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Practical Atheism

Updated on May 15, 2023
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I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

Christianity Without Evidence?

As I was growing up, we used to sing a song that went like this:

"I wanna be more than a Sunday go to meetin' Christian; I wanna religion that thrills me every day. Sayin' amen to the preacher is fine; If all the week I let my light shine. I wanna be more than a Sunday go to meetin' Christian."

Just what is a "Sunday go to meetin' Christian?" It is one who professes to know Christ as Savior on Sunday, who does all the right things and says all the right things one day a week.

Even worse than that, he looks like and acts like a lover of the Lord just one or two hours out of one day a week. The rest of the time he lives for himself, never thinking about what a real commitment to Jesus Christ looks like.

And more sad still, is the Christian who says he believes in God and doesn't go to church, pray, read Scripture or do anything else that would indicate to the world that he is telling the truth. We call this person a practical atheist.

Atheists, don't believe in God and they assert that they are the final authority for their own lives. Therefore, they live like they please.

But how are Christians who live like this any different than atheists? They honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him.

If one truly has experienced salvation by the grace of God through faith, then there is the beginning of a new life in Christ. And that new life produces a continual change within the individual who is saved.

There are at least four changes that should be taking place that indicate that a person's faith in Christ is genuine.

I. Changes a Christian Experiences When Converted

1. A Growing Relationship with Christ

First and foremost of the four is that a genuine Christian will have a growing relationship with Jesus. It is true that a new babe in Christ will not have the spiritual discernment of someone who is a more mature Christian (I Corinthians 3:1; Hebrews 5:12). He may have habits of the old nature that need to be changed. However, the Christian walk is meant to be one of continuous growth and maturity, with the ultimate goal in eternity of being conformed completely to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).

In the physical realm, we see examples of some people whose brains are developmentally disabled. In other words, their mental faculties don't mature as they should. I have worked with men and women, for instance, who have the mind of a child. They don't think like adults, even though, in every other way physically, they are obviously fully grown. In the same way, there seem to be Christians who don't appear to mature much past the beginning stages of spiritual rebirth.

However, neither of these is a natural state. A normal baby, with the proper food and nutrition, will grow to adulthood. In the same way, with the Spiritual nutrition of the Word of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, a babe in Christ should grow spiritually as well.

One who is a Christian should naturally want to do all that they can to follow their Lord and Savior. They should get to a point where they desire the meat of the Word of God so that they may grow to be more like the One who died for them.

2. Accepting Jesus as Lord of Your Life

A maturing Christian should also have a growing understanding of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His control over their life. Scripture teaches that: "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

The true Christian has declared a new allegiance. Jesus Christ is not just our cosmic buddy. He's not the person we sing and talk about once a week. He's not a genie in a bottle who grants our every wish. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father (Philippians 2:9-11).

A real Christian already is aware of this and has voluntarily chosen to bow the knee before Him in honor and worship. He demonstrates that honor and worship by obeying, as nearly as he possibly can, the teachings of the Word of God, the Bible. He is not perfect and won't ever be completely sinless in this life, but confesses quickly any known sin and turns his life around, seeking to continue to be better, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in him.

The true Christian realizes that without the Lord we can do nothing. Jesus Christ controls everything, including our very heartbeat. The one that calls the stars by name (Isaiah 40:26), holds the very universe together (Colossians 1:17). If indeed it were possible for Him to take His eyes off of this universe in which we live, even for a second, it would, at that moment, cease to exist.

3. A Growing Aversion to Sin

Thirdly, a true believer in Jesus has a growing aversion to sin, both in own his life and in the world around him. If you truly love someone you start to hate anything that hurts that person and harms your relationship with them. That is true also of the Christian and their relationship with Jesus Christ.

We don't obey Him to avoid punishment. For there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). And we don't obey just because of the promise of rewards. A genuine Christian has a growing aversion to sin because our Lord hates it and died to free us from it's penalty, it's power and ultimately, its presence. He realizes what an awful cost it was for Jesus to pay for our sins and wants never to cause Him pain again by going back to that from which he has been delivered.

Rather, we pray, as David did to the Lord:

"Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

A true Christian keeps short accounts with God and quickly confesses and repents of any known sin in his life. This is all because he doesn't want anything to stand in the way of his relationship with his Lord and redeemer.

4. A Growth in the Fruit of the Spirit

The fourth change that should be taking place in the life of a genuine Christian is the growth in the fruit of the Spirit. Paul lists 9 characteristics of a Spirit-filled Christian in Galatians 5:22,23 which he refers to as fruit. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Of course, none of us in this life will be perfect in all nine of these characteristics. However, the Bible indicates that they should be in the process of being formed in each life that has placed their faith in Christ.

So, with all of this in mind, why do some people who profess Jesus seemingly act no differently than the rest of the world?

II. Two Possible Reasons for Practical Atheism

It seems from Scripture that there are two possible reasons people don't live like they say they believe. Either, they are are a carnal Christian, or they have never been saved in the first place.

Carnal means fleshly, or living in the old nature, and not by the new nature given at conversion to Christ. In I Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul addresses the people of Corinth as brothers. However, he goes on to refer to them as carnal. The Church at Corinth had many problems. They were divided, which is why he here calls them carnal. Some said they followed Paul, some Apollos, and some said they were followers of Christ. Paul asks them: "Is Christ divided? (I Corinthians 1:13).

Also, there was one guy in Corinth who was having relations with his father's wife, and no one was confronting him on it (I Corinthians 5:1).

And in I Corinthians 11 the Corinthian church was abusing the Lord's Supper. Some were coming early and getting drunk and eating their fill, while others came later and had nothing. They weren't treating the Supper properly as the memorial of Jesus' death until He comes back, as they should have done.

Paul tells this divided, carnal church about the judgement of all Christians, including these fleshly Christians in I Corinthians 3. He says:

" According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (I Corinthians 3:12-15).

I can't imagine standing before the judgement seat of Christ and watching my whole life's work burn before my eyes because I refused to live out the purpose the Lord intended for me.

Of course the other possibility is even more unimaginable. Jesus said that people would know His disciples by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). There is no place found in Scripture where someone who is a Christian demonstrates absolutely no evidence that they are saved. Even the carnal Corinthians had some evidence which showed them to be genuine followers of Christ

If you know Christ you will produce good works (James 2:14-26). Good works alone won't save. Yet they are the evidence of faith and that you are saved.

The sad end to the person without Christ is eternal separation from God in Hell (John 3:36; Revelation 20:11-15). So, for those who see no reason to live differently from the world, this should be a concern.


Paul tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5). Sunday go to meetin' Christianity is no Christianity at all. You can't go to church on Sunday and live like a child of Hell the rest of the week.

If you don't know Christ, then you need to fall on your knees before Him this very moment and give your heart and life to him and ask Jesus to be your Savior. If you have accepted Christ as Savior, then you need to live like it.

God hates lukewarm Christianity. As He told the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:16 it makes Him want to vomit you out of His mouth.

Instead may we all give to God the honor and glory He deserves by living a life that pleases Him. Let's be so centered on Jesus Christ that the world will sit up and take notice.

And maybe, God will use the light that we project to bring just one more soul to our Savior. What an honor and a privilege that would be! May God make it so in each and everyone of our lives!!

© 2015 Jeff Shirley


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