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.
Categories: Theology, Topics to wrestle with, Wisdom for life
Something I have noticed as an older Christian is that the music ministry has taken priority in many churches…with Jesus coming in maybe third or fourth after the lead singer and the band…just sayin’…another subtly cooked frog!
While I agree with most, if not all of what you’ve written here, as I’ve seen it in churches throughout most of my life, I have to question – Whatever anyone reads in the bible, is it not each persons individual interpretation of what they read? I mean, what you have just said is your interpretation and how it pertains to your life and how you think it should pertain to others. What makes it right?
It’s a bit like reading those parenting books, what works for some doesn’t always work for others. Each human is different and I believe God talks and shows different things to different people. Yes there is a basic set of rules or so as not to sound religious, a basic set of boundaries. Everyone has them, some choose to leave the gate unlocked.
The one thing that keeps me out of a church is the pretentious people that are in them. Like the ones you have described above. But what human really has right to say that what I’m doing is wrong if they don’t know my heart with God? Isn’t what God knows, more important than what any human would think of me?
I like reading these posts because it allows me to ask the questions that no one seems to answer. I’d like to hear your view point Peter. When you have the opportunity of course.
Thats a great question Julie. I guess the bible is clear on what a mature disciple of Christ looks like. It is not man’s opinion of what he should look like, its biblical measure. What my blog is about, is the things that cause Christians to be tripped up in their faith journey and settle for far less than what the bible teaches. Its not about the failure as such as we all trip up and we are all on a journey. Its when we settle for less than what God wants for our lives and stay in that place and even to the point where we believe we are right. The bible is the absolute of our life.
but it was a man that wrote the bible from his perspective of what he saw. It’s been said that it was God inspired when the man wrote it but who says it was God that inspired him…or for that matter which god? How do we truly know other than what we truly feel and therefore because we truly believe it, each one of us believes we are right.
Julie – More good questions. I preached a sermon recently on How do we know that the bible is Authentic and True. I should get you a copy of the message. Are you interested?
You got me thinking Peter! I guess it says all along the bible about compromise and us settling for what is second best. In Exodus Pharaoh kept suggesting compromises to Moses (Ex10:11,24) – “Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord” and then goes on to say only “let your flocks and your herds be stayed”, all the while hoping to get people back into Egypt. Devil’s devious ways beguile an unsuspecting person from discipleship thru’ compromise. That is I suppose why Lord Jesus said we should carry our cross each day (Mt10:38) – to crucify everything that doesn’t exalt the kingdom and to follow after him.
Yes please Peter. Would like to hear your take on it.
Sadly, I must agree with your observations. It seems so few actualy study God’s Word, preferring to substitute opinion for the truth of Scripture. Acts 17:11 is unknown as a daily practice.
We have after church meetings on a Sunday evening at various peoples homes and out of about 15 of us, if more than one or two take their Bible in with them it is unusual and if those same one or two don’t steer the conversation around to the things of the Lord then spiritual things are never mentioned. I believe the reason for this is as I said earlier, “so few actually study God’s Word” One of the problems seems to be because the church has made it easier for members, in that they supply “church Bibles” so we don’t have to bother to bring our own, this means very few take notes or add notes to their Bibles and teaches a mind set that “Bibles” are for “church”
This lesson is has been a very helpful to me and I believe it’s going to be applied in my life and teach others.
Good job Peter.Keep the truth of God going.I don’t see how believers in Christ can say they do not need to attend church,when It is specifically commanded by God.Regardless of who attends the church we are supposed to love them all unconditionally,not judge them on there hypocrisy.Believers do not blame Jesus for the hypocrites in church,He came to expose them.God Bless,if you want to find a good church,look for one you can serve,not one that serves you,or you will be very dissapointed.