We live in an age where people think “faith” or “faith beliefs” should be kept private…personal. A more blunt way of putting this is, “keep your beliefs to yourself…” This, to me, is an easily understood sentiment when it comes from those who are enemies of the gospel. However, it is a very difficult opinion for me to reconcile when I know it is coming from an individual who aligns themselves with the Christian faith.
George Barna, founder and leader of the Barna Group, has recently published a book titled The Seven Faith Tribes. This work represents twenty-five years of research to identify the major beliefs of faith and philosophy of the inhabitants of America. A striking statistic for me is that four of five Americans consider themselves Christians (although what defines a Christian is loosely interpreted based on and determined by the individual interviewed). This number is striking because it says that eighty percent of our society aligns itself with the God who is described in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Consider the state of our country…
- Consumer debt at an all-time high
- Single-parent families are common and accepted in our society
- Violence and sex are two of our largest entertainment draws
- Alcohol and substance abuse are ever-increasing problems
- Questions and debates over the sanctity of life continue to plague us (abortion, selective birthing, euthanasia, etc.)
I think the list could go on, but these come to me off the top of my head… I read the Bible regularly and do not see this list above as representative of what I read and study from Scripture. It is odd to me that eight of ten Americans consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ and yet our society does not reflect his teachings and the subsequent teaching of his disciples.
Perhaps one of the reasons can be found in so many of the eighty percent (according the Barna surveys in The Seven Faith Tribes) believing that “Religion is a private matter in their eyes, not something to be constantly talked about or aggressively shared with those whose lives have no direct connection with God. They read the Bible for solace more than instruction, and they take pleasure in its culturally accepted principles rather than admonition from its higher expectations of how to live.” (pp. 37-38)
Jesus said; “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on. You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
I also appreciate the words of John Wesley and consider what he writes as a more accurate analysis of the state of our country. He writes:
It is impossible for any that have it to conceal the religion of Jesus Christ. This our Lord makes plain beyond all contradiction by a twofold comparison: “Ye are the light of the world…” Your holiness makes you as conspicuous as the sun in the midst of heaven. As ye cannot go out of the world, so neither can you stay in it without appearing to all mankind… So impossible it is to keep our religion from being seen, unless we cast it away… Sure it is, that a secret, unobserved religion cannot be the religion of Jesus Christ. Whatever religion can be concealed is not Christianity.
UPDATED – After posting this entry, I read today’s devotional from Oswald Chambers’, My Utmost for His Highest, and found similar thoughts that were worth sharing. Chambers’ comentary and writing follow:
“Walk while ye have the light lest darkness come upon you.” John 12:35
Beware of not acting upon what you see in your moments on the mount with God. If you do not obey the light, it will turn into darkness. “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” The second you waive the question of sanctification or any other thing upon which God gave you light, you begin to get dry rot in your spiritual life. Continually bring the truth out into actuality; work it out in every domain, or the very light you have will prove a curse.
The most difficult person to deal with is the one who has the smug satisfaction of an experience to which he can refer back, but who is not working it out in practical life. If you say you are sanctified, show it. The experience must be so genuine that it is shown in the life. Beware of any belief that makes you self-indulgent; it came from the pit, no matter how beautiful it sounds.
Theology must work itself out in the most practical relationships. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees . . .” said Our Lord, i.e., you must be more moral than the most moral being you know. You may know all about the doctrine of sanctification, but are you running it out into the practical issues of your life? Every bit of your life, physical, moral and spiritual, is to be judged by the standard of the Atonement.