It breaks my heart that America is considered by so many to be a “Christian” nation. It’s as if the concept of Christianity has morphed into a cultural term, one that has lost its original spark and meaning. It’s, I would argue, been tossed around as a moral stamp of approval, in essence saying “I believe myself to be a good person” and/or “I consider myself a ‘spiritual’ person.”
But Christianity isn’t about being a good person; it’s about God. Christianity is about following Christ, and only Christ. It’s the life that pours out of a desperate cry to God that says I’m broken, and I’m dirty, and I don’t deserve to be loved by you. It’s an acknowledgement and acceptance of who God is, what He’s done for us, and who we are. It’s all about relationship; an inner transformation that should overflow into every area of our lives. (The notion that Christianity is a stale list of rules dictated by an angry, distant God is not a biblical concept. It’s a tragedy.)
We should not be fooled. Jesus is not some demi-god who sits on a cloud shootin’ the breeze with buddha, Mohammed, Zeus, and a legion of new age spirit guides. Biblically we cannot “cover our bases” by offering allegiance to everyone. Dabbling in spirituality as if we were at a smorgasboard, building our own “religion” like one fills a plate for a meal, is ludicrious. When we do that we place ourselves in the position of a god, essentially saying I know what’s best. God is loving and merciful, yes, but He is not a push-over. He is also holy, just, and jealous.
I think we’ve lost sight of this in America. I think many Christians spend so much time worshipping themselves that there is little time or energy left over for God. We pick and choose the aspects of various philosophies that are appealing to us — those that allow us to live the way we please. And so we receive a self-bestowed “stamp of morality.” We worship money, sex, beauty, and power. Beneath that, I think, is a deep desire for security and love.
I read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love awhile back and his profile of the “Lukewarm Christian” stuck with me. I’ve spent many years sitting on the fence – trying to live for God and for myself at the same time. So, it’s with all genuineness of heart that I share Chan’s thoughts with you (highlights mine)…
“Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better? The Bible says to test ourselves, so in the next few pages, I am going to offer you a description of what halfhearted, distracted, partially committed, lukewarm people can look like.” (p.67-68)
- …attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe ‘good Christians’ do, so they go.
“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’” -Isaiah 29:13
- …”give money to charity and to the church… as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.”
- …”don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it… Lukewarm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one.”
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” – John 10:10
- …do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be ‘good enough’ without it requiring too much of them. They ask, ‘How far can I go before it’s considered a sin?‘ instead of ‘How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?’ … They ask, ‘How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible?’ instead of ‘I wish I didn’t have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer!’
- … are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for ‘extreme’ Christians, not average ones.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive youselves. Do what it says.” -James 1:22
- …are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God.
- …do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens — they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them — they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live — they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis — their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.”
“A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it. Most of us have too much in our lives… Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?” (p.67)
Let us fix our eyes on only that which is worthy of such attention.