Christianity is complicated only because PEOPLE make it complicated.
Some denominations tell you that you must perform particular works in order to be saved. Or that you must believe in only their doctrine. Or that you must perform certain rituals (which aren’t actually commanded in the Bible). Some cherry-pick Scriptures to construct a teaching that really isn’t in the Bible. Some claim to be speaking for God and/or Jesus and require you to follow their every word. And some are extremely legalistic; embracing rule-keeping over mercy at all costs (Luke 11:42). And many are a combination of these things.
How can you know which one really clings to the truth as set out in the Bible?
First of all, you must realize that, at this time, there is no “perfect” denomination. Human influence has its nasty little way of getting in between ourselves and God. This is a situation we have to put up with until Jesus Christ returns and sets things straight. Does this make our situation hopeless?
It simply means that we need to make a diligent effort to test any doctrine we are taught and see how the teachings hold up against Scripture.
For example, the Bible states very clearly that we should never call anyone on Earth “Father” (Matthew 23:9 ). However, the Roman Catholic Church refers to their Pope as “Holy Father”.
Another example: Seventh Day Adventists teach that Jesus Christ is the Archangel Michael. They received this teaching from their founding prophetess, Ellen G. White, not from the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses also teach that Jesus Christ is the Archangel Michael, though in this case it’s a matter of cherry picking Scriptures to come to that conclusion. The article here explains how erroneous their cherry picking is.
In order to find truth in faith, it is vital that you read your Bible on a regular basis and become familiar with its message. Ignore the words of so-called prophets whose words cannot be solidly supported in Scripture. Do not succumb to teachings based on cherry picked Scriptures that the Bible does not clearly connect within Itself. And remember that true Christianity teaches mercy and love over rules and rigidity.
It is not wrong to scrutinize a group’s teachings as such scrutinization is the best way to avoid getting trapped in false doctrine. The Bible Itself teaches that testing the teachings is the right way to go (Holman Christian Standard Bible):
1 John 4:1
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!
As mentioned earlier in this post, all religious groups today are burdened with the curse of human imperfection, but this shouldn’t stop us from finding as much Bible truth as is humanly possible. Real Christianity is not something you are taught from men, it is something that is taught to you through the Word of God — the Bible. Be sure that what men are teaching you are in direct harmony with Scripture, and be sure that you heed Scripture over the men when discrepencies occur. Be sure that the godly qualities of love, mercy, and forgiveness are promoted, and leave all judgmentalism to Christ instead of ourselves. True Christianity is not complicated, so don’t let other people make it so.
Peace, and Amen.