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Tag: Fruit of the Spirit

Christian Bling and Jesus Junk

jesus loves me 2015

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Several years ago, I spotted this t-shirt at my grandson’s tee ball game.  Most residents of rural northwest Ohio are Evangelicals or conservative Protestants and Catholics. Jesus is on display everywhere one looks. There’s at least one church for every three hundred Defiance County residents. Republicans hold every major office. Atheists and agnostics are endangered species. Declaring your godlessness is a sure way to be socially ostracized and marginalized. If there is place where Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this is it. Why then are local Christians obsessed with wearing Christian bling and displaying Jesus junk?

Take the woman wearing the Jesus Loves Me t-shirt. Does she wear it to remind herself that Jesus loves her? Or perhaps she wears it to let her fellow Christians know that she is on their team. I wonder if she has thought about who made the shirt, how old they were, how much they were paid? Like American flags made in China, most Christian bling and Jesus junk is made by impoverished people who are paid poor wages.

My wife works for a manufacturing concern where Christian bling and Jesus junk is on display everywhere one looks. Christian slogans and Republican one-liners are prominently displayed on office walls and desks. I’ve often wondered what the response would be if someone put on their desk a sign that stated There is no God or that There is no God but Allah. This will never happen, of course, because doing so would be career suicide. But, knowing how Evangelicals love to whine over having their feelings hurt, I wonder how Christians in the office might respond. Would they demand the offensive signs be taken down?

Any cursory reading of the Bible reveals that Jesus preached a lifestyle of moderation and simplicity. I wonder if Evangelicals bother to consider what Jesus thinks about their bling and junk? Would the apostles have worn Jesus Loves Me t-shirts or adorned their wrists with WWJD bands? The apostle Paul went from community to community preaching the gospel and establishing new churches. I wonder what he would think of twenty-first-century entertainment Christianity? If Matthew 5-7 — the Sermon on the Mount — is the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, where can one find such followers? Rare are Evangelicals who verbalize their faith in the hope of leading a person to Christ. Even in IFB churches — a sect that puts a premium on soulwinning — most church members never verbally share their faith even one time. If Jesus is the greatest story ever told, why is it most Christians never share it?

Christian bling and Jesus junk are meant to identify one as part of the club. The purpose isn’t to evangelize, it’s to let everyone who gazes on their bling or junk know that they are part of Club Jesus®. When Christians put on their Jesus shirts and go to the mall, grocery, or restaurant, everyone will know what club they belong to. Granted, atheists can do the same, but most atheists I know are content to quietly live their lives. And Muslims? When’s the last time you’ve seen a Muslim wearing a shirt that says Allah Loves Me or Allah, the One True God?

It is primarily Evangelicals who are obsessed with public displays of affection for Jesus. It is Evangelicals who co-opt culture and turn it into shirt-worn slogans such as This Bloods for You or Jesus died for MY SPACE in Heaven. Corporate slogans and logos are turned into cute clichés and plastered on t-shirts and bumper stickers. Why? Are Christian bling-wearing Evangelicals over-compensating for something they lack? What are they hiding behind the bling and junk?

Remember the manufacturing concern I mentioned above? Why is that some of the most hateful, argumentative, and critical people are those who have the most Jesus junk on their desks? Why does the car of the asshole who cuts you off in traffic often sport a Christian bumper sticker? I love to stand back and observe the behavior of God’s chosen ones. While certainly there are many thoughtful, polite, helpful, and humble Christians, why are so many of them arrogant, rude, and unkind? Ponder for a moment the comments left on this blog by warriors for God, soldiers who likely have Bible verse screen savers on their computers and tablets. For every Evangelical who has left a thoughtful, respectful comment, there have been a hundred Evangelicals who’ve left hateful, argumentative, judgmental ones. Why is this?

While I was still a Christian, I concluded that hundreds of millions of Americans might be Christian, but most of them have no interest in following after Christ. They are more interested in avoiding hell and gaining political and social power than they are walking in the steps of Jesus. According to orthodox Christian doctrine, the Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Simply put, this means Christians have God living inside of them as their teacher and guide. If this is so, then please explain to me why few Christians behave in a way that evidences this? Galatians 5:22,23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Bruce, the fruit of the Spirit is the goal. God sanctifies the Christians and they grow and mature, evidencing the fruit of the Spirit later in life. Why is it then that so many people who have been Christian for decades behave as if they have never heard of the fruit of the Spirit? Besides, Galatians 5:22,23 says the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is (present tense). Not a future hope or desire, but a present reality. Can one be a Christian and not show any evidence that God lives inside of them? The same could be said of the Biblical qualifications for being a pastor. I Timothy 3:2-7 states:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

A bishop then MUST BE. Not hope or aspire to be, but must be. I will soon be sixty-three years old, and I have yet to meet a pastor who meets the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3. Why is this?

