Krissy, you’ve put a lot of difficult questions into one short post. When I read your post I see:
* What is true Christianity?
* How should I feel?
* What’s the difference between Catholic and Protestant and does it matter?
* Is contentedness bad?
* Why don’t more people grapple with these questions?
* Why isn’t it easy?
* Why does ________ seem to have it all together?
* What’s after having it all together?
First, let me say that I am not at all qualified to answer any of your questions. However, I’m going to take a stab at it knowing that Mark, Joel, and others read this page and are very much smarter than I am and can correct anything that needs correcting (please!).
The truth about Christ has been “defined” for centuries in the Nicene Creed. My understanding is that the early church was fighting off heresies like Gnosticism, so a bunch of church leaders got together and wrote down what we believe about Jesus and His nature.
Once we “know” the nature of Christ, we know His commands can be trusted to follow. Jesus said, “If you love me you’ll obey what I command” and that loving others is like loving Him. My small group is studying Becoming a Woman of Excellence and Tuesday night we learned a lot about obedience: ask, listen, do. While salvation is through grace and not remotely related to our works, our actions do reflect to Whom we belong. Those actions will flow out of our salvation, not vice versa.
Christianity, therefore, encompasses our whole being: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. My problem is that I rely too much on the mental and am not often concerned with the emotional, physical, or spiritual portions of my being. That’s wrong.
You worry that you don’t “feel” saved. I would want to tell you that you shouldn’t, and I think that is the wrong answer. Each person is different, and I can’t tell you how you should feel in any situation any more than you should tell me. So, I will tell you, that the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” but it also says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
I used to volunteer with the youth group at my old church. We would take our kids to mission trips, plays, and other activities where altar calls were common. We found that a lot of the same kids would go forward “for salvation” every time. They didn’t “feel” saved.
A lot of times the Christian life feels like a roller coaster with “Spiritual highs” and “lows.” But God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. He is the one who is, and who was, and who will come again. That is something I try to remember during the ups and downs, my emotions may be changing, but He isn’t.
One of the blessings of Grace Church is that every week there is a corporate Prayer of Confession by an Elder and that is followed immediately by the pastor reading a Word of Assurance from Scripture (it is a different reference every week). We are assured that if Christ started His work in us, He will continue that work to completion.
I think that is really one of the distinctions I see as I’ve moved from an Arminian understanding to a more Reformed one. If Jesus is working in me, He’s not just gonna drop me. He will carry me through. Salvation is all about Him and nothing about me. Praise be to God!
I’ve heard of the Rome Sweet Home book, although I’ve never read it. So I won’t comment any further on that book specifically. But I think the Roman Catholic/Protestant distinction does matter. I want to be clear: I believe there are true Christians in the RCC, and I believe there are non-true Christians in Protestant churches. However, I have concerns about the Papacy, the whole “saints” thing, their beliefs about The Lord’s Supper, and their belief that I am not a Christian. Of course in Protestant circles I have issues with the “Name-it, Claim-it” crowd, the belief in the rapture, “speaking” in tongues, and angel worshippers. So perhaps I should say that I think the church (and denomination) and beliefs of that church (and denomination) do matter.
Your PFR quote, “I never want to be satisfied...just when I thought I had everything, it was a lie...for so long now, I've been wasting time, wasting time...” is interesting to me because the Bible talks so highly about contentedness. I’m not saying that you should be content in a lack of a church home and fellowship of believers. We are instructed to continue to meet with believers for fellowship (IMO, fellowship is not an hour of worship once a week, fellowship means knowing one another, being able to edify, rebuke, correct, celebrate, and love one another in Christ). What I am saying, is that being content in present circumstances is not a bad thing, so I’d take issue with PFR. [shrug]
From my understanding of the Reformed position (and this is still rather new to me, so I’m treading rather softly and carefully), the Lord works in the hearts of men to quicken them to their need of Him.
In America, Christianity is pretty benign. The history of Judeo-Christian tradition is fairly ingrained into American thought and ethics. I think in some sense, this gives people a false sense of security. Also, the modern (or post-modern?) concept that everyone is good (just misguided) thus, we should accept everyone as they are effects how people look at God. If we humans think this about each other, how much more will God accept everyone? What is forgotten is that the word “fallible” should be inserted between “we” and “humans.” People think Universalism is the rule on earth and will be the rule in heaven. Aside from all of that, people want very much to put their best foot forward and not show their insecurities and failures.
The Lord has been very clear about His way. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” and “... what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” and “... what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?.“
Overall, the Christian walk is not easy. Jesus described our roll: “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Of course He also said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. But, light or easy, there is still a burden and still a yoke.
And, as you can see from the paragraphs above, I certainly don’t have it all together. It is a process of becoming and growing and learning. I have a horrible prayer life. I have an undisciplined devotional life. I don’t love God with all that I am and certainly don’t love my neighbor as myself. I put the face of “Christian” forward, because that is what I want other people to think/see, but when I’m driving home from work I often wish there weren’t an icthus on the back of my car. Slowly, I am learning that my job is to show myself a worker approved unto God, not man.
Mostly, for you, I hope you and Tim try that OPC church and check to see if there is a PCA church near you. Becoming involved in a community that assures, edifies, counsels, participates in the Means of Grace is of the utmost importance.
“And this is my prayer for you (me and believers everywhere), Krissy: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”