Faith, True Faith Makes a Difference

Faith, True Faith Makes a Difference

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Apr. 13, 1994)

Does Your Faith Make a Difference?

The assumption that Christ's followers live transformed lives was a theme of primitive Christianity that seems largely to have gotten lost along the way. We have abandoned it in favor of mere lip service to Christianity. My fear is that most people who claim to be Christians can be identified as such only by their claim.

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands," wrote the apostle John. "The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3-4).

A recent poll was done by U.S. News and World Report on religious beliefs in America. From one set of statistics, it could be boasted that we are the most religious people in the world. Yet from other findings in the same poll, one could conclude that there is precious little religion in our secular society.

The survey of more than 1,000 registered voters said 95% believe in God, yet 82% said they could be "a good Christian or Jew" without attending religious services. Now I don't want to be misunderstood on this point. Attending religious services does not equate with living a transformed life, and participating in public worship is neither the most critical test of faith nor an adequate substitute for day-by-day right conduct.

Yet it seems to me that "attending religious services" is both necessary and desirable to people who are undergoing daily transformation. At the very least, as a simple man once put it to me, participation in public assemblies of the church "lets ole Satan know whose side I'm on."

The U.S. News article that reported these statistics likely put its finger on the critical issue with this observation: "As a people, we are uneasy with the perpetual tension between our religious impulses and our unwavering commitment to secular society. . . . We profess fidelity to traditional morality, yet we champion individual freedom and resist religious authoritarianism."

In other words, we want to be connected with God's world yet make it plain that our priorities are in this one. We want to cast a vote for the superiority of spiritual things but refuse to turn loose of the trappings of secularity. We want to be Christians without having to demonstrate any qualitative difference in character and lifestyle from people who are admittedly unbelieving and worldly.

If we really do want to restore primitive Christianity, it must take place at the deepest level of personal renewal within a larger community of faith. "This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:5b-6).

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