Zondervan, 2010. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
God’s prophets have always had to remind God’s people that God expects his people to live a life which corresponds to their beliefs. That is, God expects his people’s walk to match their talk. Simply saying that you believe, while living quite differently, just does not cut it.
The Old Testament prophets had to point this out, as did the New Testament disciples. And throughout church history we have been reminded of this as well, by people such as Francis of Assisi or AW Tozer. Pastor Craig Groeschel picks up this theme and shows us how in very ordinary and unassuming ways, we are talking like Christians but living like atheists.
Unlike the hard-hitting works of a Ravenhill or a Tozer, this volume is different. It comes from a pastor’s heart, but it also comes from one who has also been a Christian atheist. Groeschel says he has come a long way in overcoming this dichotomy, but he still has work to do.
This would basically be true of all of us. Some of us have a much wider gap between our walk and our talk. Using stories from his own life and many others, he uses practical and quite down to earth measurements to help us see where we are falling short in all this.
For example, all believers claim that God is our provider, and will meet all our needs, but how many of us actually live this way? How many actually put God to the test in this regard, and really trust him in the difficult times? We tend to like to help God out here, with all of our bank accounts and nest eggs.
We seldom in fact do need to trust God because we arrange circumstances so that we are self-sufficient, and don’t really need to trust God and see if he will come through. While the phrase “In God we trust” is found on US currency, most believers in fact live as if it is “In money we trust”.
Or what about those believers who rightly think evangelism is a big priority in the Christian life, but never share their faith? We all talk as if letting others know about the gospel is our main task, but so very few believers actually do it. Why is that?
And consider the issue of church attendance. Scripture is clear that we should not forsake fellowship with one another, but how many believers make one excuse after another about why they don’t need to go to church? We mouth off the importance of church life, but we live like pagans in this regard.
Groeschel, who describes himself as a recovering Christian atheist, lists plenty more such discrepancies between our profession of faith and our actual conduct. How many rejoice in the fact that in Christ our sins are forgiven, yet still live as if God is still angry with us, or still counting our sins?
How many of us say that prayer is one of our most important duties as a believer, but so seldom actually do it? How many Christians believe that loving God and others is the greatest commandment, yet we live simply to please ourselves and maximise our own happiness?
How many believers know that God is in the business of transforming lives, yet still live lives that show no change or transformation at all? And how many Christians talk about the vital importance of actually knowing God, yet they in fact hardly know him at all?
The truth is, we all fail so often in these and other areas. And Groeschel is the first to put up his hand here and confess his failures. But he has learned that in Christ the great divide between our talk and our walk can be substantially closed, if we allow God to fully work in our lives.
The first step is to be honest with ourselves – and with God – about our struggles, and to admit that our Christian double standards are not only very real, but are a genuine setback to Christian growth and our witness to the world. Confessing our need of change is the beginning of this journey of recovery.
If we say that a life-transforming God exists, then it is time that we start living that way. We have all settled for too long to mouth Christian platitudes and clichés, without allowing God to radically come into our lives and transform us.
This book is a gentle yet sober warning that this is what real Christian discipleship is all about: not just talking the talk but walking the walk. And with God’s help it is more than possible to abandon our Christian atheism and start living like real Christians.