What Is A Pop Tart Christian?

Contrary to what some seem to believe, there’s no such thing as a Pop Tart Christian.

Strong and mature Christians do not simply pop out of the oven overnight.
The fruit of the Spirit takes time to grow in a person.

What Is A Pop Tart Christian?

I read the quote above and immediately thought about pop tarts. Unlike the picture on the left, there was practically nothing inside.  Very little filling compared to the dough.  Not unlike a new Christian.  Or even an “old” Christian who was satisfied with the initial “committing their life to Jesus” – and then does nothing after that.  Someone who doesn’t allow the Holy Spirit to fill them and guide their lives.

The quote above is from Christian China and the Light of the World: Miraculous Stories from China’s Great Awakening by David Wang with Georgina Sam.

If you’re offended by what I just wrote – read on.  I’m not going to apologize.  I’m going to make my point.  And hopefully get you to see it as well.

I first wrote this about five years ago - May 2016.  If anything, I feel more strongly about this concept of Pop Tart Christians more than ever.  I fear that too many, especially maybe in the Evangelical Christian circles, promote this kind of thinking.  Maybe it's intentional.  Maybe it's not.  But from what I see, read and hear, it sounds too much like Christianity light.  

Say a few "magic words", aka the so-called Sinner's Prayer, and be saved.  Maybe it's even true.  But from what I understand of Jesus' teachings and what His words meant in the time, culture, and context of the world when He walked the earth, He asked for more than just that.  Much more.

And so, I fear that too many will be on the outside looking in.  And wondering.  How come Jesus says He doesn't know me?

With that, let's get back to the updated and expanded version of Pop Tart Christians.

For instance, we read in Hebrews –

Warning Against Falling Away

6:4-6 Ref—Heb 10:26-31

Yes, this is labeled “Falling Away”. But here’s the thing. It’s possible to fall away at any point after baptism. We don’t have to be mature Christians before we need to worry about falling away. Many fall away soon after baptism. The excitement becomes more of a memory than a reality. Friends who encouraged our baptism aren’t as excited about it either. “Normal” life creeps back in.

Or, the enemy attacks while the excitement is still there, and we step back because we’re “not ready”. Yet. We tell ourselves we will be someday. But then, someday gets to be further and further from our mind. And it never comes. We’ve fallen away and didn’t even realize it.

Heb 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.

it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But honestly, sometimes something harsh is exactly what we need. A wake-up call that really will wake us up. Something to bring us back to the excitement we used to have about Jesus. About following His teachings and His example of how to live a life pleasing to Him.

12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

There weren’t any pop tarts back in those days.  No toasters either.  So the writer talks about the difference between milk and solid food.  Milk is for babies.  We transition to solid food as we get older – and our bodies mature.  One assumes that the mind matures as well.  But time alone will not mature our minds.  We have to make the effort to learns things.  Just like the body will die without nourishment (starting with milk and moving on to eventually pieces of meat) – the mind will “die” without nourishment.  For the mind, it’s things like observing, reading, learning, practicing those things we learned, and at maturity showing others how to do the same things.

It’s no different with Christianity. Furthermore, the author goes on to explain why it’s important to get past the mild stage. Why it’s important to realize there’s no such thing as a Pop Tart Christian. No such thing as “get baptized and be a full-fledged, finished, completed Christian.

Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Notice something in that last segment – not laying again the foundation. There’s an assumption that the foundation is, in fact, in place! Sometimes it’s not. Maybe all too often it isn’t there. Let’s say you go to a retreat or Christian camp. You hear a speaker. You commit your life to Christ because it seems exciting. Maybe your friends committed their lives, and you want to be part of the moment. And at the end of the camp, you get baptized.

But what did you learn? Was any kind of valid foundation laid at all? Or was it just being caught up in the moment, the weekend, or the week? And the “foundation” of sand and straw, as Christians refer to it, will just “blow away”. So in the case of a new Christian, the foundation must be rebuilt.

