By S.C. Shaw
I feel the need to address a very specific problem with today’s Christian, and have addressed similar issues in past blogs because of continual errors that repeat their cycles again and again. Please hear me when I say that I am far from being a “perfect Christian” (of course, we are all works in progress) but I strive to be faithful to Christ and to live according to what the Bible clearly communicates about what a Christian is and is not. We are called to be the light of Christ in this world, and failing to be that light not only negatively impacts our personal relationship with Christ, it also wreaks havoc in a world that is already reeling from people choosing to live in a lukewarm state of Christianity. This is no small thing nor should it be taken as me being overly critical, or self-righteous. I come to you from a place of humility and urgency because I have been just about every version of a bad Christian imaginable and know the dangers of living in a “flat-lined” place. Your life in Christ not only affects you, but it also affects the world around you. It is easy to fall into a complacent state of laziness and I believe for many, it can be something that is not even recognizable. We live in a culture that is more than comfortable with compromise, mixture and religious activities that have absolutely nothing to do with living a life for Christ and one that is inline with the Bible.
So, what is a “flat-lined Christian”? This is the Christian who dives into the kiddie pool when they first get saved, but never get out of the kiddie pool and dive into the adult pool. Their faith remains in a shallow place and there is no depth to their understanding of God’s word, and there is no genuine, lasting transformation. Some in this place passionately embrace religious, legalistic opinions and do not recognize that the teachings they follow reflect a Christian life, which is undeveloped and immature. This undeveloped “flat-lined” state is a dangerous thing. Lost souls hear the call of Christ and accept His invitation to know Him and make Him known, but it goes no further than repeating some prayer in church, bouncing around from Christian conference to Christian conference, attending shallow bible studies and the most dangerous of all, planting a church or starting a ministry that perpetuates and then creates more flat-lined Christians. Don’t get me wrong- church, conferences/meetings, bible studies, are not bad in and of themselves. What is missing is true discipleship and accurate teaching of God’s word.
Ephesians says if we mature in Christ and grow in His truth, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (4:14, NASB). My point is our growing knowledge of the things of Christ should not be merely based on a prayer that we have repeated, or what some current, popular “pop-psychology” Christian is teaching. Our growing knowledge must be based on the personal study of God’s word, accurate teachings of God’s word and application of what we are called to do according to the traditional, enduring teachings of the Bible. Acts 17:11 tells us, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (NASB).
How does shallow flat-lined Christianity create shallow flat-lined churches? Shallow churches may not necessarily be churches that produce false teachings (although there are a fair amount of those) some shallow churches leave people in their infancy in their faith, because the leadership of that particular church does not have depth. The entire congregation remains “stuck” in a flat-lined place and before you know it, attendance is down, people are discouraged and all are wondering why they are failing in their endeavor to have a church. And worse of all, they doubt God’s power and even existence. This scenario produces compromise and eventually anything and everything is allowed to take place in a desperate effort to try to save something that is weak and dying. A wise man once said, “The most frightening thing is a baby’s mind with a man’s strength”. That’s true physically and even more true spiritually.
If you are still not getting this, let me explain it this way. Think of the process of building a home. The ill-equipped Christian is like the one who purchases a parcel of land and begins to build a magnificent house on the dirt but fails to build a solid foundation before construction. They come to the land with a goal and plenty of tools to get the job done, but alas no foundation. The foundation, if you don’t know, is the most important part of the house. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the home, how strong the structure is, how well equipped the house is, or even the outstanding blueprints that have been designed to build that house; it will collapse at the first gust of wind that comes along or will sink as the ground gives way to the weight of the structure. Without a strong, solid foundation to hold the house upright and in its place, it will fall.
An example of this from a biblical foundation is found in Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” You see, without a firm growing foundation on God’s words we are children being tossed all around and are tricked and schemed and carried about by every weak and false doctrine out there. And there are many.
A Christian, who comes to Christ after receiving His Spirit, may possess all of the zeal and desire in the world to make a change but a new Christian who has no foundation; like the house will possess weakness and will not be able to weather the storms when they come. Their immature, overzealous and impulsive decisions make for a dangerous situation for other Christians and as the world continues to watch the people of God, they see disaster and turn away from the weak and broken Christian and church. How do we avoid such catastrophe? We need to be constantly checking ourselves and testing our faith, to make sure we are growing, learning and diving deeper into the inexhaustible truths laid out for us in scripture.
2 Corinthians 7:1 says,
“Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Since we have these promises, wait what are the promises? Oh, that will be another blog because we must know the promises in order to have depth in God’s truth! But in context of 2 Corinthians really sums up our assurance in Christ. We must cleanse ourselves; this means learning, growing and always stripping the ways of the world off of us (Genuine spirit-led transformation!) We not only strive for purity of the body, but holiness of our souls. This is only achieved by God’s sustaining of His people. We can only endure in the faith by the will of God. We can only glorify Him by the strength He gives us. So what shall we do brothers and sisters? Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide (or remain) in me” (John. 15:4).
There is a warning here; children (new Christians and those who are or have been flat-lined for a long time) need solid teaching, discipleship, and HELP! Like all children or those who need to mature, they cannot do it alone. They need guidance and teaching to help them into the adult pool. We can be that for others, but first, we must do the personal work necessary so that we don’t remain in that weak, broken place. This is the importance of the church. Strive for Him in every way, in all things let us walk in this life victorious, as we draw people to Christ while giving Him the most glory possible.
Are you or is anyone you know flat-lined? Perhaps now is the time to self reflect.
I pray this blesses you and encourages you.
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Contributing editor credit: Lisa M Johnston, Th.M. and Pastor/sozofreedom.com