Feel Good Christianity
There has been an alarming rise of what I term “feel good Christianity” in recent years. It is not that I am opposed to people feeling good about themselves, at least not when they are feeling good about something good that have done or are doing, but what I am against is the false doctrine that these churches teach for those ends, and I am against the false doctrine that God wants us to be happy with ourselves when we are intentionally sinning.
Probably my biggest gripe with the “feel good” Christian movement is instead of being properly portrayed and reverenced as our Lord and Savior and the creator and God of the universe, Jesus is sold as little more than a good pal whose greatest concern is to validate us and make us to be happy with who we are, even if who we currently are is not who God wants us to be.
Self affirming Christianity is no Christianity at all as Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross so that we could feel better about ourselves, he died so that we could be forgiven for the wicked and vile sins that we commit against him, and all sin, regardless of whom we have sinned against is ultimately against God. When our identity is in Christ instead of ourselves and what the world says we should be than we will feel validated because we are doing what God wants, but we should not expect God to help us feel good about ourselves when we are living contrary to his will. As Timothy Keller famously said, “If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself.”
Not only did Jesus not die to make us feel better about ourselves or to be affirming to our lifestyles, if we are are living a life that is contrary to the will of God and the teachings of the Bible than Jesus does not want us to be comfortable, happy or to feel good about ourselves because that would not lead to repentance. Jesus wants us to be extremely uncomfortable in sin so that we will turn from it and turn to him instead. Yes, Jesus loves us even when we are in sin, but he certainly doesn’t want us to remain in sin, just like no good parent would ever wish their child to remain addicted to meth, and while it may not seam like it now, sin has a more destructive and lasting consequence that meth does. Also, just like no parent wants to be disrespected, God does not want to be disrespected either and we should not justify such disrespect, regardless of how we feel or what is going wrong in our lives.
There are a lot of churches today, some of which are extremely popular, that refuse to talk about the realities of sin and preach the message that basically any way we live is alright with God so long as we are not hurting anyone and are happy with ourselves. Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin, not so that we can revel in sin and worship it instead of him. Idol worship is one thing that God never tolerated in the Bible, and anything we worship instead of God is an idol. While it is true that Jesus call those of us who are following him friends, we were not created to party buddies with God, we were created to worship him and to give him glory. Everything that God ever created was ultimately to give himself glory.
A lot of these churches that teach this brand of feel good Christianity teach that we are enough, just as we are, but if that were true than Jesus would not have had to suffer and die on our behalf. The truth isn’t nearly as pleasant sounding because no one really wants to hear that they are not enough and will never be enough and precisely because we are so far from perfection is why God had to come in the form of a man and suffer and die on our behalf.
Every one of us, and every person who ever has been or ever will be born, has or will sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and if we say we have no sin than we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). We are not enough and never will be, and just because Jesus paid the price does not justify being lazy and not taking responsibility for our poor choice or not trying to improve
Some people say that it is OK to yell at God and get angry with him because he can handle it, and he can handle it of course because he is the most powerful being in existence, but that doesn’t mean that it is not extremely disrespectful and blasphemous to speak to or about him in a disrespectful manner. As many people have learned in the mountains or on the sea, there is always a cost associated with disrespecting power, and God is the ultimate power.
I know that not all people have good parents, but for the sake of illustration, imagine a teenager who has great parents who only ever love and take care of him, but one day they decide to not save him from the consequences of his poor actions so that he can learn from his mistake and become a better person, but instead of thanking his parents for all they have sacrificed for his happiness over the years he becomes angry and yells at his parents, saying every mean, disrespectful and profanity laden insult he can think of, thinking he is justified because he is angry and his parents are tough and can handle it. Of course, this teen would be short sighted and thinking only of himself and taking no thought for the feelings of his parents.
Imagine farther that the teen thinks it is his parent’s responsibility to make him happy, at all costs, and that it is their job to validate him, even when he is being an extremely horrible son and a horrible person. Sadly there are many who not only think it is the responsibility of their parents to make them happy, but society and God as well.
Any reasonable person would say that the teen in this scenario is in the wrong and just because the parents love him and put up with him does not mean that he is justified in acting that way, an in fact, it is all the more reason that his actions are not justified. Just because the parents are tough and can handle the anger, hatred and the disrespect that the teen thinks he is justified in hurtling at them does not give him the right to treat them that way.
