Being a Christian isn’t always easy. But we believers often make it harder on ourselves than we should. We make mistakes.We tend to do things that we don’t need to do, and also forget to do things that we should.
My purpose in writing this post is not to make you feel guilty. On the contrary, I want you to be encouraged. Each of these mistakes are common for those of us who follow Christ. I hope these ideas will help you to strengthen you faith, and deepen your relationship with Jesus.
Trying to earn their salvation
Funny how often believers forget that their salvation is bought and paid for by Jesus Christ. Even Christians who know the Bible overlook the importance of scriptures like Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
They forget because deep down inside it just seems too good to be true. Nothing in this world comes for free, or so we have been taught, so it must stand to reason that we must pay for our salvation too.
I think many of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus fall into an easy trap of trying to help our salvation along by working hard at it—going to church often, reading our Bibles, serving in church—so that God will continue to be happy with us and allow us to mature as believers.
But the most mature believer knows this: the saving work of Jesus was performed long ago on a cross. What’s more important is to follow and allow God control of our lives, knowing that he’s the one who matures us as believers (Philippians 1:6).
Failing to trust God with their money
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, “With some Christians, the last part of their nature that ever gets sanctified is their pockets.”
Another big mistake that Christians make is failing set aside a portion of their money for God. Whether it’s given to the church, to para-church ministries, or just given as charity, many believers show very little generosity back to God.
According to NP Source, Christians only give 2.5% of their income to churches. That may not seem too bad, but consider this: the average giving during the great depression was 3.3%.
In my 16 years of ministry, I have seen this time and time again. People are desperate to grow in their faith, but they are also afraid to trust God with their money.
If you struggle with giving, allow me to make a suggestion. Don’t worry about percentages. Pray about it and decide on an amount that is good for you. It’s between you and God. Then give that amount faithfully and cheerfully. God promises to bless you in return (Malachi 3:10)
Forgetting to read and apply their Bible
Why is it important to read the Bible? Because it is God’s word to us. Think of it this way, when we pray, we are talking to God. When we read the Bible, he is talking back to us.
So many people have told me, “I just don’t know what God wants me to do.” My response is, “have you read the Bible lately?” I love the way John Piper puts it: “If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible. If you want to hear God speak out loud, read the Bible out loud.”
I’ll admit. I often don’t read my own Bible enough, even though I’m a pastor. But the great thing about God’s word is that it has withstood the test of time. Plus, we have more access to it than ever.
I think that learning to read the Bible is so important I have a whole podcast devoted to it. It’s called The Bible Revealed, and you can listen to it on almost all podcast platforms.
Not forgiving others
As humans, we love to hold a grudge. The problem is, grudges are terribly unhealthy. The great composer William Walton quipped, “To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.”
Jesus was very clear about the role of forgiveness for Christians. He said that we are to forgive people no fewer than 490 times (Matthew 18:22), and he also said that if we are unwilling to forgive our brothers and sisters here on earth, God would be reluctant to forgive us (Matthew 6:15).
Now, many theologians have tried to dance around this verse and talk about how it’s just a warning and that God’s love and forgiveness trumps our ability to love and forgive. And maybe that’s true. However, it’s clear that we really don’t have much choice but to forgive the people in our lives that have wronged us. After all, if God has forgiven us, don’t we have a duty to forgive others too (Ephesians 4:32).
Stop attending church
There’s a new movement within Christianity that has people expressing their faith outside a regular gathering of believers. They say, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” That’s a true statement, but it’s sort of like a basketball player saying, “I don’t have to be on a team to be a basketball player.” That’s true as well, but if you’ve ever tried to play basketball by yourself you know, it’s not very fun.
Christianity was never intended to be a solo sport. When the writer of Hebrews admonished his readers to continue to gather together as believers, it was so that they could encourage and strengthen each other’s faith.
While attendance at a large or traditional church may not be a good fit for everyone, every believer should be in regular contact with other believers, whether it be in a small group, a Bible study, or even an accountability group.