In today’s society the trend among most Christian groups is that the number of members is diminishing.
Three out of five young American Christians leave their Christian community after the age of 15. When we read statistics like these, there is every reason to call out a warning that something must be wrong. Young people are feeling that God seems far away. But why is that?
What is the goal of Christianity?
In His Great Commission, Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.
Why are the commandments to be kept? Because Jesus came to the earth to get brothers and sisters with whom He can abide together with God. (Hebrews 2:10-18) After Adam and Eve were disobedient and ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, sin separated people from God. Jesus came to show us the way back to God. He showed us the way to keep God’s Laws and be set free from sin!
That liberty means that I allow the Lord’s Prayer to become reality: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:10) First in my own life, and then, in my surroundings. Then my body is an instrument for God and not for my own will. That is the liberty that Jesus brought!
According to the words of Paul, Christianity has gone off track if it merely causes people to maintain a façade of holiness while they continue to be egoistical, self-righteous, and proud. (2 Timothy 3:2-5)
Covered by grace and “permission to sin”
A fundamental concept in Christianity is the forgiveness of sins. Thereby, Jesus showed that He loves me and I know that I love Him in return. But don’t you think that Jesus had a deeper intention than “only” to set me free from the guilt of my sin when He died on the cross? “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” He says in John 14:15.
Everyone knows that love without action is completely useless. Why would that not also apply here?
If Jesus’ grace “allows” me to backbite, lie, and have critical, demeaning thoughts about others, have I not changed forgiveness of sins into “permission to sin?” Realistically, then, what is the difference between me, as a member of a church, and those who are not members? Is it only forgiveness, which was also available before Jesus? (Hebrews 10:1,9) Do the church leaders have to impose numerous rules and regulations about practical details in order to create a visible division between “them” and “us”?
Are these human interpretations of the Bible, preached as if they were spiritually inspired boundaries placed there by God, merely false Godliness behind which both egotism and pride can continue to prosper? If this is the case, it is not strange that many young people’s experience of the church is that God seems far away.
Not popular to be a Christian
Yet this is the foundation on which Christian youth are expected to establish a direction for their lives. But the spirit of the times entices them with “seek fulfilment for yourself – live life,” and the lusts for sexual immorality rage in their bodies. How can anyone expect these young people to rather choose something that they experience as false, superficial, outdated, and unable to answer the most important questions of life?
The answer is obvious, and that makes it appear bleak for Christianity.
Is Christianity really outdated?
No, absolutely not! But we must return to that which was from the beginning. Instead of “permission to sin” or egotistical Christianity, we need to go all out to preach in such a way that all in the congregation ask themselves:
“Do I want to live as much as possible according to my lusts here in this world and ‘surf into heaven on grace?’ In that case, Jude 4 describes the result clearly: “… ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness …” Or will I repay Jesus with genuine love, by keeping His commandments and being freed from sin?”
“What do I really want?” is the question on which my personal Christianity stands or falls.
With this as a filter many difficult and unanswered questions disappear or become irrelevant. My interest becomes focused on God and His will for my life. When I truly desire to live according to His will, the Holy Spirit will show me the boundaries that God in His great love and divine wisdom has established for me. Then I am no longer interested in pushing these boundaries, whether it has to do with sexuality, movies, music, games or other things.
I understand that it is only by God’s laws and commandments that I can be made free from my own egotism, and He can lead me into His divine peace and joy, both in this life and later in the life hereafter. Instead of the spirit of the times and ever changing trends in the society around me, God’s Word and the Bible become what I use to measure my behavior.
And that is unchangeable. (Hebrews 13:8)