December 14, 2017

It’s OK…to Just Be a Christian

By Chaplain Mike

MOD NOTE: Comments are closed.

I hope this will come as a bit of good news to you today. Maybe it will help you stop beating yourself up unnecessarily. I hope it will help us all to that end.

What I have to tell you is…

It’s OK.

It’s OK to just be a Christian.

It’s OK to just be a person who knows and is thankful that God loves you and gave his Son for you.

It’s OK to just be a person of the cross, to know that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again for the world’s salvation.

Really, it’s OK.

It’s OK to be someone who only really cares about trying to love God and love your neighbor.

It’s OK to think that the Apostles’ Creed is a comprehensive enough statement of faith for you, and that you are willing to have fellowship with other people who think the same.

You don’t have to be a certain kind of Christian. Adjectives like “reformed” or “conservative” or “emerging” or “missional” or any number of denominational or theologically constricting labels are not necessary.

It’s OK just to love Jesus and be thankful for what he’s done for you.

You don’t have to go to a “cool” church with a name like “Revolution” or “The Rock” or “Journey” or “The River.” Your plain ol’ First Presbyterian or First Baptist or First United Methodist will do. It’s OK if it’s St. Peter’s and your pastor waves incense around, or St. Basil’s, where intriguing icons invite you to meditate on them.

It’s OK if you don’t listen to Christian music, shop in Christian stores, wear Christian t-shirts, go to Christian conventions, become a Christian homeschooler or send your kids to Christian schools, patronize Christian businesses, participate in Christian causes, read Christian books, or identify yourself with Christian organizations. You can be a Christian without all that, it’s OK.

It’s OK if you don’t have a big library of theological books or Bible commentaries. It’s OK if you struggle reading through the Bible, because you can’t even make it past Genesis 5—you can’t pronounce that long list of funny names.

It’s OK if you have no idea what it means to “engage the culture,” or “have an impact in the world.” You may not understand what “social justice” is all about. If you’ve never been in a small group or taken a missions trip, never had your spiritual gifts inventoried, never tweeted the pastor during a message and wouldn’t know a PowerPoint sermon if it bit you, it’s OK.

I don’t think it really matters if you know John Piper from Piper Laurie, N.T. Wright from the Wright Brothers, YEC from NAACP, or Willow Creek from Nickel Creek.

You are OK staying out of the culture wars. Culture wars? You’re too busy visiting your neighbor who’s in the hospital, taking some food to the family, coaching that little kid who doesn’t have a dad, writing a note to a friend who’s discouraged, making coffee for the congregation on Sunday morning, volunteering at the school, mowing the lawn of a shut-in.

Oh, by the way, it’s OK if you say, “I don’t know” when people ask you about the burning issues of the day. It’s OK if you don’t have an opinion on gay marriage or stem cell research or global warming.

And it’s even OK if you are a bit fuzzy on your theology. If you can’t give a precise formulation of the doctrine of justification by faith or distinguish between the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed teachings on sanctification, you’re still gonna be OK. If you think “rapture” is what you felt on your wedding day, and have no idea of its theological meaning, that’s OK.

It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” Doesn’t make you less of a Christian.

Baptized as an infant? OK. Dunked in the creek as a young teen? OK.

Love to receive communion because you meet Jesus there, but have no idea how to explain it? In my opinion, that’s OK.

Because you trust in Jesus.

You know in your heart that you’re broken and need fixing.

It’s clear to you that he is the only one who can forgive your past, enliven your present, and guarantee your future.

And in response you have found simple ways to worship the One who means everything to you, with others who feel the same.

That’s what you know, and that’s who you are.

You’re just a Christian.

And that’s OK.

By the way, if you know someone like this, you might want read this post to them, because I have an idea they have no clue what the “Christian blogosphere” is, and they will probably never find my words.

That is perfectly OK with me.

Comments

  1. Really good article-I’m going to save it for those times that I can’t figure out exactly what I believe (or what I ‘should’ believe) beyond the apostle’s creed.

  2. OK!

  3. Savannah says:

    This is a very timely post – I bet for lots of people. Sometimes I just want to exclaim, “I just don’t know!” – mostly because I don’t know and the older I get the less I seem to know – or even think is important.

    Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I’m thinking that your post is what He might have meant.

  4. Just as I am…

  5. Encouraging. Thanks for this. You are really carrying the torch here Mike.
    This just might even help me stop beating myself up unnecessarily. But is there ever a time when it is necessary and how would you know?

  6. Amen. Lord, give me a childlike faith so I can depend on you alone instead of on something of my own making.

  7. Thank you for that, Chaplain. That really made my evening and makes me think i’m not alone out here in the wilderness.

  8. A hearty AMEN!!!

  9. Thanks for the encouragement….I agree whole-heartedly…is that ok?

  10. …or Willow Creek from Nickle Creek

    I was with you up until this one. Everyone should know who Nickel Creek is. Its for their own good. 🙂

  11. Refreshing to see Christians that are like this (:

  12. This is good to hear, Chaplain Mike. I hear so many theological terms I never heard of before and hear about so many great Christian writers, speakers, etc,. that I never heard of before. Sometimes you do just need to give yourself a break.

  13. Yes – Agreed!

    “Let your creed be the Bible, and nothing but the Bible; and your example Christ, and nothing short if Him”, said J.C Ryle……

    Just don’t wonder off into an isolated wilderness……….

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  15. I certainly agree, however I don’t know Nickel Creek from Battle Creek, does that matter?

  16. Amen! Sometimes I feel lost in the on-line Christian world, where everyone can debate moral issues and toss around words like dispensationalist and…well…lots of other big words. And it’s not that issues don’t matter to me, it’s just that, well, they don’t MATTER to me. I’m too busy trying to figure out how to model grace to two boys and how to serve my neighbors.

  17. Suddenly, I feel ok 🙂

  18. I would like to agree, however what do you do about Christians who differ on:

    1. the very nature of Salvation (grace only, grace + works, works)?
    2. the nature of Baptism (symbol only, saves, a means of Grace, etc.)?
    3. the nature of Communion (symbol only, real presence)?
    4. the contents of Scripture (i.e. which books are part of the Canon)?
    5. the issue of authority (Bible only, Bible interpreted using rule of faith, Pope/Magisterium, etc.)?
    6. the interpretation of Scripture?
    7. the method of worship (i.e. Liturgical, contemporary, etc.)?

    Unless all views of Salvation are equal, then some Christians are wrong regarding their view of how one is saved. Unless all views of Baptism and Communion are equal, then some Christians are wrong regarding these things.

    Some Christians are clearly wrong and some are clearly right.

    What kind of Christian you are matters.

    • Eric now you gone and spoiled all the fun, but that’s OK too. I think?

    • “Unless all views of Salvation are equal, then some Christians are wrong regarding their view of how one is saved. Unless all views of Baptism and Communion are equal, then some Christians are wrong regarding these things.

      Some Christians are clearly wrong and some are clearly right.”

      And yet, all rights and wrongs are forgiven through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      I choose to be thankful for the beauty in that contradiction. The Lord will appreciate my thanks more than my worry. 🙂

      • I agree that all of our wrongs are forgiven. However, are you saying that it does not matter what a church teaches? Are all Christian theologies valid?

        • I, too, suspect that we will all arrive in heaven and discover that none of our theologies were perfect. In which case, we could now say that all Christian theologies are equal in the sense that they are all flawed.

          Does it matter what a church teaches? Yes — and I would argue that what a church should teach is a theology of humility. A theology of “This is what we make of these verses, some of which appear to be semi-contradictory, and this is what we have gleaned from those who went before us in trying to understand the mechanics of it all. But it is all just mechanics. What really matters is WHO can save you.”

          I don’t see much room for pride in a theology that is still flawed.

    • As I read the Scriptures, it is faith in the Cross of Christ as the means of Salvation that is saving Faith. Not faith in the Bible, not faith in a theory of atonement, not faith in the proper reading of the Bible, not faith in Liturgy or lack of liturgy etc.

      Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
      (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

    • Are we saved by God, or by correct theology? If by correct theology or right belief, then we can count out those either too young or those lacking mental faculties to be able to understand. Salvation is from God through the sacrifice of Jesus. My faith is in Him, not my view of church or the Bible. I’m sure most of us are half wrong on our beliefs of other things.

