The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group is going through the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. A Christian Atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist. If you are courageous enough to admit that sometimes you act like a Christian Atheist maybe along with us we can shed some of our hypocrisy and live a life that truly brings glory to Christ. To hear the audio of the study group session click on the YouTube Thumbnail
To get your copy of the book click this LINK or the image of the book at the end of my notes for the study.
When You Believe In God But Don’t Share Your FaithMany of us, and this includes me, are reluctant to share our faith with others. There may be many reasons; we don’t think the time is right; we don’t know what to say; the other person doesn’t want to listen, etc. If we somehow feel that the Holy Spirit wants us to share our faith with someone, whether we know them or not, I think that He has somehow prepared the person or the circumstance for us to talk to them. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples.
Matthew 10:19-20 (NLT)19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
What we have to remember is that if we don’t share our faith it may be the last opportunity for that person. Plus the bible says something we should remember. Minister Brenda is always talking about a person's blood being on our hands if we don’t warn them about disobedience and not acknowledging Jesus is the one sin that is unforgivable. Here’s where she gets that;
Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NLT)17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately.18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.19 If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.
There’s the example in the book about Craig going to see the man at the request of his wife to share the gospel in the hope that he would accept Jesus and receive salvation before his death which was imminent. It’s at the very beginning of Chapter 11. Craig didn’t want to appear pushy because the guy was an unbeliever so he never broached the subject. Feeling guilty later he went back the next day and the guy had died.
Like many of us he looked for the perfect moment to share. That moment didn’t come for this guy and it may not for people that we know or people that we come into contact with.
The Great Commission is really a command to Jesus’ disciples to evangelize.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The word evangelism comes from the Greek word euangelizo, which means “to proclaim or share the good news.” Our modern word gospel comes from the Old English word gôdspel. In Old English, gôd with a long “o” meant “good,” and spell meant “word.” So sharing the gospel meant sharing the good word or good news of Christ.
Yet for those who don’t believe in Christ, gospel sharing, or evangelism, often arouses skepticism, resentment, fear, or anger. The reputation of some televangelists and some street corner preachers may be the reason for this. For many self-proclaimed Christians, these words often induce feelings of fear and guilt. Christian Atheists know they should share their faith, but largely because of the strong emotions associated with it, they usually don’t.
Craig said something that I found to be very interesting. He said that in his opinion one of the main reasons that Christians don’t share their faith is that they don’t really believe in hell. His thought is that if we really believed in hell we wouldn’t want anybody to go there and we would do everything that we could to keep them from going.
He points to research that shows that while almost three out of four people believe in heaven, less than half believe in hell.
I wrote a post about hell not too long ago; Hell..What, Where, Who Has Been There. Here is some of what I wrote:
The experience of being in hell is like being constantly burned.
Matthew 18:9 (NLT)9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
Mark 9:43, 45, 47-48 (NLT)43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
Hell is compared to darkness.
Matthew 22:13 (NLT) Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Hell is associated with tremendous grief.
Matthew 8:12 (NLT) But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It is also associated with great horror.
Mark 9:44 (NKJV) where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'
What the Bible does make clear is that hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs
We Should Always Be Ready To Share Our FaithThe apostle Peter says,
1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
Maybe you can relate. You’d like to be ready for anything, but you’re afraid you might choke under pressure. So to be prepared.
Preparation—studying and thinking about what you’ll say—will give you confidence. Not every chance to share will be set up for you. But no matter who starts the conversation, if you engage enough people, you’re going to be amazed how many of them are genuinely hungry to hear the truth from an honest, caring heart.
Now while I do believe that we all should evangelize I also believe that some people have a spiritual gift to evangelize and others do not have that gift.
The divine enablement to effectively communicate the message of Christ to unbelievers who respond in faith and discipleship.
