There are some blunt, tell-it-like-it-is passages in the Bible. One that comes to mind is 1 John 2:19 - "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us." (ESV)
This is not merely a historical recounting by John, but a warning for us today: We must resist defining Christianity as anything other than a deep devotion to Christ, the fruit of which is a lifestyle of daily worship of him and active service in his kingdom.
We must always be evaluating the motivation of our hearts to be sure that the faith we live by is the true Christianity of the Bible, not an externalistic counterfeit that omits Jesus.
What are some of the characteristics of an externalistic, counterfeit, and Christ-less Christianity? I can think of three:
1. It Mistakes Commitment To Christianity For Commitment To Christ
The traditions of Christianity are engaging and exciting, and they should be. The danger is that they can function as a replacement for a relationship with Jesus. A cruel trick of the enemy is to make us feel most alive when we are participating in the culture of Christianity, rather than communing with Christ.
2. It Mistakes Biblical Knowledge For Biblical Wisdom
It's quite possible to grow in biblical literacy without growing in wisdom and holiness. I love studying the theology of the Word of God, but having worked for twenty years at one of the finest seminaries in the world, I have seen far too many rigorously trained students graduate as immature followers of Jesus.
3. It Mistakes Participation In Ministry Opportunities For A Christ-like Lifestyle
It's good and proper for the local church to organize various ministries for the body of Christ. However, disciples of Jesus are called to offer every aspect of their life to the Kingdom of God, not just those on the church calendar.
It's unbiblical for us to think of ministry as separate from life, as if we step out of one and into the other. Instead, we ought to live with a constant mentality that asks the question: "How can I, right here right now, be part of what God is doing on earth?"
If our Christianity is something less than a surrender of the thoughts and motives of our heart to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and a daily hunger for and pursuit of his transforming grace, then our faith will tend to get reduced to a system of tradition, philosophy, and activity.
Until the day we die, we are called to resist this externalistic, counterfeit, and Christ-less Christianity. We have been given the grace to do so, and the grace to desire something so much better - a soul-satisfying relationship with Jesus himself!
Paul David Tripp
- What are your favorite traditions, locations, institutions, sights, and sounds from the culture of Christianity?
- Are you at risk of celebrating the culture of Christianity more than your relationship with Christ? Think of specific dangers that you may be susceptible to.
- What protection can you put in place to ensure that your your quest for biblical knowledge is not void of a desire for personal holiness?
- What are your favorite ministry opportunities, scheduled by your church or Christian group?
- Where is God calling you to live with a ministry mentality outside of those organized events? (The answer is everywhere, but be specific - at work, with a neighbor, at the local store, etc)