    • I am sure when I get to heaven, I am going to wrong on some things and right on others. Along the way I am glad that I got to fellowship with others who are wrong on some things and right on others. And when some say “What is Mike Bell doing here, he believed some wrong things?” Jesus will say, “But he believed in me, and that is what really matters.”

      • Amen and Amen.

        The Gospel of Jesus Christ. All else is speculation.

      • Granpajohn says:

        My reply to this amazingly difficult contextual conflagration has always been:

        When we get to glory and met the Savior face to face, He will look upon us we loving gentle eyes and say “You believed WHAT?!?!?! Where did you get that from???
        Then He’ll hugs together with the ones who believed otherwise and straighten us all out…

        • Granpajohn says:

          WITH loving gentle eyes…
          What good is a keyboard if it can’t spell check my thoughts…

          (the He’ll hugs us was intentional)

    • Other than item #1, these are all nonessentials, peripheral issues. And I don’t think there’s really much disagreement over item #1.

      Haven’t yet met anyone who had the perfect theology or doctrine, and I suspect we’ll all be in for a few surprises when we get to heaven. 🙂

      • Matthew 28:19 is a “peripheral issue” – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

        Baptism and making disciples is the CENTRAL issue.

        In addition, if Christ is actually present in Communion, this is hardly a “peripheral issue”. This becomes, if true, the MAIN focus of Worship.

        • Without some of this thinking, we wouldn’t have a canon in any faith tradition. The ‘gospels’ that 99% of us now think of as a bunch of hooey would be included along with every Tom, Dick, and Harry variation ever since.

        • I’m with Eric’s emphasis, but I definitely think that being about the Father’s business – charity, alms, chastity, fastidiousness, love, forgiveness, and submission – is precisely the end to which prayer and worship is a means, and of which Holy Communion delineates the terms.

          i think of us for the moment like old LPs in God’s collection. Our lives spin their ordained time and pace, but we belong to Jesus, it’s His music that plays when the needle drops. Our tiny, predictable Christian lives keep turning until His love for us resounds for everyone or He pulls us off the platter, but doesn’t it make a joyful order when He elects to hear our song!

    • Sigh.

    • Eric, I would say to look at the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. Those are creeds outlining what is “essential” in regard to Christian faith. So many other things tend to divide Christians. I often think the way we “practice” our Christian faith has a lot to do with our temperament, our upbringing, our culture. I often find it interesting to see the various ways that people interpret scripture. Unless they are interpreting it in a way that makes them think they can be abusive to people, I don’t feel a need to persuade them to think like I do. And yes, I think that there are different “kinds” of Christians and I prefer some kinds to the others. I don’t know how Jesus will view all this.

      • The Nicene creed states “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins”. This rules out quite a few Christian groups.

        In addition, which version of the Nicene Creed are you referring to? The one with or without the Filioque?

        • Well, maybe stick with the Apostles Creed, Eric. I think the only line that Christians may quibble about is “He descended into hell,”

    • Ahh, but all Christians are still Christians, yes? And isn’t that more important?

      You offer no proof for your “clearly wrong and some are clearly right” claim. Difference doesn’t always mean error, or lack of validity. What if “Christianity” is a pragmatic question, like “What is the distance between these two walls so that I can fit a piece of carpet?” rather than “What is the full value of pi?” Actually, that might be a valuable way to look at it, since we never get to the end of answering the pi question. In the same way, we never get to the end of our understanding of God (=theology).

      We could also say that some parents have a better understanding of what it means to be a parent. But that doesn’t mean that other parents are not parents.

  19. I knew it wouldn’t be long before somebody showed up and said “It’s *not* OK to just be a Christian.”

  20. Can’t explain it but there are tears in my eyes. (as often happened when reading the Monk)-Thanks,Chaplen Mike

  21. Chaplain Mike,
    Wonderful post. Thanks for the bread.

  22. great, now we are going to have a group called the “it’s OK Christains” or the “Just Christian-Chirstians” 🙂 —-I have enjoyed the post, but I think you have infringed on Stewart Smiley’s catch phrase —- but hey “that’s OK” 🙂 peace

  23. That Other Jean says:

    Perhaps Elizabeth I got it right: “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All the rest is a dispute over trifles.”

