Ok, serious post/rant. Buckle up buttercup.
In a recent sermon I made a statement that I imagined was taken 2 ways: it was ignored, or it was disagreed with. Maybe I’m wrong (it happened one other time…) but those seem to be the common thoughts on the subject. What I said was this: Christians who try to live their lives like everyone else are farther and farther away from the biblical model of a follower of Christ because our culture is falling further and further away from that biblical model.
I imagine that statement was taken those 2 ways for a reason. (I have to imagine because there were only 4 people in the room when I preached it to the camera) I think it was disagreed with because there is a portion of the church that wants to pretend that things aren’t changing that much or that quickly. Christians can be pretty good at insulating ourselves from reality sometimes. I think it was largely ignored because many Christians don’t want to change their behavior and stand out in the world because its inconvenient.
People who call themselves ‘Christian’ increasingly are confronted with some decisions on beliefs, and I think they boil down to one major question: is the Bible true? I have long argued that true Christians—which I define as someone that puts his or her trust in Jesus as Lord, believes in the Bible, and seeks to live its principles in his or her daily life—are already a small minority in the US (usually surveyed at around 3%-7%). If we believe the Bible is true, then that requires a life-response; for example, Jesus says if you love me you will obey what I command, so if we are not obeying Jesus then we do not love Jesus, he is not our Lord, and we are not going to heaven. That is a clear, direct biblical teaching that requires that our lives be different than they would otherwise be if we didn’t believe in the Bible.
But here is some of what Barna found in a nation-wide survey that was recently released:
- More people (56%) are sure Satan exists than are sure God exists (49%).
- More people believe Jesus sinned (44%) than believe that Jesus was sinless (41%).
- This is significant because without his sinlessness Jesus’ death has no redemptive value.
- ~43% of the nations is agnostic (God may exists but in unknowable), atheistic, polytheistic (there are multiple gods), pantheistic (we are all gods) or ‘new age’ (“‘God’ refers to the total realization of personal, human potential or a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach.”).
- 45% of people who hold to basic Christian beliefs about God also believe that it is impossible to be certain that He exists.
There is a lot that can be theorized from this study, but my takeaway is this: we don’t care enough about the Bible. Most people’s beliefs in God, Satan, salvation, and morality have little connection to anything concrete. Faith has become what what was termed about a decade ago as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” For what its worth, that’s a nice phrase to learn and pull out when you want to impress someone.
Moralistic therapeutic deism essentially means this: a persons beliefs in God and right and wrong are whatever makes that person feel good. In other words, religion is convenience. 10 years ago this was focused on teenagers. Now, those teenagers are adults and that belief has spread. What a person “feels” is more important than what the Bible says.
I will grant that there are aspects of the Bible and theology that are widely disagreed on, but the majority of it is pretty clear and straightforward: love God, love others. Stay away from sin. Remain focused on eternity, and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ here and now. Because the nation as a whole now rejects the ideas of who God is, who Jesus is, what sin is and, maybe most importantly, whether or not the Bible is of any value.
But the Bible is God’s Word. In it we learn who God is, who Jesus is and what sin is. With it we can understand and receive salvation, live life as God has called us to, and see the future hope He has in store for us. Without it, we are left with our selfish wants and wishes and a religion based on “me-me-me.” God become a mirror, reflecting ourselves back at us so we can feel good about ourselves, and if we do that we’ll still be staring at ourselves as we walk through the gates of hell.
We must follow the Bible, and if we do we will look different than the world. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. It ok. It’s more than that…it’s good. Go ahead and embrace the weird.