The same Bible that tells us the gospel message that we are told we must accept as truth also presents a Christian lifestyle radically different from how Christians live today.
A lifestyle, it seems, that despite having their sins forgiven, being made a new creature in Christ, and having God live inside them, Christians are unable to live it.
We live in a nation inundated with Christian churches, Christian books, Christian TV and radio. Christianity is the professed religion of 78% of Americans. One out of four Americans are Evangelical. The United States is the most Christian nation on earth.
Yet, for the most part, those who profess they are Christian live are no differently than their non-Christian neighbor.
They preach Jesus is the answer, but the non-Christian looks at the Christian and says “how’s that working out for you?”
If Christians truly want to impress the world, if Christians want to give the world a reason to pause and consider the truth of the gospel, then live like it matters.
Stop preaching and start living.
In other word put up or shut up.
While I believe the Bible to be an errant, fallible, non-inspired work of men, if Christians truly lived their lives according to the words of Jesus, it might make me pause for a moment to consider the message of Jesus.
But, I know I am safe. Christians love money, food, power, sex, pleasure, entertainment, material goods, etc just like the rest of us. For all their talk of heaven, they seem to want to stay alive right here on earth with the rest of us.
The product produced shows that the advertising is false.
Change the product and people might start believing the advertising.
I see nothing within Christianity that says to me “come home.”
Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?
Do you believe salvation is found in Jesus alone?
Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to be saved?
Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to go to heaven after they die?
Do you believe the unsaved/non-Christian/unbeliever will go to hell when they die?
Do you believe death could happen at any moment?
Do you believe this life is preparation for the life to come?
Do you believe the church has the obligation to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person?
Do you believe you can tell what a person believes is important by how they spend their time and how they spend their money?
Pretty straightforward questions. Not much room to wiggle, debate or excuse.
Most Evangelicals would say yes to most, if not all, of these questions.
Now, if I really believed that hell was real, death was certain, and Jesus was the only hope for humanity, I would spend every waking hour telling this to others. I would live simply and spend my money on making sure this message got out to the world. I would not waste one moment of my time with the frivolous things of this world, using that time to witness to others.
Surely, if what Evangelicals say they believe is true, the message JESUS SAVES is the most important message ever given to humanity.
Easter is the Christian proclamation that Jesus, the son of God, died on the cross for our sin and on the third day rose again from the dead conquering death and hell. Truly there is VICTORY IN JESUS.
And all the people said, Amen.
So, explain something to me. Be honest.
Why is it most that Evangelicals LIVE like what I wrote above is a complete falsehood?
Most Evangelicals never share their faith with anyone.
Many churches go years without adding one new convert to their membership.
Most Evangelicals live, behave, and die just like their non-Christian neighbors, family, and friends.
It seems that Evangelicals don’t really believe what they are preaching.
I am not pointing a finger at you.
I am just asking for you to be honest.
If Jesus is the answer to all life’s questions.
If Jesus satisfies every longing a soul has.
If Jesus will clean up and change sinners.
If hell is real.
If heaven is real.
If death is certain.
Why do you live like none of this is true?
How many people did you share the gospel with last week? Last month? Last year? Since you have been a Christian?
How about your pastor? For all his talk about the gospel, how many people has he personally witnessed to this week? Last month? Last year? Since he entered the ministry?
How many new members have joined your church because they were witnessed to by a member of your church? (transfers from other churches don’t count)
How many new convert baptisms took place at your church last year?
My point in this little exercise is this: talk is cheap.
You want others to become a Christian.
You want others to follow Jesus.
Why should they?
If you don’t really believe the gospel, why should you expect anyone else to?
Here is my take on that matter.
Religion is a personal matter.
Even though the Bible says it is not, you live like it is, so you must believe it is.
Since it is a personal matter, each of us should be free to worship or not worship.
One thing we all agree on..
We all are going to die.
Let’s agree to leave the afterlife to the afterlife.
I am willing to settle up with God after I die.
Life would be so much better for everyone if each of us had the liberty to live life freely without being evangelized or coerced into making a religious profession. (and let’s be honest, a lot of the evangelistic techniques used by Evangelicals is coercion.)
