I am exploring the issue of people who call themselves a Christian, go to church, and read their Bibles but are not spirit-filled believers. What are some reasons for why Christianity has spiritless religious people?
Many times the word Christian is used as an adjective. “That was the Christian thing to do.” Usually people mean when doing a good thing, is they are imitating the actions of Jesus Christ. The next step is to believe that’s what it means to be a Christian. They think all you have to do is act like Jesus and you’re in. This is not taught in Christianity.
As many have said, “Christianity is not a do religion, it is a done religion.” Doing good works will never earn someone heaven. It is a “done” religion because salvation comes from what Jesus has already done on the cross and not what we can do. The Apostle Paul writes, Galatians 2:16 “…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” We become right with God through faith and not by doing good works. Later Paul writes if we could become right with God through works, Christ died for nothing. Doing the Christian thing does not make you a Christian.
Others say they are Christians because they have at one time or another professed their faith in Jesus Christ. It could be they walked down an isle at a church or signed a card when the pastor made a salvation call. As a kid they may have made a profession of faith in their Sunday school class or youth group. They associate this action with being a Christian. All you have to do is say right words and you will be in heaven.
The early church taught that salvation involved the entire person; mind, heart, and will. With our mind we believe the truth about Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. With our heart we feel a sorrow over our sin against God. We have rebelled against His rulership and only He can forgive us our sins. And last with our will trust Christ with our lives. That he is to rule in our hearts and our desire is to follow Him. The confirmation Jesus comes into our life comes through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As a result we become slaves to righteousness in response to this new power within us. We dedicate our lives to Jesus. This is what it means to make Jesus Lord. The Apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome, Romans 10:9-10 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” A Spirit-filled believer is the only true follower of Jesus Christ. Those without the spirit, you may say the right things, do some of the rights things, but you are not a follower of Christ. A changed life, one that moves towards being like Jesus, is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus addressed this issue in his famous parable of the soils in Matthew 13:3-9 and the explanation in verses 18-23. Jesus compared a sower spreading seeds over different types of soil which yielded different results. In three of the examples the growing plant either doesn’t get started or it later died. However, the good soil was one that grew abundantly. He then transitions from farming and planting seeds to people who listen to the preaching of the gospel. In the immediate context the sower was Jesus preaching, but in the broader context it could represent anyone who shares the gospel. The seed was the word of God being preached to others. The four soils represented different listeners who heard the word of God preached to them.
The first soil was hard and rocky and the seed was snatched away by birds representing rejection of the message. Many people reject the gospel and are under the control of Satan, who is the evil one keeping them from accepting the truth. The second soil is represented by a thin upper layer, preventing the plants from establishing deep roots. This person emotionally is excited about the gospel and receives it but as soon as affliction or persecution arises he turns his back and rejects it. The third soil is one that seems to take root but weeds and thorns grow around the plant and chokes it out. This person allows the worry of the world and pressures take away any full commitment to following the word. Finally, the fourth soil the seed falls on good ground that produces a great crop. This represents the only true spirit-filled believer who hears and understands the word and puts it into action. This life produces many good fruits.
Many religious persons are the second and third soils. They hear the word, accept it and then show no fruit in their lives. They are religious and will do things to earn God’s approval but without the spirit of Christ. God is not impressed. When problems arrive they are quick to reject what they say they accepted. This is why the persecuted church in certain countries around the world has very few religious people. A full spirit-filled commitment is needed to withstand threats of death or torture.
I heard a missionary living in a country hostile to Christianity say he had never heard the phrase, “backsliding Christians.” A backsliding Christian is one who lives like the world, celebrating and participating in sinful practices. However, over a period of years and the persecution against the church became nonexistent; this phrase became common place in their church. Why? Without the worries of putting your life on the line, the religious believers felt comfortable returning to the church.
I hope you can see why I told my kids not to be religious; either believe and follow the truth or reject it. Don’t go through the motions.
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