I have read numerous news columns lately which have reported polls on subjects such as belief in Jesus as the only way of salvation, the usage of alcohol among Christians, and other beliefs and/or no belief in numerous fundamentals of the Christian faith. The numbers are quite disturbing, especially to one who has spent his entire adult life trying to teach and encourage believers to be strong believers in and doers of the Word.
In a nut-shell, church members, including many evangelicals, simply don’t seem to understand what God has commanded in His Word, or they choose to ignore it, and this has resulted in many self-proclaimed Christians living exactly like those who do not profess Christ. This is so tragic! It is shameful! And, it is so terribly harmful to the cause of Christ!
Why is this happening? I see two primary reasons. First, our church membership rolls are filled with people who have never had a true salvation experience and are just as lost now as they were before joining a church.
You may be thinking, “Ken, that sounds pretty harsh and very judgmental.” The truth is sometimes very harsh, and the “judge not” crowd are theologically uninformed. I am not alone in this assessment of today’s Church. A number of years ago Billy Graham, the great evangelist of God for our generation, proclaimed that he believed that at least 80% of the membership of Christian churches in America are lost (they don’t have a saving relationship with Christ). Eighty percent! More recently many of our leading theologians and Pastors of today have begun referring to the unsaved or immature church members as “Cultural Christians.” That designation basically means that these persons are affiliated with the church for cultural reasons rather than out of a true commitment to Christ and His body, the Church. Their lives do not reflect what the Bible says is consistent with those who are indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. Read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery (drug abuse), hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murder, 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:19-23)
“Those who practice such things (vss. 19-21) will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Whether you are a church member or not, if these works of the flesh (evil deeds) are a way of life (practice) for you, then you are giving evidence of an unredeemed, unforgiven spirit. Church membership is not the equivalent of salvation. Salvation is the result of confessing our sin to the Lord, trusting that what He did on the cross of Calvary was the only sufficient sacrifice for our sins, and committing to follow Jesus as our Lord.
The conclusion: those who do not demonstrate the reality of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives act like they do because they do not have a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ! A church member who doesn’t behave and believe any differently from those who don’t claim to be Christian is, in all likelihood, just as lost.
A second reason why so many church members don’t act differently is that many, though being saved, have really never grown in their spiritual lives. As Paul would say, these believers are taking only spiritual milk and have never moved on to the meat! They believe, but have never sought to really grow in the spiritual disciplines which are required for developing a Christ-like lifestyle. Such believers are usually weak and often cave in to the pressures to conform to this world rather than to stand firmly in the standards set forth by Jesus. Romans 12:2 exhorts the believer . . . “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
What about you? Does your life reflect a real and vibrant relationship with Jesus? Are you truly different from those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior? If not, a life-changing relationship awaits you if only you will follow the One who created you and has a significant purpose for your life.