This does not mean we can’t talk about religion. This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the Bible.
But, let’s talk as fellow citizens of earth. Let’s talk as people who have in common humanity.
If we do this, you are relieved of the burden of witnessing and I am relieved of being an evangelistic target.
If you grew up in the Evangelical church, you’ve likely heard quite a few sermons on texts like:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:2-4
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. James 1:12
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: I Peter 1:6,7
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12,13
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 10:22
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James 5:11
…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content Philippians 4:11
These verses, and others, are used to teach that no matter what happens to a Christian they must endure and stay faithful. God sends trials, temptations, and adversity to punish the Christian for sin, teach them a lesson, or increase their faith. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:5,6:
My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth…
No matter what happens in the Christian’s life, God loves them, has a plan for their life, and promises to never leave or forsake them. No matter how severe the trial, God will give them strength, promising to never give them more than they can bear.
If a person fails to endure, fails to bear the burden God has given them, then it is their fault. They lack faith or are spiritually weak. Perhaps there is some secret sin in their life that is causing them to fail. Repent, trust God, and all will be well.
Couple this belief with the notion that the Christian must patiently wait on God to do his perfect work in their life, is it any surprise that many Evangelicals go through life facing onslaught after onslaught of pain, suffering, sickness, and loss. Hold on, Christian pastors tell their flock, Jesus is perfecting your life. Don’t quit now. It darkest just before the dawn. On and on the exhortations go, encouraging Christians to passively and piously endure whatever comes their way. (please see Does Evangelicalism Encourage Weakness and Passivity?)
Over the years, I heard a few preachers says that the Christian church could use some persecution; that persecution makes Christians stronger. According to an article I read years ago in Christianity Today (no source but my memory), persecution has, in some instances, totally wiped out Christianity in some places in the world. Instead of passively enduring persecution, perhaps it would have been better for Christians to live to fight another day. The reason they don’t is because they have been taught that not passively enduring persecution means they aren’t a true Christian. Jesus endured pain, suffering, and death on the cross, and the least that a Christian can do for him is be willing to die for their faith. Jesus stood meekly before his accusers, allowing himself to be beaten and spat upon. The Christian should be willing to do the same.
Most Christian sects believe God is sovereign. This means God is in control of everything. Both the Calvinist and the Arminian agree that God has a purpose and plan for everyone, that he is the first cause of everything. Since God is running the show, the Christian must play the part of the suffering saint. No matter what comes their way, the Christian, because of what Jesus did for them, must hold on and endure. As I told many a congregation, if you feel like you are at the end of the rope, tie a knot and hold on.
But what happens when you don’t have the strength to tie the knot? What happens when you free fall and hit the ground with a splat? Is God to blame? Of course not. God is never to blame for anything bad happening in a Christian’s life. Only in Evangelicalism is bad renamed good. Let a woman miscarry, it’s for her good. Let a couple’s child die, it’s for their good. Let a tornado destroy a church, it’s for their good. Let a hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami maim and kill thousands of people,including Christians, it’s for their good. I suppose there will be a preacher somewhere that says, after an asteroid hit kills a billion people, that God meant it for good. Just remember, God is good all the time. All the time God is good. Praise the Lord, where’s the body bags?
Evangelicals convince themselves that no matter the circumstance God is always with them. He promised to never leave or forsake them and he is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. They pray, pray, and pray, and God answers not, yet they still believe. Why? Because they have been taught that silence from God can be a means of testing and strengthening one’s faith. Again, God is ALWAYS exonerated.
Rarely does a Christian think through the belief that God is sovereign, yet not responsible for the bad things that happen. If God is in control of everything, how is it possible for him to not be culpable for the bad things that happen? Using Evangelical voodoo to make bad appear good doesn’t change the fact that bad things happen. No amount of Good Gawd Whitewash® can cover over the fact that there are bad things that happen that have no redemptive value. Christian children starving to death in Africa has no redemptive value. Neither does a child dying of a cancer or a Christian family being smashed by a falling concrete barrier. Pray tell, what is redemptive about a plane crash that kills everyone on board? Everywhere I look I see needless suffering and death, yet according to Evangelicals God means the suffering and death for good. Since he can’t do anything other than good, and he is the sovereign Lord of all, everything that happens is good. In any other setting this kind of thinking would be considered lunacy.