  24. I am between Chaplain Mike and Eric in my thinking.

    Every soldier needs rest and relaxation. As we are soldiers of the Cross, we also need that. There are many many times to not worry as to whether your brother or sister believes everything correctly. I suspect that may be most of the time. There are many times to relax, to enjoy family, to listen to a sermon simply to enjoy the sermon rather than to analyze it, or to diagram it, or to learn some new and exciting thing.

    There are many many many times to simply enjoy being a son or daughter of God, to simply be in God and God in us. There are many people who will live out long and happy lives, going to their local congregation, worshiping God, following the Royal Law, and bringing up healthy and productive Christian children. Many of those people can be found in many places in the world, in Romania, in Nigeria, in Argentina, in Thailand, in Mexico, in the USA, etc.

    But, we also need to stand for what is true. There is a need to say that not all theologies are equal. There is a need to say that just because you call yourself Christian does not mean that you are not in danger. There is a need to say that some Christian theologies may bring you to the Lord, but can seriously damage your Christian life here on earth (think the shepherding movement, etc.).

    But, yes, there are many times when one needs to “power down” and just be.

    • After the last few days? Power down time.

      • Agreed. Thanks for finding the strength to keep writing through your burnout — we all understand.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Nothing causes a screaming flamewar like even a hint about Evolution, Homosexuality, and/or Abortion.

        And nothing causes a burnout like a screaming flamewar.

    • Fr. Ernesto:

      You actually state what I believe, but said it so much better than I could in my post. I agree that we must “stand for what is true” and not accept all theologies as being equal.

      • Agreed. But we don’t have to fight every time we hear something we consider “wrong”. This drove me out of my last church. And will keep me from attending a lot of others.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
          I’ve been living on the edge so long
          Where the winds of limbo roar
          And I’m young enough to look at
          And far too old to see
          All the scars are on the inside
          I’m not sure if there’s anything left of me

          Don’t let these shakes go on
          It’s time we had a break from it
          It’s time we had some leave —
          We’ve been living in the flames —
          We’ve been eating up our brains —
          Oh, please don’t let these shakes go on

          You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
          You blame me for my silence
          Say it’s time I changed and grew
          But the war’s still going on dear
          And there’s no end that I know
          And I can’t say if we’re ever…
          I can’t say if we’re ever gonna to be free —

          Don’t let these shakes go on
          It’s time we had a break from it
          It’s time we had some leave —
          We’ve been living in the flames —
          We’ve been eating out our brains —
          Oh, please don’t let these shakes go on

          You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
          My energy’s spent at last
          And my armor is destroyed
          I have used up all my weapons
          And I’m helpless and bereaved
          Wounds are all I’m made of —
          Did I hear you say that this is victory?

          Don’t let these shakes go on
          It’s time we had a break from it
          Send me to the rear —
          Where the tides of madness swell
          And been sliding into hell
          Oh, please don’t let these shakes go on…
          Don’t let these shakes go on…
          Don’t let these shakes go on …

          — Blue Oyster Cult, “Veteran of the Psychic Wars”

  25. Granpajohn says:

    Brilliant! AND, it’s OK to not post

    but often right to…

  26. This all sounds very reassuring and hypnotic–eyelids heavy–but let’s slap ourselves awake and examine this.

    Are you SURE? How do you know it’s okay? Because the guys waving incense at St. Peter’s and St. Basil’s (among others) seem to think that you DO have to be “a certain kind of Christian.”

    You say it’s okay NOT to have an opinion about various hot-button issues, and to keep quiet, but is it okay to do the opposite? To be politically and theologically engaged, and speak out on issues that pastors may find less convenient to discuss than warmed-over Transactional Analysis…? (i.e., “I’m okay, you’re okay.”

    Is it okay to reject the Apostles Creed, the biblical canon, or Christianity as a whole? If you’re less than sure about whether this is okay, then what’s the difference between that and these others? How are you judging these things, anyway?

