Idolatry: Creating God in Our Own Image
By Kevin Probst
As an apologetics teacher in a local Christian school, we sometimes debate theological issues. It is a rather common occurrence for my students to vehemently defend the 'right' of a Christian to sin. "Mr. Probst, we sin every day in word, deed and truth. We are human and we can't help but sin." Recently, a student asked me if a Christian who committed a murder would go to heaven. I declared that murder was something Christians were prohibited from doing. I was saddened to observe most of the students in my class choose to argue for sin instead of for holy living and Christ-likeness.
Christ was always urging people to cease sinning. He told the woman at the well to "go and sin no more." The message of John the Baptist was to "repent". A new generation of Americans is very much into confessing sin but not at all into repenting of sin. Repentance means "to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life." There seems to be a determination to have your cake and eat it too.
Americans are infected with a kind of smorgasbord Christianity. Take what you like and leave what you don't like. They are much interested in getting in but not much interested in growth. Many want to invite a Savior into their lives but very few want him to be Lord of their lives. Salvation is acceptable, even desirable, but sanctification is rejected. We are quick to load up with extra helpings of grace and love but we leave behind sacrifice and repentance. Like children, we want desert but not meat.
A new generation of Americans has been taught that salvation is available to any who will repeat a mantra of magic words. They have a misperception of a God overloaded in grace and depleted in justice. Their god forgives them even before they ask. He forgives their sins even before they commit them. They have formed a god to their own liking who will provide salvation at their own convenience. They set him on a shelf like an idol and call upon him to forgive their sins at their own command and in their own time.
This kind of cheap-grace religion is often propagated by American ministers who are more concerned about the number in their pews than the salvation and discipleship of souls. We invite them to our churches and feed them a cotton candy theology. We massage them and take great pains to be sure they all leave feeling good about themselves. Compare this to Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." We certainly don't want to allow ourselves to plunge into legalism but we must not compromise the truth that God is a God of justice as well as a God of love.
George Barna addresses the "costless faith" of our culture in a cover story for Christianity Today. (1) The message today is that a solution has been devised by a caring God to offer us salvation after the fall of man. A mental consent that He is indeed the son of God pretty much does it. If you can bring yourself to commit to this, you're in. Nothing is said of life change, even radical life change.
Barna states that the purchase of this eternal life insurance policy results in 'born again' people 'living just like everybody else'. Many will claim that the danger of this is that those who hunger for Christianity will embrace an attitude that says, "If Christianity doesn't really change you, I don't want it." Barna says, "Those who have turned to Christianity and to churches seeking truth and meaning have left empty-handed, confused by the apparent inability of Christians themselves to implement the principles they profess." (2)
I believe the greater danger is that thousands are clinging to a theology that says 'you can become a Christian without experiencing any significant changes in your lifestyle.' They believe a deception that they can have the best of both worlds, 'I can enjoy the pleasure of sin and I can still please God and go to heaven'.
Barna's research is revealing, "The spirituality of Americans is Christian in name only. We desire experience more than knowledge. We prefer choices to absolutes. We embrace preferences rather than truths. We seek comfort rather than growth. Faith must come on our terms or we reject it. We have enthroned ourselves as the final arbiters of righteousness, the ultimate rulers of our own experience and destiny. We are the Pharisees of the new millennium." (3)
1. Christianity Today, August 5, 2002
2. The Second Coming of the Church, p.5
3. Second Coming of the Church, p. 23
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.