Having grown up in the Catholic church of the ’70’s I got the message that there is a God and that he loves me just as I am. He places no demands on me and just showers gift upon gift. Maybe it was just me but I suspect many of us were sold short of the full story.
I subsequently discovered that with every gift there is a responsibility. That the God who created me is not content to leave me in my sins. That God does in fact exist and that I will be held accountable for the way I have used (or misused) the gifts He has given me for the good of others.
Consequently, it makes me squirm when I hear things like:
Just believe you will go to heaven and you will.
God is not mean and he would never leave anyone out of heaven who wanted to go there.
Good people all go straight to heaven and don’t worry about all those minor sins you racked up and didn’t repent of.
God loves you anyway.
Jesus is too cool to care about that.
It is like he looks a bit like one of the BeeGees with rainbow rays coming from his beautifully manicured hands..
We have recently come across a term which aptly describes this belief system and termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Bit of a mouthful.
In a nutshell, its beliefs are that:
1.A god exists who wants us to be nice as taught by most world religions.
2.The main point to life is to be happy and feel good about yourself.
3.God doesn’t need to be involved in your life unless you have a problem. (He especially doesn’t worry about moral choices as long as they feel right to you.)
4.Good people go to heaven. That’s pretty well anyone who wants to – except maybe Hitler and axe murderers.
I was fascinated to hear it referred to as the New Religion.
This belief system is NOT Christian, but there are legions of Church goers who are actually following this new religion and not even aware of it. How sad to miss out on knowing the Person of Jesus Christ who is so much more involved in our lives than we can possibly even imagine. How sad to go your whole life thinking you know what the deal is with Christianity, only to discover it was all just a counterfeit of the real thing. How sad to share so little with the only One who will ever truly know you.
Is this the Jesus we meet in the Gospels? The one with the very unpopular sayings like, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and come follow me.” (Matt 16:24) or “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you will not have life in you.” (John 6:53) ?
This is the Jesus who died at a mighty cost to the very last drop of His blood for you. and me. and each individual human person from the very dawn of creation until the last breath of the last person to ever live.. He looks deeply into the heart of each person. Deeply.
Jesus is not a myth or a nice person who lived to his full potential. He is not a made up figure to bolster cashed up churches. He is and always has been beyond the comprehension of even the most brilliant minds in Christendom for the past 2,000 years.
Jesus is also not happy to let us stay in our comfortable selfish niche. This stifles our ability to be truly happy.. with the emphasis on truly.. on truth.. we cannot lie to God. We might be able to fool ourselves or even just those around us into believing we are really nice people but I am sorry to say being a really nice person is not what it’s all about people.
Being a really nice person doesn’t get this done to you.
In those small moments of honesty we can see our need for God. Don’t be afraid of your need.
There is a God-shaped hole in every human heart.
Only the real Jesus can fill this. If you find yourself thinking, “Why do I feel unfulfilled and am so intent on striving to have everyone around me think I’m really nice?” then maybe you have been sucked into the lie of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism too. It is so pervasive. So enticing. And so dangerous. It robs us of the real life we can only have from the One who said,
“The thief comes only to lie, kill and destroy. I have come that you may have LIFE – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)