Are You a Default Christian?
America is arguably the most “Christian Nation” on the planet. We have a rich Christian history and heritage, even though not all Americans are, or ever were, practicing Christians. There are many in our culture who we might call default Christians. These are folks who believe in God, and because they are not practitioners of another religion, default to Christianity. But is there a difference between default Christianity and historic, biblical Christianity?
Though there may be many more, allow me to point out three marks of biblical Christians that differ from their default counterparts.
First, biblical Christians have different affections. Biblical Christians have had their affections changed by God. They do not merely “believe in” God, or even Jesus. They actually love Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). And why does anyone love the Lord Jesus Christ? The Bible answers that one too. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Biblical Christians understand something of the love God has demonstrated to them (no one understands it perfectly), and as a result experience a change in their affections, to the extent that they actually love Jesus Christ. A Christian’s affection for Jesus Christ is what informs and directs the rest on our list.
Second, biblical Christians live different lifestyles. I am not talking about the person who thinks he is a Christian because of the list of things he does not do. Some might think they are Christians because they do not smoke, drink alcohol, or dance. But household pets do not do those things either. That doesn’t make them Christians, does it? Of course not. What I mean by living different lifestyles, is that a person’s affections are revealed by the things he talks about, the places he goes, and by the things he enjoys doing or not doing. For instance, biblical Christians talk differently from non-Christians—not merely the words they use, but the topics they speak about. In the same way that a parent enjoys talking about his children, Christians enjoy talking about Jesus. Why? Because as parents love their children, Christians love Jesus. Biblical Christians do not “force Jesus down anyone’s throat.” They respect (with sadness) when a person is not interested (or is hostile) and they give those people their space. Biblical Christians do, however, talk about Christ because He is the most important Person in their lives. To tell what is in your heart, listen to the words that come out of your mouth.
Third, biblical Christians associate with Christ’s Church. There have been times in history when there were more non-Christians in the Church, but there has never been a time when there are more people who profess to be Christians who are not in the Church. It is true that going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian. But it is also true that Biblical Christians love Christ’s Church. Why? Because Christ loves His Church (enough to die for her!), those who love Him, love what He loves. Yes, the Church is full of imperfect people. In fact, the Church is the only organization that membership is open only to those who acknowledge their unfitness for inclusion. Biblical Christians are not self-righteous, in the literal sense of that word. Biblical Christians are people who know that they are sinful in the eyes of a holy God, and that they possess no righteousness of their own. They have asked for God’s mercy because of what Christ did on the cross and by rising from the dead to purchase their complete forgiveness. The only righteousness that a biblical Christian has to hope in is the righteousness of Christ (which happens to be more than sufficient!). There is no room whatsoever for self-righteousness in that. In the literal sense, those who deny that they are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness are the self-righteous ones, since they are literally trusting in their own righteousness.
Biblical Christians in biblical churches are not exempt from friction with other believers in church. Just like in any family, people in churches say and do things sometimes that are sinful. But biblical Christians understand that the church is like Noah’s Ark. Yes, the animals inside do not always get along perfectly, and sometimes the air is less than peasant, but if you go outside you will be drowned. Understand it this way, Christ puts His people in churches so we can learn to love others they way Christ loves us—in spite of our un-loveliness.
So the next time you are asked, or give thought to the question, “Are you (am I) a Christian?” ask yourself, “Do I love Jesus Christ, or merely believe in Him?” Ask yourself, “Does my manner of life demonstrate that I love Him?” Ask yourself, “Do I love Christ’s Church and the people in it?” And be aware that being a default Christian is not the same as being a biblical Christian.