Freedom from miserable Christianity
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2011, at 4:06 pm
In his new book Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It, Paul Tripp does a fantastic job of explaining why believers and nonbelievers alike misunderstand what Christianity is all about. There has been a tendency in our culture to pitch Christianity as a means of achieving personal peace and affluence (as Francis Schaeffer often tried to counter). But Tripp points out that if we were honest, we'd find "thousands of sad, defeated, disappointed, doubting, and soon to be cynical Christians out there." Why? Because we forget about what Jesus accomplished for His people. As such, many Christians simply go through the motions of faith. The life is gone. Faith doesn't make much sense. And many believers are left feeling miserable.
According to Tripp, here are signs of a miserable faith:
- Disappointment with God. Thinking that God has not given us the life that He has promised.
- Lack of motivation for ministry. A passion for ministry is not a result of training but comes out of a deep conviction that God is who He says He is.
- Numbing. When we're disappointed with our lives, we'll find ways to escape and self-medicate.
- Envy of others' lives. Miserable faith focuses on the joys of the lives of others that we believe we deserve.
- Letting go of the habits of faith. If faith isn't working out like we want, then why pray, worship, read the Bible, etc.
- Greater susceptibility to temptation. If God's not doing His part, miserable people believe that they should not do theirs.
Alternatively, a vibrant faith, Tripp suggests, hinges on properly understanding the role of grace in pointing us to the eternal implications of the resurrection as described in 1 Corinthians 15. Without the resurrection Christianity makes no sense. In fact, the resurrection provides the catalyst for life-giving faith. For Tripp, the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of forever accomplish the following: (1) They tell us what is really important in life; (2) they have the power to radically change the way we approach the responsibilities, difficulties, and opportunities of daily life; and (3) they teach us delayed gratification.
Without the resurrection pointing us to eternal life, Christians will lose hope to persevere to the end and will fail to properly align life's realities with expectations. Tripp's Forever is a wonderful reminder of what really matters in the Christian life so that we don't turn our faith into an empty religion that neither glorifies God nor frees us to live life to the fullest (John 10:10).
Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.