Perspective: Why Our Trust Must Be Rooted in Christ and Not Christianity(Religion)

Preface

Have you ever stopped to consider and ponder that Christianity is not the same as Who Jesus Christ is? Christianity as a religion is comprised up of imperfect humans who are gradually being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Christ is perfect, Christians are not. Sadly, one of the main stumbling blocks I encounter when witnessing to others is their exposure to a misrepresentation of the Christian Faith. Therefore, as Christians, we should not be placing our faith in fellow Christian brothers and sisters on a micro-level and/or even towards Christianity on a macro-level. We are equally broken–Christian and non-Christian–who are all in as much of need for Jesus as the next person. Yet, we regularly put other Christians on pedestals almost on a daily-basis, commonly without consciously thinking about it. The tragic result is disappointment when they do not fulfill our expectations, but, more significantly, it is a diminishment of the all-sufficiency of God. In turn, we end up idolizing other Christians, rather than placing our unwavering faith in Jesus Alone for our salvation and spiritual growth.

Christianity Cannot Save You, But Jesus Can

Within the West, I believe that we are at a comparative spiritual-disadvantage to that of poorer parts of the world. We have so much material wealth, abundance, and prosperity to the degree that it becomes easy to trust and depend on things other than God Himself. Christian resources are almost too readily accessible, thereby presenting the temptation for us to exchange these Christian supplements in the place of diligent study in God’s Word.

What I believe is one of the leading causes of lukewarmness within the Christian Church in the West today derives itself from the false belief that the Church saves us. The implicitly-held belief among several Christians in the West is that as long I attend weekly church service, partake in helping through various ministries and fulfill the requirements of other rituals, then I am saved.

Church-goers swiftly become enticed by the allure of comfortable Christianity. Even lesser known local churches have such an unparalleled access to ministry resources. It becomes almost too easy to become spiritually-lazy through relying wholeheartedly on the local church to feed us, while we ourselves lack the spiritual disciplines. In doing so, we place too much weight on the pulpit and we begin to ignorantly think that we absolutely need an intermediary between ourselves and God in order to grow in faith of Jesus. Devastatingly, the local church slowly, but surely takes the place of Jesus. Rather than trusting in Jesus and His finished work alone, the mindset of the church-goer shifts to placing their trust in their church instead. Paradoxically, the local church becomes an idol and stifles the spiritual life of the believer which Jesus graciously provided. Rather than being a faith in Jesus by grace alone, it subtly evolves into a religion by self-effort.

Disclaimer: I do believe that all Christians need to actively be apart of a local, Biblically-Rooted Church. However, I also believe that the purpose of the Church is to equip its Saints to boldly go out and point others to Jesus. We need to be cautious to never forget that our foundation is built upon Jesus and that He is the Only One worthy of our full allegiance. 

Religion by Self-Effort vs. Salvation by Faith

The major implication for those who idolize their church is that they re-enter into the bondage of law and rule-keeping, the very thing that Jesus has already saved them from. For church-goers, this manifests itself in the form of religion when Jesus Christ by faith is replaced by religion through self-effort. Because it is impossible to earn our salvation or to somehow work our way to heaven, those who place their trust in their own righteousness will perish in the end. The figure below helps illustrate the differences between the two:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–4).

Those attending the church of Galatia had naively returned to works of the law even after having begun by the Spirit. I think that it is important for us all to do a self-examination to ensure that we have not fallen into the same trap. Paul provides us with instruction on how God desires for His children to live by in verse 11 below:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

Believers must live by faith in Jesus out of reliance in the future grace which He extends to all who trust in Him. This reliance can only come when the believer’s heart is rightly postured before God. No amount of sacrifices, good deeds, and/or religious rituals will ever be enough because God doesn’t delight in external performance. As seen below, God desires a surrendered, repentant, and humble heart from us. It is then and only then that He can provide us with a new nature in order that we can live the resurrected life as His new creation!

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalms 51:16–17)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for anytime that we have trusted in anything other than Your perfect righteousness for our salvation and continued spiritual growth. Help us to continue to live by faith in You Alone. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus, has torn the veil between us and You which has provided us with direct access to Your throne of grace. This is something that no religious teacher can ever provide. Provide us with rock-solid confidence in You as we seek journey and grow with you in faith. In Jesus’ All-Sufficient Name, Amen!

