A flurry of news reports of late are touting polls that show fewer Americans identify as Christians. Good. We’re finally being honest. I mean, let’s get serious—more than 70% of Americans are really Christians?
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m just as concerned about the decline in public profession of Christian faith as anyone, but there’s a clear difference between some type of acknowledgement of a vague definition of Christianity and the real thing.
In the past, it always helped to call oneself a Christian because the culture embraced the general tenets of the faith. Now that is changing, and those who are on the outer fringes of what they think is Christianity are more willing to distance themselves from it.
Why is that? Because they were never genuine Christians to begin with. Of those 70%-plus of Americans who have said they are Christian, one finds a large segment of “God-believers” who have either a deistic view of God or just some notion of “the Man upstairs.” That’s not Christianity. Another segment consists of those who have more knowledge of the truth but whose lives don’t measure up because they have never surrendered their wills to God and made Jesus Lord.
There’s also a segment that mistakes “God and Country” for the real deal. I’m as patriotic as anyone when it comes to the original intent of America’s mission under God, but that also is not Christianity if one simply uses God as a prop for love of country.
Here’s the good side of this shift: those who are on the fringes and not actually Christians are slowly (and in some cases rapidly) disowning the faith they never had in the first place, leaving those who have committed themselves to the Lordship of Christ to stand out as the beacons of life and hope God intends for them to be.
Perhaps one of the silver linings in this “falling away” is the clarity with which one can see the difference between real Christians and those who are fake. Real Christians believe (and act upon) the following:
- Sin is a disruption of the entire order and intent of God for the universe;
- Our willful sinfulness has caused a break in the relationship between God and man;
- The only remedy is God’s love revealed through His Son as a sacrifice to wipe away our sin;
- We receive His forgiveness and new life through repentance and faith in what He has done for us;
- We now strive to obey His every command out of gratitude for lifting us from the pit of selfishness and despair;
- The only enduring improvements in this world of darkness come through faith in Jesus Christ, and those improvements start within us, then spread to the culture around us.
Jesus taught His disciples that the way to life was narrow, and few would find it. The way to destruction is broad, and most will take that path. If anything, the latest polls are still skewed—there are far fewer Christians than they indicate. But if you are one of the redeemed, your task remains: shine the light of Christ wherever you are. The culture may be careening toward self-destruction, but we still can impact it for the Truth, and that Truth still sets people free.