Beware of Religious Silver Bullets
Written by Pastor Jim Law
We are a culture that prizes convenience and pragmatism, and consequently we love “silver bullet” solutions to our problems. By “silver bullet,” I’m referring to the term that commonly describes an action that cuts through the complexity of an issue by providing a quick solution.
When bacterial infections rear their ugly head, we are grateful for the silver bullet of antibiotics. When the heat of summer blows its hot breath, God bless Willis Carrier for the silver bullet of air conditioning! When traveling globally, I’m thankful for the silver bullet of jet travel which brings a connection of friends for the cause of Christ. I’m grateful, in the common grace of God, for innovations that make life easier, better, safer, and more comfortable.
However, many things in life are not resolved by silver bullets. In fact, some of the deepest experiences in life are journeys of perseverance through many seasons and sacrifices. For instance, no marriage has all the issues worked out by a silver bullet solution. No friendship can remain without giving our best efforts to the relationship. The same is true with one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.
In John 15, Jesus referred to Himself as “the true vine,” and those who are His followers must abide in Him. He was not describing a casual attachment, or a superficial arrangement, but a life commitment to remain in Him for the purpose of bearing spiritual fruit (John 15:16)
Jesus never made silver bullet promises. He never said, “Receive me and you will have the life you want.” He never promised, “Come to me and you will have an easy road ahead.”
On the contrary, His call in salvation is a call to die to oneself and follow in wholehearted obedience, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10:38,39)
The call of Christ begins with the full acknowledgement that my sinful life is in need of redemption that only he can provide. That is an unpopular notion for sure, but it leads us to the only power that can deliver from deceptive silver bullets that do not redeem and do not save.
Silver bullet theology abounds and breeds disillusionment. We hear religious silver bullets in comments like:
“Well, I went to the conference, but…”
“I read the book like I was supposed to, but…”
“I attended church for a while, but…”
“I went on the retreat, but…”
“I read the Bible for a time, but…”
“I went for counseling, but…”
But what? In essence, the answer to religious silver bullets is the same, namely, “My life never changed, and I never got what I wanted, so therefore Jesus doesn’t work.”
Jesus taught that unless we abide in him we have a superficial understanding of salvation. Jesus is not a silver bullet solution for the purpose of just tweaking our lives. To know him in a saving relationship is to be in the process of being conformed into his likeness. (Romans 8:29-30)
Rankin Wilbourne in his outstanding book, Union With Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God puts things in order when he writes that God is “not a stagehand of the play you are writing and starring in. You are no longer the star of the show. It’s not about you.”(p. 145)
Wilbourne continues by explaining that union with Christ necessarily means that Christ displaces you from the center of your life. That doesn’t sound inviting, but it means you get to be a part of something bigger and better than your own autobiography. You are invited into God’s story, which is bigger and better than any empire you could ever build in this world. If you are in Christ, your identity is not found deep within yourself, but outside of yourself in the person of Jesus Christ.
No silver bullets here. Just living by faith in the One who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)