Characteristics: This term literal means "messenger of good news". They have a strong desire to communicate the message of salvation to a lost world. A person with this gift often looks and prays for opportunities to work Christ into the conversation. They are regularly "harvesting" lost souls for the kingdom. An evangelist isn't concerned with imparting deep spiritual truths as the teacher is, but they are motivated to help people understand and respond to the basic biblical messages. The Holy Spirit flows out of them in a way that convicts people of their sins. Excuses for inactivity and indecisiveness are exposed by the light of the Spirit. Evangelists are active individual's motivating others to act. They are exciting to be around, like quick results, big crowds, fast change and are constantly moving.
Those of us who don’t have the gift should still be ready to share our faith. That sounds good but when we get the opportunity most of the time we don’t know where to start. Most of us are not as knowledgeable as Philip when he talked to the eunuch.
Acts 8:34-38 (NLT)34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
So tell your own story but be prepared. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. You may even want to practice it. In my opinion the best way to share your faith is by your life. Live in a way that people want to know what makes you tick. Then when they ask share your story and your faith.
When You Believe In God But Not In His ChurchWhen we have been successful in sharing our faith the next thing that we should want to do is make sure that that person is discipled or taught the ways of the Lord and the place that is the church. Yes we are all the church including the new believer but I’m talking about the institution, the vehicle that God uses to deliver the gospel to the world and equipment its members to deliver it.
Many Christian Atheists don’t really believe in the church.
There are lots of Christians that say they don’t do church. They don’t do church for various reasons. They had a bad experience with a church member, or pastor, they fell for a false teaching and got hurt, they don’t see any difference in church goers and people who don’t go or are not even believers, they think they can read the bible and gain as much knowledge by themselve as if they went to church every week. Church repulses them because they feel it’s full of hypocrites.
Other people accept that people are hypocrites by nature; they just can’t stand churches talking about money.
Even if they can get past those issues, still others steer clear because church is irrelevant to their everyday lives. They tried church before, and it didn’t make a difference. Why bother?
Maybe they even want to attend church, but when they do, they feel even guiltier than they did before. The pastor and all the other put-together, perfect people just make them feel worse about themselves.
We talked about that in our study of the book “Overwhelmed: Winning The War Against Worry, more than three years ago.
In the church there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting is certain areas like money or sex we often putting lipstick on a pig so to speak. We are masking how we sometimes hurt so we don’t get help. I use to hear some old time preachers and old time mothers talking about the church being a hospital well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it. Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not drug addiction or sex addiction, or depression?
If you can’t bring your deepest problems to the church because you are afraid of what others may say as Noble says in the section The Problem with Church World where people have to pretend that “..there lives are picture-perfect”. There are two problems that result. 1) the issues or problems will sooner or later come out and either they will result is gossip or the leadership will tell them not to come back until the problem is handled or 2) then can’t take the pressure of trying to put up a false face for the church so they drop out.
“When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin --whether that’s our own sin of other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in. Church is the place where we need to go for healing not the place to pretend that we’re perfect. It shouldn’t be the place we run from when we feel overwhelmed it should be the place we run to. That is where Jesus will meet us and change us.
Finally, there a the “super spiritual”. Their ideals are so high that no church can possibly meet their standards. They have detailed lists of what’s wrong with each church in town. The worship music isn’t “Spirit-led” enough, or it’s too loud, too soft, or too whatever. The sermons are too shallow or too intellectual. The missions program isn’t aggressive enough or it’s all the church talks about. They spend too much money on the building or not enough. Churches, with their mere mortals, can never measure up.
I talked about these people in my sermon on worshiping in spirit and truth. I said worship isn’t about you anyway. It’s about carving out time in our busy lives and responding to who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s about a deep, inner spirit response. Worship doesn’t always mean singing at the top of your lungs, or dancing or shouting. It’s about just entering into His presence and your response to that.
Here’s what God wants in worship.
