Many of us have experienced a holy hangover. Before you get all religious on me, allow a moment for a brief prelude. You just came home from a great Christian conference . You just listened to some of your holy heroes preach a 90 minute sermon. You just attended a moving church service. You just came back from a retreat where you were caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2). You just listened to one of the most gospel-drenched sermons in your life. You just put down that book you bought which caused you to sell all of your possessions. You had a deep, spirit-led conversation with a friend. You just spent three hours speaking with others about the prominence of propitiation, all the while drinking your favorite java. You just wrapped up a small group where healthy tension led to a helpful resolution. You just dropped the gospel bomb on a group of people who have never heard it before.
Then, the inevitable happens. Immediately after the aforementioned events, hyper spirituality is replaced with a sobering reality. The worship is supplanted with the work day. The weekend gives way to the weekday. You face the traffic while realizing you are late for work. You are faced with a difficult co-worker. Your parents seem to not understand you. Your siblings are irritating you beyond belief. For the fourth time, your spouse declined your invitation to decipher the development of nineteenth-century dispensationalism. Finances are few and far between. Things you do not like or understand seem like they are never going to change. You are ready for the season to change, but the season is only interested in changing you. Your latte saturates your shirt, instead of your senses. And Monday has barely even begun.
Where did the warm and fuzzy feeling go of worshipping with three thousand other Christians? Where did the passion disappear that was so prevalent when the sermon was streaming through the two white speakers, stuck in your ears? What happened to the zealous devotion so fervently in place during the small group session? The answer is simple. Everything is still there. The gospel is still potent. Jesus is alive. God is watching over you. It is our incredible lack of keeping the main thing, the main thing that is hindering us from a state of perpetual worship.
How can this be escaped? How can this be cured? How can we remain being distinctly Christian everywhere and at every time? When we are in the palace of heaven the same way when we feel as if we are in the pit of hell? Why is the miraculous supplanted with the mundane? The luminous with the lackluster? The deep with the shallow? The futuristic with the materialistic?
Here are the top ten reasons why I think we fail to remain distinctly Christian:
1. Because we are not obsessed with Jesus. I am not talking about wearing a “Jesus is my homeboy t-shirt. I am not talking about buying every book that demands you become a radical Christian. I am not talking about even having the know-how to work in “missional” “intentional” and “incarnational” into every sentence you create. I am talking about being so obsessed with our Savior that we start to resemble him. In everything. In every way. In every sphere. We begin to have the mind of Christ (Php. 2:5) We begin to think like Jesus. We reason like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We forgive like Jesus. We face difficult circumstance like Jesus. We rejoice like Jesus. We show a perpetual desire to fulfill the will of God like Jesus. Our every decision is distinctly Christ-like. Our every motivation is instinctively Christ-centered. Our every attitude is unmistakably bringing glory to Jesus.
2. Because we do not think like Jesus. Our every thought should be captivated by Jesus. Every life situation should be viewed through the eyes of Jesus. Every breath we take is an opportunity for us to thank Jesus. Every night we fall asleep, we think about and give thanks to Jesus. Every morning we awake is the beginning of another worship experience. People around us undoubtedly see Jesus in us, without ever having to do a double-take. Jesus permeates our entire existence. When the above is not present, gospel truths are absent. Gospel truths then are located on the periphery of our life at best or virtually invisible at worst. Because we are not utterly and wholeheartedly, infatuated with the King of Kings and the Lord of lords.
3. Because our prayer life is nonexistent. Yes, we know that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Yes, we know that the prayer of a righteous person has great power (Js. 5:16). We can even recite the prayer the Lord taught His disciples (Matt. 6:5-14). But, for various reasons, we do not pray as we ought. When was the last time we wept when we prayed? What was the last time we wept over our sin? When was the last time our heart hurt for the dying world that surrounds us daily? When was the last time we cried out to God in sheer agony? When was the last time our pillow was drenched in tears? When was the last time we grieved over our sin? When did our last prayer resemble perpetual, habitual and resolute persistence (Lk. 18:1-8)?
4. Because we stopped believing in the power of prayer. Am I experiencing discontent with my current life situation? It is because I have not spent enough time, alone, in a room, with no one around, patiently crying out to God. Do I feel as if no one understands me? It is because prayer has become a past time that never comes to pass. Do I feel that I crumble under the weight of every temptation? It is because my prayer life has been reduced exclusively to my meal times. Do I easily give in to the desire of my flesh? It is because prayer has been stored away and is put on prominent display only in times of deep distress or when under steep duress. Why am I failing at being distinctly Christian? It is precisely because prayer is neither prevalent in my life nor preeminent in my mind.
5. Because we do not read our bible. The problem is not access but action. We all have access to the bible. In more places than one. Via more mediums than one. Through more channels than we would ever need. We have a bible app on our smart phone. We have a bible reader on our iPad. We have a reading plan on our iTouch. We have a bulky ESV Study Bible, which we prominently carry to spiritual functions. But for some reason, when we tap our flickering screens, our thumbs drift from the Good Book to the Facebook. This happens effortlessly and non-chalantly. Why is that? Because we crave information. We want to consume content. Quickly, effortlessly, comfortably and in an uber-trendy way. Our fervor for yearlong bible reading plans fizzles out before the New Year fireworks. We think Jude and Job were co-authors of the same book. Once we reach 2 Chronicles or Numbers, you can stick a fork in us, because we are pretty much done.