First off, I know it is not a popular opinion in this day and age, but our parents don’t owe us anything, society doesn’t owe us anything, and God certainly doesn’t owe us anything either. Actually, we owe God everything as everything from our fist breath to our last, and everything in between, is a gift from God, a gift that we were not owed and did not deserve. The only things in life that we are owed are the things we have earned, and we can never earn anything from God and have to accept what he gives for free out of his great love.
It is at the height of disrespect, and I dare say blasphemy, to think that God owes us something and then to behave toward him like a petulant child when we don’t get our own way. Yes, God can handle our anger and hatred, of course he can, but that in no way gives us the right to disrespect him. We were given life by the grace of God, and then when we mess up and sin we were given the greatest gift of all which is forgiveness and yet there are many who think their anger toward God is justified because their life isn’t going exactly as they planned it, seemingly forgetting all that they have been given.
Imagine a peasant saved from death row by the king and then instead of being grateful for being shown mercy the peasant hurls insults at the king because he didn’t also give him a bag of gold and a horse to ride home. I would imagine that he peasant would immediately find himself back on death row, only this time the executioner would have the blessing of the king. Luckily God is a lot more forgiving and understanding than any earthly king, despite the difference in power between us and the God of the universe being many levels of magnitude greater than what the king has over the lowest of his subjects. It even compounds the situation more when it is taken in account that it didn’t cost the king anything to forgive the peasant but it cost the Lord dearly to forgive us our sins, it cost the life of Jesus.
I think that a lot of the time the reason people are angry with God is that they don’t understand what he is doing and they are afraid that he is doing something that is not good for them, something they won’t like.
When I was a teenager I worked at a fast food restaurant, and despite the fact that I didn’t really like the job and was not overly thrilled to go to work, I tried to be the best employee I possibly could be and worked anytime I was asked to come in and did anything I was asked to do. I somehow managed to get my birthday off though, which was hard to do since I was born on the 4th of July, which was a busy day. I was really looking forward to going fishing on my birthday.
On July 3rd, the day before my birthday, my manager told me that I was working on the 4th until 2PM and said that he called to ask me if I could work and my mother had answered and told him that I had said yes. I was so disappointed because there was no way at that point that I could get out of working on my birthday, and I would get off too late to make it worth driving to the lake, especially since I had to go to work the following day at 4:30 Am.
When got home I yelled at my mother for saying that I would work after I requested the 4th off after I had told her that I had requested the day off and was going fishing. I told my mother that she should have asked me first because I did not want to work and now could not get out of it. I was extremely upset with my mother and could not understand how she could be so thoughtless.
The following day when I got off work one of my co-workers asked me if I would help him with a project at his house before I went home, and since the entire day was pretty much shot I decided to go ahead and help him. By the time I finally got home it was well into the evening, and when I walked through the door I was greeted by a number of my friends and my co-workers, including my boss and the guy who wanted me to go help him after work. I know it is supposed to be the point, but the surprise party was extremely surprising.
I should have trusted my mother, or at the very least not been disrespectful enough to yell at her. I did apologize to my mother for yelling at her, long before I ever knew there was going to be a party and that my mother had been trying to do something nice for me. In my defense though my father was absolutely against celebrating birthdays or holidays and I was raised without ever celebrating a birthday so there was no logical reason to think my mother would be planning a birthday party for me, despite the fact that my father was no longer in the picture. Still, my mother had always looked out for me and even when she did something that hurt me it was never intentional and she was always a good mother and I should not have over reacted when I was told I had to work.
Not only does feel good Christianity allow us to, and even encourage, us to approach God in a way that is too familiar and not at all respectful enough, it also makes grace cheap since we don’t have to pay for it, like a teen girl using her father’s credit card, never stopping to consider where the money comes from or how many countless hours her father spent at work to earn it. While grace is free to us it came with a great cost and God had to become a man and suffer an agonizingly painful death on our behalf to cover the debt that we racked up. Everything has a cost, even if we are not the one to pay it.
Jesus forgave every sin we have or ever will commit when he died on the cross, but that doesn’t give us a blank check to spend on sin. The goal of the cross was to pay off and close our account with sin, not to give us a charge card with no limits. Let’s be honest, if we are trying to validate a lifestyle that or activity that is not in harmony with the Bible than we are trying to justify sin so that we can feel good about ourselves while sinning rather than turning from the sin.
