A fellow-attendee at a Bible study I attend, a self-professed mature Christian, said her sister had always been a Christian. While the sister had been a Buddhist and a few other religions from time to time and currently lives a life high in hedonism and low in integrity, she “has always been a Christian.”

Well, what kind of nonsense is that? Christians live their lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, who’s not the least inclined to tolerate such things, let alone endorse them.

Where did we go off the tracks to reach this dismal idea? Let me suggest three things:

1. We got all caught up in the Sinner’s Prayer as if saying the proper words made the difference. No folks, it’s not the words, it’s the heart. Did your heart turn toward God when you said the words or were you just buying fire insurance–or perhaps get-off-my-back insurance?

2. We wildly misunderstood the idea about no longer being under the law and decided anything goes! Once I’ve said the magic words, I’m good to go! Party down! Live at a lower level than the law required? No problem!

Well, no. The idea is we’ve moved beyond–and above–the law. The law was about muscling your will power into doing the right thing. That’s why Paul talks about being “wretched” under the law; try as he might–and he was one determined dude–he failed. Will power, despite the name, doesn’t have much power. If that’s all you have, you can’t make it.

Anyone who understands Christianity knows it’s humanly impossible.

3. Because the real power that brings us to love, joy, peace and all the other goodies doesn’t come from us; it comes from the Holy Spirit who moved in when we turned our heart toward God.

But you’d never guess we have this power in us, our birthright, as it were. Most Christians have no idea because nobody’s told them, and working with the Holy Spirit doesn’t just happen.

Sermons about the Holy Spirit lean heavily on such things as talking funny and falling down–not about the power to defeat our sins and habits. Not about learning to recognize God’s voice in us. Not about having a strength beyond our own to make us “more than conquerors.” Talk funny if you’d like, but if that’s all you have, you don’t really have anything.

The church–and its members–cheats people when it fails to speak the whole word of God. It’s not about mouthing some pious words. Or assuming Christianity threw aside all the rules and now lacks any level of rigor. And it’s certainly not about some bogus notion of being able to live a Christian life on will power alone.

Such nonsense trivializes God, and Christ paid far too high a price for that.

Did you hear the one about the sheep and the goats?

Author's Bio: 

Bette Dowdell is the proud daughter of two clergy parents, first in The Salvation Army, then in The United Methodist Church. Known both for her humor and her knowledge, she writes and speaks motivationally about maximizing life and also about Christianity. Her book How to be a Christian Without Being Annoying explains how the Bible sees Christianity, which can come as a surprise to some. And her On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army honors her parents with a rollicking story–sometimes funny, sometimes not so much–of a difficult life lived at full tilt and conquered by enthusiasm, love and commitment. Read more at http://ConfidentFaith.com