    Okay, back to Mayberry…

    • Oh Phred, I’m feeling so good today, that I’m even going to say it’s OK to be an ass sometimes.

    • “Are you SURE?”

      In a word….

      …no.

      But I think the point is that grace is sure in our place. I don’t think we can be sure of what is the right kind of Christian. I don’t think we can be sure, sometimes, of what is sin and what isn’t. I don’t think we can be sure of anything. I don’t even think we can be sure if we should try to become sure.

      I just know the love and the grace of Jesus. I know it inspires me to be loving and merciful to others. I’m sure of those things, and I’m sure that the Lord approves of love and of mercy. As for the rest, well…I know that my faith in His grace is far more productive than worrying (believe me, this is from direct experience), and I know that I learn nothing Godly (love, peace, faith, charity) from unGodly (worry, resentment, bitterness, overstress) thinking. Always, I’m brought closer to letting my faith fill in the blanks.

  27. Posts like this and the other posts written by you and others is why I have been reading this blog since 2006. DK

  28. Kelby Carlson says:

    One caveat, at least for this theologically minded Christian:

    It /is/ okay if you have firm views on doctrines like justification or hot-button issues like homosexuality. It is okay if you campaign for the cause of Christ through social justice. It’s okay if you /do/ attend the Rock or the River or the Revolution.

    What’s not okay? Condemning others because they do or don’t do the things you do or don’t do.

    “This is how they shall no you: by the love to which you show one another.”

    • A million times this.

      I seem to be replying a lot to this post. Have I said yet that I’m glad to have read it?

  29. Denise Day Spencer says:

    Love this!

  30. Rick Ro. says:

    “I don’t think it really matters if you know John Piper from Piper Laurie…”

    Great line!

    I do like the “It’s OK” theme, for it’s very graceful and merciful, and refreshing and comforting. But I also think the Bible challenges us, as we grow in Christ, to move beyond thinking the rather simplistic “It’s OK” for ourselves, and move toward telling others that God wants them to know “It’s OK.”

  31. In light of certain ponderings with which I have been struggling this week, your post was just what the doctor ordered – a much needed prescription for this weary soul.
    Thank you, thank you Chaplain Mike.
    Blessings!

  32. Is it “okay” to be a relativist?

    I see the gist of what you’re getting at, Mike; but I disagree. Paul didn’t think it was okay for Peter to live like a Judaizer and Gentile.

    I think Christians in America need to be challenged to grow; not have apathy and laziness reinforced (everybody should read Os Guiness’ “Fit Body Fat Minds”). W/o theology we don’t have terms like Trinity etc.

    I could probably give you a pass on everything, Mike; except for when you said it’s okay for Christians to not read their Bibles — there’s simply no excuse for that (for example Christians in the underground in China would give anything to have the scriptures, and they do, their lives).

    It’s okay to rest in the grace of Christ, certainly; but we are to be busy about the work of the Lord, which involves more than ‘application’. Before application of grace comes folks need to become “knowledgeable” the principles (which is where in depth Bible study, Bible reading, and theological work comes into play — being “busy” is no excuse for not doing these things).

    While I can see what you were getting at, Mike; this post really disappoints.

    • The vast majority of Christians didn’t have Bibles of their own to read until about 200 years ago. I guess for 17 or 1800 years Christians just didn’t cut it, did they Bobby?

      • I have sometimes thought along this line as well but then I always come back to thinking about where we got our Bible from – those letters maybe – I reckon they were read pretty widely to those who believed before the bible as we know it came into being. Otherwise where did we get the gospel and epistles from? I am not sure all those copies diappeared at a certain point and then reappeared in the last hundred or so years. Maybe not all believers succumbed to Constantine. While the false church rages on there is always the church Jesus is building. I reckon He made sure they had those letters.

        • Yes, all the believers succumbed to, as you put it, “Constantine” – that, or they became the kind of heretics no Bible-believing Evangelical would want to be descended from: antinomians, Nestorians, gnostics, semi-Pelagians, etc.

          The Scripture has always been loved by the Church though, whether we recognize that Church to be Catholic or just catholic, which is why we have it today.

