A Problem Nearer Home
Than You Think
On the way home after church a father
noticed his child was whimpering and crying.
The father spoke to his child, “Son, what is wrong?”
The little boy replied, “The pastor said every child should be
raised in a Christian home. But
Dad, I WANT TO STAY WITH YOU AND MOM!”
Isn’t it amazing how children have an uncanny ability to perceive
the human heart?
What do you think the main problem is in
churches today? Apathy?
Disunity? How would
you respond if I suggested the main problem in churches today is atheism?
Not intellectual atheism nor absolute atheism, but practical
If you want to raise the
dander of today’s Christians, all you need to do is mention Madelyn
most famous atheist of our time. Merely
mentioning her name breeds outrage in Christians.
She said God did not exist and this caused tremendous disgust and
revulsion among Christians. Yet
there are millions of church members who live as if God does not exist and
nobody so much as bats an eye. There
are comparatively few atheists, but practicing atheists are legion.
The Devil is not an
atheist. He is a practical atheist.
He knows there is a God, but operates as if there were no God. He
believes in God, but he does not love God.
The Devil knows he will give account to God, yet he persists in his
rebellion. He acknowledges God, but does not glorify God.
Stephen Charnock said, “The devil knows there is a God, but acts
like an atheist; and so do his children.”
Psalm 14 states, “The
fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”
This Psalm catalogs some characteristics that accompany atheism.
“Corrupt…abominable works…filthy” denotes moral bankruptcy.
“Not seeking God, lack of understanding, and prayerlessness”
speak of spiritual bankruptcy. When
the text refers to “Eating up God’s people like bread” it is a
portrait of relational or social bankruptcy.
The atheist has no desire for God in his heart and no resemblance
of God in his life. For the
atheist life consists only of self-centered concerns.
Earthly existence is therefore reduced to materialistic and
hedonistic (self-indulgent pleasure) pursuits.
There are few that deny God with their
lips, but millions who deny God with their lives.
Belief in God is at an all-time high while morality is at an
all-time low. Our currency
states, “In God We Trust,” but our policies prove we trust anything
but God. Our denominations
claim to represent God, but in principle and practice are actually opposed
to God. Our conservative
churches claim to believe the Bible, yet very few obey the black and white
injunctions it contains. Christians
in America have a high regard for the Bible, but only thirty-eight percent
read it weekly. In reality
most professing Christians have no more regard for the Bible than junk
don’t even read it!
live as if there were no God, so do practical atheists.
do not pray, practical atheists seldom pray.
do not study the Bible; neither do practical atheists.
do not hide the Word of God in their hearts; neither do practical
boast they can get along without God.
Practical atheists do little more than pay God a Sunday call.
do not lay up treasure in heaven; neither do practical atheists.
do not set their affections on things above; neither do practical
don’t lead their families in devotions; neither do practical atheists.
are concerned with those things that can be seen, heard, and felt; so are
have little concern for others; so it is with practical atheists.
live for today; so do practical atheists.
is “No God-ism.”
It denies the existence of God.
Of course, the atheist is not lacking in faith; he is lacking in
Because he does not want a God in his life, he rules God out of
there is no God, life has no meaning.
If there is no meaning, life has no purpose.
No God, no meaning, no purpose, no right or wrong¾we
are all cosmic accidents.
A Russian atheist said, “Either there is a God or there isn’t.
And either way, it’s a frightening possibility.”
If God doesn’t exist, nothing matters.
atheism is rare.
Ninety-seven percent of Americans say they believe in God.
Our problem is not intellectual atheism, but practical atheism.
Essence of Practical Atheism
atheism dismisses the notion of God.
It is not an outright denial of God; it is more of a subtle
disregard for God.
Thomas Adams said, “Atheism is the main disease of the soul.”
When the Word of God declares, “God is not in all their
thoughts,” it points to mankind’s gross inconsideration of God.
pervasive atheism at work in lives of people all around us is contagious.
Who would not admit how easy it is to be consumed with desires and
distracted with thoughts that are not after God?
