Taking a look at the typical program on “Christian” television makes one understand why so many people charge Christianity with being a religion for those who refuse to think. The latest huckster filling buildings with claims of healing folks of all sorts of maladies (none documented, of course) or some charlatan claiming that God has given him a plan to bless those who send him $100 a month for the next twelve months reduces the Christian faith to a contemptible self-gratification society.
Unfortunately, such egregious displays of carnality are not the only ones which cash in on man’s inherent passion for self. Folks flock to hear how they can fix their problems and have more happiness in life. “Don’t worry about sin and repentance; God’s on your side. Stop preventing him from blessing you with your continued self-rejection. Love yourself, and love God. After all, he’s here for you.”
Unfortunately, we Baptists are not much better. When I was much younger (yes, much younger!), I was a member of a church which then purportedly had the largest Sunday school in the world. I was a “bus captain” for one of the over-200 buses which weekly invaded the Chicago area to bring mostly children to Sunday school. How did we fill so many buses? We had all kinds of contests and and gave all sorts of gifts. We swallowed goldfish and made “the world’s largest sundaes.” It was a veritable three-ring circus, and multitudes loved it.
Not too many years after that time, a friend loaned me a set of audio tapes of sermons preached by John MacArthur. I had never heard of Dr. MacArthur (this was about 1980), but the series title was intriguing: “The Glory of God.” The type of Christianity which I had experienced had been creating quite a bit of angst, and somehow I knew there had to be much more to Christianity than bribing folks to come to church where they would then hear a message about “asking Jesus into their hearts” so they could avoid hell. MacArthur’s messages articulated what I had been thinking and completely changed my understanding of the faith. No longer was Christianity about man’s comfort and man’s hopes; Christianity, biblical Christianity, was about the glory of God.
And yet the beat goes on. I received an invitation this past week to attend a two-day seminar promising to increase the attendance of my church. A local Baptist association is advertising the drawing of a $100 Wal-Mart gift card in order to increase the number of young people attending a particular night of its annual evangelistic crusade. Well intentioned, perhaps, but trivializing the faith for certain.
Such is not the faith for which disciples of Christ have been persecuted throughout the ages. Unfortunately, what goes on in the name of Christianity is little more than appealing to our inherent depravity. It’s a man-centered religion.
Fortunately, there is a better way, a more biblical way, and that is to see God as the center of our existence and the Scriptures as the directive for our methods. Indeed, the English and Scottish divines of the mid-seventeenth century provide us with clear direction with the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647):
What is the chief end of man?
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.