For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge~ Romans 10:2 NIV
It’s been a week.
It all started last Sunday night when the overlords at Facebook decided my last not-at-all-political blog post was way too political and refused to promote it. This seriously irritated me and I am not easily daunted when I’m seriously irritated about something. So, I dug through the archives, unearthed an older post, made some edits, published the older post and got the-powers-that-be to promote that one instead.
The older post was about sex and how Christian attitudes towards sexuality have evolved over the course of the last five decades. I stated in the post that I am convinced that the majority of Christians today believe what most non-Christians in the 1970’s and 1980’s believed about sex: that the rightness and wrongness of sex is determined not by a spiritual or legal commitment (marriage) but rather by a feeling of “being in love”. My theory is backed-up by the fact that sixty-four percent of adult Christians surveyed no longer believe it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage.
An astute reader asked the following question:
“Has anybody bothered to ask the 64% of Christians aged 18-59 surveyed if they are aware of the Scriptures that explicitly condemn fornication (sex outside of marriage)? And, then, if they ARE aware of them, why they feel they have the right to IGNORE those Scriptures?”
This rather insightful inquiry got me thinking about why we are where we are today. Not just concerning sexuality but a whole lot of other issues as well. It is simply a fact that our church pews are filled with Christians who claim to love Jesus who, are for whatever reason, not taking their cues on how to live life from Jesus (John 8:31, John 8:51, 2nd John 1:9). The biggest problem with disobedience to God’s commands is that it halts our growth as believers and keeps us stuck in a state of worldly immaturity. This hurts everyone. It hurts those inside the church because new believers do not have mature role models to follow. It hurts those outside the church because it’s almost impossible for Christians to effectively lead others to a faith they don’t follow. Disobedience hurts the struggling Christian because they never experience the full joy of knowing and obeying Jesus and never become all they could be in Jesus. This leaves many believers feeling unfulfilled and frustrated in their faith.
It’s convenient to blame outside factors like secular sex education and sketchy entertainment for problems inside the church. However, we have free will and outside factors cannot force anyone to do anything they don’t really want to do. I am convinced there are at least four totally fixable reasons many Christians struggle to effectively live out Christian ethics and values. Including:
We do not use our time well-
There are 168 hours in every week and 672 hours in the average (four week) month. The majority of church services are precisely one hour long. The average self-identified “committed Christian” attends church 1.2 times a month. Sunday school is no longer a thing in most churches and most small groups are more about friendship than Bible study. Moreover, according to a study done by Lifeway only twenty percent of “committed Christians” read or listen to the Bible daily. Conversely, the average adult spends twenty hours a week surfing the internet, five hours a day watching television and ninety minutes a day staring mindlessly at their phone. It should not shock anyone that we have forgotten how to think biblically, Christian teaching is not a primary influence in our lives anymore (Hebrews 10:24-25, 1st Corinthians 15:33).
Fearing God is not a thing anymore-
The whole notion of fearing God is thought to be rather strange and antiquated these days. We have been taught ad nauseum that the entirety of all Christian teaching can and should be summed up with “love God” and “love people” However, we have forgotten that we are commanded more times in Scripture to fear God than we are told to love Him. Loving God is noble, good and absolutely essential but we need to remember that fearing God is equally as noble, good and no less essential. Fearing God is also the first step to acquiring wisdom and the key to living a life that pleases God (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 2:5, Proverbs 14:27). Fearing God simply means that we really believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do.
There’s a lot of biblical ignorance in the Church-
One reason Christians don’t do what the Bible says is because they don’t know what the Bible says. It is tempting to lay the blame for this one squarely at the feet of pastors, but I am not sure that is entirely fair. It is true that most churches have adopted a “seeker friendly” model where little emphasis is placed on doctrine, discipleship or the teaching of Christian ethics during Sunday morning services. However, it is also true that we live in a time and place where everyone has access to Bibles, commentaries on Scripture and books about the Bible. Biblical ignorance is truly a choice in our day and age (Proverbs 1:29, Matthew 13:12, 2ndPeter 1:5-7).
Too many of us get spiritually stuck after salvation-
God never intended for salvation to be the end goal of all things spiritual in the life of a Christian. Rather, salvation is meant to be the starting place of a lifelong journey of ever increasing faith and transformation (Matthew 28:19-20). In recent years the whole notion of discipleship has taken a backseat to evangelism. We must focus on both.
Like it or not, getting unstuck matters, because what we do and how we choose to behave as Jesus followers matters because God has called His people (you and me) to be a preserving influence in the culture (Matthew 5:13-16, 1st Peter 2:12). When we do what God tells us to do, people who don’t know God want to know God. When we don’t, those same people rightly dismiss Christianity as just another religion that lacks the power to change anyone or anything. The good news in all of this is that we can change what the world thinks.
All we have to do is submit to God.