6. Because we do not make reading the bible a priority. I will admit, scheduling to read the bible daily is a challenge for me. Despite the fact that I was raised in a home where every child was expected to read the whole bible, all the way through, before they reached the age of eight. I have to be intensely intentional about this. I have to schedule this time for my own benefit. We are a you-tube, bite-size, snap-shot, insta-gram generation. We value the cursory over the contemplative. We crave the mindless over the meditative. We assess expedience higher than experience. Are we having a difficult time thinking of how the bible applies to our current situation? It is because we are not reading it. How are we to go out to battle without wielding our sword? How are we to equip others when we do not even know how to handle our own equipment? This must not be so. We must become resolute in reading our bible. Read it every single day. Read a verse or a whole chapter or ten. It is not about the quantity but quality. Put it on your calendar. Make an appointment on your iCal. If someone tries to fill that space, tell them you already have a date, with the bible.
7. Because we become temporary atheists. We read the words of Jesus in Matt. 6:25-34 and nod in unconditional agreement. We read verses like Php. 4:6 and say “Wow, what a great verse, let’s put it on a coffee mug.” But, when calamity strikes, we are stricken with anxiety and overtaken by uncertainty. When a strenuous situation arises, we forget all about what we were promised. When faced with the first difficulty, after the third heaven experience, we act dazed and confused. What we are doing is becoming practical atheists.
8. Because we worship our functional, not our confessional god. We know that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. But for some reason, we act as if that is not truth we have known for a long time. We worry about things we cannot control. We worry about things we do not know. We practice reformed theology. We affirm the five solas. We affirm the sovereignty of God theologically but fail to demonstrate this belief practically. I did some research to understand what “do not worry” and “do not be anxious” really meant in the original Greek language. Do you want to know what my studies uncovered? It means the following. Are you ready for it? Do Not Worry! Do Not Be Anxious! I know, when I first discovered this, I was taken back as well. Are gospel truths difficult for us to apply? Do we feel like we are drowning in worry and drenched in anxiety? We must repent from the sin of temporary atheism. We must proclaim loudly and boldly that we know our Redeemer lives and He is Lord over our life! Practice your faith. Live out your belief. Connect the theological with the methodological. We can be anxiety free, not just at a worship service singing “In Christ Alone” but also when we experience a car accident, a difficult situation at work, an estranged family member or an unbelieving friend.
9. Because we forget to preach the gospel to ourselves. Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to preach the gospel, always. When it is popular and when it is persecuted. I love this point because I am the most passionate about this point. We need to stop listening to ourselves and we need to start preaching to ourselves. Every single day, every single hour, we must remind ourselves of gospel truths. Preach to yourself Jesus. Preach to yourself the cross. Preach to yourself the resurrection. Preach to yourself the eternal kingdom that is to come. Preach to yourself the redemption you have by the blood of Jesus. Preach to yourself salvation that has been secured by your Savior. Remind yourself of these truths. Put them on sticky notes and place them in your work area. Hang up these truths on your walls in your house. Prompt yourself to preach the gospel to yourself when you walk outside and experience utter bliss from God’s creation. Because we are sinful human beings, we tend to forget what the gospel is. Because we are constantly being stalked by Satan who is the father of all lies, we stop believing the gospel. This is why this paramount truth is of utmost importance. If you have never done this before, start right now. Preach to yourself the gospel of Jesus Christ. Preach it like you mean it. This will revolutionize the way we live a gospel-governed life. Preach the gospel to yourself internally or close your car windows and preach it externally, loudly, boldly and audaciously. We must all be preachers, whether we are behind the pulpit or in a pew. We must preach the gospel to ourselves if we want to live out the gospel for the benefit of others.
10. Because we stopped believing the gospel. Do we find gospel truths difficult to apply? It is because we stopped believing in the gospel. It is because we stopped understanding the potency of the gospel. It is because we have replaced preaching the gospel to ourselves with listening to the complaining of ourselves. This must not be so. To be sure, we must constantly and consistently remind our mind of what the gospel is, who it is all about, what it did to us, how it is changing us, how it saved us and what it inaugurated for us, in spite of us! The gospel is powerful enough to solve even the most complex of issues. The gospel is convincing enough for even the most rebellious of unbelievers. We must intentionally remind ourselves of the gospel, constantly and consistently.
Gospel truths are never ineffective. Gospel truths are incredibly stirring and are mighty to save. By contemplating on the above ten reasons, I believe that we can be a people who are characterized by a passion for Christ and a commitment to applying gospel truths in every area of our life, at every time of our life, during every season of our life, around all the people in our life — for the fame of Jesus’ name. We then will not fail to be distinctly Christian.
Question: What others reasons prevent us from living a distinctly Christian life? How can we implement the theological into the practical?