There is a disconnect between most of modern day Christianity in our culture and Biblical and Historical Christianity. I really began to be bothered by this extreme many years ago. I was raised in the church. Taught the scriptures. And had an understanding that Jesus Christ is Lord. I had the correct information regarding the Gospel. And I looked like most other Christians in my church at the time. I tried to be good, went to church on Sundays and Wednesdays, and listened to Christian music and wore Christian t-shirts. I said my prayers before eating and bedtime, read my Bible when there was literally nothing else to do. But that was the extent of my Christianity! Other than these staple moments during my day, I rarely thought about God. Yet I didn’t see this as abnormal, because again, almost every other Christian in my life operated the same way.
But although I didn’t yet realize it, there was a problem. And the faith that I was living was more or less routine rather than genuine. This is the current state of Christianity for the most part in our country present day. We’ve come to believe that if we do certain things or have our names written on a church role, then we are Christians. We have slowly let culture define what it means to be a Christian rather than studying the scriptures and church history. Pragmatism has become a substitute for passion.
It wasn’t until I began truly reading my Bible that serious questions began to arise. Particularly from reading the many definitive statements in the scriptures. Take for instance Psalm 105:4.
“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” Psalm 105:4.
Surely God doesn’t mean exactly what He says! Surely what God means by “seek His presence continually” is once or twice a week attendance to the church building and trying to be a good person! Continually would mean to have God at the forefront of my mind in all that I do throughout my day. I would have to be obsessed with God! In order to seek God in that way I would have to be enamored and captivated by His beauty so much so that He was my ultimate desire above and beyond all worldly things!
What about 1 Corinthians 10:21?
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Do all things to the glory of God? Surely all things doesn’t mean ALL THINGS! But Paul gives very detailed directions. No matter if you are eating a sandwich, or drinking a glass of wine, glorify God. Paul then concludes by saying whatever you do it is to be done to the glory of God! Again, this is a far cry from twice a week Christianity! The commitment level is extremely high! I once heard a pastor ask his congregation, “When is the last time you simply thanked God for the air that you are breathing?”
What about Jesus final command to His disciples before the ascension?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20.
If Jesus final command was for His followers to go and make other disciples, and to teach others all of the commandments of God, why isn’t this happening on a large-scale? Shouldn’t disciple making be the one of the utmost goal of our lives in seeking to glorify Christ? Sadly, most professing Christians have never made a disciple in their lives. And it’s because they fear man more than God, and because they cannot teach others what they don’t know themselves.
Why don’t we think about God like this? Why doesn’t an examination of Biblical Christianity cause us to examine ourselves? Why is He not our all-encompassing obsession? Why do most professing believers associate Christianity with a church building, moral activities, or their personal denomination?
If the description of a true believer is one that is called to be in a constant, imperfect as it may be, pursuit of God, why does present culture redefine a Christian as one who merely attends church? In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus described the Christian as being like a man who stumbled upon a treasure in a field. And upon finding this treasure, he went and sold all that he had in order to get the treasure (Matt. 13:44).
But that is not the description of a Christian today. Christ is seen not as a treasure, but a burden. Most professing Christians cannot fathom talking to their next door neighbor about Jesus, because their treasure is acceptance and not God. They can’t entertain the thought of going overseas on mission, because their treasure is comfort and not God. They easily suppress the need to pray and press into the scriptures daily, because their treasure is social media and not God. We refuse to gaze upon the treasure that is Christ because we are too mesmerized by the things of the world.
To tell this to a professing Christian living in this manner would greatly offend them. “You can’t judge me” seems to be the mantra of our world today. But even this is taken out of context. In Matthew 7 when Jesus commands believers not to judge, the context is to look down upon a person due to their sin. We should never do that because we all fall into sin. However, this verse is not talking about knowing if a person is saved.
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:16-20.
Jesus said that it is possible to tell if a person is truly a believer or if they are one who is merely going through the motions. We can have this type of discernment or judgement. How can we tell if a person is a genuine believer? By their fruits. By comparing the fruits of their lives by what the scriptures say about a true believer. There is an old saying, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” In the same way, the Christians nature is defined by the Bible, not culture.
There was a time in my life where, by cultures standards, I would have been considered a Christian. I attended church, professed to love Jesus, and tried to be good. But there was no passion for Christ. There was no desire to seek Him in His word. There was no real burden for the lost. There was no hunger for the Knowledge of God in my life. I was merely satisfied that I had been baptized and had a Bible. Yet this description of a Christian was not found in the Bible!
The Apostles sacrificed having a life of ease in exchange for proclaiming the Gospel. They gave their lives for this, because Jesus was the whole point of their existence. Throughout history, men like Polycarp, John Hus, William Tyndale, John Rogers, and countless others were killed because they devoted their lives to proclaiming the Gospel. Men like Martin Luther sacrificed reputation and risked death so that Christ would be glorified over the traditions of men. These men echoed the words of the apostle Paul with their lives.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8.
A few verses before this one, Paul tells a bit about His life before becoming a follower of Jesus. He details his religious accomplishments and accreditations. Paul was highly respected as a religious teacher in Jerusalem, and had the admiration of the most devout Jews in the land. And when he dedicated his life to Christ, Paul lost all of that respect, fame, and adoration. Paul was despised and hated for his proclamation of Jesus as Lord. And looking back and comparing his former life of worldly accolades to His new life of persecution in Christ, Paul says this…..
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Philippians 3:7.
Where are these types of men today? If this is the Biblical and historical model of Christianity, why do we seem to live out such a watered down version? And if one is living a passionless Christianity where in they are more enamored with the things of this world than the word of God, can they truly call themselves a follower of Christ? If our standard of measure is other so-called Christians around us, then we have nothing to be concerned about. But if our standard of measure is the Bible, and we find ourselves looking nothing like the original followers of Christ, we prove to be living in ignorance and without understanding.
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.
There is a reason as to why our culture no longer holds a high view of God. And it is because we no longer measure ourselves by the scripture, but rather we measure ourselves by one another. We fill our lives with materialism and worldly things and call them the blessings of God upon our lives rather than seeing that they are actually robbing our affections from God.
Charles Spurgeon once said, ““I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”
These words are an accurate description of our culture today. Satan doesn’t mind that we go to church, that we live moral lives, or that we proudly claim to be a Christian. As long as our profession doesn’t match up with Biblical Christianity. He is perfectly content for us to live deceived lives and treasuring all of the many distraction of the world. Satan is fine with a person saying they love Jesus. As long as they love themselves more. And the proof of self-love is seen in our lack of pursuing the knowledge God. And it is seen in our pursuit of comfort rather than mission.
When is the last time you read the Bible? I mean really, intentionally read it? Francis Chan once posed the question that if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read year after year, and then suddenly you were rescued and brought to America to witness Christianity in our culture, would what you see in American Christianity match up with what you had read? We are not called to live lives of perfection. But we are called to live with a passion for Christ. And this passion is to be so strong because of the thankfulness we have in our hearts due to the grace of God, that it makes all other loves pale in comparison. Don’t compare yourselves with each other. Don’t gage your Christianity by what other so-called Christians do. Measure yourself by the scriptures.
True Christianity is not defined by Christian culture, but by Christ alone.
“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;” Matthew 15:8.