Scripture states, “My people have forgotten me days without
Indifference toward God really means no respect for the person of
God, no concern for the will of God, and disobedience to the Word of God.
non-regarding of God will ultimately lead to an antagonism toward God.
When the liberal theologians announced God was dead in the 1960’s
they were not reporting a fact, they were expressing a desire.
When men go so far in sin, “They do not like to retain God in
They have a secret death wish.
They wish God was not.
Like water will extinguish a flame, the carnal heart would
extinguish God if it could.
Dismissing thoughts of God from the conscious mind is practical
atheism also distorts the image of God.
Stephen Charnock said, “It is more commendable to think him not
to be, than to think him such a one as is inconsistent with his nature.”
The U. S. mint melts down old coins in order to make new ones.
They burn old paper money and print new bills.
Similarly, the practical atheist would mint a different nature of
God, which would be more accommodating.
is pretending God is different than He really is.
When a person conjures up a false image of God, he is expressing
his secret wish that God was different.
This violates the second commandment’s prohibition against
The graven image, or imagined god, is nothing more than a
projection of the mind.
This false god exists only in the mind of the person who created
reason idolatry is so hateful to God is because the idolater rejects his
Creator (God) as He is.
It has been said that in the beginning God created man in His own
image and ever since the fall man has tried to return the favor!
Israelites, weary of waiting for Moses, fashioned a golden calf to suit
their own tastes.
This forbidden misrepresentation of God was their attempt to pare
God down so He was manageable.
They sought to reduce God to a visual image because He could be
controlled more easily.
The contemporary corollary is “Wal-Mart Religion.”
It doesn’t cost anything.
Wal-Mart religion is easily accessible¾you
don’t have to part with your sins to obtain it.
A third reason it is popular is because you can take it back if you
don’t like it.
You can opt out for carnality anytime.
Is there not something about God and His holiness that makes men
History as well as experience demonstrates man’s insatiable
inclination to fabricate a deity that is useful and beneficial.
Everybody wants a god who will do things for them¾not
a God who can do things to them!
atheism rejects the authority of God.
Not many church people deny God with their minds, but millions deny
God with their lives.
How many can defend the Lordship of Christ doctrinally while
denying the Lordship of Christ personally?
Atheism is not too strong a word to describe those who
acknowledge God, but walk as if there were no God.
can tell a church is backslidden when it moves from a prophetic ministry
to an apologetic ministry.
The emphasis moves from a corrective stance to a defensive stance.
The vital concern shifts from the heart to the head, from the
practical to the cerebral.
Instead of “reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with all doctrine
and patience,” the pulpit couches itself in reasonableness,
respectability, and relevance.
The church broadens itself to the point where everyone is
comfortable except the man who really believes something with conviction.
I know this is hard to grasp because the standards have been so low
for so long that hardly anyone questions our traditions of compromise.
young pastor started to disciple the couples in his church.
He began to meet with both husbands and wives in their homes and
help them learn to walk with God.
About the same time a situation arose that called for disciplinary
measures within the membership.
He led the congregation to exercise church discipline according to
The purpose of discipline within the church is to restore those who
have fallen into error.
Many of the “old guard” wouldn’t stand for these
non-traditional measures and left the church.
Think about it.
Discipleship and biblical church discipline split the church.
These people did not care what the pastor preached as long it had
no bearing on how the church functioned!
This must be “Churchianity” because it surely isn’t
is sad but true that the type of “ministry” most of us have been
brought up with has failed to produce godly men and women as the norm.
Spiritual maturity is the exception, not the rule.
Is it overstating the case to suggest that churches are actually
the breeding grounds for practical atheism?
Could it be that the predominant style of ministry (make a
decision/join the church/expect nothing more) has conditioned millions to
a lifestyle of atheism?
The typical church has far more members than attend on Sunday
This is a bragging point when it should be cause for shame.
The Sunday night crowd is about half of the Sunday morning
Mid-week service normally represents a fraction of the membership.
I recognize that mandatory attendance at every function is not our
goal, but the casual and trifling manner in which churches operate
illustrates a flippancy that is unworthy of Christ.
devil is no longer fighting the church¾he’s
All you need to do to join the average congregation is say you
believe in Jesus and you are in!
