Published Saturday, November 24, 2012
By DANIEL AUSBUN
First Baptist Church, Moreland
The story is too common. As a child you went to church, attended Sunday School, read your Bible, received baptism when 8 years old, grew up in church and then as a teenager or young adult — you openly got involved in sin, dropped out of church, sold your Bible on eBay and God was no longer an importance in your life.
Sometime in your late 20s or 30s, you heard the message of Christianity at a new church, claimed you didn’t understand your commitment as a child, received baptism again, and now you live for the Lord.
How can someone grow up in church and miss the Gospel? Acts 20:30 warns us about deviant doctrines – and these people will come from within, people we know, love and trust. You must ask yourself, have I missed Christianity’s purpose? Next month is Christmas, and believers will celebrate the birth of Jesus. Why did God have to become a man to die?
If you believe Jesus came to earth for you to be saved, for you to serve God, and you to go to heaven with Him – you’ve missed Christianity’s purpose. Christians fill our churches believing that Jesus came for them and somehow we can earn God’s favor and justify ourselves before Him by virtue of our behavior. Christianity’s purpose isn’t about your self-fulfillment – believing God left some clues behind (the Bible) and if we find them it will lead to becoming the best we can be – growing up talking about Jesus and doing good while avoiding evil. Religious instruction teaches with discipline and hard work you will succeed. This is an assumed Christianity. Jesus was constantly challenging these assumptions (Matthew 23:13).
The purpose of Christianity is God became man. All of your church attendance, religious activities, journals, prayers and quiet times are in vain without Christ. Romans 8:1 tells us we’re not condemned because we’re in Christ Jesus. This means you’re saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did on the cross and through the resurrection. If you add or subtract from the cross, even if it is to favor a biblically mandated religious practice like prayer, Bible reading or evangelism, you rob God of His glory and His sufficiency.
Christ has set you free from the law of sin. This means your sin in the past: forgiven. Your current struggles: covered. Your future failures: paid in full by Jesus’ death on the cross.
Many Christians have it backwards. We attend church to hear about and share what we’ve “done” or will “do” for the Lord. The message of Christianity has been one and the same for 2,000 years: Jesus came, died, and rose again so we can be saved. Apart from the Lord, there is no salvation.
There are three dangers Christians fall into when attending church and discussing God. First, we miss God’s grand mission. Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). This is not only personal, rather universal. He wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). God is seeking lost people (Luke 19:10).
The second danger to Christianity is a rationalized faith. A Christian has a faith to live, not information to be learned. Bible knowledge does not always equal maturity. If someone tells you God healed them, and the first thing you think, “I don’t know, she did have a good doctor.” Technology, science, medicine, and math all contribute to rationalizing God.
The third danger Christians must guard against is a self-centered Gospel. You can fall to the point when you don’t need God in your spiritual life or church. A well-organized and well-promoted ministry or event can “succeed” without God. The frightening danger of self-centeredness is you could live for years claiming to be saved, yet have never become desperate or dependent upon God.
This Christmas season, guard yourself against missing God’s grand mission, rationalizing Christianity, and developing a self-centered Christian faith.