Cultural Christianity? There’s a Better way Forward-Part 3

Have you heard about the Israeli man who applied for a restraining order against God? The unnamed petitioner at the Haifa Magistrate’s Court claimed God had, “been particularly unkind toward him.” Now he wants to bar God from messing with his life.

His action was extreme — it might even make us laugh. But lots of people who call themselves Christian actually do try and restrain God’s role in their lives. They’re okay with a little bit of God, but only a tiny slice, thank you. They practise what I call cultural Christianity.

In my last article on this theme I touched on three elements of genuine Christianity: repentance

, faith in Jesus, and following him. Having explored repentance in my last column lets now look at the other two elements.

Numerous passages in the New Testament call us to believe in Jesus (John 3:16, John 6:29, 35-40, Acts: 16:31-32). But what does the Bible mean by belief? It’s not merely intellectual assent, and it’s not just believing him for material things in this life.

I believe Donald Trump exists and that he has done and said certain things. I believe statements about him, but I don’t believe in him in the sense of wanting to be under him as President (assuming I lived in the USA). Believing in Jesus goes far beyond merely believing statements about him.

Many people have a kind of faith in Jesus that is limited to needs and difficulties of this world. What do I mean? They hope he will give them peace in times of stress. They hope for rescue from danger, and they hope he will watch over their finances. And they pray about these things. I’m sure you get the picture. Now please don’t misunderstand me. Trusting in Jesus to protect and act in the burdens, losses, and uncertainties of this world is not wrong — but it is woefully incomplete.

True belief recognizes that God sent Jesus into the world on a mission — to grant eternal life to people who didn’t deserve it (you and me). He completed his mission by dying a death he did not deserve and rising from the dead. True belief is always a personal faith. I must individually embrace this great exchange: I give my guilt and sin to Jesus, and Jesus, in exchange, gives me a healed relationship with God. After this, God no longer counts my sin against me. God and I are reconciled in a face to face relationship. I am now part of the family of God.

But how can we know if we are a true Christian or merely a cultural one? This brings us to the third element of true Christianity. Genuine Christians delight to learn and know the teachings of Jesus. True Christians are sincere followers of Jesus. They take joy in striving to obey even his hard commands (loving enemies

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, blessing those who curse us, forgiving those who offend us, avoiding sexual immorality, lying, stealing, abusive anger etc). They seek God’s will, however imperfectly, in all their decisions and dealings with people.

Cultural Christians want to live like they have a restraining order against God. They don’t want to live under the good commands and teachings of Christ.

True Christians, on the other hand, don’t want a restraining order against God — they welcome God’s good order, and his good rule to bring blessing and flourishing into every part of their daily lives.

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