I grew up…”Christian”. I have a Christian name, grew up in a Christian home, and learned my abc’s shortly after memorizing the 66 books of the bible. Just kidding… I actually learned my abc’s first; the books of the bible came shortly thereafter.
I learned that the answer to the question in Sunday school was Moses or Noah if the lesson was from the OT, and Jesus or Paul if the lesson was from the New Testament. I knew the right answers and, for the most part, I did the right things. (Except for that time when I burned down the woods which invoked a lecture by the fire chief, and then there was the time….. well, we don’t need to go into all that!) The point is, I was a pretty good churched kid and “Almost Christian”.
Now, I am grateful for my Christian heritage!!!
But, as I reflect back on my upbringing, knowing the right answers to the questions, memorizing the books of the bible, and doing a lot of good stuff, I am aware that none of that made me a Christian. People have a way of thinking these days that is….”Almost Christian.”
“Almost Christian” is a phrase I am adapting from Russell Moore’s book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.
Russell Moore writes:
“…The point was they knew how to behave. I explained that “how to behave” could be translated as “how to hide sin” through a cycle of Saturday decadence and Sunday repentance.”
Moore, Russell D. (2015-07-10). Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (p. 71). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
“Almost Christian” does a lot of good and commendable things. “Almost Christian” makes sacrifices, attends church regularly, and gives money in the offering, or gives to help out others who are in need. “Almost Christian” is a great neighbor and friendly to strangers. “Almost Christian” recognizes he or she needs to do these good things and Jesus is needed as well. “Almost Christian” does not understand what is wrong with the previous sentence, or why I am being so picky about it! “Almost Christian” is “Christian” in his or her own efforts with some help from Jesus when needed. And of course, “Almost Christian” needs Jesus… occasionally. And so, “Almost Christian” occasionally prays and occasionally trusts in God’s Word…that is, when the Word is agreeable or needed.
We all need to evaluate if we are “Almost Christian”. Because, well, “Almost Christian” is not a Christian…and here’s why… the beauty and glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He came to bring us fully into Himself. The Christian is “In Christ”. Which means the Christian is not someone who does good things and calls on Jesus for a little bit of help when, or if needed. The Christian is someone who needs Jesus everyday! He / she recognizes that Christ is his or her only hope. Jesus is not someone who is needed in addition to our efforts. Jesus is needed BECAUSE our efforts are riddled with sin. Jesus is everything! Without him we are a sad people and have not a hope in this world.
Now, some think, well “Almost Christian” is better than Non-Christian. But, we must realize the deceit of this thinking. “Almost Christian” is NOT Christian. “Almost Christian” uses Jesus….like a crutch. He or she calls on Jesus when one’s own righteousness is not quite good enough to get things done. “Almost Christian” pulls Jesus out of his back pocket when in a pinch.
Friends, “Almost Christian” trusts in himself, rather than Jesus Christ and this is gravely dangerous and deceptive to the core.
“Almost Christian” is deceived by his or her own good works and valiant efforts.
Here is what I realize looking back and what I now realize having children of my own and pastoring a church. Knowing the answers to the questions does not make one a Christian. Growing up in a Christian home does not make one a Christian. And doing some good things has yet to make anyone a Christian!
Too often our homes and churches are more concerned with outward behavior rather than the inward heart. We teach our children how to behave and we sadly assume that there is an understanding of the gospel that saves. Right answers and good behavior has saved no one! The gospel saves!
Christ came and died that we might repent of our sins and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins!