Lessons from Travis: The good Christian

nIt was a day late in late summer. The light streamed through the window into a room with several high school students. Two Chinese girls sat on a couch and next to then two African American students, next two them two girls who looked to be sisters and near the door a boy with glasses. The Roots played quietly in the background. A man in his early 20’s asked everyone the topic of the night.

“What makes a good Christian?”

The room was quiet, after all that was a hard question. The students waited with the expectation that he would answer the question, but he stayed quiet. Finally the boy with glasses said aloud “They give to poor and help people.” He nodded but did not affirm the answer. It seemed he was waiting for a different answer. Finally one of the sisters, Sarah, gave the answer he was looking for “A good Christian reads the bible a lot.” The room seemed to nod in agreement. Travis then went on to make his point:

“A lot of people think that a good Christian memorizes a lot of bible verses, or goes to church to every Sunday, etc. They think these things make you good. But the bible does not say this, the bible says that we have all fallen short and only God can make you good. Those are all good things to do, but they do not make you good. This is called legalism and a lot of people in your life will try to sell you this lie.”

One of the African American students, Kenny, responded “But if you don’t do anything then why does it matter?” Travis responded “The Christian does not believe being good will make God love him, he believes because God loves him he will be made good.”

The Promises of the Gospel

This was perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Travis, and it stuck with me. I can recall a UBF member openly telling me he was “more mature” than me on the basis that he had been in UBF. This man had no idea how God had worked in my life, and I found his hubris a result of the failure to apply this teaching. I think we can be pleased with ourselves, if God can be pleased with his servant than his servant can be pleased with himself. But there is a moment, and in that moment if we do not recall God it quickly turns to pride. Taken with this idea a particularly popular idea in UBF idea some Christians are disciples and others are mere followers. It will be discussed at the next UBF leadership conference, and I suspect Acts 11:26 won’t be mentioned. Entire books could be written on the mistakes in such a conclusion and the problems it presents. As for this lesson I will just remark that a lot of anxiety and pressure is removed when the promises of the gospel are divorced from our efforts alone.

For those unfamiliar with this article series, here is my introduction:



  1. Great lessons, thanks for sharing!

    Indeed, the promises are key. When we “share the gospel” with others, maybe we should remember those promises?

    I had the “gospel” preached to me this week. It went like this:

    ” Brian, peace of Christ be with you. Your ideas are contrary to the truth revealed by God, lived and taught and explained by Christ’s Church and her Saints over 20+ centuries. I pray in time you will consider forsaking them in order to make a true embrace of Christ and His Church. And why? Because I want to spend eternity in Heaven with you. Now, I am a sinner, but I hope in God’s mercy and by Divine Grace I hope to make it through those pearly gates. I am concerned that your false beliefs are hardening your heart to the graces of repentance and growth in true sanctity, and thus you are on the wide path to everlasting unhappiness. God bless you.”

    Apparently I am an unhappy heretic headed to hell. That’s not true, I am a happy heretic headed to hell!

    Note to Christians: If your “gospel” sounds more like a drug addict talking to angels, you probably do not understand the gospel Jesus and the Apostles preached.

    • Oh and this gem was preached to me first:

      “The good news is that with the help of God’s grace and the working of the Holy Spirit, it *is actually possible* to grow in virtue and to stop committing mortal sins altogether. It’s not easy – dying to yourself will never be easy – but that’s what you must do, with God’s help. God be praised, if you die in a state of grace, then you will inherit the kingdom of God. If you die outside of a state of grace, then you will burn alive in Hell for all eternity. That’s the awful truth, but nonetheless a great motivator in begging for God’s help to turn away from sin and grow in sanctity, i.e. in love of God and neighbor.”

      I find this to be a classic hamster wheel gospel that is no good news at all.

    • forestsfailyou

      Have you been talking to Catholics recently. As much as I respect Catholic tradition and all the work they do for Christ, the idea of mortal sins and salvation by grace not faith is something I can’t deal with. Without those I would certainly be Catholic.

    • Yes, forests. For a while I considered “coming home” to the RCC. And even though I agree very much with most of what I hear Catholics say, I cannot return to those who proclaim a “Cyberman gospel”.

      The Cyberman gospel goes like this: Upgrade and conform to Church Authority or be deleted forever in hell.

    • forestsfailyou


      This sounds like it’s what you are looking for.

    • Perhaps so… I do like what one Episcopalian once said, “Comedian and Episcopalian Robin Williams once described the Episcopal faith (and, in a performance in London, specifically the Church of England) as “Catholic Lite – same rituals, half the guilt.”

  2. Forests, I may have misread or misunderstood you, but didn’t you mean to write “a lot of anxiety and pressure is added (rather than “removed”) when the promises of the gospel are divorced from our efforts alone”?

    • forestsfailyou

      No I meant that. If we think the gospel’s promises are conditioned on our works this makes us constantly anxious that we are not doing enough. It’s also false for if the inheritance depended on the law then it did not depend on the promise given to abraham. At least that is my experience.

    • Yes, the way forests worded this makes perfect sense, and matches what the bible says, namely that salvation comes not from the law but from the promises that preceded the law.

      But Ben you may have a point to make… what “pressure” are you thinking about?

    • forestsfailyou

      I suppose for a time a person justified by their works may feel like all is well because they have done their good deeds, but in time this turns back to anxiety or pride.