Possibly The Greatest Challenge To American Christianity?
I didn’t grow up in church. I didn’t begin attending regularly until later in high school when I started going with Susan, my girlfriend, who is now my wife. I think I shared a viewpoint about church and Christianity that is still shared by the majority of people in our culture, especially people in the Southeastern United States. Do these things describe your idea of what church and Christianity are all about?
- It’s about not doing bad things.
- If I do more good things than bad things, God will be pleased.
- It’s about appearance. “All good people go to church.”
- The point of Christianity is to make me feel guilty.
- The point of church is to make me feel better, or less guilty.
There are other misconceptions about church and Christianity, but I believe this list points to the #1 issue we battle in the church and the #1 trap we fall into. We believe Jesus is after our behavior rather than our hearts.
Before you start firing emails at me, let me be clear. I’m not saying our behavior shouldn’t change. Christians should live lives that are different from those who don’t know Christ. When we obey God, He is pleased. There should be evidence, or fruit that indicates God is working in us through His Spirit.
The problem is not what should be produced. The problem is how we go about producing it. John 15:5 is clear that our relationship with Jesus is the means by which the character of God(or fruit) is produced in our lives. How arrogant is it to think that we can consistently produce the character of God without the presence of God?
While the Apostle John clearly points us to the means by which we see the character of God produced in our lives, the Apostle Paul, on the other hand, clearly points to what doesn’t produce fruit in our lives. Check out Colossians 2:20-23. Paul is correcting the Colossians because they have begun to move from their relationship with Jesus to religious activity. He tells us that our activity apart from God’s presence is ultimately fruitless, because religion without relationship is powerless to change our lives.
The greatest tragedy is that in forsaking the means, or relationship with Christ, we forsake the one thing that brings life! We completely miss the point. Jesus didn’t come in pursuit of our behavior. He came in pursuit of our hearts. The promise of God is that when we surrender to Him, He will give us a new heart, and His character will be worked out of us, not into us.
My encouragement to you is to do a heart check and see if you need to refocus. Are you focused more on something to do or someone to know? Are you trying to prune bad fruit or letting Jesus deal with the root issue, which is our heart? Will you pursue Him and not just religious activity? Will you ask Him to open your eyes to see Him more clearly and help you escape this frustrating trap? Will you open your Bible and ask God, not for information or even transformation, but for revelation? It is in the revelation of Jesus that our hearts and ultimately our lives are changed.
If you’re struggling with this issue, and we all do at some point, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to help you escape this trap!
Heart and Soul!