Have you ever picked up a book, not really knowing what to expect, and then found a hard time putting it down? Usually, this phenomena occurs when you find a book that’s a good story, or has a lot of twists, or is just a classic. But what if that book felt like a punch in the gut after the first few pages? Would you keep reading?
Such was the case for me today when I began to read “Christless Christianity” by Michael Horton. I had heard many good things about the book, but I was not prepared for how it would hit me. The premise of his book is that the church in America has become “trivial, sentimental, affirming, and and irrelevant” and that it preaches a false gospel of “moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion.”
It is not a feel-good story. It is not a “God wants you to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and drive a Benz” book. It is a hard look at the church as we know it in the West, and folks, it ain’t pretty. But his point is this: we have traded the gospel of Jesus Christ for a bunch of self-help, watered-down, “I’m ok and you’re ok, just don’t bother me and I won’t bother you” Dr. Phil-esqe messages. And by gospel I mean the good news that Jesus is fully God, yet fully man; He came to earth, lived a perfect life, suffered, bled and died on a cross for OUR sins, in OUR place, in order to save US from the wrath that we justly deserve. Not “Jesus died to make you happy and give you a big house and save you from any sorrow or pain.”
But I digress.
If you want to read a book that will challenge your opinion of your church, and yourself, read this book. If you are not convicted, humbled, and drawn to repentance for how you’ve viewed the church and the Gospel…I will be utterly amazed.
I leave you with a couple of the left hooks to the solar plexus that I received in chapter 1 (and there were quite a few):
“God is not denied but trivialized–used for our live programs rather than received, worshiped, and enjoyed.” pg. 24
“Nobody will raise a fuss if you find Jesus helpful for your personal well-being and relationships…but start talking about the real crisis—where our best efforts are filthy rags and Jesus came to bear the condemnation of helpless sinners who place their confidence in him rather than in themselves—and people begin shifting in their seats, even in churches.” pg. 26
“Far from clashing with the culture of consumerism, American religion appears to be not only at peace with our narcissism but gives it a spiritual legitimacy.” pg. 20