It has been a while since I dusted off the wildly popular feature “Ask a Bad Christian”. Today’s questions revolve around one theme and have come from several people.
Why do you call your blog “Confessions of a Bad Christian”? Do you really think you are a bad Christian?
Yeah. Sometimes I am. Sometimes “badder” than on other days.
The blog heading of “Confessions of a Bad Christian” started out as a bit of a joke. It was based on the title of my first book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. But I will tell you that I have grown attached to the title of this blog. I have come to grips with the truth that I can, in fact, be a bad Christian. And that is the point of the title. It is a daily reminder to me that I am capable of thoughts and actions that do not reflect Jesus. I did think that making this question a sermon topic was a bit over the top. I know there a few readers of this blog that would love to have heard this sermon and maybe even testified.
(Note to the humor challenged. This sign is a joke. You can make your own church signs at this website. Enjoy.)
I have found that the realization that I can be a bad Christian at any given moment has been the beginning of real growth for me.
It breaks my heart to think that my actions would cause anyone to think that Christianity is false. The sad reality is that I encounter Christians all the time that do damage to the cause of Christ. I often tell people that my prayer is that they will not reject Christ because of Christians. I beg them to consider the person of Jesus. The question that each of us must answer is who is Jesus? Is He who He claimed? But too often those I encounter cannot get past the actions of a person who does not represent Jesus well. I do not want any part of a legacy like that. So I challenge myself and other Christians to be real. Acknowledge that we are fallible. Seek to repair damage. Ask forgiveness. Drop the legalism. I suppose that a big part of who I am is growing up in a church that would not have recognized grace if it bit them on their self-righteous posteriors. I know firsthand the damage that legalism can do in the life of person trying to follow Christ. I receive hundreds of emails from people wounded by others in the church.
I came across the sermon delivered on the passage about the vine and the branches. The thoughts centered on John 15:5 where Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing”. Here are a couple of excerpts on how to avoid being a bad Christian. It is simply realizing where your dependence starts…and ends.
Now when Christ says, “Without me you can do nothing;” he doubtless means to affirm that without divine light shining upon the pages of inspiration and upon the works of God–without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, holiness is impossible to us. The assertion of the text therefore implies that divine light is proffered to us, and that this light is given by Christ.
It is therefore of great importance with respect to the doctrine of our dependence upon Christ that we should understand the fact as a fact. Whether or not we are able to understand the philosophy of this dependence is of no consequence. It is enough for us to understand that such is the fact, that without Christ we can do nothing.
To understand this doctrine is more than to admit it. I may admit a thing in theory which after all I don’t understand. I may admit multitudes of truths, yea any and all the truths of the gospel without really understanding one of them. The truth of our dependence upon Christ is generally admitted, but not so generally is it rationally understood.
Properly to understand it is to realize it–to perceive it’s truth; and have in the mind a felt realization of it’s truth.
To believe this truth is more than to hold it in theory. A man may hold in theory the whole Confession of Faith, he may defend it, may argue in favor of it, and suppose himself to believe it, while in fact in the gospel sense he does not believe a word of it. Many who professed faith in the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ, have held it and defended it as a theory, but manifestly have not believed it. Faith is the yielding up of the mind to be influenced by truth apprehended by the intellect. It is the mind’s confiding, trusting, receiving a truth. Now nothing is more common than for persons to hold and defend a truth in theory which they do not really believe. To believe the doctrine of our dependence upon Christ is to commit or surrender the mind up to the influence of this truth–to repose on Christ–to confide the soul really to his keeping.
To believe this truth implies the continual remembrance of it. It implies that we hold the mind in the attitude of dependence and trust. Suppose I am leading a little child by the hand, I give him my finger and lead him along upon the brink of a frightful precipice. I tell him, Without me you will fall. Now if he believes this, he will hold fast to my hand. His mind will be in a constant attitude of depending, trusting, holding on to me. Now this illustrates what I mean by believing in our dependence upon Christ. The mind that believes in this will not attempt to do any thing without Christ.
This was from a sermon delivered by Charles G. Finney in 1845.
We are still wrestling with the implications of this amazing text 161 years later. That is why I call these humble ramblings “Confessions of a Bad Christian”. I want that daily reminder of my potential for sin. I want that daily jolt of realization (after my coffee) that my dependence must be on Christ if I am to have any real impact for God. Finney continued with the central importance of this doctrine..I have condensed his words. The full text is available by clicking here.
- Again, not to understand and believe this is real infidelity in respects to Christ. It is a real rejection of the gospel of Christ and of Christ himself.
- The rejection of this doctrine renders the soul proud and presumptuous.
- To reject this doctrine is to dishonor Christ greatly, and as I have said, to discard his gospel entirely.
- The rejection of this doctrine fosters self-righteousness. If a man gets the idea that without the divine support and enlightenment, he performs acts that are acceptable to God, this is one of the worst forms of self-righteousness.
- The rejection of this doctrine makes us the sport of temptation. A man is certain to be overcome if he attempts to resist temptation in his own strength, just as certain as a man of one leg would be to fall if he should attempt to run without his crutch.
- The rejection of this doctrine leads to ultimate discouragement. When persons make attempts to stand in their own strength and find themselves continually overcome, they are soon led to doubt seriously whether there is any such thing as standing before the power of temptation
So am I a bad Christian? Not on the days that my dependence is on Jesus. My goal is to make those days happen more frequently with each passing year.