As part of my Christian faith, I believe that it’s not what you do that enables you to be saved, it’s what you believe. The catch is that what you do will reflect what you believe. As the New Testament writer James says, ‘faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead’ (James 2:17). Let’s face it, most Christians are pretty clear about what has always been wrong – stuff like adultery and murder – but what about when a good thing turns bad?
I think this is something that all Christians need to be aware of: sin doesn’t have to be something that was bad from the start, sin can be something that starts off good. Let me explain a bit further, using idolatry (giving something higher value than God) as an example. Let’s say you go to a Christian event where they have an awesome worship band; everyone’s singing, the songs are awesome and the atmosphere is electric, you get lost in the music and you feel closer to God than you have in a long time. You’re buzzing and you think your relationship with God is going to go from strength to strength…then you go back to your church with significantly less people, the band starts up and you feel flat. You don’t feel close to God at all and you moan that it’s the band’s fault. The ‘worship’ wasn’t loud enough and the songs were boring. What’s happened here is that a good thing – an emotional response to music – has replaced a genuine relationship with God.
To be fair, a lot of people are aware of that particular trap, but how about another one: reading your Bible. What is he on about? I hear you ask. Well this is a trap that I myself have fallen into before. I believe that the Bible was given to mankind to enable us to learn about God and grow closer to him. I think that all Christians should make an effort to engage with it daily. But the trap that I’ve fallen into is that it becomes a routine. It’s something I do at about 9 in the evening: I read a few chapters, feel a bit holier, then move on with my evening. That’s not the point of reading the Bible. It’s a gift and we shouldn’t take it for granted. As soon as we start skim-reading it or ignoring what it’s saying or view reading it as a holy formality, we’re putting a big, Bible-shaped stumbling block into our own paths. As I’ve said, I know that I’ve been guilty of this.
So what can we do to avoid this sort of trap? Well, the solution has to start with Jesus. Let us follow the instructions of the author of Hebrews, ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ (Hebrews 12:2). In all things, we must ‘seek first his kingdom’ (Matthew 6:33). At the end of the day, if our eyes are always fixed on Jesus, nothing else is going to get in the way. Good things are gifts: musical talent, the Bible, family, friendship, love – all these things can help us grow as Christians if we use them how God intended. As long as Jesus remains the most important thing, these things will never be anything other than good.