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What if I’m Not Really a Christian?

My past blog told how I’d recently awoken in a cruel hangover with little recollection of the prior night. I’d slipped into sin and felt miles from God. It reminded me of Jesus’ words, “go and sin no more.” But it also triggered questions, like, am I really a Christian or just a fake? Is this faith thing real or is it a hoax? Am I fooling anyone? Have I backslidden?

The thing is, we are always each of these things, at least to some degree. We aim for authenticity, but we are human. Perhaps we fake it until we make it, or we act out of pure ignorance, or both.

But after I fell into drunkenness, and after my recent divorce, I was haunted by 2 Cor. 5:17, which states: “If anyone is in Christ, the old has gone, the new is here!” This passage has been a source of encouragement and comfort, but it’s also taunted me, like an email from a Dunkin’ Donuts stating: “It’s National Donut Day, have a free donut!”

Nicest Guy Ever

The bartender, a beautiful brunette with a beaming smile, leaned on the bar and grinned big. “Ellen and I agree that you’re just the nicest guy, the nicest customer we have,” she said. It was Winter 2003.

Warmth enveloped my whole body, and it wasn’t the rum. I’m a sucker for feeling like a functional member of society, and this gave me my new drive in life – To be the nicest person alive. I considered myself an atheist at the time, but I was trying to prove to God I was worth keeping alive. So I kept turning up the volume on my niceness with this bartender in the hope she’d say it again and again, re-affirming I wasn’t the worthless scumbag that I feared. I surely weirded her out, though, as she must have thought: If that guy smiles any harder, he’s going to pop a blood vessel.

I really had something to prove. If you asked me at that time to stack my kindness against others’, I’d rank myself near the top. Never mind I was sleeping through my classes most days, hung over after driving home drunk, vague memories of hitting on every woman in the bar without checking for wedding rings. Disregard my two-faced, jealous, spiteful, spoiled brat actions.

Fast forward 10 years and I’m single again. I somehow thought this time would be different because this time I really was the nicest person in the world. I mean, I was a new creature in Christ! I even had a Bible verse to prove it (flipping to 2 Cor. 5). But there I was, again pursuing lust and drunkenness.

So I delved back into the Bible passage to understand where the disconnect was, and it turns out I needed to back up a sentence to verse 16. “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”

“Worldly” is, as verse 12 puts it, to “take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.” So did I use God to get “what is seen”? Yes. I wanted my marriage to shine bright, and though I had proclaimed this was for God’s glory, it was also a thinly-veiled pursuit of my own glory. I was using God, making him more assistant than Lord. I’d told myself, “hey, it’s a win-win, I get what I want and God gets what he wants.”

But I never got what I wanted. I always wanted more.

Facing the Facts

So, what conclusion did I come to? Am I a new creation, or an imposter?

I had to start by admitting I was sifting deep into the prosperity gospel end of the pool. All of us at least wade into this area from time to time, so I knew I’d never be completely clear of this, so I can stop pretending my crap doesn’t smell, too. And I’ve begun accepting I will have sin in my life, rather than waiting to one day defeat it like a Level Boss in a video game.

Plus, after the year I’d been through: divorce, death and moving, I could have completely abandoned faith in God. I’d walked away from things for far, far less. This perseverance was another indication I am a new creation, and it continues to be at work throughout my life.

So, to say since I have fallen victim to lust and drunkenness then I’m not really a child of God is like saying if you have a cough and sneeze then maybe you’ve never been healthy. No, you just have a cold, of which there is no cure.

Give it to God, and it, too, shall pass.