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.

 

Biblical WorldView

What Sets Christianity Apart

Christianity is not merely another world religion where one needs to follow a prescribed set of rules, regulations, and steps in order to be made right with God. Conversely, Christianity is about placing our trust in the One Who has lovingly reached down to us, accomplishing that which is humanly impossible by living the perfect life of obedience through Jesus. Christ lived the life none of us could have lived. Therefore, rather than us hopelessly climbing a ladder of good works to somehow bridge the gap between us and God, all we need to do is trust in Jesus Who has already finished the work on the Cross.

“Sacred” and the “Secular” Coming Together

There is a phenomenon that has plagued Christianity for far too long. It has significantly limited and even restricted the effectiveness of the Church within the world by relegating Christ-following Christians to purely a private spiritual matter. Specifically, it is the false dichotomy between the “sacred” and the “secular”. In Nancy Pearcey’s book, “Total Truth”, she expounds on this school of thought by stating that “Christian Principles are meant to saturate our lives and flow out into the world around us”. She continues, “Having a Christian worldview means beings utterly convinced that biblical principles are not only true but also work better in the grit and grime of the real world”. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called and commissioned to be salt and light within this world. If we choose to stay in our own Christian bubbles and comfort zones, how can we expect the dying world around us to hear the glorious truth of the Gospel? It is so easy to become apathetic and spiritually-selfish through focusing excessive attention on being built up without physically going out to make disciples as God calls us to do. God’s redemptive plan extends to all things–both the secular and the sacred.

As believers, we know full well that the Christian faith is not designed to be compartmentalized within the sacred portion of our lives, rather, it needs to overflow into every facet of our lives!
biblical-worldviewPearcey wisely states, “The Christian faith is not just a religious truth, but the total truth about all reality.The implication is that the Christian Faith is meant to pervade and saturate everything we come into contact with. In turn, having a Biblical worldview shapes how we think about politics, business, law, education, and the arts. God has created absolutely everything (John 1:3), and as seen in Genesis 1:28, He calls us to subdue the earth. Right from the beginning of time, God has invited us to participate in His project for the world. Andy Otto explains this concept of subduing the earth below:

As one would “subdue” a plot of land, planting seeds, watering, cultivating it, caring for it, and harvesting its fruit, one is called to subdue the world—planting seeds through our witness, using and cultivating our gifts, working for the common good, and sharing its fruit with others. And as God has desires for the cultivation and harvesting of the earth, metaphorically, we do as well.

Application: Life Is Ministry

There is a common misconception that only those involved in ministry of some kind can really serve the Lord. This cannot be further from the truth and it greatly dismays me that many Christians believe this fallacy. Admittedly, I believed that this was true for my own life and it held me captive for several years. I knew that God had gifted me in different ways but I reasoned that I couldn’t serve Him as well or even at all unless it was explicitly done for ministry purposes. Once I first read about Biblical Worldview through observing Lecrae approach to his Hip Hop music as a Christian, I realized that as a Christian my entire life is ministry. Romans 12:1 instructs us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our true and proper worship. In other words, everything we do spanning from the ways in which we interact with others all the way to our viewpoints on social issues should be rooted in our Biblical Worldview. We are not just Christians on Sundays, but rather we are called to serve the Lord 24/7; indeed life is ministry. Someone who has been called to a trade such as a plumber is no less capable of serving God than a pastor for instance. All that God expects is our joyful obedience as we serve and glorify Him in our unique ways.

In Lecrae’s book, Unashamed, he states that “Following Jesus doesn’t just save us from a less fulfilling life or eternal separation from God. It also saves us to a life that can radically transform the world around us through the power of God”. The responsibility then for Christians is to transform culture.

I plan on creating a follow-up article to this post regarding what transforming culture looks like for the Christian. Please stay tuned!

Lord,

We are so grateful for that which we have done for us on the Cross and we are honoured to be partakers of Your redemptive plan. Help us to live faithful lives to You in whatever you have called us to as our vocation. I pray that through Your Holy Word, You may mold our Biblical Worldview into one that has the ability to transform culture for Your glory. May we lift up Your Name and glorify You always!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

 

References:

Subdue the Earth: A Genesis Understanding of Discernment

Total Truth By Nancy Pearcey

Unashamed By Lecrae