Monday, August 07, 2006

Are you playing the Christian Game?

The Christian Game
Jordan is a graceful blonde who is active in her church, has loving Christian parents, and is surrounded by wonderful Christian friends. She is gearing up for her first year at a well known Christian university. On the outside, her life seems perfect. But Jordan has a shameful secret. She is involved in an ongoing sexual relationship that no one knows about. She is living a secret life of compromise.

"I feel so far away from God right now," she whispered bitterly after explaining her dilemma to me. "I can't seem to stop sinning no matter how much I want to. I have prayed and prayed about this, but God never gives me any answers!

I really need to know something," Jordan pleaded desperately. "Does Christianity even work, or is it all just a fairy tale?"

Jordan is trapped in the Christian game.

And then there is Trent, a brainy history buff who wrote a lengthy email describing his spiritual struggle. Trent attended a Christian leadership retreat and got extremely excited about pursuing a deep relationship with Christ. But a few weeks after his return home, the passion faded.

"No matter how hard I try to grow in my walk with Christ," he lamented, "I just don't feel the fire. No matter what I do to stay pumped up spiritually, it just doesn't last." Trent attends church and studies his Bible, but inwardly he wallows in depression and disillusionment.

Trent is trapped in the Christian game.

How many of us have been in Jordan or Trent's position? We believe the right things, say the right things, and even do the right things, only to end up right back where we started: defeated, discouraged, and conquered by sin. We know the truth in theory, but it has no power to really transform our lives at the deepest level. We go through the motions of Christianity while secretly asking ourselves, Is this all there is?

We are trapped in the Christian game.

"Just Be Real" Christianity
Our generation has seen the hypocrisy of make-believe Christianity and, to put it mildly, we don't like it. Thousands of us are saying "Hasta la vista" to the playacting version of following God. While earlier generations were prone to super-stiff religiosity and legalistic formulas, many of us in this generation have headed in the opposite direction, determined to be real about our emotions, struggles, and failures.

This has led to a common form of imitation Christianity we call "just be real" Christianity. Don't get us wrong. Being real is important. Admitting that we aren't perfect is the first step towards discovering successful Christianity. But it isn't the final goal. Being real and finding a real Christian experience are two very different things.

Paul, a 23 year old Bible school student has decided to "be real" about his lustful addictions. "I'm hooked on pornography!" he blurts flippantly. "That's just the way it is. God knows I'm only human, and I'm not gonna beat myself up about it."

Tiffany, an 18 year old Christian, has chosen to be open about her burning anger toward her Creator. "I hate God sometimes," she boldly declares. "I wish I could scream in His face. He's treated me like garbage. And I think it's better to be honest about it than act like everything's fine."

The "just be real" version of Christianity removes the plastic bandage and exposes the infection underneath. But the "just be real" version doesn't allow the wound to be healed; it only acknowledges that the wound exists.

It is vital that we acknowledge the emptiness of the Christian game. But when we settle for the "just be real" version of Christianity, we are still miles away from the true Christian life. We admit defeat, but we never search for victory. We are honest about our problems, but we ignore the solution. We remain trapped in the Christian game.

"God Loves Me Anyway" Christianity
A common accessory to the "just be real" mind-set is the "God Loves Me Anyway" version of imitation Christianity.

The "God loves me anyway" attitude ignores God's command to "BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." It shies away from the sting of conviction. It buries the prick of guilt. And it treats every spiritual challenge that triggers even the slightest emotional discomfort as if it were the first symptom of the bubonic plague. And the pain of sin's havoc upon our soul is alleviated with smooth religious rhetoric.

Kelly grew up in a strict religious home; full of rules but devoid of unconditional love. In college, when Kelly began a serious romantic relationship with a worship leader named Damon, things began to turn around. She felt loved and accepted for the first time in her life.

Though Kelly and Damon had committed to save sex until marriage, one night in the heat of passion, they gave in to temptation. Afterwards, Kelly was plagued with intense guilt. She sat alone in her room for hours, crying with remorse over the mistake she and Damon had made. She knew she had let God down.

But the very next night, she heard a message at church that eased her mind. The pastor seemed to be speaking directly to her. "Christ doesn't condemn us," he declared with conviction. "He loves us just the way we are in all our sin and weakness. God doesn't expect us to be perfect. He knows we are stuck in the mire of our sinfulness. He knows we can't achieve a holy life."

Then the pastor told his listeners to close their eyes and simply receive God's unconditional love. As the worship team played a soft reflective melody, Kelly closed her eyes and felt a sense of relief flood her soul. She repeated the pastor's words that God loved her in spite of her failure, that He didn't expect her to be perfect.

