“To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ…” (Jude 1, NIV)
Let’s talk about a spiritual condition lurking hidden, unspoken of, in many of our hearts.
It’s one I like to call “Crummy Christian Syndrome.”
If you relate to the following symptoms, fellow sufferer, then this post is for you (I hope to offer you some encouragement below). But first, let’s diagnose this so-called “Crummy Christianity.”
- You carry a constant general sense of “crumminess” regarding your spiritual life and discipleship. You are constantly frustrated that you are not a “good enough” disciple. You doubt the authenticity of your faith in Jesus, because surely you should be doing a much better job of it, shouldn’t you?
- You feel shame, guilt or general discouragement at sinful habits that you can’t seem to break free of. You’ve been a Christian for years, and you know that you should be free from lust/pride/envy/gluttony/*insert vice here* by now, but you don’t feel you’ve made any progress at all. If anything, you’re more aware of your sin now than you were when you first became a Christian.
- Jesus’ commandments seem burdensome to you. You have lost joy in following Him, and you feel like Jesus is lying when He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In fact, walking with Jesus often feels like lugging a three-tonne stone rather than anything you could call “light.”
- Sometimes you doubt that God loves you, or even that you are saved. You lack assurance about your place in His Kingdom. I mean, you believe God saves sinners, but surely you shouldn’t still be stuck in this rut if you’re really saved? Sure, God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, but surely now that I’m a Christian, my life should look a lot better than this?
The crummy Christian is stuck in a rut. You long for things to be simpler, easier – but they never are. Breakthrough seems perpetually beyond your grasp. You’ve prayed the same prayers for breakthrough, read the same go-to spiritual books, ploughed on through hours of seemingly fruitless Bible study, gone up for countless ministry slots, and still nothing within you seems to shift.
You’re beyond the point of pressing on. You wonder whether God has given up on you. After all, everyone around you seems to be okay, so why is it so hard for you? Why not just walk away altogether?
Friend, you are not alone.
The way in is the way on. The Father is faithful through a thousand failures and more. The grace that redeemed you at first is the grace that persists through your sin and brokenness, to carry you to your eternal home. Paul declares “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Be confident in the promise that the completion of the work started in you is not your own doing, but the Father’s.
Fellow crummy Christian, God did not save you simply to leave you to break under the weight of an unbearable load.
Too many of us think this way, however. We know in our minds that grace covers our sins, but this is not the reality that we live by. We like hearing about God’s grace for sinners, but we doubt the same is true for us. Surely the goalposts are different for us who profess to follow Jesus?
The truth of the gospel is the antithesis to Crummy Christian Syndrome. Jude 1, which captures succinctly our status as the saved people of God, tells us that we are called, loved, and kept. Let’s break that down.
- You are called. From the foundation of the world, God chose you, predestining you as His son or daughter through His Son (Ephesians 1:5). His choice does not change; the Father is not a fickle deity who chooses us one moment just to leave us the next when we fail Him. He is steadfast in love to those He calls, more faithful to us than we could ever be to Him. “And this is the will of him who sent me,” declares Jesus, “that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).
- You are loved. Your new name as son or daughter is “the beloved” (see Colossians 3:12). “Your love, LORD,” exclaims the Psalmist, “reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5). This is a love no failure can shake, no power can stop, no sin can separate us from.
- You are kept. The grace that saved you is the same grace that keeps you for the day when Christ returns. Those whom God has chosen are protected by His powerful grace; through faith we are “shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
By grace your salvation has been signed and sealed, permanently. The antidote to the predicament faced by the crummy Christian is the grace which says that you are called, beloved, and kept by your Father.
And it is by grace – not by self-abusive flagellation – that we move on from the spiritual rut of crummy Christianity. The Father is a gentle and tender Redeemer, wooing and waiting for His children to come to Him and become like Him, perfecting us by His Spirit.
Just as no thing that we did saved us, so also no failing can snatch us from His faithful hold. Fellow crummy Christians and downtrodden disciples, rest knowing that His grace is sufficient for you. He calls you His own, and He is faithful to His word.