Heb 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

This last part should scare the heck out of people. It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened … if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance …

In the context of someone who truly has experienced a measure of Christian maturity, this is quite a fall. It also flies in the face of what some denominations teach. But, it is what it is. I don’t think we should ignore it or disbelieve it.

On the other hand, in the context of someone who believes not only that Pop Tart Christianity is a real thing, but also believes they are an example of this thing, “falling away” is all too possible and maybe not even recognizable, because they never matured enough to know the difference!

Heb 6:7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

This is an example that most people in Jesus’ time understood. But these days, I suspect many won’t. Most people don’t grow their own food. We don’t realize the danger and ruin that can come with fields of thorns and thistles. And we don’t know that burning, or these days use of poisonous herbicides, are the “cure” for that kind of problem.

And so, we also don’t recognize that the author here is telling us that if we fall away, the price we pay is death. The second death.

Heb 6:9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

So we read, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. And what do we think it means? That the previous warning doesn’t apply to us? Or that God will, through the Holy Spirit, prompt us to return to Him?

Again, I think the answer to my question very much depends on denominational teaching. It may be just what we want it to be. However, the way I see it, there’s just too much evidence that it’s not a case of “it’s OK if you fall away – once saved always saved, no matter what”.

To me, the question is ore a case of “were we ever saved in the first place”? Even in my own life, I see the examples of God calling me back when I start to fall away. Or run away.

I’m not willing to take the chance that what I’d like the answer to be is the correct choice. It’d be really nice to just commit, fall away, live the old life, and still be saved without really changing anything in the long run. I just don’t believe that’s what the Bible tells us.

Jesus equates loving Him with obeying Him

Why do I believe we need to change because of our commitment to Jesus? Many reasons, but here’s one.

Jesus Promises The Holy Spirit

Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

We already saw the importance of the Holy Spirit. Now, here comes some reasons why.

Jn 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Oh. Jesus actually said that! Here’s the good news:

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

If we love Jesus then we will obey Him. Then the Father will love us. Then Jesus and the Father will make their home with us.

But there’s also the flip side of that:

He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.

It follows then that – if we do not love Jesus then we will not obey Him. Then the Father will not love us. Neither will Jesus and the Father make their home with us.

If we go back now to verse 21, we should be able to understand it more completely:

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

The ones who love Jesus are the ones who have His commands and who also obey them. Having them, but not obeying them does not appear, in any way, to identify us as one who loves Jesus.

Of course, things will happen. We will fail from time to time. So I’m not saying we need to be perfect or we’ll go to Hell. Some seem to believe that, but I feel that’s going too far to the other extreme.

However, if we fail to obey Jesus’ teachings and get to a point where we just don’t care, or even feel good about not obeying Him, then I have to feel like we’re in trouble. Like we don’t love Jesus anymore. And given what we looked at earlier in Hebrews about falling away and not being able to get back to repentance – it feels like that situation.

And that’s when I wonder, did we ever truly love Jesus in the first place? Were we ever really saved? Why not? Because since God already knows the future, what we’re going to do, He cannot be fooled, surprised, or taken in by our initial commitment if it wasn’t real.

He knows our hearts and minds. We think we do, but it’s too easy for us to lie to ourselves. Not so with God. And I don’t believe He will give the gift of salvation for a lie, even if we didn’t realize the lie at the time.

Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jn 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.”

We now have more on the Holy Spirit.

Also verse 27, which is one of my favorite verses from when I was a kid. The peace I never had as a kid at home with my parents. But the peace Jesus promised. In spite of being troubled and afraid, it’s a promise I never forgot, and never found anyplace else.

Ultimately, verse 31, I believe, sums this up quite nicely.

the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

Jesus is our example. Just as He does exactly what the Father commanded Him, and as everything Jesus taught came from the Father, so must we try to follow everything Jesus taught. Of course, He’s perfect and we aren’t. So Jesus succeeded to a point that we can never reach in this life. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

As we try to show our love for Jesus by obeying His teachings, we must remember something.

The Holy Spirit will teach you (us) all things and will remind you (us) of everything I have said to you.

