During our years in campus ministry at a local university, my husband and I always looked forward to the month of June. June was the time of year we’d take a team of college students to Asia for six weeks of sharing the Gospel with students there who had often never heard the name of Christ. Those summers were sweet, challenging, and fruitful. In the area of Asia we ministered in, Tibetan buddhism and Islam were the dominant religions.
On our way to campus or the grocery store, it was not uncommon to see buddhist monks in long red robes or students moving buddhist prayer beads rhythmically through their fingers. On Fridays, streets were flooded with thousands of Muslim men hurriedly carrying prayer rugs to the massive mosque in the city center in order to make it to the call to worship in time. Up in the mountains, we would pass workshops of idol makers carving wood, hammering precious metals, or inlaying gold on hundreds of elaborate idols they had made to sell. It broke our hearts to see fellow image bearers of God turning to false, dead gods in hopes of finding life, earning favor, and vainly trying to work their way to a better afterlife.
How incredible that we, as Christians, serve the one true, living God!
Unlike the men bowing on prayer rugs in hopes of pleasing Allah, we know our God hears our prayers.
“The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” Pv. 15:29
Unlike the idol makers in the mountains, we know that our God is alive and can hear and speak.
“But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting king.” Jer. 10:10 & Psalm 115
Unlike the women spinning heavy prayer wheels hour after hour at the Tibetan Buddhist temple to earn favor with the gods, we know that we have been saved by grace through faith not as a result of our own works but of the work of Christ on the cross.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Because Jesus is fully God, He alone has the power and authority to save us from sin and eternal separation.
“For he rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:13-14
Because He is fully God, He alone can transform our hearts from dead to alive and free us and cleanse us from the bondage of sin!
But as I stroll through the college campus now and see happenings of our current Christian culture through men and women claiming to follow Christ, I am troubled. Although many claim to love and follow Jesus, it often seems that the teachings of popular Christian culture are not actually as different as we think from those of other religions that promote false gods. While most Christians would claim that Jesus is fully God, do our lives and actions reflect our claim? Or do our lives and actions more closely relate to those of the idol worship and prayer-bead spinning of those we met in Asia?
False religions fail to acknowledge that Jesus is fully God, but we fail to believe Jesus is fully God when we deny and reject His power to free us from sin. We fail to believe Jesus is fully God when we begin to follow and accept Christian influencers and teachers (or even our friends) who teach that anxiety cannot be overcome by Christ’s work on the cross. Or worry. Or sexual temptations and same-sex attraction. Or racism. Or sinful personality traits. Or anger and bitterness. Instead of confessing, repenting, and diligently fighting sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, we too often give up the fight, adopt a label, and fuse our sin with our identity. We justify and allow our sin to literally become a part of who we are.
“I am an anxious Christian. I’ve even been diagnosed with anxiety.”
“I just tend to be unmotivated and a little lazy…which makes sense because I’m a 9 on the enneagram.”
“I am a same sex attracted (SSA) Christian. It’s just who I am.”
“I am a racist Christian. I’ve read books and listened to talks by people of different cultures, but I’m still just a racist.”
This is not Biblical thinking.
There is no hope in this kind of thinking.
This kind of thinking goes against how God tells us in His Word we should live. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:6. A person cannot embrace and identify as their sin and be a Christian. We cannot love our sin without rejecting that Jesus is fully God. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:8
This kind of thinking worships a false imitation of Jesus…it worships a false god pretending to be Jesus. “For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many…For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as the mislead, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:5, 24. The true Jesus of the Bible is all-powerful, able to free us from any sin because He is victorious! God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us fight our sin, not to allow sin to become our identity. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Gal 5:16. Our fight against sin may be long and brutal. For some sin in our life the battle may continue for months, years, or a lifetime. But may the Holy Spirit help us and empower us to stay in the fight and not surrender to the many labels and identities popular Christianity has told us we can embrace.
What sin have you allowed to become a part of your identity?
What labels have you adopted?
If you were to fill in the blank of “I am a ______ Christian”, what would you put in the blank?
Are you worshipping the Jesus of the Bible? Or a false imitation of Him?
In the Bible we see God is able to change hearts, Jesus is fully God, and the life of a Christian must include turning from sin. No matter the sin you are fighting, there is power and forgiveness in Christ for those who confess and repent, and the Holy Spirit will help you fight! Let’s encourage one another in the hope we have in Christ!