Just read an interesting article by Craig Groeschel. He claims that he used to be effectively a Christian Atheist. That is, he believed in Christ, and the power of God, but lived like an atheist. His life didn’t display his stated beliefs. He breaks down Christianity into three lines:
Line 1: I believe in God and the Gospel of Christ enough to benefit from it. Like so many others, crossing that first line was easy. Sadly, many who call themselves Christians live here. If there is a God, I want to be on His good side. I want to go to heaven. I want Him to bless me with good health, good relationships and a happy life. Like the nine ungrateful lepers in Luke 17, once God had helped me, I forgot about Him.
Line 2: I believe in God and Christ’s Gospel enough to contribute comfortably. Past the first line are people who believe in God not only enough to benefit but also enough to give back—as long as it doesn’t cost too much. Many first-line Christians eventually cross the second line. If I don’t have to change too much, I’ll do some of what God asks. If it doesn’t hurt too much, I’ll get more serious about God. But everyone has their limits, right? Like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, I was willing to go along with the religious rules as long as it didn’t hurt too much.
Line 3: I believe in God and Christ’s Gospel enough to give my life to it. Although most people I knew were line-one and line-two believers, suddenly anything less than line three didn’t seem like real Christianity to me. Could I give my whole life to Christ? Not only in words but in my daily life?
Groeschel claims that he, like most Christians, started by crossing line 1. He, as many do, eventually crossed line 2. The hard part is crossing line 3. He finally makes that call. Groeschel doesn’t exactly address whether those who have only crossed line 1 or even line 2 are really saved. He seems to imply he thinks they might be, but I’m not sure that he really means to answer that question, so I won’t read him too literally there.
What I do think he wants us to realize, is that Christ calls us past line 3, and that the real joy of the Christian life lies there. Those who have not crossed that line will never really experience all of the life of Christ! The life more abundant lies here, according to Groeschel, and anything less is to live like an atheist.
I’m not sure that I like his analogy in totality. I think that it is almost easier to get to the real Christian life from outside the faith, than from past line 1 or 2. Those who have the veneer of Christianity, but not the full commitment are living life in an ineffectual manner that is not attracting others to real faith, or making a difference in the life of the people themselves. How is this threatening to the kingdom of this world? They can think they are really walking with Christ, but they still go their own direction, bow at the altar of materialism or look to the kingdoms of this world for their fulfillment and hope, and think that they are drawing closer to God. At best, they will enter heaven, but “as if through fire”. (See 1 Corinthians 3.11-15)
I have to admit, though, that this is a danger for all Christians. It is easy to lost that first love, and slide back into living on our own power, as if we don’t believe that Christ’s power is necessary for every moment. I found this article, despite my occasional disagreements with it, to be a good reminder of how I want to live my life.
HT: Dani Johnson