It seems too obvious that theological clarity and precision
concerning what it means to be saved is sorely needed.
One of the reasons Jonathan Edwards was dismissed from his church
was on account of the “halfway covenant.”
Parents had children who lacked assurance of salvation and these
parents wanted their children to receive communion anyway.
Edwards strongly opposed offering the elements to unconverted
rightly believed that people needed to be regenerate before joining the
halfway covenant opened the door for unsaved people to have their names on
the church role.
Could it be that this conciliation opened a “can of worms” that
has wrought devastation to this very day?
trite to say, “The Bible is our rule for faith and practice,” while
the personal and ecclesiastical conduct is diametrically opposed to the
The most accurate index to a person’s beliefs is not his words,
but his actions.
At least the atheist is consistent.
He denies God and lives out his unbelief with a lifestyle that
backs it up.
But the practical atheist plays the hypocrite.
He “professes to know God, but in works he denies Him.”
It has been said a hypocrite is someone who is not himself on
no one is perfectly consistent.
But the ever-widening chasm between faith and practice represents
“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your
own selves” (James 1:22).
to Become a Practicing Christian
fallen men we are all born with atheistic hearts.
As North Americans we are accustomed to atheistic religion.
As practical atheists we are experienced in “no-God-for-me”
Is there hope for a practical atheist?
Yes, because the “things that are impossible with men are
possible with God!”
first step is recognizing God as your Creator.
“Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and
not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps.
are not the products of our own efforts¾God
God does not exist for us¾we
exist for Him.
This acknowledgement is only the beginning and means far more than
you must repent of your practical atheism.
We were holding an open-air meeting in downtown Roanoke, VA.
After the preaching a young man wanted to debate.
He told me he did not believe in God.
I asked, “If you don’t believe in God, what do you believe
he replied, “I believe in myself.”
In response I said, “I gave up on myself years ago!”
This man was an intellectual atheist¾he
did not believe in God.
In order to become a Christian he must cease believing in Self and
believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In short, he will have to go out of the “god-business,” and so
will you and I!
No man can serve two masters.
A fool lives as if there were no God.
The wise man stops believing in Self and transfers his trust to the
means you must realize God is your boss.
When Saul met Christ on the Damascus road he said, “Lord, what
would thou have me to do?”
Paul not only recognized Christ as Lord, he willingly submitted to
The word “Lord” means “master, ruler, controller.”
When Paul called Jesus Lord, he recognized He was God and yielded
to His authority.
Later as an apostle he wrote,
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost
which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Lordship obviously implies ownership¾“ye
are not your own.”
When I acknowledge Christ owns me because He purchased me, it
carries a multitude of practical implications.
who would follow Christ must relinquish their rights.
Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross, and follow me.”
The Cross serves but one purpose¾death.
Everybody is standing up for their rights but very few are willing
to take responsibility for their wrongs.
Calvary provides the solution for a man’s rights as well as his
you find a man who is willing to side with God by taking the witness stand
against himself in honest confession, the blood of Jesus cleanses him from
And when that cleansed man surrenders his rights by taking up the
Cross, he is delivered from the tyranny of self-will.
He is dead to sin and alive to God.
The answer is not the consecration of the old man, but
acknowledging our old man is already crucified with Christ.
And this is the gateway to an empowered and obedient life!
be a practicing Christian requires consistency.
Herein lies the challenge of applying one’s belief in God and His
Word to the issues of life.
The Christian life, of necessity, must be a supernatural life that
can only be lived under the power of the Holy Spirit.
This calls for daily emptying, daily filling, intentional yielding,
Thinking rightly about God, rejecting the wrong, recognizing God is
in control, and renouncing self-centeredness is the way out of nominal
Practical atheism is a grievous
insult to God. It is hateful to God, harmful to His church, and
hurtful to us. Shouldn't our prayer be, "Lord, let me never
again live as if You did not exist, but let me always live my life in
the reality and vitality of You being my God. Amen"