If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to teach us – we do not mature as Christians.  We stay as Pop Tarts – no filling. No foundation, to put it in Christian terms.

If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to remind us of what Jesus said – or if we hear the reminders but ignore them – we stay as Pop Tarts – no filling. No Biblical foundation.

And what is one of the things we’re supposed to do?

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I want to point out a couple things here.

First – people are to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  If we don’t know the Holy Spirit – how are we to do this?  If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives – how are we to do this?  Answer to both questions – we can’t.

Second – notice that Jesus sent out only the 11 disciples.  Not all of His followers.  Only the eleven.  (Judas hadn’t been replaced yet.)  Those 11 are the mature ones.  The ones who don’t need just the nourishment like milk – but who would be able to eat solid food.  Note – I said “would be able to” not “who are already” eating solid food.  They weren’t ready.  Because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit yet.  But they soon would.  Matthew’s Gospel ends at this point.  We learn much more in Acts about the need for the Holy Spirit.

If you'd like to know more about the Great Commission, I invite you to check out this page with more articles in The Great Commission.  There will be more added to it over time.  If you'd like to get notified of additions, please subscribe to this site using the link at the top of the page - or probably the bottom on a cell phone.

The point is, without the Holy Spirit, something’s missing! See what Jesus said about The Holy Spirit.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Jn 16:5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

The disciples had trouble with what Jesus said here because they were focused on Him leaving physically leaving them.

While it may sound trivial and maybe even kind of dumb, the reality is that we should have no such problem. Jesus was never physically with us to begin with. But, having read and presumably understood at least some portion of what Jesus said, we should be thrilled about the prospect of the Holy Spirit being with us. There’s no sadness over the physical separation. There’s only, or should be only, joy that He’s with us in spirit!

Yes, the judgment part is maybe something we don’t want to hear. But we should. We must. But there’s more. Much more, as Jesus continues.

Jn 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Truth be told, even without the physical loss the disciples experienced, there are still things we may not be ready to hear. That’s part of growing in our faith. Being prepared to hear, and then hearing, understanding more, growing.

One of those things, as Jesus expresses, is truth. Truth can be hard. Very hard. Truth can be very painful. And yet, since one of God’s attributes is truth, we should want it made known to us. To refuse to accept it is, well, refusing to accept God.

Jn 16:16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

Of course, the last paragraph doesn’t apply to us in the same manner as it did the disciples. However, having said that, for those that follow Jesus, we will “see Him” through the Holy Spirit, and then we will see Him again in the next life.

Up above, I said that to refuse truth, is to refuse to accept God. Given the way we learn the truth, it is specifically refusing to accept the teaching from Holy Spirit. Christians refer to receiving the Holy Spirit as a “pouring out” of the Spirit. In that light, when we “become Christians” – whether we refuse to even allow this pouring out onto/into us – or if we totally ignore/suppress the impact of the pouring out – we’re like a pop tart.  Little to no filling.

With no filling we are an empty shell – and can do nothing other than survive.

With the filling of the Holy Spirit – we can do all things through the power of God.

Witness this from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians –

Final Instructions – 1 Thessalonians

Here’s a short excerpt to let you know a bit about this letter, from which we’re going to look at Paul’s “final instructions”.

When Paul lived with the Thessalonians, he was gentle and loving, “like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thess. 2:7). Later, absent from them, he wrote as if he had only them on his mind all day. In 1 Thessalonians, he praised their strengths, fussed over reports of their weaknesses, and continually thanked God for their spiritual progress.  1The Student Bible: New International Vision; Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

1Th 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

1Th 5:16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Notice that everything Paul mentions is hard to do. Impossible, if we had to do with of our own accord. These are all things which, if we are truly to succeed at them, we need the Holy Spirit’s help. And right on cue, Paul writes:

1Th 5:19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

Remember earlier that we looked at the Holy Spirit. How we must accept that “pouring out”. And that it takes time. We grow as Christians, it’s not instant. Unlike Pop Tarts, it takes much time and effort to accept, listen to, learn from, and be transformed by, the Holy Spirit.

