Last year, the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults from four major groups: Pentecostals, Charismatics, Mainline Protestants, and Catholics about 51 topics including marriage, absolute truth, the sanctity of human life, and the authority of the Bible.
The leading researcher, George Barna, concluded the following. “The most startling realization is how many people in our churches are adopting unbiblical beliefs. American Christians are undergoing a ‘post-Christian Reformation.’ It certainly seems as if the culture is influencing the Church more than the church is influencing the culture.”
This so impacted us, that we needed to create a series that addressed truth. We call this series, ‘Christian Atheist.’ In this series, each week, we want to do four things. First, we want to give you a statement each week and ask you what you believe. Secondly, we want to share with you what the survey reported about how others feel about that statement. Third, we want to turn to scripture to see what the truth is. Lastly, most importantly, we want to know what you are going to do with the truth in scripture.
What the survey discovered is that many Christians are being influenced more by culture than they are influencing culture. That means they are living like a Christian Atheist. They say they believe in God but are living like God doesn’t exist.
Think about that for a second. What is your source of truth? What determines how you live? Why do you do what you do? What role does God and the Bible play in your decisions? Are you a Christian Atheist? Is God and the Bible something you surrender your life to? In the hot topic issues in our culture, do you know what God has to say about those issues?
If we claim to be Christians, disciples of Christ, followers of Jesus, that means we would follow after God and look to God as the source of truth and reality.
Scripture teaches us:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes… Those who trust in themselves are fools. NIV Proverbs 3:5-7a, NIV Proverbs 28:26
A couple weeks ago, Sam said, a follower of Christ would naturally follow after Christ. That means they would do the simplest of things like, daily surrender their life to Christ, read the Bible and pray. They would look to Christ as their source of hope for that day. They would look to scripture as their source of truth, like a guide, to live by. A Christian Atheist doesn’t do this. They would not surrender to Christ. They may believe in God but continue to live based on their feelings, their thoughts, their motives, and whatever is happening in our culture. They may be more comfortable floating along in life with no real connection to Jesus.
Paul explains what happens when we pull away from God or just float along with no connection to God.
And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. MSG Ephesians 4:17-19
Did you see that? They refused for so long to deal with God, that they lost touch with God and lost touch with reality. This explains not only the culture around us but the Christian Atheist. We can be in church but if we aren’t doing the simplest of things like surrender, reading the Bible and prayer, we lose touch with God and reality. We make life decisions based on our feelings, their thoughts, their motives, and whatever is happening in our culture.
First statement we want to talk about: God is the basis of all truth. My question for you is, do you believe that?
Over 2,000 people surveyed said the following. Evangelicals 72% agree, 28% reject. Pentecostal 70% agree, 30% reject. Mainline Protestant 37% agree, 63% reject. Catholic 43% agree, 57% reject. [Source: churchleaders.com/news/383605-george-barna-another-reformation.html]
It is devastating to know that around 30% or more of Christians do not believe that God is the basis of truth. And that is a survey of people who you would assume attend church. If you think the problem we are facing is the godless culture around us, you are right. But we have to admit, the bigger problem is within the church if at least 30% or more of Christians don’t believe God is the basis of all truth. That is alarming.
Jesus said this to His disciples.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” NIV John 14:6
Jesus comes and announces, “I am truth.” That means, God is the basis of all truth. And there is only one way to be in a relationship with God. That’s through God’s son, Jesus. Jesus continued and explained more to His disciples. Jesus told them, when He goes back to heaven, He was sending the Holy Spirt. Jesus called Him the Spirit of Truth.
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is.” MSG John 16:12-15
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is the basis of all truth.
You may be thinking, Ken, what if people I live with and work with don’t believe in Jesus? How will they know that God is the basis of all truth?
Paul talked about that.
18 God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, evil men who push away the truth from them. 19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.
21 Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for all his daily care. And after a while they began to think up silly ideas of what God was like and what he wanted them to do. The result was that their foolish minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming themselves to be wise without God, they became utter fools instead. TLB Romans 1:18-22
Paul explained that we are all hard wired to know about God. It’s instinctive, it’s obvious, it’s simple to understand and know God is the basis of all truth. All of nature announces the greatness of God. Every sunrise and every sunset announces that God is the foundation of all truth.
King David said it like this.
1 God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. 2 Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble. 3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? MSG Psalms 8:1-4
Let’s make this personal. Do you believe God is the basis of all truth? If you said yes, I have follow-up questions for you. Do you follow after Him doing the simplest of things like daily surrendering to Him, praying and reading scripture? Or do you float along not really feeling connected to God?
God said this.
“Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness. I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” MSG Isaiah 55:6-9
Do you see what God is saying? God is saying, ‘I created the universe. Who I am and how I do what I do is so far outside of your ability to understand. Trust me, I am the basis of all truth.’
