“Revolutionary” Christianity identifies problems and dissatisfactions within Christianity or the church and seeks to address them with more intense commitment to Christ, more faithful and culturally relevant lives, or more rethinking of doctrine in light of new understanding. Those who preach the messages, write the books, and lead the movements of “Revolutionary” Christianity vary from biblically faithful leaders desiring to change the world for the glory of God to leaders seeking to redefine and rewrite the faith. But why, with all the energy being spent on igniting Christians to seize a new and glorious future is the American church largely on the same path? Why do individual Christians inspired by “Revolutionary” Christianity still find life on the same mediocre, ineffective path? Why do all the passions, sacrifices, enthusiasms, commitments and changes fizzle out?
First, “Revolutionary” Christianity fizzles out because it fails to deal with idols in our hearts. Idolatry, as Tim Keller writes, happens when “the human heart takes good things… and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.” In a worship service I may be moved to sacrificially give more money than I can afford because that is what success looks like for a committed Christian. But on Monday success at my job looks like earning a promotion, success with my friends looks like a new car, and success at the gym looks like only 2% body fat. If success is the idol of my heart my Christianity will change according to its demands. This is why, for some, their commitment to Christ varies widely depending on who they are dating. The idol of their heart is a relationship; they are crazy or apathetic about Jesus depending on the demands of the relationship. Unless we deal with the idols of our hearts, any attempt to live out a “Revolutionary” Christianity will fizzle.
Second, “Revolutionary” Christianity fizzles out because it fails to take sin seriously. In the midst of the books and messages screaming at Christians to feed the poor, end all slavery, right political wrongs, go green, fix the church, engage the culture, rediscover New Testament Christianity, create authentic community, plant churches and heal the world in a big group hug is largely absent any discussion of sin. I can sleep with my girlfriend as long as I feed the homeless. No one would say this, but when killing sin is not part of our “Revolutionary” Christianity we might as well be. Paul proposed a revolution when he said in Colossians 3:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry… seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
“Revolutionary” Christianity fizzles when it is brought down by an earthly addiction. All of our good deeds can quickly become poisoned by unchecked pride and envy. Until putting sin to death and putting on Christ is part of our revolution it will burn out like MC Hammer’s career.
Third, “Revolutionary” Christianity fizzles out because it fails to deal with reality. I was reading one popular book that attempted to encourage me by telling the stories of Christians who were living out an intense commitment to Christ. Rather than inspiring me, I found the stories discouraged me. The people in the accounts were all doing amazing things for God and had no struggles, no fears, no sins, no mistakes, no doubts, and never swerved from their calling. I, on the other hand, fight doubts and fears, struggle with sin, make mistakes, fall short of God’s call and my accomplishments for Christ feel unexciting. The author mentioned that if the stories in the Bible felt unattainable, hopefully these Christians were easier to emulate. Actually, I could relate to the Bible characters easier. Moses was a murderer who wanted out of God’s call. David committed adultery and fell into pride. Peter denied Christ and made mistakes. Elijah got so depressed he wanted to die. Jonah was selfish and disobedient. Jacob wrestled with God all his life and in his tent. Abraham lied. Thomas doubted. Noah drank. Christianity isn’t lived in some glorious adventure moment that inspires generations but in the midst of real life. Any commitment that fails to touch real life will fizzle out.
Finally, “Revolutionary” Christianity fizzles out because it is not driven by a deep understanding of the gospel. Did you know that changing the world, making a difference, living a life of significance, and being hardcore for Jesus are not biblical motivations? The Bible motivates us by teaching us about who God is and what He has done for us. When Paul wants the Corinthian church to be generous, he reminds of them of Christ’s generosity to them (2 Cor. 8). When Peter wants Christians to live holy lives, he reminds them that they were ransomed with the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1). When Jesus commands to make disciples he reminds us who He is; that he will be with us, empower us, and has the authority to carry out the mission through us (Matt. 28, Acts 1). “Revolutionary” Christianity seeks to motivate us to do and accomplish for Christ; but if it bypasses or marginalizes who God is and what He has done for us then what we are doing will not be driven by a powerful “why” and it will fizzle.
In the final part of this series, we will examine how we might live a life intensely committed to Christ that does not fizzle out.