Isaiah 1:16-17 NIV Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings
Micah 6:8 NIV He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
In other words we are to be completely devoted to him and compassionate toward others, not just giving lip service and empty sacrifices. God wants people to actually to know him, not just know about him while ignoring what God considers important which is obedience and love. Living a life of obedience and love is what worship is not just going through the motions: outwardly sacrificing and saying the right things, yet inwardly remaining far from God.
Here’s the thinking of a lot of Christians today. Who needs church anyway? We can get all the Christian content we need from websites, podcasts, and books—even television and radio.
Here’s The Key, Don’t Go To Church Be The ChurchTo many people, church is a place. It’s a building, bricks and mortar, a destination. This is from my sermon too.
We know that God isn’t confined to a church building or only available at certain times of day. So we don’t have to wait until we come to church or a certain time of day to worship Him. We don’t even have to wait until we feel spiritual. If we are delighting ourselves in Him we can be confident of His presence all the time.
Psalm 139 says that God's presence can be wherever are.
Psalm 139:1-10 NIV You have searched me, Lord , and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord , know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
The church is actually God’s chosen vehicle to meet—through other human beings—people's true needs (including our own).
Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Church allows you to do both and the church needs every believer. The analogy that Paul uses is that the church is like a body that needs every part.
Romans 12:4-8 (NLT)4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
1 Corinthians 12:12-28 (NLT)12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part!20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages.
I always end my sermons on gifts with this;
If you are sitting on your gift then The Church is missing it like a part of the body missing a finger. It can’t function at the optimal level without that finger as small and insignificant as you might think it is it still keeps the body from functioning as God would have it.
Christian Atheists Are Also Lukewarm Christians And Christ Doesn’t Like Lukewarm ChristiansMany so-called Christians are lukewarm. They want enough of Jesus to get them by, but not so much that they go overboard.
The church in Laodicea described in Revelation 3 is the prototype of lukewarm Christianity.
Revelation 3:15-19 (NLT)15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
Lukewarm Christians …1. Crave acceptance from people more than acceptance from God.
2. Rarely share their faith in Christ.
3. Do whatever it takes to alleviate their guilt.
4. Think more about life on earth than eternity in heaven.
5. Gauge their morality by comparing themselves to others.
6. Want to be saved from the penalty of sin without changing their lives.
7. Only turn to God when they’re in a bind or when they’re in trouble.
8. Give when it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
9. Are not much different from the rest of this world.
10. Want the benefits of what Christ did without conforming to who he is.
When we put God on the shelf and say, “I believe in you, but I don’t really need you right now,
Revelation 3:17-19 (NLT)17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
Extreme ChurchMany Christian Atheists today commit only halfheartedly to Christ’s church—if at all.
He doesn’t want us simply to believe in God. He wants us to give our lives to him through his church. In the first church described in Acts 2, “church” wasn’t something people added to their lives. Church was the center of their lives. Church was not a physical building; it was the community of people who shared a belief and faith in Christ. Their extreme commitment to Christianity contrasts sharply with our attitude today: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). They didn’t go to church; they were the church, devoted to God’s Word, God’s people, and God’s mission.
“There were no needy persons among them.
For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:34 – 35). This is what happens when people stop going to church and start being the church, as Jesus intended. Every need in the church can be met by the church.
A Place to BelongWhile the church meets physical needs, it also provides a place for us to belong. A Barna poll revealed that 92 percent of Americans claim to be independent. Though Independence is a goal for many, God never intended for his believers to be independent.
He wants us dependent on one another and on him. The apostle Paul writes, “So in Christ We who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5). As believers in Christ, we are incomplete without the rest of his body—the church. And the church is incomplete without us. We need others, and others need us.
Belonging to a local church also provides accountability, where wiser and more mature Christians can regularly counsel us, mentor us, comfort us, and help us heal. We can confess to God for forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9), but that’s only half of the equation.