One of the reasons Polly and I deconverted was because we came to the conclusion that out of the thousands and thousands of prayers we uttered, God never answered one of them. Yes, some of our prayers were answered, but we traced the answers back to human instrumentality. Out of all the prayers we prayed, morning, noon, and night, those that had no human explanation could be counted on two fingers. Is this the best God can do? For some Christians, this is enough. They are the ones that praise God when a plane loaded with a hundred people crashes and there’s only one survivor. Isn’t God awesome? One person survived, praise Jesus! If a psychopath went to a shopping mall and killed ninety-nine people, yet saved a little baby, would anyone be praising the psychopath’s name? Of course not.
The beliefs taught from the verses I mentioned at that start of this post often keep Christians from asking for help or expressing normal human emotion. I spent 25 years in the ministry, passively enduring everything God sent my way. For many years, we lived in abject poverty. Why? Because I believed God had called me to pastor full-time and operate a Christian school. I worked day and night, burning the candle at both ends, ultimately ruining my health. But even then, I told myself, better to burn out for God than rust out. Since the Apostle Paul spoke of early Christians enduring horrific trials and extreme poverty, I thought God was calling me to do the same. (Romans 8:31-39) If God wanted me to stuff a family of eight in a dilapidated 12×60 trailer, so be it. If God wanted me to drive $200 cars, my children to wear clothing from Goodwill or Odd Lots, and our family to do without the basic necessities of life, who was I to object? Look at all Jesus did for me. Look at how the early church suffered. Surely, I should be just as willing to forsake and endure all for Jesus.
Instead of suffering for Jesus, I should have told him thanks, but no thanks. I should have thought, I have a wife and six children to care for. I have the future to consider. Some day I will be retirement age and I need to start preparing for that now. Polly and the children deserve a better life. All of things should have been at the forefront of my thinking, but they weren’t. Jesus and the church came first. I passively and resolutely followed God’s will for my life. Everything that happened was because God wanted it that way. Remember, God is good all the time. All the time God is good.
If atheism has taught me anything, it has taught me that I am responsible for what happens in my life. Most of the time, anyway. Things can and do happen that are beyond my control, but most of the time I am in control of my destiny. While I can’t undo the health problems I have, I can make the most of what life I do have. Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed and the pain and suffering is winning, loving and kind people have extended a hand and said, let me help you. Since there is no help coming from God, each of us do what we can to deal with the bad things that come our way. And they will come. Live long enough and you’ll likely face severe trial and adversity. Life can be cruel and heartless. All we can do is hold on and hope tomorrow will be a better day. Most often it is, but not always. No matter how good of a person we are, sometimes bad things happen to us. Live long enough and there will come a day when a doctor says, sorry, you have cancer/heart disease/kidney disease and it is going to kill you. It sucks, but even then we have the power to face death with dignity.
How about you? How did the Bible verses mentioned above affect how you lived your life as a Christian? After you deconverted or left Evangelicalism, how did your approach to life change? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Some Christian argue that the belief God won’t give you more than you can handle is a perversion of what the Bible teaches; that it actually says that God won’t give you more than HE can handle. However, this is nothing more than semantics. Since the Christian purportedly has God living inside of them and he is only a prayer away, God is always there. So, when the Christian is going through adversity that levels and incapacitates them, God is supposedly still right there with them. Otherwise, if a Christian is hit by a car, lying in the ditch with both legs and arms broken and their cellphone battery is dead, shouldn’t the Christian expect God to start handling things? Except, he never does. Let a Christian find themselves in the middle of the desert with no water and no hope of getting any, what will happen? This is definitely more than they can handle. Does God show up with a bottle of Evian? Of course not. They die a miserable, horrible death, waiting in vain for God to deliver them.