By all means, exercise your first amendment right to wear Jesus bling and display Jesus junk. But, if you want to convince me that I should be a Christian, you better start living according to the teachings of the Bible you say you believe. Until then, you have nothing to offer the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. As long as Evangelicals continue to publicly state that their religion is the one true faith and the Bible is THE moral standard by which Christian and non-believer alike must live, I plan to point out to Evangelicals how hypocritical they are. I’m just practicing what the Bible says . . . judging Evangelicals by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). So far, all I see are barren trees.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The Fruit of the Spirit Is or Why Christianity is a Dead Fruit Tree

fruit of the spirit

I spent the first 50 years of my life in the Christian church and I spent 25 years pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I have met thousands of Christians in my lifetime. Even now, seven years removed from the last time I attended a Christian church, I continue to meet Christians and interact with them on this blog, through email, and on Facebook. My exposure to the personal lives of hundreds of Christians allows me to draw some conclusions about Christianity. I include myself and my family in the sample set. My conclusion is this: For all their talk about being Spirit-filled, it seems that Christians are anything but.

According to the Bible, all Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. The Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide. He teaches them everything that pertains to life and godliness. Why is it then that most Christians live lives contrary to the basic, foundational teachings of the New Testament? WWJD, what would Jesus do, is rarely seen among Christians. Christians are commanded to follow the Lamb (Jesus) wherever he goes. How many times have Christians heard their pastor say, we need to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, yet any casual observer can see that most Christians seem to walk wherever the hell they want. If Jesus wants to follow along that’s OK, but if not, fine, because the mall has some great sales going on.

The passage at the top of this post says, “the fruit of the Spirit is.” The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence, the proof that a person a Christian. Notice that it says IS. This is a very important word. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Greek Dictionary, the word IS in this verse is “third person singular present indicative.” Simply put, the fruit of the Spirit is not some lofty objective to hope for or aspire to; it is the proof, the evidence that a person is a Christian.  Since the Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian, the fruit of the Spirit shouldn’t it be readily evident in the lives of EVERY Christian? The life of the Christian should evidence the fruit of the Spirit every moment of every day. With such a great power as  the Christian God living inside them, surely this should not be a difficult way of life to maintain, right? After all, according to the Bible, he that is in the Christian (the Holy Spirit) is greater than he that is in the world (Satan).

 

hypocritical christian

However, when we critically look at how Christians live their lives, what do we find? We find that Christians are not much different from the uncircumcised, unwashed Philistines they judge and condemn to hell.  It is chic these days for Christians to admit that they are just sinners saved by grace or that they are a work in progress. A popular bumper sticker says, Don’t judge me, God isn’t finished with me yet. However, such statements are directly contrary to what Galatians 5:22, 23 says.

The Bible is very clear…every Christian should evidence the following each and every day of his or her life:

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • long suffering
  • gentleness
  • goodness
  • faith
  • meekness
  • temperance

A wonderful list of admirable character traits, to be sure. Every one of us would do well to strive to live lives that demonstrate these traits. However, we know, even on our best days, we fail miserably in demonstrating these character traits. We are, after all, human. We recognize that all of us have character flaws that can and do affect the relationships we have with others. I don’t know of any non-Christians who think they are perfect or a beacon of morality and virtue. While many non-Christians certainly evidence the fruit of the Spirit, none would be so foolish to say that they perfectly do so.

Christians aren’t given the luxury of claiming they are human. Remember, the fruit of the spirit IS. There is no place in the Christian life for anything less than perfect obedience to the Christian God. After all, Christians have EVERYTHING they need to live a life of perfection. Surely, God did not leave them lacking in any way, right?

Within Christianity we find many reactions to what I have written above:

  • Some Christians believe in perfection. They are entirely sanctified and  can not and do not sin.
  • Some Christians think there are two classes of Christians: ordinary everyday Christians and Spirit-filled Christians. Most Christians are the former and very few become the latter.
  • Some Christians think every Christian has two natures, the Spirit and the flesh, and these two natures continually battle against each other. Which nature you feed the most is the one who wins the battle. Christians are classified as either Spirit filled or carnal/fleshly.
  • Some Christians think they are saved by grace and how they live doesn’t matter. While they certainly think a believer should evidence the fruit of the Spirit, if they don’t they are still Christian. Their ticket to heaven is punched, their fire insurance is paid up, and a home in God’s Motel 6 awaits them no matter how they live their lives.
  • Some Christians think that God gives a special anointing of the Spirit to some people. All the TV preachers have this anointing (along with the ability to extract large sums of money from the bank accounts of gullible Christians) Some sects call this being baptized with the Holy Spirit, others call it a second definite work of grace.
  • Some Christians believe in progressive sanctification. They believe that the Christian life is a long process where sin is progressively dealt with and forsaken. It is a wash, rinse, and repeat kind of process.

