Sometimes, you don’t find a book. The book finds you. That’s absolutely the case for my February read. I was at a Goodwill, and the book was a dollar. I saw the title, thought it was interesting; so, I bought it. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with the author or the book itself. It was a DOLLAR. It was a justified purchase. After reading the book, dollar well spent.
Christian Atheist is an odd term for most people. Normally, these are contradicting titles. However Craig Groeschel’s book The Christian Atheist loosely framed by Titus 1:16 quickly confronted readers with their inconsistency. Simply put by one of the people Craig encountered, a Christian Atheist is someone who would say ” I know my life doesn’t look like a Christian’s should but I do believe in God.” Christian Atheists are people who believe but they fail to turn those beliefs into outward change. “We are created to be living examples of God’s love to a hurting world. We believe in God but our lives don’t reflect who He really is.”
The book is broken down into specific ways people take on this identity. We believe in God BUT…. “Don’t really know Him, Don’t think you can change, Still worry all the time” and more. Have an inconsistent part of your life? At least one of these chapters will speak to it.
The one that was the biggest challenge for me was “You believe in God but aren’t sure you’re forgiven.” It talked about the way sin deceives us. It’s fun for awhile, but as the book says, “it never fails to come back and haunt you, usually when you least expect it.” When we allow sin to stay in the darkness, we live in fear of it ever coming to light. We spend so much time trying to bury the situation, along with our guilt and shame from it. I’ve been there. I’m still there some days and with specific circumstances. “Our feelings of shame trap us into thinking that we can never recover–that, in fact, we don’t even deserve to.He(Satan) lies to us until we’re convinced we’re stuck and can never escape our problems.”
I spend a lot of time talking to people about their sin, struggles, and inconsistencies in belief. To be honest, it’s a hundred times harder for me to remind myself of truth. I know the words to say, and I absolutely believe them for others, but if I’m honest, I struggle to let those truths change how I think and act. I dwell on mistakes that I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW God has forgiven me for a LONG time ago… but I haven’t let myself off the hook. Craig reminds us that “no matter what I feel, I hold the assurance that God never leaves me. And He won’t leave you either.” The chapter about worry and anxiety was a close second in winning the conviction award. He talked about our lack of prayer, our refusal to turn situations over to God, and thinking we can do better. “Worry becomes and alert signal that it’s time to pray.” How true, and how badly I do with this. Worry is not an alert signal to hide under the covers and binge a new Netflix series.
Outside of chapters I need for personal reasons, the chapter “We believe in God, but we don’t engage others” was a powerful reminder for a life in ministry and leadership. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to answer people when they ask about the source of our hope. It’s so easy to look at our society and decide that no one is searching for God. I’m not denying the open hostility toward Christianity. However, because of that hostility, so many believers will choose not to enter into conversations about their beliefs. We assume that people DON’T want to hear about our experience in faith. We’re afraid of their responses; so, we don’t even try. How often do we prevent the conversation from happening. ” If you engage enough people, you’re going to be amazed how many of them are genuinely hungry to hear the truth from an honest, caring heart.” When we spend time with others, when we choose to be an honest and caring person in their lives, hearts are softened to the Gospel. I believe the state of our world is the desperate cry for the presence of God to infiltrate the brokenness of our world. People know this world is broken. What they don’t know is that there is an answer to the brokenness.
It’s easy to read a book like this and feel inadequate. What the author reminds us is that we will continue to fall short, even as followers of Jesus. “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.” We’re called to pursue a life consistent with our beliefs, even though we will fall. Perfection isn’t the end result; the end result is always meant to be the presence of God actively working to bring us closer to Him.