It is popular now days to minimize sin instead of calling it out, and that is not the gospel, the good news, that is lying to ourselves so we can feel good about being a slave to sin. Jesus was kind and forgiving, but he also called out sin and told the sinner to turn from the sin. Nowhere in the Bible will you find an instance of Jesus finding a person in sin and telling them that they are enough and that they should be happy with who they are. Jesus loved the sinner but hated the sin.
We are told that God doesn’t make mistakes, and while it is true that God doesn’t make mistakes people come to a lot of false conclusions when they say that. God doesn’t make mistakes, that is the ultimate truism, but we sure make enough mistakes, and we should not justify any sin by saying that it is just how God made us and that he doesn’t make mistakes. When we make mistakes and say that God doesn’t make mistakes we are taking the lazy road and saying that we were created that way instead of taking ownership of our poor choices. Just because you feel what you think is a natural inclination to do something does not mean that you were made to do it. Remember, there are people who feel natural inclinations to murder, rape, abuse children and all sorts of other horrible and repulsive things.
I hear a lot of so called Christians say that they are angry or spiteful, or whatever, and they just laugh it off and say, “Oh well, that is just how God made me.” If there is anything we want to do that is against God’s will than we were not made to do it, regardless of how badly we want to do it or how naturally it comes to us.
A lot of the feel good churches talk about how Jesus fulfilled the law and that all we have to do is believe, and there is a nugget of truth in that idea, but not with the way it is often implemented. The law could never save us and was not designed to do so, but rather, the law was made so we could use it as a guide and so we could know what sin is, and Paul the apostle explained it elegantly so I will turn to the Bible and use his words.
Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.
But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.
For those who say they are saved by grace and therefore can live their life contrary to the teachings and will of God I would point out what James said about it,, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” -James 2:19 Not only do all demons believe in God, they have a sure knowledge that he is and what he is, yet they fight against him, and believing in God while fighting against him will not save anyone any more than a life preserver will save a person who knows it is there but refuses to grab it.
During his life on earth Jesus encountered many demons and it was common for him not allow demons to speak when he cast them out because they knew who he was and he was not ready to reveal his divine identity. Knowing that Jesus was God in the flesh did not cause the demons and evil spirits to worship him, and it certainly did’t save them from the penalties of hell. When we are truly born again we are changed and want to be more like the God who created us and saved us.
One of my hobbies is soap making, and in order to make soap you have to mix lye with oils, and through a process called sponification, the lye and oils mix and create soap and, if the ratio is correct, there is no lye or oil remaining, just soap. Of course, most soaps have extra oil so that there is a portion of oil that is not sponified so that the soap is more gentle on the skin. but that is beside the point. If there is any lye remaining it is because there was not enough oil, and that will make the soap harsh and may burn our skin, and in this scenario the lye could be compared to our sin. When the oils and the lye goes through sponification the oil is not still trying to be oil and the lye is not still trying to be lye, they both have been changed into something new. When we are truly born again we don’t want to continue to live in sin as our nature has been changed and if we want to feel good about ourselves while living in a sinful way than we don’t love God and we don’t want to serve him, we just want to feel good about ourselves.
This notion that God just wants us to be true to ourselves and happy with who we are has infiltrated popular Christian music as well and I often cringe when I hear a song on the radio that suggests that our sin was planned by God so that we could fully understand his love. God never wants us to sin, nor does he ever tempt us to sin or justify us in committing sin. Sin is serious business to God, so serious in fact that he sent his son to die to get rid of it.
James, the apostle and half brother to the Lord Jesus, Spoke about sin and how it is a result of our own desires and is not from God.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Just as a company will not validate your parking for shopping with their competitors God will not validate a lifestyle that does not bring him glory. I am not sure why she thought it would work, but my ex-wife would always park in the parking garage so she could go to some event or movie with her friends, then she would try to get a store at which she did not shop to validate her parking. When we attempt to get God to validate our sinful lifestyle it is like shopping at J.C. Penny’s and then trying to get Forever 21 to validate our parking.
When I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska so many people would park in the garage at the shopping center and walk to the courthouse the stores had to put up signs saying they would not validate parking without a purchase receipt and would, under no circumstance, would they validate court parking. The court, by the way, would not validate parking either, even if you parked for court business.
Jesus loves each and every one of us, and he wants us to be happy, but he wants us to be happy because we love him and are following his will. God created us to love and serve him, and when we do so we will find happiness and fulfillment, even if we are in the midst of the storms of life.