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Parson to Person: One day you will answer for your life
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Margarete Manning relates an experience that, sadly, is repeated far too many times. She writes of a friend who has jettisoned his Christian faith. Since she tells it far better than I can, let me simply quote her, "He did not leave his faith over a whim or because of some intellectual crisis he couldn't resolve with his dearly held beliefs. He left because his work as a journalist led him into Christian circles where he met some of the most influential Christian leaders and teachers. He left his Christian faith because as he traversed these circles, he saw very little evidence of true, Christian transformation of character, values, and lifestyle. What he witnessed was a group of men and women who resembled the world more than they did Jesus" (A Slice of Infinity, "Limping Transformations," Tuesday October 6, 2009).

While I would not dare to evaluate the character of the individual mentioned above, in my experience a desertion of the faith over some real or perceived disappointment is but the outward symptom of deeper underlying issues; it is the excuse needed to justify the person's exit from the faith.

Having said that, let me take a few minutes to talk with you about the seriousness of such a charge. Jesus said, "If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea. How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen - but how terrible for the one who causes them!" (Matthew 18:6-7, GNT).

By and large our churches have traded theology for psychology; we are low on doctrine with the result being that we have become devoid of personal discipline. The gospel of truth has given way to the gospel of self-fulfillment. When we divorce truth from theology (a study of God) and from any form of doctrinal understanding, we are left with a religion that is self-focused. We look to religion as something that meets my needs; something that gives me fulfillment. The result of this approach is we become self-focused and begin to look out for number one.

I was at a Christian event recently that was high on emotion but devoid of sound Biblical doctrine. In that environment the MC of the event screamed to the audience, "You want a new car? Just speak it! You lost your job? Claim that tomorrow God is going to give you a new one at twice the pay and you'll have it!" Now, in a society that is self-focused, messages such as this one abound and people by the thousands are flocking to these gurus of positive thinking. I heard one pastor exclaim, "I'm tired of waiting for my reward in heaven; I want it now!" When I heard that my thoughts turned to Jesus' statement that those who wish such things "have their reward in full" (Matthew 6:2). In other words, they may get what they crave, but that will be all they get.

It is this self-focused, self-absorbed, self-fulfilling pursuit that resulted in the comment, "he saw very little evidence of true, Christian transformation of character, values, and lifestyle. What he witnessed was a group of men and women who resembled the world more than they did Jesus."

Where is your focus? Is it on the infallible truth of scripture or is it in the passing whims of the age? Is it in the true meaning of theology, that is the study of the God who revealed himself in the Bible, or is it in the popular notion that theology is trying to discover God through culture and current events? Where you base your faith will determine how you live. How you live may full well determine how others respond to the faith. And let me remind you that according to Jesus in Matthew 18:6-7 (quoted above), one day you will answer for your life.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.