Christ Alone

Until recently, very few knew the story of William Wilberforce. Many were familiar with the name of this great Englishman, but his true story had long been forgotten on the pages of the history books where he was known only as a great reformer and leader in the abolition of the slave trade in England. This indeed is magnificent and is once of his greatest accomplishments, but this history books have left out his great faith in God. This faith — reconciled with participation in politics — was the greatest thing about this man. He lived in a day of moral bankruptcy, just as we do today. Any world filled with slavery is a world morally bankrupt — again, just as our world is today. The sin he saw was great, as men decided that they could buy and sell other men just because of their color. It was a tragic time.

It was during this time that he said the following about his faith and those who called themselves believers in Christianity.

“In contrast, servile, base, and mercenary is the notion of Christian practice among the bulk of nominal Christians. They give no more than they dare not withhold. They abstain from nothing but what they dare not practice. When you state to them the doubtful quality of any action, and the consequent obligation to refrain from it, they reply to you in the very spirit of Shylock, “they cannot find it in the bond.”

In short, they know Christianity only as a system of restraints. It is robbed of every liberal and generous principle. It is rendered almost unfit for the social relationships of life, and only suited to the gloomy walls of a cloister, in which they would confine it. But true Christians consider themselves as not satisfying some rigorous creditor, but as discharging a debt of gratitude. Accordingly, theirs is not the stinted return of the constrained obedience, but the large and liberal measure of voluntary service.”

What he was saying, I believe, speaks of our teenage culture within the churches. It is full of “nominal Christians” — Christians in name only — who “give no more than they dare not withhold.” In other words, their bare minimum. As he says, “they abstain from nothing but what they dare not practice.” They live on the edge, testing the boundaries, only going as far as they dare go. When you tell them that what they are doing is wrong, they respond that they see no problem, no set boundary for their actions. They see Christianity as “only a system of restraints” that takes away any freedom from its followers, making it a system unfit for the real world and fit only for “gloomy walls of a cloister” where they would love to keep it.

Yet this is not how we as Christians are to live today, whether we are 7 or 70. We are not to live our teenage years on the edge of the boundaries we hate with so much passion, deceiving ourselves into thinking that we will return closer to Christ later on in life. True Christians do not believe they can put off “satisfying some rigorous creditor” but rather as “discharging a debt of gratitude.” It is not a “constrained obedience” but rather “large and liberal measure of voluntary service.” We do not live holy lives just because it is a rule, but rather out of a love for the savior. It is because of the cross that we lives worthy of the gospel. This gospel must be our central passion.

God has given us passions, gifts, and abilities. Each one should be centered around the cross, not around the passion. Our purpose must be bigger than our passion. God will do great things in our lives when we allow the gospel to be the center of everything we do. For some, they will be architects, artists, writers, surgeons, doctors, nurses, cosmetologists, novelists, fashion designers, politicians or whatever else God has given you a passion for. For others, it is a passion for teaching, for some even, preaching. One is no greater than the other. Being a Pastor is not greater or more spiritual than being a nurse.

We need to forget the secular/sacred division. There is no “career” and then “christian life” or “education” then “christian life.” People get the idea that we are to live our lives in two separate spectrums. This is certainly not right. It was something that great men such as Francis Schaeffer understood. One of his students’ name is Nancy Pearcey, writer of this magnificently large volume “Total Truth” (that I assure you I have not read 100% quite yet. Here is what she had to say about this division.

“We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.” (page 20)

Do you see what is going on in our minds? We have this passion that is set aside for certain days of the week, certain settings, certain times during the day. Every teenager needs to understand clearly their is not divide between the secular and the sacred. In all, our passion must be for Christ alone, no matter what we are doing in life. Our Christian lives, if we are Christians, must affect everything we do, not just some things.

I read a rather telling story that illustrates this in Total Truth.

There was a young woman who worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic. Each day she saw young girls come in, pregnant, and ready for an abortion. Each time she offered the all the possibilities. Most times the girls became impatient and even angry. These girls believed there were no other options. The young woman then had to fall back on protocol: “This is my job,” she said. “I have to do it.”

This young woman was a practicing Christian, and she believed she was there showing compassion to those who were considering abortion. Everyone else in that clinic were also regular church members, since the clinic was located in the heart of the Bible belt. On breaks they discussed things like Bible study groups and Sunday school programs.

“I may have started out picking up bits and pieces of a secular worldview to sprinkle on top of my Christian belief’s,” said the young woman. “But after I graduated [from college] and worked for Planned Parenthood, the patter was reversed: My Christianity was redueced to a thin veneer over the core of a secular worldview. It was almost like having a split personallity.”

I don’t know about you, but that scares me. And I believe there are many of you who feel that split personality. Something has gone so wrong. You just have a thin layer of Christianity on on the outside. That’s not how things are supposed to be. And for all who do not feel that, beware– this world teaches it, and we see it every day. Our lives must be ruled completely by Christ alone. There is not a division in our mind. The gospel must influence everything that we do.

So, the questions are these:

  • Is our passion for Christ alone?
  • Does the cross and the gospel shape our every decision? Our words? Our Actions?
  • 3 responses to “Christ Alone”

    1. Sarah Greek says:

      Amen, Tim! Excellent post. Thanks for the reminder.

    2. Chad says:

      Right on, Tim!

      Our culture has too much split living going on amongst Christians; is this not hypocrisy? Christ must permeate our every action, every thought, and every word; our whole life, not just part. Non-belivers know that many supposed Christians lead double-lives, and not only does it hurt the testimony of those who live whole-heartedly for Him, but it also turns many people away from hearing the truth of the gospel.

      Keep up the good work!

    3. The Reformed Pastor says:

      I talked about this with a guy in my small group (actually, he is my small group.) I called it Compartmentalizing your faith. (we both liked that word:) ) We have the tendency to put God in compartments in our life. We have church on Sundays and Wednesdays and the rest of our week is free. What deadly thinking! Christ should be the reality we live! Not certain practices to follow.

      Nominalism is big among teens (and pretty much among everybody else). But what do you expect when the greatest challenge put before most teens is, “try not to have sex before marriage.” Maybe, not even that!

      I remember a Sunday night I spent with some of my college friends from JBC. I went to their church’s youth service that they help out in. When we got to the church about an hour and a half before everything started. The college students (they run the show) were all on the ground in a circle discussing what to do that evenings. (Got to love future preparation!) They needed to know what they should do that evening with the youth. The main church was having a prayer meeting, so it would be best to do something about prayer. They, also, knew that several teens were not saved in the group. So they though about what to do about that as well.

      My threw out my idea. do a quick overview of what pray is. Taking the time to give a Biblical view of prayer, then contrasting it with what the world thinks of prayer. We could then take them to the teachings of Jesus about prayer. Prayer is asking our heavenly Father for what we need. And how would we reach the lost people in the group? Give the warning that the lost have no guarantee of there prays to be answered. Prayer is communication between the Father and His children. And thus, transition into a gospel presentation! (I would get a little deeper on everything than this but, hopefully you catch what I am saying. )

      My idea did not last long. We ended up giving every teen a piece of paper and telling them they can write prayers to God. Wow! And they should write a prayer to God! Then we sang some songs and did a small prayer time. Yea…I just though, how many youth groups are just like this one. Teens getting nothing when it comes to solid Biblical teaching.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *