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Short Circuit = Lack of Power

Short Circuit = Lack of Power

I remember watching a talk show on a Christian television network some
years ago. A prominent Christian evangelist was interviewing the pastor of a
very large church in San Diego. The discussion turned to the problem of why
our society is not more affected by the Christian witness within it. The
pastor mentioned that the results of a religious poll had shown that there are
45 million professing “born again” evangelicals in the United States, as well
as approximately the same number of Catholics who profess a personal
relationship with God. These figures confirmed in the pastor’s mind that the
spiritual problem in the United States, the relative lack of impact of
Christian principles on our society, is not so much with our unbelieving
secular society as with Christians. I found myself nodding my head in
agreement. Although human sinfulness in society is often responsible for the
willful rejection of Christian truth, I think that all too often there has
been no clear truth, no power, no life to reject.

Many reasons surely lie behind the problem, but I think that at least one
of the major ones is what I have termed “short-circuited conversion.” Many
“born again” Christians have had a genuine conversion experience. Through
some memorable experience or process, possibly in a formal church setting or
maybe in a more private, informal context, they have met the living Christ.
They have given themselves to him and consciously made him Lord of their
lives. They have become faithful members of a “Bible-believing, Bible-
preaching” church. They tithe regularly, live honestly, and are sincere in
their devotion to Christ. They are “sanctified,” separate from the world and
its “sinful” ways (“I don’t drink, smoke or chew, and I don’t run with those
who do!”). So far, so good — but is it far enough?

In many cases it is at least far enough to have made an impression on our
friends, relatives and immediate acquaintances. They have noticed that we
don’t “sin” anymore, we’ve “got religion,” and there is a quality to our lives
that wasn’t there before. That’s all well, and it’s good — but is it good
enough?

I don’t believe that it is. If it were, surely society in general would
be more fully affected. The original Christian disciples turned their world
upside-down for Christ, and they numbered MUCH less than 90 million. But
besides secular society’s not coming closer to practicing the principles of
righteousness, peace, justice and love on a large enough scale, neither are
many supposedly mature Christians living as fully within the life, the power
and the love of God as is possible in this world. I’m not speaking of
perfection, simply of what the New Testament assumes as normal Christian
living for the mature believer.

As I said, I believe that part of the problem lies with a conversion
process that has become short-circuited. Jesus said in John 3:3 that unless
we are born again we cannot see the Kingdom of God. And so we have been born
again. For many years, my favorite biblical description of the new birth
experience has been II Corinthians 5:17: “If any man is in Christ, he has
become a new creature: old things are passed away: just look — everything has
become new!” When I began the Christian life, this verse was an apt
description of what had happened to me. My old way of living and looking at
life was gone; I saw everything with new eyes. But after quite a few years of
Christian living I began to realize that in many areas of my life and of my
perspective toward the world the radical truth of God’s word had not been
allowed an effective access and influence on my actions. Most of my human
relationships were shallow and unproductive of truly life-changing effects; I
had little conscious concern for the poor and the starving masses of the world
as I enjoyed my middle class life-style; I gave little real thought to the
problems of war, of social and political injustice, or of my relationship and
responsibility to the society and the nation wherein I dwelt.
I think that I was not remotely aware of how much the society in which I
was raised had influenced the development of my world view. And when I became
a Christian only those aspects of my perspective that conflicted with the
concepts of Christianity then current among the Christians that influenced me
most underwent conversion. The Christians with whom I fellowshiped had been
raised and influenced by the same society and could only teach the version of
Christianity to me that they themselves had learned, a version that failed to
notice many of society’s deepest problems, a version that failed to strike at
some of our world-view’s most important conflicts with the ethic of Christ.
As I have grown in Christ, my concepts of Christianity and Christian
discipleship have also broadened, as well as my awareness that much of my
world-view is still a carry-over from society’s influences, not to mention my
own sinful and selfish nature. One’s initial salvation experience may bring
one into a right personal relationship with God and redeem the soul from
eternal judgment, but it is just the beginning — I had been “saved”, I had
seen the error of some of my personal habits (sins), but a broader questioning
of the values and beliefs of the society in which I lived did not occur for me
for some time. But change in concepts are not change in actions, and I am
seeking God’s grace to bring about continued conversion in my life to his way
for me.

My conversion has been short-circuited at many points, and I’m
attempting to diagnose and repair the problems. But I believe that my problem
is common among Christians: shallow concepts of Christian conversion and
discipleship; lack of awareness of how much our society’s values and views we
have soaked up throughout our lives. And I wonder how much those values and
views color our understanding of God’s Word and will? I believe it’s been
enough to seriously hinder or halt important areas of change that God desires
to work in many of our lives. And because radical change has not been allowed
to effectively work in these areas, the world has not been greatly affected by
Christ’s power. How can it be affected by that which it cannot see?

It’s difficult in such short space to put into more concrete form many of
the ways in which I feel that the world’s influence is short-circuiting
(especially in such a materialistic, egocentric society such as ours) the
conversion of Christians more fully to the complete new life-style that
conforms to the scriptural pattern. But I can hope that by asking the
question, “Has our conversion worked deeply and broadly enough?” I may
influence some others to look closely at their lives in the light of scripture
and to see some of the ways that their old world-view is short-circuiting
their own conversion process, as well as some of the ways in which society
continues to influence them wrongly.

The influences of the world around us can be strong and subtle, but as
J.B. Phillips so aptly paraphrases Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around
you squeeze you into its mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within…”
May we become more vulnerable to the work of God’s Spirit in our minds and
hearts as He works to reveal Christ’s life and power in us. May the power
that “turned the world upside-down” in the first few centuries have the
freedom to do the same in and through our lives!

Charles Shelton
Computers for Christ – Chicago

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