Christianity and the message of the Bible. There are different ‘sorts’ of Christianity, and like the types of fungus we can see, which one we live on can have serious consequences. There is such a thing as a deadly ‘Christianity’ which is as dangerous as the false religions that we see all around us, across the world and in our own neighbourhoods. Jeremiah has warned us about those in recent weeks – gods that are fashioned out of wood and stone, that are decorated with gold and silver and then fastened with a hammer and nails to stop them toppling over! But Jeremiah, and the Bible as a whole, also warns us that though we might say we follow the true God, we might do so in a false way. The end of every false religion is death.
The truth with fungi, and with faith, is to learn to recognise the features of the good and the bad, the true and the false. What does false Christianity look like? How does true Christianity differ? True Christianity is about grace. It centres on salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. It emphasizes that we can do nothing to earn salvation because of our sin, but must be born again of God’s Spirit. No good work, church attendance, religious ritual or moral lifestyle can earn salvation. God has provided salvation for us only in His Son Jesus, whose death on the cross means we can be forgiven, and whose resurrection from the dead assures us of eternal life. True Christianity acknowledges that this Jesus is therefore Lord of every part of our lives, lives which are lived in worship of Him and hatred of sin. It shows itself in striving to live according to the Scriptures, love for fellow Christians in the church, and a desire to reach the lost with the good news.
Is your Christianity the true sort or a poisonous alternative? Are you trusting in the God of grace and living by faith?