3 Questions to Ask Christians (from "Real Christianity")

[I finally watched Amazing Grace last Saturday. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take the time. It got me even more fired up to read William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity and seek out more of his story.]

In chapter 1 of his book Real Christianity, Wilberforce makes me ask—what do I mean when I say, “I’m a Christian”? What do others mean? Does it mean we live for Jesus? Or rather that we’re just trying to be good people, tolerant of others, etc.? The latter is not Christianity.

"...Examine these Christians’ profession a little closer. [They] do not pay homage to Christianity in particular. At best they pay homage to religion in general—perhaps to mere morality."

I like these three mini-tests that Wilberforce intimates about our Christian beliefs:

1. Are you teaching it to your children?
Wilberforce presses in: what are we telling our kids about faith? Are we passing along the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or is it that often the “attachment to Christianity is merely the result of early and groundless prepossession. He was born in a Christian country, so of course he is a Christian.” Many Europeans felt that way then; so do many Americans now. Wilberforce was seeking to overcome that.

2. Do you talk about it outside of “church?”
What do we “Christians” talk about in our “confidential hours?” Can you overhear us speaking about our love for God and our thanksgiving for his blessings? Or does the name of Jesus never cross our lips unless we're in a Bible class?

3. Do you spend time studying its sacred text, the Bible?
Wilberforce is appalled at the contradiction between claiming Christianity yet not being a student of the Scriptures. “How criminal, then, must this voluntary ignorance of Christianity and the Word of God appear in the sight of God. When God of His goodness has granted us such abundant means of instruction, how great must be the guilt, and how awful must be the punishment, of voluntary ignorance!”

Voluntary ignorance? A bold phrase that indicts us all.

“Bountiful as is the hand of Providence, it does not bestow its gifts to seduce us into laziness. It bestows gifts to arouse us to exertion. No one expects to attain to the heights of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory without vigorous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance. Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry!....We cannot reasonably expect to become proficient accidentally.

“Though the Gospel had been predicted, prayed and longed for, announced, characterized and rejoiced in, we scarcely accept this heavenly treasure even when it is poured in our lap in rich abundance. We turn from it coldly, or, at best, possess it negligently as a thing of no estimation.”
Romans 10:17. John 5:39. 1 Peter 3:15. Luke 10:24.

If we answer, “No, no, and no” to the above three questions, we need to rethink what our “religion” really is.

Others’ thoughts on Real Christianity, Chapter 1

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