There is a cancer growing in Christendom today - a growing number of professing Christians who are not true believers.
People who claim to be Christian because they profess to believe certain creeds, but who do not believe in Jesus Christ. They think they are Christians because they hold to a nominal (and in many cases minimal) adherence to creedal Christianity but they have no commitment to the Christ of Christianity.
The problem apparently is not new. The Apostle Paul wrote in 66 A.D., "Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people" (2 Timothy 3:5, CEV).
There are always the curious who hang around the committed, but who stop short of making a commitment themselves. Judas walked with Jesus for three and a half years, hung around the inner circle, was the groups treasurer, talked the talk, but when push came to shove, he not only denied the Lord he claimed to serve, he delivered him to death. Judas was a follower of Jesus without being a true believer.
Numbers of his kind grow within Christendom today.
What do these people look like? How can I even dare to write such paragraphs as the ones above? What gives me the right to judge? Certainly there will be those who not only take offense in what I have written and what I am about to write.
Jesus was talking to his true followers in John 8:31-32 when a group of religious people who were hanging around him took offense. An argument ensued, and realizing what he was claiming, those religious charlatans ended up picking up stones to put him out of their misery. They were going to stone him for blasphemy because they understood completely that he was claiming to be God.
That is the same point creedal Christians miss.
They want a Jesus who is a good moral teacher, they want an ethicist whose ethics they like they can accept but whose ethics they dislike they can reject. In short, they want what a friend of mine calls "designer Christianity," that is, a Christianity they can pick and choose; a Christianity they can mix and match with their own thoughts, philosophies or with other world religions. Such a Christianity is no Christianity at all.
The great thinker/writer C.S. Lewis said, "Jesus told people that their sins were forgiven. This makes sense only if he really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin...I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.'
"That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the devil of hell. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to" (Martindale and Root, Editors, "The Quotable Lewis," Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1989 p. 340).
Apart from recognizing Jesus as God in the flesh (not a mere like God, or a mere likeness of God but as God himself, as God come looking for us) there is no Christianity. Creedal confessions cannot substitute for a living relationship with the living, risen son of God, the living risen Christ.
You cannot have it both ways. You cannot believe that Jesus was as one writer describes him, "Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher, although we think his good morals were bad."
Unfortunately there are those schizophrenic Christians out there. Not just in our pews but an alarming number of them now fill our pulpits. Men and women who give lip service to the creeds they happen to agree with, but who deny the Christ of Christianity.
Men and women who are modern Judases - they - will follow as long as it fits their agenda, but the minute a demand is made, they will crucify the one they claim to love.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016. Or e-mail him at email@example.com For more information visit the Gateway Website at www.gatewaycommunity.org