September 23, 2013

Church Sign Confusion

Okay, so I’ve wrestled with this post for years–literally. I would write a few sentences, save, rewrite, save, delete, and so on. I would get it like I thought I wanted it, pray about posting it, and decide I probably shouldn’t because it may paint me as a church hater or it might not be as helpful as I want it to be. Anyway, it’s about church signs. Those annoying signs that are supposed to be witty or funny that actually make Christians look like idiots or bigots. Not all church signs fit this description, but this post isn’t about those.

My wife and I usually just make fun of them to ourselves and don’t make a big deal of them to anyone else, even our kids. And living in the South, we have no shortage of church sign fodder. But, every now and then there comes a sign that crosses a theological line that I just can’t take. They’re not cheesy, corny, dumb, or fortune-cookie-esk. They trample the grace found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They cheapen the sacrifice of our Lord just to produce some little play on words or cliche. Enter, the sign I saw today.

I will start off by giving the people of this local church the benefit of the doubt. I do love my brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s why I want to point out the error I see in thinking without slandering their character. I would like to think that they really love Jesus. I would like to think they understand the Gospel and don’t mean to twist it. I would like to think that they don’t really believe what the sign says. I would like to think that they, well, they  just didn’t think this one all the way through before they put it up. But you see, that’s part of the problem. The sign portrays, in more ways than one, that a lot of Christians don’t think deeply. We don’t think deeply about what we believe, what we read, what we say, etc. We just live on a steady diet of cliches and Bible verses snatched out of context.

“Christianity is not a religion, it’s a lifestyle,” read the sign as I strained my neck looking back at it to make sure I saw what I thought I saw from my ’94 Accord. What?! No matter how you interpret their use of the word religion here, it teaches the exact opposite of what the entire New Testament teaches about justification.

Let’s say that religion here means religious works–trying to get to heaven by adhering to religious or traditional practices. I would agree with that being wrong. But now the sign reads “Christianity is not about religious works, it’s about living the Christian life.” So it’s not about works, but it is? Huh? Where is grace, mercy, forgiveness? Where is the Gospel? I mean, if this is what “Christianity is,” don’t you think we should get this right?

Let’s say that by religion they mean a set of beliefs (per the dictionary). So now the sign would read “Christianity is not a set of beliefs, it’s a lifestyle.” So, it’s not about faith, it’s about works. Hmm. I think my Bible teaches it a bit differently than that. We have become so afraid of the word religion that we have forgotten that a religion is a set of beliefs–doctrines. We are saved by God’s unmerited grace–get this–through faith (what we believe) says Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 1:16, Romans 3:24, and 3:28!

It is what we believe that changes how we live, not the other way around. So, Christianity is not about a lifestyle. Christianity is about faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2). The “lifestyle” is a byproduct of God graciously saving and justifying wicked sinners, making us His children, placing His Holy Spirit within us, and conforming us to the image of Christ from the inside out.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ESV) (emphasis mine).

Brothers and Sisters, let’s think deeply about this undeserved grace that we have been given–there is so much to be explored. Let’s seek to represent our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ accurately and well, with love for the lost in our culture. Let us think before we spout off one of our cliches that may not be biblical. Let us be Berean-like (Acts 17:10-12) as we consider how we and others are using the Bible. Finally, let us “contend for the Faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)

Leave a Reply