Cultural Christianity? There is a better way forward-Part 2

Cultural Christians deserve our pity (though they probably don’t think so) and our help. They are in the unenviable position of believing they have something spiritually genuine when in fact they have only a social veneer instead of true faith. Please don’t get me wrong – I don’t blame them. In many ways it’s not their fault. The vast majority have been influenced by Bible-denying, Christ-diminishing, sin-tolerating, supernatural-rejecting ministers of all types and stripes.

Professor Chad Walsh commented about this type of Christian: “It is much safer, from Satan’s point of view to vaccinate a man with a mild case of Christianity, so as to protect him from the real thing.”

But there really is a much better way forward. We can always embrace true Christianity.

The faith of a true Christian involves three issues: repentance from sin, a belief in Jesus, and following Jesus’s commands and teachings.

Jesus preached on repentance (Matt. 4:17), the apostles likewise (Acts 3; 19-20), and the early church carried it on. To repent is essentially to change your mind. It means to change your mind about Jesus himself and to change your mind about sin. A person must turn from thinking of Jesus as mere man and see him instead as Lord. We all need to quit thinking that sin is normal and natural. Rather we should view it as the breaking of God’s law and a missing of God’s best for our lives. Abusive anger, jealousy, stealing, coveting, sexual immorality of all kinds, swearing, rebellion against parents, human trafficking, and all injustice committed against our fellow man must be seen as offenses against God. We are called to admit the evil of all such actions and to have an attitude of wanting to turn away from everything that defiles soul and body. Repentance is not just an intellectual response – it always includes an element of sorrow and remorse for our misdeeds.

Why is the call to repentance so crucial? Until we see our sinful actions and thoughts as truly wrong and rebellious against God we will see no need whatsoever for a Saviour. We will see no need for him to save us from past guilt and present bondage to sin. Sadly, we all have gotten so used to sin and sinning that it appears to be a natural part of human existence – it is not. It was never part of God’s original creation. It is a kind of deadly virus that must be dealt with by God himself. He has done just that in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

What happens when ministers fail to teach the necessity of repentance? Unwitting people conclude that sin and breaking of God’s law is not a big deal. So, while they in one way or another may believe in Christ, they have no understanding Jesus calls them to live a transformed life. Previous generations of Christians were taught to change their mind about sin and turn from it as they embraced Christ. But, in many parts of the Christian church today, even among some evangelicals, this is largely a lost teaching.

The end result is that myriads of people are in the church who claim the name of Christ and yet their lives look no different from their atheist neighbour. A dramatic case in point concerns the notorious pornographer, Larry Flynt, publisher of the pornographic, Hustler magazine. Sometime in the 1970’s Flynt supposedly converted and started including Christian content in his porno magazine. No, it didn’t last long as he quickly abandoned his new found faith. But here’s my question? Why did no one ever tell him the truth about repentance? How could he ever have professed Christian conversion thinking that somehow it would make him a better pornographer? This bizarre incident could never, never have happened if he had been told that God calls us to turn from sexual immorality and to keep sex within the bonds of lawful marriage.

Today, we live in a hyper tolerant culture. A whole lot of immoral behaviour is regarded as normal and acceptable and woe betide the person who dares to say that God calls us away from sin.

Nevertheless true Christianity has no option. We must fully embrace, preaching and teaching the turning away from sin even as we call for a turning to Christ.

In part III of this series we will next turn to what it means to truly believe in Christ.

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