What is genuine Christianity—in other words, what does God say it really is? Moreover, why is Christianity increasingly falling into disrepute in today’s society, and what can be done about it? Though these two issues may seem unrelated, the second is actually a consequence of a misunderstanding of the first.
“But you have not so learned Christ.” (Ephesians 4:20)
In order to understand what genuine Christianity is, we must look at the big picture. Matthew 1:21b says of Jesus, that “He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus came to pay the penalty for the world’s sins on the cross, but His mission is so much more than that—He came to literally save us from our sins. Ultimately this will be accomplished when we are resurrected by Him to live in the absence of even the presence of sin, but in this world, those who are His are to increasingly abstain from sin. I John 3:5-6 says, “And you know that He was manifested [He came, He was revealed to us] to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” The reason Jesus came to earth is to do away with sin—to forgive the sins done, and to free us in the here and now to live holy lives. Yet, much of Christianity today has misunderstood the interrelationship between sin and forgiveness, and this gives the secular culture around us opportunity to berate Christianity.
Hebrews 10:19-31 says;
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest [to approach the presence of God] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh [because of Christ’s death on the cross] and having a High Priest over the house of God [to intercede for us—Jesus], let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Because of what Jesus did for us and because He intercedes for us before the Father, we can boldly approach God.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day [Judgment Day] approaching.” We are encouraged to persevere and to encourage others to continue obeying God. But why should we do this? Why not just let ourselves to get sucked into everything others around us are into?
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The reason we are to persevere in obedience—in the Christian walk—is because there is a moment of accountability for each of us when we will have to stand before the righteous God, and we don’t want to be guilty of having rejected the salvation God has provided through Christ.
“Sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth” is frequently taught to be rejecting Christ after being presented with the salvation message, but it is important that we rightly understand what “rejecting Christ” means. Rejecting Christ means rejecting the full package deal of what salvation is and what it entails–in other words, rejecting God’s entire plan of salvation. You can’t accept what you like and refuse what you don’t. For example, you cannot accept Him as your Savior, but not as your Lord, because that’s not how salvation works–picking and choosing is not Biblical. Accepting Jesus as Savior involves not only accepting Him as Savior from eternal punishment, but also as Savior from your sins in the here and now, which means you allow Him to work on your character to change you into the image of Christ through obedience to His Word.
Salvation really is a complete plan—a package deal for completely redeeming us from (getting us out of, completely buying us back from) the contamination of sin, thus it is of utmost importance that Christians today come to understand that any “salvation” that does not result in our transformation into people who obey God is not genuine salvation. Again, although it may make us feel better as we continue our sinful lives, any experience that does not lead to less sin in our lives is not salvation.
It is this misunderstanding of Biblical Christianity (which results in its misrepresentation to the secular culture) that has caused Christianity to be increasingly maligned in our world today. How can people have a good opinion of a religion whose adherents are equal to or worse than they? Why would they ever be drawn to the God behind a people like that?! Because we no longer teach the Bible in our public schools, the only thing an ever-increasing number of people do know is the well-publicized sins and failures of those who claimed to be Christians, but whose lives have shown otherwise.
Galatians 5:19-21 tells us, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders,drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If a person practices any of these things, he will not inherit God’s kingdom, regardless of what he verbally claims about his supposed salvation. The secular world, unfortunately, doesn’t know enough about Christianity to make this distinction, and condemns Christianity as a whole.
What drew the unsaved masses to Christianity in previous years was how different and un-worldly it was—in a good way. Those who were Christian were better than those who weren’t: they put others before themselves, sacrificing their own well-being for the well-being of others, forgave freely, and abstained from the pollution of the world around them. When a culture was converted, churches, schools, hospitals, and orphanages were built to educate and benefit others.
In contrast, today popular Christianity struggles with assimilation into the culture around it. Instead of refusing to do wrong and being salt and light to the sin-saturated world around us, we are playing with the very sins others indulge in. We hesitate to call sin what it is, instead coining the term “worldly Christians,” but Biblically there is no such thing. Continuing in unholiness is simply a rejection of God and His plan of salvation from sin through Christ. But what are we do about this?
The solution is the same as it has always been. It involves each and every follower of Christ faithfully reading and studying God’s Word, living according to it, and proclaiming it to those whose lives they touch. God has not changed; His Word has not changed; His Spirit has not changed. He promises in Isaiah 55:11, “so is My word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
We must be faithful to do our part, and trust Him for the result.
Thank You that if we sin, You are our Advocate with the Father; help us not trample You underfoot, count the blood of the covenant by which You were sanctified a common thing, or insult the Spirit of grace, but abide in You and avoid sin at all cost. Help us not misrepresent salvation to others. Amen.