      • Exactly. Which suggests either that the omnipotent and omniscient God knew his plan wouldn’t be screwed up by our lack of the Bible, or that a not-so-powerful or not-so-all-knowing God has been doing a lot of hand wringing for a lot of centuries.

        Writing a little essay on this recently was a freeing experience for me, because it reminded me that I trust more in the character of God than in my understanding of why “unfair Bible access” could happen.

    • He didn’t say it was ok for Christians to not read their Bibles; he said it was ok if they struggle, if they can’t get through the long list of names in Genesis 5.

      It’s ok to not measure up. What’s not ok is when we think we actually can.

      Good one, Chaplain Mike. IMonk would be proud.

    • Help me out here — How did Peter live as both a Judaizer and a Gentile?

  33. The Nicene creed states “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins”. This rules out quite a few Christian groups.

    In addition, which version of the Nicene Creed are you referring to? The one with or without the Filioque?

    • Even the Pope doesn’t use the Filioque when the Orthodox Patriarch is present.

      • I have no idea what a Filioque is – it sounds like an upmarket rolodex.

        • It’s a little older than that, by a millenium or so. 😉 Very broadly, it’s the theological issue that was the catalyst for the Catholic/Orthodox schism; does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father; or from the Father ‘and the Son’ (‘filioque’). The Roman Church added that little word/phrase to the Nicene Creed; the Orthodox didn’t; it went from there.

          • The biggest complaint from the Orthodox about it, is that it wa added without the authority of an ecumenical Council.

            Some do have theological differences with it for sure, but it seems to me they were more frustrated by the act than the theology.

  34. Mike,

    You have probably described the majority of Christians in the world and throughout history; many of them martyrs for this “OK” Faith.

    When I too, become puffed up with my so called “knowledge” I let God slap me down and recognize that such people, in their actions, are worth more than all my books. We are saved by our faithfulness and that involves action; most of them the actions you described.

    Thanks. This one is truly worthy of the Spencer legacy.

  35. Good word. We might all be a little more ok if we stopped trying to be ok, stopped constantly checking our “ok-ness”, or stopp trying to define ok for everyone else and simply believe in Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son and love one another just as he commanded us (1John3).

  36. It’s okay to not be the one out at the anti-gay marriage protest, or the one writing impassioned letters to the editor about embryonic stem cell research…but I think it is important to have an opinion on the matter if asked. Those are the moral/ethical issues of the day and we should know where we as Christians stand. (So speaks the chief of sinners.) Past that, this overtired, workaday, “OK” Christian seconds Father Ernesto.

  37. Lilymyrrh says:

    I always love getting “back-to-basics”—I love simplicity….child-like faith, right?!!! Thanks, Chaplain Mike…sometimes I just need “permission” to rest in Him and “be okay”. Peace.

  38. Christopher Lake says:

    I agree with Father Ernesto and Margaret Catharine. For the one who *truly trusts* in Christ for the forgiveness of his/her sins, in a sense, it is ok to “just be a Christian.” One does not have to have a definite position on EVERY issue and/or be on a driven campaign against EVERY kind of sin in society in order to be a Christian. Thank God for that! 🙂

    Implicit in the idea of “truly trusting” in Christ, though, is obedience– and how obedience is understood and “played put” in the Christian life obviously differs, according to whether one is Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, etc. To the Lutheran Christian, the greatest “obedience” required of a Christian is to believe that Christ’s righteousness has already been imputed to the believer, and that one’s works can add nothing and take nothing away from that imputed righteousness. To the Catholic Christian, “obedience” is not only an essential part of the faith that is truly “living” (James 2:26), but it is also one part of the believer’s actually being made righteous– being conformed to the image of God. NOT– I repeat, NOT– “earning one’s way to Heaven” but getting Heaven *into* oneself while here on earth, so to speak.

