Given that the internet sensation ‘Gangnam style’ has had over a billion hits on Youtube and spawned more parodies than I would care to mention then it got me thinking: what would a version of the song about Christianity look like? Regrettably, I am no lyricist so my answer will have to be given with ponderous words; lacking, to the relief of us all, any form of dance moves.
By Christian Style I mean a certain way of doing Christianity, a way that has no substance, its light and frothy, comfortable in the wrong sense, a way characterised by show, a pretence at the real thing. It’s when we say we’re Christian but we do not act like Christians, it’s the easy path not the hard path of obedience, and it is often our default setting for the Christian walk.
The following list is by no means exhaustive but I hope it is challenging, I’ve found it hard to write. As we begin this, at every point then I encourage you to ask yourself: do you have Christian style?
There’s a wonderful story I heard a few weeks ago about some minister somewhere giving a sermon on how Calvinism was wrong and terrible and not at all biblical and that it was all about free will and God gives us all a choice (a truth I fundamentally agree with but it is not the whole truth). He ranted and raved about this for some time and then as he drew his sermon to a close he started to pray and he prayed in particular that God would convict his Calvinist brothers and sisters of the error of their ways and lead them to the truth.
Well, huh, so much for my free will! And it serves to illustrate the point I want to make which is that functionally everyone prays as a Calvinist. As Spurgeon said: “We do not pray because we doubt but because we believe.” And in prayers we cannot help but express a belief in God’s sovereignty over the will of man. Specifically, we cannot help but express a belief that unless God is at work no one will come to Christ, second that if he works no one can resist him and third that he has the power to keep us following Christ to the end.
In saying that I’m going to sideline for a moment and deal with prayers for things other than conversion. When we face difficult conversations, hard situations or the need for something or other then we pray to God to provide, to help us, to deliver us and to bring good from evil. In other words we express our firm belief that nothing can stand against the sovereignty of God. We uphold as an article of faith Proverbs 21v1: “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” We do not pray as though God has no say over the will of man. Have you ever heard a Christian pray: “Lord, I am facing a difficult conversation but as you have let us have free will and are not in control over that then I know I cannot ask you to do anything to help me.”?
On the surface it may seem a strange statement: how can one spread the good news of Jesus Christ dying for the sins of the world wrong? Well, obviously you could start sprouting heresy and that would be a problem but let’s say that what you’re saying is theologically correct then is it still possible to be going about things the wrong way?
My answer would be yes and sadly I would have to go further and say that the church today, as a general rule, has lost the plot when it comes to spreading the gospel. I realized this the other year at the CU carol service after I regretted bringing my non-Christian friend along because while what he heard was technically speaking completely true he didn’t hear what he needed to hear because the speaker didn’t tell him what he should have told him. My friend heard a lot about Jesus and how he died for us and how much Jesus loved him and how much Jesus wanted him to be saved which is all good and right and true and also entirely useless.
My friend currently thinks he does not need to be saved because his family religion and general good works will save him. This, I imagine, puts him into a similar situation to a lot of people today. So telling him about how much Jesus loved him only served to reinforce his self-righteousness. What my friend needed to hear because he is unwilling to admit it is how much of a wretched, miserable, filthy, vile, corrupted sinner he is standing before a perfect holy God. He needed to be told of Hell, judgement and the dangers of not repenting, he needed to be told that his desperate need was for Jesus.
This example serves well to illustrate the failure of a lot of modern evangelism:
It's funny reading Christian books which are a hundred plus years old for the type of problems they mention which the church faced are often the very same problem we see today. The type of problems that faced Christians are usually the exact same problems facing Christians today. The outward form may change but the heart of the problem does not. This is really no surprise, "there is nothing new under the sun" the Teacher says in Ecclesiastes and he was right - human nature doesn't change and God doesn't change. The world, the flesh and the Devil still fight the same battles with Christians.
I was reading J.C Ryle's Practical Religion, it's brilliant, as Ryle always is, and in it Ryle talks about how the biggest problem with the church is that too many Christians are Little Christians and it struck me that while over a hundred years have passed since he wrote his book then his analysis is still spot on.
Many, if not most, Christians today are Little Christians. If I am being honest then I must include myself in this category too. We are Little Christians because we have a little faith, a little hope, a little peace, a little love, a little courage, a little knowledge and a little holiness. That is not the problem though - we all start of our Christian life with little of everything. The problem, and as problems go this is huge, is that we are content with being Little Christians.
The reaction to my last post on ‘This Little Light’ was mixed. Some liked what I had to say, other didn’t, some felt guilty and one person told me I was a rubbish Christian. It might have been more effective if he/she had had the courage to leave a real name. Someone else complained I’d watched an old video so I watched the new one and realised that a) selling the ‘gospel’ through back flips were still there b) the morality/good works gospel was even more evident and c) it was still resoundingly pathetic and d) it was three times more ethnically diverse.
Anyways, I thought to try and clear the air a bit and in an effort to persuade people just how shallow ‘This Little Light’ is I’d look at a contemporary song that was also successful. Say hello then to ‘East to West’ by Casting Crowns.
Just as a quick point – this is far from the best Christian song I could have chosen. There are many others which are even better. But I chose ‘East to West’ because it was released recently (2007), was a success (25th in US charts) and is by a popular Christian band.
God moves in mysterious ways. Just last week I was writing about the dangers of Wishy Washy Christianity and then this week I just happen across the song ‘This Little Light’ by the band LZ7. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask for a better example of Wishy Washy Christianity. Here, watch it…
Last week I wrote about the Wishy Washy Gospel and how it omits key areas of biblical truth. I wrote about how it is evil for it refuses to acknowledge the existence of sin, Hell and the absolute sovereignty of God. I would rather an unconverted person grew up an atheist than under the devious lies of the Wishy Washy Gospel.
What I want to concentrate on today is the evils of the Wishy Washy Gospel to the Christian. For make no mistake, if we accept what we are taught then we live by it. And if we live by the Wishy Washy Gospel we become Wishy Washy Christians.
Of all the many problems sadly facing the modern church the Wishy Washy Gospel is one of the worst offenders. Yet defining what the Wishy Washy Gospel actually is can be hard, working out whether a church preaches such a gospel is tricky and knowing exactly where the Wishy Washy Gospel goes wrong can be difficult.
This is because it is not so much what the WWG says that is a problem it is more what it doesn’t say. So, I can sit under a preacher and agree with almost everything he says and still be heartbroken by the fact that the true gospel isn’t being preached.
As Christians the Bible makes it quite clear that we CANNOT add or take away from the gospel. We have to preach the truth. Not what men want to hear but what they need to hear.
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Galatians 1 v 8 – 9
As you can see from the above verse the Wishy Washy Gospel is an evil gospel. Enough to condemn the men that preach it. For the Wishy Washy Gospel is anything other than the one the Bible proclaims.
So what are the errors of the Wishy Washy Gospel? Where does it go wrong? What is missing?