Yesterday I saw a clip¹ of a well-known “preacher” declaring/demanding with his congregation that God’s material blessings would rain down upon them. With gusto, they prayed that God would give them money in its various different forms. It was disturbing. To say the least. I couldn’t help but contrast this to a couple of sermons² on suffering that I was listening to by my brother, Pastor Dean Good, a bit later.
And that’s when it hit me: It’s really not all that difficult to tell true Christianity from the fake Christianity.
In the simplest of terms, True Christianity is God-centered and Fake Christianity is self-centered. But let’s unpack it a bit more, shall we?
True Christianity is God-centered. It is about the depraved and wretched sinner finding peace with God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, on the cross (John 3:16), turning away from their former, sinful lusts and now living for God (Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 3:7). To elaborate further, its message is denying self, taking up your cross, and following hard after Christ (Luke 9:23); it is submitting to God’s will and obeying His Word (James 4:7; John 14:15). It is focused on eternal glory rather than temporal reward (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:2). It is a desire to be holy that supersedes the desire to be happy (I Peter 1:15-16) It is understanding that our citizenship is in heaven and we are pilgrims and sojourners on this earth (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11). It is focused on sharing the Gospel and sharing the truth of God’s Word (Romans 10:15; I Timothy 2:4).
Let’s contrast this to the fake Christianity that has overtaken most Christian churches, bookstores, music, and conferences these days–
Fake Christianity is self-centered. It is about a hurting, lonely human being going to God to get their needs met. It is about continuing in sin and declaring God’s approval upon that sin. It is about coddling self, following your dreams, and following hard after your heart. It is ignoring God’s will and His Word. It is focused on temporal gain rather than eternal reward. It is focused on personal happiness. And its focus is on this earth’s citizenship, with much energy put towards fixing the world and making it a better place.
The two religions are as opposite as day and night. And, in fact, one is pure LIGHT and the other is pitch black.
We want to pretend like there is not that big of a difference between the two and that it is a complicated thing to discern. Honestly, most of us just want to ignore it all. We do this because so many family and friends we love and respect are caught up in the fake. We may even be caught up in the fake ourselves.
And so we don’t want to declare it’s fakeness, because the consequences of doing so will be painful and costly.
Can I tell you the honest truth? I have been caught up in the fake at times. Perhaps we all have.
When I say it’s not difficult to tell the difference between the true and the fake, that is true. But it can grow fuzzy to us sometimes– mainly because we want what we want. Let me explain.
None of us wants to deny self. It goes against everything inside us to do so. And yet, this is what we are called to do as believers. We are not called to this without help. Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid. Our desires are gradually changed so that we not only desire to do what’s right but we begin to understand the reward in turning from sin and pleasing God. But the flesh always resides in us and we are always in a battle against it.
And so, even as believers, we can get caught up in sin and deceit. We desire something and we know it is not God’s will. Or we hold a relationship with a person more dear than we hold our relationship with Christ. Or we choose to gratify our flesh (eating too much, going places we know do not please God, watching sin on a screen, wearing clothing that is immodest, lashing out in anger, gnawing endlessly on that favored worry or fear, choosing to hold a grudge, etc, etc.) and, suddenly, we are full-out focused on self.
And, in this state, we will often find ourselves rationalizing, excusing, and leaning into that fake Christianity that would give us reasons to do what we want to do.
So, no, it’s not difficult to tell the difference between the only true Religion of light and the religion of darkness that goes by the same name. But, yes, it can be hard to actually admit the difference.
To the unbeliever, true Christianity sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I mean we really can understand why the unregenerate flock to the Christianity designed to please self, puff up self, fulfill self. That is what the natural man wants to do.
It isn’t until the Lord fills us with His light that understanding and insight come. It will never make sense to give up everything to gain nothing in this world unless the Spirit opens our eyes to the Truth. Well, let me rephrase that: We gain nothing that looks important to anyone in this world. We do gain much, even in this temporal life lived on earth. We gain peace and joy that is based on the Lord, rather than circumstances. We gain the daily tender care and loving-kindness of the God of the universe. We gain the Comforter and the Helper. And so much more!
If you are burdened for someone caught up in the fake Christianity, pray that God would open their eyes. Pray that He would show them how little they have to lose and how much they have to gain! And if we, ourselves, struggle with releasing our grip on this world and desire that fool’s gold of false religion, then let’s pray for ourselves, as well–that God would show us, through our study of His Word, that following Him is worth it, no matter the cost!
²Sermons from I Peter 4 by Pastor Dean Good (so worth listening to!) —
Next in the series (for anyone who wants to listen):