    So… while on the one hand, part of me *really wants* to say that it’s “ok” (enough?) to “just be a Christian,” in this world, with differing theologies and understandings, I have to say that, for better or worse, it’s always more complex. One particularly severe example– many of my Reformed brothers and sisters (I used to be Reformed) will say that the Orthodox and Catholics are not even Christians, because of their differing stances on justification! (Not that I now agree with this view! I definitely do not.) Sigh…

    • Christopher Lake says:

      A clarification– I didn’t mean to imply, above, that Lutherans do not believe that obedience is important in the Christian life. What I meant to convey is simply that, in the Lutheran view, faith in the “finished work of Christ” that brings “imputed righteousness” to the believer *is* the greatest form of obedience. (I’m not Lutheran– I’m actually closer to returning to the Catholic Church at this point. We’ll see how my Reformed friends react if that comes to pass….)

  39. Chaplain Mike’s sentiment is very appropriate to the growing numbers of wanderers in the post evangelical wilderness. It is OK to just get on with living without going all hyper-faith and uptight about doctrinal niceties (Micah 6:8). On the other hand I sorta agree with Eric insofar as theology is unavoidable in any discussion of how to live as a Christian. Any “God-talk” is theology, literally. And Jesus talked about God a lot!

    Jesus also demonstrated his faith by loving people, building relationship, showing kindness and grace. He spoke life and hope to the world. Not law and compulsion. God wants to help us not to “rule over” us as we would usually understand the concept.

  40. My absolute favourite passage. It helps me to glimpse the heart of the Lord
    Matt 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Curiously, most of what Jesus says previously to Matthew 11:28-30, specifically chapter 10 when he commissions the twelve for their ministry and service, he tells of how DIFFICULT it will be to be His disciple and follow Him, specifically the tension and conflict between the believer/follower/disciple and the world.

      I do like the “It’s OK” mantra, but only for rest, refreshment, and comfort. At some point, we need to get past the children’s spiritual milk, begin eating meat and realize we are called to be more happy with “It’s OK.”

      • Maybe the difficulty arises due to people’s lack of comprehension of the gospel of grace. There’s nothing we could possibly do to earn God’s love or favour beyond just being ourselves. In early chapters of Hebrews (I think) Paul talked extensively about a sabbath rest for the people of God. We can certainly grow and do good works, and it is wise and healthy to do so, but it doesn’t change our status before God.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Good point. And when you think about it, it’s the realization of grace that allows us to walk the Christian walk JOYFULLY. And maybe it’s that joy that allows us to find the sabbath rest regardless of where we are at in are walk.

          There ain’t much joy in a guilt-ridden walk, nor much “rest.”

  41. Morgan J says:

    But don’t I have to (insert doctrinal position here)

    But, I was told I must (insert doctrinal position here)

    Those guys are so wrong on (insert doctrinal position here)

    Inerrant?

    Of course you should have a child like faith, now grow up and read the bible KJV only you heretic.

    Thank you for this post. I’m sure there are times most of us “regular” Christians can relate with many of your observations. The arguments have been going on for over 2,000 years and we are no closer to resolving them than before.

    And when my bones crumble into dust the words from John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” will ring true.

  42. I really dig this. No believer needs feel bad about their faith, or dwell upon confusion, inferiority, differences, or struggles. That said, I read this piece as “be encouraged today, but don’t allow yourself to be absolved of growing in your faith tomorrow.” The stopping point on the journey is a good one with a great view, but we can’t just make camp and not press forward… can we?

  43. Speaking of John Piper, his sermon one Sunday was tremendous! And for myself coming from a once saved now you must earn His Love mentality, and then realising He has lived the life I never could, and that is also part of His Gift to me I can relate to the ‘it’s ok’ message.
    Yet I also wonder if we do have something to do here before He returns and it may be as simple as being so blown away by Grace that you can’t shut up about it.
    We are going into all eternity where we can be in His Presence and receive of His inheritance, maybe in this short breath of life we have the greatest story ever told – to tell.
    I get a bit anxious when I read about Him separating the sheep and the goats because both call Him Lord and I also wonder if the water, the food, the clothing, the sickness and the imprisoned are just purely physical or if He means feeding The Gospel to the lost soul – so He may set them free from the spiritual sickness that imprisons them and He can feed and clothe them with Himself. Just my thoughts. We are called ambassadors of the Good News and in the telling we point them to peoples deepest need – the very One who healed ours.