To close today, I want to talk to you about my relationship with God and my struggle to live like God is the basis of all truth.
I was born and raised in church. But as I grew older, I didn’t have any interest in following God. Now to be clear, I believed in God but I wanted to live on my own terms. You could have called me a Christian Atheist. When l left college, I just wanted to make an obscene amount of money. I had this passion to do life on my own. I trusted no-one but myself. I quickly discovered in my twenties that life was becoming empty.
I started visiting churches in the area and it took a couple months until I discovered a pastor who was for real. It was in this church I learned about God’s grace. It blew my mind because grace is not something I understood. The more I learned about God’s grace, the more I discovered how messed up I was and how badly I needed more of it.
It’s in this church I surrendered my life to Christ as an adult. The challenge I had was that ‘old Ken’ and the ‘old friends’ and ‘old ways of living’ were still deeply rooted in me. I wasn’t passionate about leaving those things. What ended up happening was, I lived a dual life. Who I was in church was different than who I was in real life.
On weekends I felt good because I was in church and felt touched by God but during the week I was floating along, just doing what I wanted. I continued to be a Christian Atheist. Truth was, I didn’t want to fully surrender my life because I didn’t want to make changes and I wanted what I wanted.
If I would describe this time period of my life, I would say it was like walking knee deep in mud. I had some freedom but it was still exhausting. I still didn’t have a meaningful connection with God on a daily basis. Why? I didn’t believe He was the basis of truth. If I did, surrender would have been easy.
I tell you this because I believe the first thing you will wrestle with is surrender.
Do you feel like this? Do you feel like you are spiritually walking knee deep in mud? You have some freedom but it’s still exhausting? Maybe you don’t feel like you have a daily connection with God. Maybe you are struggling to surrender because you still want what you want. This issue is surrender.
I get married and continued to go to church. I am doing all the right things but I was struggling financially. I remember Karen and I praying and asking God to do something because I had no answers. I felt shattered inside. Over the next five years, I can tell you after that prayer, we walked through pain but I had a new job and was debt free. What God did was remarkable.
I then get fired from my job and was just shattered. It was then Karen gave me the verse from Psalms 40 that said to wait on the Lord, He will hear your prayer and lift you out of despair. I was so angry she gave me that verse because that verse didn’t pay my bills that month. But this is when we were asked to start MRC.
Years later, MRC started and we had so many people coming, we couldn’t keep up with it. Then, two years later, we had to meet on Saturday nights. It’s at this point, we saw the reverse. As quickly as people came, people left. I was again shattered.
Why do I share this with you? The first thing you will wrestle with is surrender. The second thing you will wrestle with is trust. You will wonder, if I surrender my life to Christ, can I trust Him? The problem with trusting God is, before you trust Him, you will want to know if everything will turn out the way you want it to. But that’s not trust, that’s control.
Looking back, I can see how God was with me. He allowed me to try to do life on my own. He allowed me to discover about grace. He was teaching me trust when I was in debt. He was teaching me about trust when I was fired. He was teaching me about trust when we went to Saturday nights. And all along I fought God.
If I was to describe this time period of my life, I would label it a bad night of sleep. I couldn’t rest because I felt fear and couldn’t stop thinking about how everything could go bad. What I still didn’t understand was that God is a God of grace and rest and all I needed was to trust Him. I still didn’t have a meaningful connection with God on a daily basis. Why? I didn’t believe He was the basis of truth. If I did, trust would have been easy.
Isaiah said it best.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. NLT Isaiah 30:15
My relationship with God, because I didn’t understand grace and rest and trust, has been like walking knee deep in mud and became a bad night of sleep. I must add that during these years, I wanted to build God’s kingdom. I wanted to make something happen. Do you get the picture of what I was walking through?
It’s in these days, I needed something to make sense. I needed something to heal my heart. I began reading books that helped me understand what it means to be in a real relationship with God. What it means to slow down and be with God more than try to keep others happy. How to process hurts, how to define success, how to trust God when everything goes bad. How to stay true to who God called me to be and the work I am to do.
To describe this time period might be like getting new glasses. I finally felt like I could see with clarity. I look back on my life and see that I made life so much harder than it had to be. I can see how dependent I am on God. I can see how ridiculous all my efforts have been to make something happen. I realize, the greatest thing I can do is engage God. That means surrender, pray and read.
I believe God is the basis of all truth. And I think over many, many years I am learning how to respond to God and trust Him. I am learning how to move away from being a Christian Atheist and become someone who pursues God.
I hope you can learn from my life of struggle. I was knee deep in mud because I didn’t want to surrender. I lived like I couldn’t get a good night of sleep because I struggled to trust God through it all. I now feel like I see things with so much more clarity.
Let’s close with this. The God who created sunrises and sunsets, you can trust Him.