We also need to confess to other Christians to help us ultimately overcome our sinful habits. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
According to Hebrews 10:24, we’re responsible both to hold each other accountable and to encourage one another: “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Verse25 tells us how: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”
A Place to BelieveIn addition to belonging, church also gives us a place to grow spiritually. Romans10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Our faith grows as we hear God’s Word taught and proclaimed. Living out what we've heard solidifies it for us. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Our Father uses his church to minister to us, to draw us closer to him, and to equip us—these spiritual benefits aren’t just for us. God is transforming his church into extraordinary ministers. He calls us to change lives in our own communities and around the world.
God’s church continues to grow around the world because its people instinctively understand that the church exists not for them but for those who don’t yet know Christ. While the church at its best rarely makes headlines, itis changing lives—and the world—for good. It loves radically, serves sacrificially, and gives extravagantly.
Many Christian Atheists hesitate to join a church because they don’t think there's any way God would work through them and their imperfections. But the Bible says differently
When Jesus called his first followers, he recruited tax collectors, uneducated fishermen, and dangerous revolutionaries. Notice who Jesus did not call: not one rabbi, scribe, or priest. Not one Pharisee or Sadducee, nor any other person from the formal religious establishment of the day. When he chose friends, Jesus surrounded himself with the lonely, the broken, and the overlooked. God is calling you to be a part of his church, to be his church.
If we’re not overboard for him, then chances are we don’t really know him.It’s time to seek him. It’s time to surrender everything. It’s time to let go of everything in this world.
In Mere Christianity, author C. S. Lewis writes about the problem with being a part-time Christian:
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self— all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition — and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastelyand humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.
Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it…. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”
When we are open to go wherever the Holy Spirit leads us, he will use us to share the greatest gift of all—eternal life through Christ. And when he does, we may never know on this side of eternity how much of a difference we made. But someday—on the other side—we’ll know in full.
WANTING MORE THAN ENOUGH OF JESUSChristian Atheists have a lot in common with Goldilocks — we like things not too hot,
not too cold, but just right. Yet when it comes to living out our faith, what might feel “just right” to us is what God considers nauseatingly lukewarm. God doesn’t want tepid commitment or a moderate devotion. He doesn’t want us to settle for just-right just-enough or a just-so life in Christ. He wants everything we’ve got — fierce commitment, wholehearted passion, and a blazing heart of love.
Many so-called Christians are lukewarm…. They want enough of Jesus to keep them out of hell and enough to get into heaven, but not so much of Jesus that he transform their lives …. They want enough of Jesus to get them by, but not so much that they go overboard.
Most wouldn’t admit that this is all the faith they can manage. We want God’s benefits without changing how we live. We want his best, without our sacrifices.
Of the Christians in ancient Crete the apostle Paul wrote: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfitfor doing anything good” (Titus 1:16). Paul’s letter to the preacher Titus addressed this problem in the church and emphasized the vital connection between belief and practice:
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every Read the passage once more, this time in The Message:
God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is wetting your appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears.
He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness (Titus 2:11 – 14 MSG).
“Whatever it takes” became my heart’s cry. Whatever it takes to know him. Whatever It takes to live like I truly love God. Whatever it takes to love eternity more than this world. Even if I have to fight, scrape, and crawl away from my Christian Atheism Into a genuine, crucified life of faith and radical obedience to Christ, I’ll do whatever it takes. - The Christian Atheist, page 235
Wholly surrendered. Those are beautiful, nourishing words for a God-hungry heart. They mark the beginning of a journey from life as it is to life as it could be. A life of knowing God and allowing yourself to be known by him. Of walking through hardships and loss steadying the hope that God is out to do you only good. Of experiencing the deep love of Christ every day. Of discovering God’s trustworthy provision when you put him in charge of your money and your happiness. These are the kinds of things that lead to the life that is truly life. And isn’t that what you really want? If so, it’s time to jump ship from Christian Atheism and go completely overboard — take a flying leap of white-hot faith and let the God who loves you catch you.
Welcome to true Christianity.