    • I meant to say Piper’s sermon on Sunday – last Sunday’s one – haha! Sounds like I was saying any sermon of his is tremendous 🙂 sorry I just meant his latest one and I am not sure but it may have been his last one for eight months. If it was i can hear those words being said from heaven already, “well done!” Yeah it was that good, well this girl in Australia thought so anyway!

  44. Maybe I could add a further personal clarification. I find myself between two sets of Scriptures. On the one hand Our Lord Jesus chewed on Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. On the other hand, He also bent over backwards to be gentle and kind to the Publican, the prostitute, the thief, the tax-collector, and, quite frankly, the common everyday not-special Jewish believer.

    In many ways that needs to be our attitude. It may be my sinful self, but I have very little trouble chewing on “leaders” and bloggers whose attitude is one of “sitting in Moses’ chair,” in other words, of being an authority. If they put themselves in that position, then they need to be willing to take it when I tell them that their theology is inadequate and that they need to listen to the Scriptures, the Councils, the Church Fathers, and the Orthodox Church.

    But, when the attitude of the leader or blogger is merely an inquisitive, engaged, willing to learn, willing to exchange viewpoints attitude, then I am quite different. When someone writes me with an honest question, I do not generally quote the Nomocanons of Justinian. When someone comes to my parish, I do not check their every belief for true Orthodoxy. In fact, with many of those people I need to be careful not to stumble them for, as Jesus said, it would be better if I were to tie a millstone around my neck and cast myself in the sea than to stumble one of His little ones.

    Maybe this explains me better.

  45. A person who is “just” a Christian is not a legalist who follows ecclesiastical rules of faith in such a rigorous manner that he or she loses the spirit of the law revealed in Scripture. However, a true “just” a Christian is a person who bears fruit for God’s Kingdom, glorifies God in the way he or she thinks and behaves in everyday living, and does righteous things for the benefit of his or her neighbor no matter their denominational label. There is no such a thing as a genuine Christian who just “believes” in his or her head that he or she is a true child of God bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

  46. Many thanks. I needed to hear this. Again.

  47. David Morri says:

    I think we have to be careful with this kind of thing, although I am very much inclined to agree with Chaplain Mike, because bad theology can do real damage to believers. I know people who think God is sending down cancer from on high as discipline etc, or that if you don’t hold to TULIP you are really a Christian, or that if you aren’t doing x,y or z then you can’t be saved. That kind of thing can be really burdensome to believers, which is why your post is helpful (and why we should also contend earnestly if the need arises).

    Thanks for the thoughtful posts.

    • The weird thing is, if God sends you cancer and it makes you a better Christian, that cancer is a BLESSING.

      We’re all going to die; lets not forget that for Jesus’ sake, Michael Spencer just died. He certainly understood something about that sickness unto death that brings a man closer to his Maker; if we’re young and healthy, we’d do well to learn a great patience and deference to God’s subtle ministry to His sick

      Lets not be so quick to kick the crutches out from under the lame, because the lame are God’s people and they will enter the Kingdom of God before the rest of us!

      • Christopher Lake says:

        Amen, brother Patrick! (from a “lame” one– wheelchair user, that is) 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The weird thing is, if God sends you cancer and it makes you a better Christian, that cancer is a BLESSING.

        Still sucks, though.

      • David Morri says:

        Patrick and Christopher, I am ashamed that I wrote my comment so poorly that it came across that way. It would have been better not to have written it. My wife claims that a long period of depression has made me into a better person; the last thing I would want to do is kick the crutches out from under the lame.

        I was trying to say that there are ways of thinking out there that can wind up hurting believers, but I unwittingly provided an example myself. Sorry.

  48. I have been doing some research for my business and have been to what feels like a million christian blogs and your article is by far the best one yet. Don’t get me wrong there are some great blogs out there, but you hit it right on. Having grown up in a house with no religion, I have always been turned off by evangelists, it took a long time and a lot of searching and studying to finally get to my place of faith (of which I am very grateful). This is what I wanted to hear, not judgement or someone telling me what I must do or believe – that comes from our own search and ever growing and changing relationship with God. I will definitely share, Thank you!!!

  49. After the day I’ve had, this was just perfect, and very definitely OK. Thank you.