Bar Code Christianity

wordswag_1516881867933Remember the supermarket checkout before the bar code scanner? Each item was marked with a price and the checker had to punch it into the cash register. Yep, I really can remember those days. Now, the item is passed in front of the reader that ‘sees’ a little box with lines in it and instantly enters the price into the computer. The scanner cannot tell if it is pricing a can of peas or a box of Cheerios™ because it can only detect and decode a symbol inscrutable to our eyes.

In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard observes a development in Evangelical Christianity that he labels as “barcode religion.”  There is an event in which a “decision for Christ” is made. And, at that moment, God places a kind of spiritual ‘bar code’ on the individual marking him as destined for Heaven, all sins – past, present, and future – erased by Christ’s grace.  So, you are thinking, isn’t that true?  Well it is- but it is but  half of the truth. Salvation is a gift of God, provided by His grace freely, through Christ. But, to imply that once you have the barcode that all is said and done is a fallacy. Salvation is to be followed by discipleship.

It is a travesty to believe that such a profound inner change as being reconciled to God would not be followed by an observable change in values and behaviors, yet that is too often exactly the case! We have emphasized God’s grace and forgiveness of sin and left out the accompanying transformation called ‘sanctification.’ (becoming a person who is like Christ)  As long as you got the “bar code” it’s all good;  entrance to heaven assured. No worries needed about whether or not day to day behavior bears any resemblance to the Christian life that is described in Scripture. Concerned that we would preach a ‘works religion’ we have neglected to properly teach what it means to be a disciple.

The unintended result is to devalue the Cross of Christ by making what He did there into an eternal life insurance policy. In fact, what Jesus has done for us is to make a whole new life possible by announcing the arrival of God’s rule and to commission to be people of the Kingdom of God. His command that we ‘go into all the world and preach the Gospel,’ is not just about collecting ‘decisions to believe.’  It is about leading people to Him, so that they will be reconciled to God, filled with the Spirit, and transformed day by day into glorious being of love and holiness who are destined for heaven.

I wonder if Paul’s lament about “Christians” of the church in Philippi, is too often true of those who claim to know Jesus in 2018?  “For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” (Philippians 3:18-20, NLT)

The Spirit-filled Christian life begins with a grace awakening and is possible only to those who maintain an intimate connection with Christ Jesus, one He described as ‘Vine and branch,’  impossible apart from Him. The life of the disciple is one of growth, one that is empowered, one that is changed and she is a change agent in the world where she lives.

What a privilege to become a partner with God in making His rule known, in facing down oppression, in taking on prejudice,  living in a meaningful and purposeful way that is demonstrably different from those who do not yet know Jesus.  Are you living a ‘bar code’ kind of Christianity, content with the promise of grace but unconcerned with becoming His disciple?  Know that there is more, so much more, to faith.

The word from the Word challenges us to see the whole Truth.  The Word says that when Jesus is received by faith and the Spirit takes up residence in us, we “recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, The Message)

Let’s engage with Him and as He lives in us, we will make His life known, changing our family and home, our place of work, yes – the world in which we live.


Beautiful Things
(worship along at this link)

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change
At all

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground
At all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found
In You

You make me new You are making me new
You make me new You are making me new

Lisa Gungor | Michael Gungor © 2009 songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055


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