My heart has been hurting a bit these days because I know I have so much inside of me that needs to change. I don’t know how God’s going to work it all out. Things like pride, resentment, and arrogance build up in me, reminding me I’m still so broken.
I have these conversations with God, telling Him I have nothing left that’s any good at all. I probably sound a little like this: “I gave you all I thought you wanted. . . . Wait, what was that? . . . You want everything? Even the worst parts?” I run and hide, sometimes, from the God who made me.
I still wonder about this: Does He really want to see my brokenness? Does He really want to do something with me? Have you ever felt like that?..
I read God’s Word because I know He’s not going to take my excuses for an answer. I know He’s going to keep reassuring me as He did to Jeremiah . . .
“I know you”
“I have still chosen you.”
“I’m the One who made you this way, don’t you think I know how to use you?”
The way he said it made me laugh, but this truth rang clear to me: God is in charge, not me. Yet my itty-bitty human brain seems to think the Maker of the stars needs my permission to work in and through me.
I read God’s Word because I need to be reminded that He wants to use me, even when it doesn’t feel like that could possibly be true…
My initial response was one of sadness. Here’s a bright 14-year-old girl and she has already lost her ability to think rationally. Not only has she surrendered her ability to reason and think, she thinks the Evangelical God talks to her.
Here’s a girl sitting in her bedroom sad over the fact that she is not the person God wants her to be. She is plagued by pride, resentment, and arrogance, knowing that these things are a reminder of how broken she is. Ponder this thought for a moment. Here’s a girl who already thinks she is broken. That’s what the Evangelical teaching on original sin does to a person. It makes them see themselves as broken and in need of repair. And who can repair them? No one but God. This girl has been taught that she is helpless and hopeless without God, unable to do anything on her own.
Does she really have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem? Only she can answer that, but I suspect that her angst is fueled by the preaching and teaching at her church and her home school education. Minor character flaws are blown up into transgressions against a thrice-holy God. If she really does have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem, then she need not passively, obediently wait for God to fix her. She is not weak, nor broken, and it is within her power to change her ways. Prideful? Stop! Resentful? Stop! Arrogant? Stop!
Far too many Evangelicals go through life thinking they are helpless, broken people who need God’s help to do anything. This kind of thinking makes them weak and passive, always waiting for God to forgive them, deliver them, show them a better way, or give them strength. Instead of relying on self, they are taught to rely on a non-existent God who supposedly never leaves them or forsakes them and sticks closer to them than a brother. They are reminded that the Bible says:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6)
They are also reminded that Jesus said in John 15:5:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Evangelicals are told, You can’t do ANYTHING without Jesus. He is your strength. The very breath you have comes from him. Don’t trust your own reasoning, don’t trust the reason of any mere human. Trust God, lay your life at his feet, and let him direct your life. Remember, Jesus said we are to deny self. We don’t matter. Jesus is the end all. Jesus taught us to pray, God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. Not our will, but his.
This is why uncounted Evangelicals are waiting for God to change them, correct them, or show them what to do. Marriage problems? Out of work? Health problems? Job problems? Conflict with children, spouse, coworker, neighbor, or friend? Financial trouble? Just wait and let God show you the way. Just wait and God will return your phone call. Just wait and God will use his mighty wonder-working power to conform your life into the image he wants it to be. And while they are waiting, life continues to move forward. Waiting on God becomes an excuse, a way of sidestepping personal responsibility, a way of ignoring character flaws.
Every one of us are responsible for our own behavior. There’s no God fix coming for what ails us. If it is important to us to be good, to treat others with decency and respect, then we will do what’s necessary to make these things happen. I have little patience for the prayers of the helpless. They have been neutered by religious teachings that have robbed them of their will. Taught to deny self, they trust in a deity that has no power to help them. The only person that can change ME is the person staring at me in the mirror.
I am not against waiting, thinking, or meditating before making a decision. Haste is just as bad as passivity. When I need to make a decision or change something in my life, I try to give the matter careful consideration. But, when I act, it is me acting, not some outside source of power. As a humanist, I recognize that the buck stops with me and my fellow Homo sapiens.
This is the twenty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus Saves by Slayer, an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California.