And Kelly's guilt floated away like a cloud.

Since then, Kelly and Damon have maintained an ongoing sexual relationship. Kelly continues to push away any feelings of guilty by listening to inspiring messages about God's unconditional love. She convinces herself that God accepts her in spite of her mistakes and that He doesn't expect her to change.

Kelly, like so many in our disillusioned generation, has pitched her tent in the "God loves me anyway" camp. Though she is enslaved to compromise and defeated by sin, she has given up trying to overcome these obstacles. When it comes to her Christian walk, she doesn't even consider exploring the endless frontier of God's ways. She spends her energy reminding herself that God loves her in the midst of her miserable-but-forgiven state. And she has given up expecting anything more.

It's important to note that there is a thread of truth woven into the false foundation of the "God loves me anyway" attitude. It is true that God knows our sinful condition and loves us in spite of our failures. He is not looking down at us with angry eyes, burning with fury every time we make a mistake. He loves us more than we could ever comprehend.

But He loves us too much to leave us as we are.

Sin--the self-reliance and self-assurance at the core of our beings--is the very thing Jesus Christ came to this earth to conquer. And as long as this selfish rule is the controlling force within our souls, His mighty work on the cross two thousand years ago is rendered ineffective in our lives. While sin remains the ruler of our inner domain, we can never experience the true Christian life.

If we settle for the "God loves me anyway" approach to life, we will never experience more than a shallow, mediocre spiritual existence. We will remain under the thumb of sin's tyranny, trying to cover up our remorse with T-shirts that say, "I'm not perfect, I'm just forgiven."

God did not send His only Son to conquer sin and death on our behalf just so we could wallow in defeat and compromise while singing songs about His unconditional love. Jesus Christ died to give us true life--a life marked by a radiance and righteousness that transforms our entire existence.

"Professional" Christianity
Another modern pitfall is what could be called "Professional" Christianity.

Meet Mason, a 28 year old seminary graduate currently in search of a full-time pastoral position at a church. Mason knows Scripture better than most people know their own name. He believes all the right doctrinal truths. He even stands out to his non-Christian friends as a solid, moral guy who doesn't drink, do drugs, or sleep around.

But Mason's Christian life is hollow and self-constructed. There is nothing miraculous or supernatural about his spiritual existence. His aim in life isn't to climb God's holy mountain, but merely to live a life that is morally superior to those around him. He believes that God's expectations for his life equate to a little hill that can easily be tackled with some discipline and willpower.

Mason smirks at the concept of a God-written life. "God doesn't waste His time watching over us like a momma bear. He has better things to do. He doesn't care about the details of our lives. He just wants us to live morally and make good decisions."

Mason has pitched his tent in the "professional Christianity" realm. He has traded in the possibility of a radical pursuit of Christ for a predictable moral existence. He has baked Christianity down to a formula he can easily accomplish in his own strength.

All too many of us fall into the "professional Christianity" trap. We separate God from the details of our daily lives. We reduce our Christian walk to a set of reasonable guidelines to follow. We remove all the risk, passion, and radical obedience from our spiritual life. And we revel over the points we've scored in the Christian game.

Getting Out of the Christian Game
It's hard for us to admit when we are wrong. And it's especially hard for us to admit that we have bought into a cheap imitation of the true Christian life. But that's where the God-scripted adventure begins. Before a settler can be transformed into a pioneer, he must first become dissatisfied with his current surroundings. He must recognize his need for something better.

If you are ready to begin your pursuit into God's endless frontier, take some time to ask yourself these soul-searching questions:

* When it comes to knowing Christ, have I stopped growing and pitched my tent? Have I bought into an imitation version of following God?

* Have I settled for a "just be real" mind-set, admitting that I have problems but not believing that God can grant me victory over them?

* Have I settled for a "God loves me anyway" attitude, taking sin lightly and letting selfishness, rather than righteousness, rule my life?

* Have I settled for "professional Christianity," reducing God's expectations for my life to a set of reasonable guidelines I can hope to accomplish on my own?

Be completely honest as you ask yourself these questions. Don't compare your life to those of Christians around you. Let Jesus Christ be your only standard. And as God begins to show you areas of your spiritual life that are off track, put these in writing and make a commitment to shift from settler to pioneer in these areas.

taken from “When God Writes Your Life Story”, by Eric and Leslie Ludy



This was posted by a user at Sermon Index. You can find the post here :


I found it very intriguing. I have found myself in some of these situations as well. How about you?


Lord, help us not to play a game but to have a true relationship with You.


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