This is the question that Christians continue to ask. What are we to do about the growing secular influence, especially within the church? The answer is that we must be thoroughly Christian, in every respect.
At the present moment, the pressing need of the American evangelical church is not to send out foreign missionaries or bring in diversity officers. The need is the recovery of faithfulness itself. The prevailing outlook now is to compromise with the world. But there is another choice, to take the road “less traveled,” as Robert Frost said. Jesus called it the “narrow” path (Mt. 7:14). When the church is marginalized and on the run, when the church loses its influence, when Christian preaching no longer moves the spiritual needle, when the indifferent outnumber the faithful during Sunday worship, when the moral decline is openly celebrated, when the Bible ceases to arrest the spirit of the saints, then the first need is to organize the professing Christians that remain and thoroughly practice Christianity.
Some may object. Is it not narrow and sectarian to imply that not all who claim to be Christian are, in fact, thoroughly practicing their faith? Can’t different groups of Christians compromise with the world in different ways to keep Jesus relevant? Doesn’t Christian love mean we should regard them all as equally Christian?
The wholesale acceptance of this objection proceeds based on the argument that the New Testament itself does not clearly reveal what the Christian life should look like. Faithfulness, according to this aberrant interpretation, is a matter of preference, context, and God’s secret will for your life. What is a Christian supposed to be and do? It depends, announces the up-to-date Christian, because there is a breadth of opinion on the subject.
The problem with this objection is that the New Testament does in fact settle the question of what the Christian life should look like. Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 to this effect when he writes “For in it [the gospel], the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). In other words, the Christian life is living by faith in the power of the gospel under the revealed righteousness of God. Since there are 66 books in the Bible, that is an awful lot of revelation and definition. The doctrine of Christian liberty has been perverted to mean that Christians can redefine Christianity in whatever direction the wind is blowing, something Paul explicitly forbids, “We may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14).
In Scripture we read about the gospel, what Paul calls “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Salvation is when the person of faith experiences the forgiveness of sin and receives a new life. By the power of the Spirit, sin is repented of and a change is accomplished. This change is both all at once and continually throughout the rest of life. Repentance from sin becomes a lifelong habit. Since faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8), repentance is granted through the power of God’s Spirit (2 Tim. 2:25). A new life of obedience and love follows God’s acceptance of Christ’s finished work for all those who believe in him. This secures for every believer a place in God’s family where they are called children of God.
God, through the Scriptures, also reveals how the children of God are to live. They must love their enemies (Lk. 6:27), love the truth (Jn. 14:17), love the Bible (Lk. 4:4), and love those who have wronged them and forgive them (Mt. 6:12; Col. 3:13). They must flee pornography (1 Thess. 4:3), selfishness (Mark 10:42-45), and idolatry (Rev 21:8). Salvation brings a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) that is revealed in the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42). Christians set out to learn about God, God’s Word, and God’s world. This starts in the local church. In the history of the church, epochs of spiritual decline are due to the failure to teach and live out what the Bible says.
Living a thoroughly Christian life is not merely a changed opinion. It is also a changed life. The history of the Protestant Reformation testifies to the transformation that happens when the whole Christ is recovered. In 1521 Philip Melanchthon wrote about the need to thoroughly practice Christianity, “If a man knows nothing of the power of sin, of law, or of grace, I do not see how I can call him a Christian. It is there that Christ is truly known. The knowledge of Christ is to know his benefits, taste his salvation, and experience his grace … To know him to purpose is to know the demand of the conscience for holiness, the source of power to meet it, where to seek grace for our sin’s failure, how to set up the sinking soul in the face of the world, the flesh, and the devil, how to console the conscience broken.”
Given the present moment, consider seven practical things you can begin doing immediately to thoroughly practice Christianity. Ponder these things, talk about them with your spouse and friends, and faithfully put them into practice.
- Don’t apologize for what the Bible says
- Use family devotion to teach your kids
- Reclaim the Lord’s Day
- Read good books
- Trust the promises of God—no, really trust God’s promises!
- Strategically resist woke ideology
- Get along with other Christians
Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.
 Quoted by P.T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ (London: Independent Press, 1948), 220f.