1) I go to church for my kids, so they grow up to be good people. It’s how you raise your kids. I teach them to say their prayers before bed, but when I go to bed, I just hit the sack.
2) It’s what my community does and expects. I should go.
3) Good people go to church. God sees me. I’m a good person because I go to church.
4) Hey, you can’t go to heaven if you don’t go to church and maybe give a little money once in awhile for the offering.
5) You enjoy the dress-up and take your Bible, but the only time you actually open the old book is while at church. You’ve got other stuff during the week you have to do.
6) God’s great, but I don’t really have time for him outside of church. I believe He exists, but I’m doing pretty good without Him right now.
7) Seriously, I know the Bible talks about this guy, but the Holy Spirit just kind of scares me. Why can’t I just keep the kid’s Bible? I mean, all the stories are fun and God just kinda loves us and leaves us be until we need him, right?
These are not the only characteristics of being an American Christian, but they are some of the biggest. And while you might not abide them all, if this describes your approach to God, lemme tell you, you’re not approaching Him at all.
God is an intelligent being who built the Earth, Moon, Sun and Stars so that you might have a place He could get to know you in. Do you imagine for one moment that your visit to a building once a week to sing songs from out a little book and paying him half-hearted lip service to your children before going to bed is, in any real way, inviting him into your home and heart?
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you’d have better stories to tell your children. He died so that you would be humbled on your knees for the cost of his sacrifice that no one had to perish and spend eternity outside God’s presence!
If you’re just trying to get by with God, consider this:
He has promised to help you through life. He has promised life more abundantly. He will never forsake us, will develop us as people, will change hearts, free us from addictions, pains and regrets, and loves us so much more than we will ever love ourselves.
You’re trading real freedom of the soul — freedom from worry, doubt, past wrongs and pains, broken relationships, anger, hate, fear, concern, stress, etc. — for an empty shell of a religion. Christianity doesn’t work as a religion — it’s a relationship.
How could this be?
One of the main purposes of the Old Testament was to prove to the world that religion and merit have no place in God’s plans. We can’t do it ourselves! There is no great formula to getting to heaven because no matter how hard we try, we will NEVER be good enough on our own merit. Period, end of story. The Old Testament showed a people clashing over and over again with EFFORT and FAILING.
“So if we can’t earn our way to heaven through following his laws and he doesn’t want us treating it like some kind of religion, then what, pray tell would you have us do, Christian?”
First of all, stop treating God like a weekly visit to Dairy King. He’s an intelligent, living being who’s been more patient with you than you have with the person who hurt you most, your spouse or your children. Start talking to him and listen to Him — He speaks through your heart, your mind, your ears and in your life. If you keep your eyes open, you can see him shift things and set things in place that no number of coincidences could handle so deftly. Share your day with him by just talking to him, out loud in the car, in the kitchen, at home.
Second: Read the Bible and BELIEVE it! “Oh, well, I believe this and this happened, but hey, many men wrote this book, and man is just human.” Have you ever considered that it’s easier to discredit one man than a hundred? God created a book that uniformly rounds off a complete understanding of his words, used a number of different people to prove that his message doesn’t come from one man with epilepsy, but a single spirit moving from author to author to show how awesome his power is! The real excuse isn’t that man wrote it or that multiple people wrote it. Your excuse actually complete baloney, and you just don’t want to read it, you don’t want to put yourself out, you don’t want to have to exercise faith for the same reason people stay out of politics — they think remaining aloof of a certain position keeps them out of the fight. Tell that to the enemy on your doorstep who’s come to kill, steal and destroy.
And if you don’t feel you can understand the Bible, go get some books that talk about describing the Bible to people just starting to read it. Try “66 Love Letters,” available from your local bookstore or Amazon.
Third, surrender to God. If you haven’t already accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, it’s time. And if you think having attended church your entire life is enough, think again. Accepting the Christ must be an act of humility — its says from the heart: “Hey, I recognize I can’t do this alone, that I’ve come up short of God’s law and have sin in my heart. I can’t earn my way into heaven, the only thing I have now is God’s grace to save me through faith, not by works.”
Then, if you have accepted Christ, it’s time to surrender everything else. That means giving up responsibility to every single thing in your life and trust that responsibility with God. That doesn’t mean stop working or paying bills or taking care of your children or long-term financial responsibility. That means surrendering how you feel about it. You see, the person in charge is the person who worries about how it’s going to get done. So long as you worry, you’re telling God and everyone else: Hey, I’m in charge. But surrendering is about giving up the right to those feelings, because when you surrender to God, it’s HIS job to do that worrying, if God was to worry. Surrender it, then you HAVE to leave it on the altar! You can’t come back when you want to get stressed on how something’s going to get done. That’s telling God: Hey I’ve got this, I don’t need you.
Sorry folks, God didn’t ask for a little piece of you. He wants all of you. He’s like a husband in love with his wife — he wants EVERYTHING. He wants her body, her spirit, her soul, her mind, her voice, her heart, and since he is a good husband, he will take care of her (OUR) every need. We cannot go to him and say: Hey, I’ve got the house payment, when He knows full well we don’t have the experience or resources he has. He made us intelligent and capable, but he also made us dependent, and no one gets through this life alone.
There is so much more to say, but I’ll leave that for another day. Please, if you read this and you felt struck that you’re an American Christian, I think it’s time you considered a real relationship with God. Your inside-life will grow rich and full. There’s nothing else on Earth that compares with knowing the Living God of the Universe. Trust me. I know firsthand. Of all my posts, I have the most experience with pursuing God. Successful or not, and certainly not perfect, my journey has been an interesting one. But God is worth more than your house, your spouse, your kids, your job … if you can get right with God, God will get everything else right with you. But if you try to do it without Him, it will pile up on you and you will see no way out.
Good night, ya’ll.