All of these reactions, except the first one, reject the clear teaching and meaning of Galatians 5:22,23. Again, the fruit of the spirit IS! Of course, the first reaction is ludicrous. There is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t sin. The evidence of this is everywhere we look. Here’s a dirty little secret that many Christians don’t want non-Christians to know: for all their talk about God, Jesus, and Spirit-filled living, they live just like the rest of us. While they may be experts at putting on the good Christian act, underneath the façade they are no different from Atheists, Humanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Shintoists, Pagans, or Satanists. Try as they might, they still live lives that are an admixture of good and bad behavior.

All I am trying to do is knock Christians off their high horse and get them to see that they are not any different from the rest of us. I am trying to get them to see how offensive it is when they try to force their moral code on others when they themselves can’t even keep it. Even with God living inside of them, they “sin” just like everyone else. Christianity would be better served if Christians presented their moral code as one code among many, worth aspiring to and not as a “God says, Do this or else.” Not many atheists are going to disagree with Christians about the value of the character traits listed in Galatians 5:22,23. The world would be a far better place if we all tried to evidence these character traits (and others) in our lives.

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I ‘Heart’ You, Says God

i heart you god

As Polly and I were traveling to Lake Erie and the Marblehead Lighthouse, we came upon the billboard pictured above. For the Christian, the message is perfectly clear, Jesus loves them or the Christian God loves them. However, for the unbeliever or the skeptic, the message is not so clear.

First, which God? The Christian presupposes that their God is the one, true and living God. All other Gods are false Gods. Since I don’t start my rational inquiry with the notion that the Christian God left this message for me or anyone else traveling by, I ask again, which God? This is the same argument I use when a Christian tries to argue that the wonders of the natural world testify to the existence of God. Fine, I say, so WHICH God? It is not evident from creation that the Christian God or any other God created everything. To come to the conclusion that the Christian God created everything as we now see it requires believing what is written in Genesis 1-3, a belief that runs contrary to everything science tells us about the universe.

Second, the I ‘HEART” U message is not at all clear. Most people assume that the message means I love you. However, according to the Urban Dictionary, this phrase has several different meanings:

  • Words uttered by a person not ready to say I love you
  • Words not as serious as I love you
  • I have feelings for you
  • I love you

This undefined God, does he really love me, or does he just have feelings for me? Perhaps he is not ready to make a commitment to me. There is nothing in the message that would lead me to conclude that this God loves or has feelings for me. This is how I view the Bible, just ink on paper. There is nothing in the Bible that would lead me to conclude that the Christian God loves me.

You see, love is not measured by words on a printed billboard or page. Just because an undefined God’s name is attached to a nonspecific phrase like I ‘HEART’ U doesn’t mean that any specific God loves me. Polly and I recently celebrated thirty-seven years of marriage. We’ve written a lot of letters to each other over the years, yet both of us would agree that love is shown, not in what a person says or writes on paper, but by what he or she does. In others word, when it comes it love, don’t tell me, show me.

We have an ancient book, the Bible, that tell us the Jewish/Christian God at one time walked among us, yet no one has drawn a picture or snapped a photograph of this God. All we have to go on are ancient writings by unknown authors. If knowing this I ‘HEART’ U God is so important, don’t you think this God would make an appearance now and then and let us know that he is alive and kicking? Jesus could settle things right now for everyone by coming back to earth and working a few miracles. Allow the press to report the miracles, allow photographers to shoot the Son of Man doing his miracle show, and perhaps let National Geographic do a feature spread on the mighty works of the Lord. Billions would fall on their knees and worship Jesus if this happened.

Instead, Jesus spends all his time building rooms in the heavenly Trump Hotel for his chosen ones. According to the Bible, when Jesus ascended back to heaven, he left a spirit form of himself behind, the Holy Spirit/Ghost. Supposedly, this Spirit/Ghost lives inside every Christian, teaching them everything that pertains to life and godliness. Of course, there is no proof given for this claim other than what is printed on the pages of the Bible.

If I believe what is written in the Bible about the nature and good works of the Christian, then it is easy for me to conclude that no one is a Christian.  If the new life of the born again Christian is supposed to be radically different from the life of the non-Christian, where can I find these radically different Christians? If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,meekness, and temperance, where is the Christian who evidences such fruit?

The proof of any religion is the product it produces. An apple tree might look nice with all its green foliage, but unless it produces apples it has no value. So it is with Christianity, especially here in the United States. It looks nice with all its ornate, expensive buildings and well-dressed clergy, but a Christianity that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus is nowhere to be found. Why is this? 2,000 years removed from Jesus, Christianity has been reduced to a generic, nondescript, cheesy slogan on a billboard. Is this all Christianity has to offer the world after twenty-one centuries?