Why is there no “fruit” or results from American Christianity in our nation? Why doesn’t Christianity have a larger, more-redemptive role in our crumbling civilization including in the U.S.A.? Maybe because what people consider to be Christianity isn’t really Christianity at all. Society understands a Christianity that has nothing to do with actual Christianity.
God is love, the Bible tells us. 1 John 4:8. Yet love is not the gospel. Motivated by His vast love for each and every one of us and all humanity (both individually and collectively at the same time) God died on the cross at Calvary in the form of Jesus Christ. We are saved by God’s grace, not by our own works, because God loves us.
But our own human love as human beings for other human beings has nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel. In spiritual terms, human love cannot make even one hair on someone’s head either black or gray. Human love cannot move a speck of dust one inch (in the spiritual world).
The vast majority of alleged Churches (which I believe are social clubs guilty of trademark infringement) insist upon making a curious error. Jesus was very clear:
Matthew 22: “36 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Yet the vast majority of alleged Christians occasionally attending alleged Churches violently reject the first and embrace only the second. How can one claim to be a Christian and yet fail to recognize what the Founder and heart of Christianity tells us is the greatest commandment of all?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Most Americans take a pair of scissors and cut out Matthew 22:36-38 and every similar passage from the Bible. They furiously insist that Christianity is exclusively about human love and compassion for other humans.
Salvation from sin is the gospel. The message and method of being redeemed from our sins by the voluntary, willing, intentional death of God Himself, taking on the form of a man named Jesus Christ is the gospel. And salvation from sin through the one and only Savior Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of Christianity. Salvation leaves every other issue in the dust by a thousand miles.
Yet Christianity is vastly broader than just the gospel alone. Christianity touches every aspect of life and encompasses how we live in every respect – at least potentially, for those who are faithful to apply Christian teachings throughout their lives. (A Christian is required to do so, but almost nobody does.)
The gospel is the heartbeat of Christianity. But the gospel and Christianity are not the same thing. Without the gospel, there can be no Christianity. But living life as a Christian is not the gospel.
Giving to the poor is not the gospel. It is a teaching of Christianity. It is not the gospel, however. No one will ever be saved from sin or gain entrance to heaven by giving to the poor. (And by “giving” we should always include any kind of help, whether monetary or practical. It may be far better to volunteer one’s time to help a person find a job or repair their car than to donate money.)
If a person could give the entire wealth of the universe to the poor, it would still be less than the total amount of their debt to God as a result of their sin. Giving all the wealth of the world to the poor would still only be a drop in a bucket compared to the sin we have committed against God. Our sin is a debt we can never repay and it is foolish to fantasize that we can “work off” our debt to God. We are hopelessly lost without a Savior.
And yet we hear many, many major Christian leaders casually talking about charity as being the gospel. Dare I say the “P” word without distracting from the point? We are lied to and told that compassion is the gospel, including ignoring the sins of promiscuity and homosexuality. But Jesus always warned “Go and sin no more.”
I’m not saying you should throw away 95% of the Faux Christian music that dominates the allegedly Christian radio stations. But you might seriously consider it. Our culture is swamped with the idea that human love is the gospel or Christianity. Glaringly absent from our culture, our churches, and Faux Christian radio stations most of the time is…. God.
It’s all about us. Hmmm… Isn’t that the origin of our sin problem to start with? The sinful nature’s view that everything is all about us. Isn’t that what gets us into the sin problem? Yet we propose a Christianity as a solution to our sin which – once again – is all about us.
Let’s have some real fun:
James 1: “2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
And Hebrews 12: “5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
Oh, swell. God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. God’s idea of love includes putting us through fiery trials. And we are to rejoice when God sends us through the fire. God scourges every – that is, every – son (or daughter) He loves. Remember that “scourge” means to whip with a whip that includes bits of metal that tear into the skin. Jesus was scourged by the Roman soldiers in this way. Not sure how I feel about that. Not loving that.
I remember as a new Christian getting very upset while stuck in traffic driving around the Beltway on the southern edge of Washington, D.C. I was on my way to a Friday night prayer meeting, which I felt I desperately needed to attend. All of my worries and frustrations were wrapped up in learning from God in this Christianity totally new to me what to do in some immediate decisions staring me in the face and my need to get a job to pay my bills. So I was getting upset.
But I remembered the admonition to be anxious for nothing but to let our requests be known to God. So I talked to God while driving the car and admitted to God that I was very frustrated and having a very bad attitude – while heading to a prayer meeting. And I asked for His help. God spoke to me very clearly in my heart, in my car: “To Me, this is beautiful.”
What??? I was astonished. I am feeling tormented by insecurities, frustrations and fears, afraid I will miss the prayer meeting and the answers I need – immediately – about what to do for work and career. And God says it is “beautiful?”
God explained: “You see yourself in the middle of this situation. But I see you coming out the other side, with better character and growing faith. And that is beautiful to Me. I see what you are becoming by going through these trials.” Now, I still don’t like trials, despite God’s lovely words. But I am trying.
So God is not about the kind of selfish “It’s all about me” love that American society supposes. Millions of Americans have turned their back on God because they once prayed for their pet not to die or some other demand they presented to God. But Christian leaders are failing their flock and society by giving a false understanding of Christ. The kind of love that affirms people in their sin is not the gospel.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.