1) They move Christ from being Lord to being a Label
As Christians, we live in a world driven by materialism and consumerism. We find ourselves in a culture that defines our relationships and actions primarily through a matrix of consumption. The challenge is when we approach Christianity as consumers rather than seeing it as a comprehensive way of life, an interpretive set of beliefs and values, Christianity becomes just one more brand we consume along with McDonalds, Apple, and Gloria Jeans, to express identity. The resulting demotion of Christ from Lord to label causes Christians to frame up their walk with God from a consumerist mentality – which then means they view church as being all about them and their comfort.
The biblical idea then of sacrifice, serving, and obedience to Christ, seem so far outside their reality, that they internally negotiate these requirements of scripture away.
2) They fall for the message that preaches the deification of the individual.
In traditional societies – the group was the smallest unit in society and people’s identity came from being part of a community. Post Modernism has elevated the individual to god like status – where individual rights and freedom take precedence over community. Egocentricity is the new religion. The problem is that Christians bring this framework into the church. They want the church to be everything that suits their needs. The minute the church doesn’t completely meet their individual needs, they then fall into the trap of Point 1, and that is they act as consumers and go shopping for another church.
But in scripture I see that the purpose of the church is not to join in the worship of the individual but rather to bring spiritual formation to the individual within the context of community. When Jesus was teaching the Disciples to pray – he started off by saying “Our Father” – in other words, we meet God in community.
3) They become a convert to Christianity rather than a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
I think the Western Church is great at making converts, but I am not so sure about how good we are at making mature Disciples of Christ. The first two points in this blog are significant contributors to the lack of mature disciples within a church and leads to what Theologian Dallas Willard calls, Vampire Christians. The following is a quote from his book, The Great Omission.
Some years ago, AW Tozer, expressed his “feeling that a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles – the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need him as saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to him as Lord as long as we want to.” He then goes on to state – that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures.
This “heresy” has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a vampire Christian. One in effect who says to Jesus, I’d like a little of your blood please, But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, wont you just excuse me while I get on with my life and I’ll see you in heaven. But can we really imagine that this is an approach that Jesus finds acceptable.
And when you stop to think about it, how could one actually trust him for forgiveness of sins while not trusting him for much more than that.
As Christians we must ensure that we haven’t fallen into this heresy and only want a relationship with Jesus to get a ticket into heaven and reject everything else.
4) Christians use the fact that we cannot earn grace as an excuse for not energetically seeking to receive grace.
Many Christians I have spoken to, use the grace excuse for their slothfulness. “Well Jesus has done everything and I don’t want to sin by getting over into a works program.” And so they sit warming the pew, Sunday after Sunday, and that’s the entire contribution to the Kingdom of God. Reality is that having been found by God, we must then become seekers of an ever fuller life in Him. Grace is opposed to earning but not to effort. We need to understand that Spiritual Formation is an active term. In Acts 2:42-47 it illustrates this point
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[i]), and to prayer.
The early church disciples “devoted themselves”. They passionately got involved in church life and fellowship and in learning the teachings of Christ through the disciples.
5) They Practice selective Theology
I once preached on this concept and to illustrate the point, I ripped up a bible. One guy in the church in particular was aghast that I would do such a thing. Yet I see Christians doing this every week. The choose the bits in the bible that they want to ascribe value to and the other bits they choose to ignore, or if they are really clever, they will come up with crafty theological arguments that prove that they don’t really have to live by that particular part of the bible.
Problem with this concept is that it leads to spiritual deformity.
6) They make Incremental changes to Absolutes leading to boiled frogs
Everyone knows that if you put a frog in a pot of hot water, it will jump out. But if you put it into a pot of cold water and slowly increase the temperature, it will boil to death. I see Christians do this with the absolutes of the bible. They see things as black and white, but little by little, they change their views and they bring in a little bit of compromise similar to when Lot pitched his tents “toward Sodom”. And little by little, these incremental changes are like the temperature being turned up on the poor frog, the Christian doesn’t even realise that his faith walk is boiling to death.
Part of this is a concept known as Holy Relativism – where a Christian basis his personal holiness relative to those around him. This is so far outside of the biblical measure that it’s not even funny. But people do it, because it makes them feel good about the compromise they are currently living with.
My heart in writing this blog is to help Christians be mindful of the traps and pitfalls that are set before them.