1 – The Christian Life is a Life of Earning
How often people say the following: ‘I could never be a Christian because I’m simply not good enough.’ Another variation is this: ‘If I ever stepped inside a church, the ceiling would collapse.’ In both cases there is a false assumption that darkens the mind. The assumption is that being a Christian is a status earned, like a job promotion or a place at a prestigious university. However the assumption is untrue. The Christian life is not a life of earning, but a life of receiving. All of the great gifts of the Christian faith are just that, gifts. Righteousness (status), holiness (access), and redemption (freedom) are things that God freely gives through Christ. Christians don’t even try to earn these gifts because we appreciate that we never could. We just receive them and say thank you.
2 – The Christian Life is a Life of Dejection
Ask people to conjure up a stereotypical image of a Christian in their mind and this is what emerges: the image of an unhappy Puritan who relinquishes pleasure for the sake of gloom-inspiring sanctity. The picture is untrue. The Christian life is a life defined by ongoing thankfulness. Of all people, Christians have more reasons than any other to be grateful. We have the mega-gifts of God. (Those mentioned above – righteousness, holiness, redemption.) We also have the daily mail of God’s goodness – sunshine, rain, bread, water, and so on. Finally, we have the deep knowledge that creation is ultimately an outpouring of the divine love and benevolence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore, real Christians are the most joyful of people because their hearts – more than any other – are fuelled by a continuous gratitude for the goodness and faithfulness of God.
3 – The Christian Life is a Life of Self-Interest
Hard-core atheists like to paint the picture of Christianity as being a religion of self-interest. The logic behind this accusation is that Christians are only interested in personal salvation. Such an indictment is unfair. Fundamentally, the Christian life is a life of contribution – of contributing to the holistic, world-changing mission of God. God cares about individual salvation, yes, but He also cares about the environment, social justice, personal wellness and everything else that touches upon His creation. Therefore, Christians have hearts as big as the globe, and our sense of responsibility includes everything: saving souls, improving relationships, enabling justice, cleaning the environment, unveiling beauty, healing the sick, educating the poor…the list never ends.
4 – The Christian Life Is a Life of Waiting for Heaven
A fourth misconception is that Christians are people who are waiting for heaven. The church is often pictured as being like a waiting room where Christians gather to sit until a number is called to float above. This is wrong. To think this is to ignore the plain teaching of the New Testaments. Christians are not waiting to go to heaven; Christians are waiting for heaven to come to earth. The promise of Jesus upon departing was that he would return, and Christians are people who live with an abiding hope that, any minute, the Lord Jesus might appear. This hope inspires the earnestness of the Christian life. Minutes are not to be wasted; pennies are not to be misspent. The king might come now. Therefore, the calling of the Christian is to prepare all of life so that the king will be pleased upon arrival.
5 – The Christian Life Is a Burden
In pop culture the Christian life is presented as a burden. The calling to follow Jesus is a call to abandon pleasure, renounce comfort, and take on a spine-splitting load of angelic scrupulosity. This is strange because the experience of genuine Christians is the opposite. John Bunyan famously pictures the cross as the place where burdens are removed. Jesus suggests the same when he encourages all those ‘heavy-laden’ to come to him for ‘rest’. 1,000 hymns preach the same message. The secret of Christian spirituality is that pleasure and comfort are not forsaken in Christ; they are transposed. Christians discover a deeper pleasure, a more abiding comfort, which trumps the lesser options available in the world. Thus any Christian worth his salt will admit that the Christian life is not a burden, but a privilege. To live for the Son of God who sacrificed himself for a treacherous species like ours is to attain the highest honour available to human beings. Yes, there are sacrifices that go with faith, but these sacrifices are the response of worship, tokens of appreciation.
There is no joy like the happiness of waking up and being reminded that God counts me among His children, that I have value because God loves me with an eternal love, and that God has found a way graciously to include me in His redemptive mission to bring creation to glory.