Further, as Paul points out, as part of that process we must test everything, hold on to what’s good, and try our best to avoid every kind of evil.

1Th 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

1Th 5:25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

1Th 5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

The passage closes with a fairly typical Paul-type ending.

The opposite of a Pop Tart Christian

Now, having said all that about not becoming instant Christians, there is an opposite end to the spectrum. Paul addresses that in 1 Corinthians. Since we’re on this topic, it’s worth looking into. We certainly don’t want to go from one extreme to another!

On Divisions in the Church

You know, I used to think “On Divisions in the Church” was a really weird title for this section. It’s about people who aren’t growing as Christians. They’ve been going to “church” for a long time. And yet, they aren’t going through any of the transformation that we looked at above.

But now, as I’m updating this today, it’s like – I get it. This totally makes sense, calling it something to do with divisions in the church. And, it really fits in with our Pop Tart Christian discussion as well. Why? Because whether we’re new and think we know everything, or mature in the time sense but immature in our knowledge, the disconnect between what we probably think we are and what we really are causes divisions!

As part of our transformation process, avoiding both the Pop Tart Christian scenario and long-time but immature Christian opposite case, we must know where we are in that process. Let’s take a look.

Here’s an excerpt to give us some background on this letter.

Paul worked in Corinth for 18 months. To everyone’s surprise, the church he founded became one of the largest in the first century. But several years later he heard reports that the church, true to its city’s heritage, had broken out in a series of spiritual ills. The distressing news prompted the letter known as 1 Corinthians.

The tone of this letter differs drastically from the one that precedes it. If Romans was stylistically carved in stone, 1 Corinthians was dashed off in tears and anger. One of Paul’s longest letters, it covers the greatest variety of topics, partly because the Corinthians added bizarre new twists to ethical issues. In it, Paul gives practical advice on a series of church problems as well as a fascinating glimpse into the personal lives of early Christians.  2The Student Bible: New International Vision; Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

1Co 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

Again, we see a group of people where they should have been more mature by this time – but still need milk because their faith hasn’t grown to the point where they’re ready for solid food.

It does seem a bit brutal, with Paul’s words appearing so harsh. But sometimes that’s exactly what we need. Not always though. So it’s important to know who we speak to and pray about how to address issues. 

1Co 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Here we see part of the problem. Rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them – they are following different people instead of following God.  And they don’t even realize the difference. As I said, all through our transformation process, as we become more and more a reflection of what Jesus taught, we must be cognizant of where we are on that path. Not to mention, how we got there, where we’re headed, and who we’re really following.

1Co 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Paul speaks to how he is laying the foundation for people’s faith, strictly based on Jesus; His words, His example, His life. So while not everyone can, or even should, always follow Paul, we must always test things to ensure whoever we are listening to does the same.

If/When these people get past their current condition and some start to lead, they must also remember and be careful to also do the same.

1Co 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Just in case the stakes aren’t high enough, in case the people don’t realize the importance of what Paul is telling them, he reminds them that, in a very real sense, they are God’s Temple. They/we are sacred, and we should live like it.

1Co 3:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

As I often say, it’s so easy for us to lie to ourselves. With his words about wisdom of the world versus foolishness in God’s sight, Paul drives home just how easy it is for us to deceive ourselves. We must reorient our way of thinking. Can we do that by ourselves? No. We must use the Holy Spirit to accomplish that.

Words for Pop Tart Christian or long-time but immature Christian

Everything said so far is applicable to the immature Christians Paul addressed as well as the instant Christians that I’m writing about. It’s the same spectrum. The same issues. But on opposite ends of that spectrum. To sum it up, both immature long-time Christians and Pop Tart Christians don’t even have enough filling of the Holy Spirit to realize that they are following the wrong leader.

Back to the church in China

So – that’s a statement of what goes on when we are like pop tart Christians – little to no filling of the Holy Spirit.

The book I referenced – obviously – is about the church in China.  If you haven’t read it – I urge you to get it.  If you have anything of the Holy Spirit in you at all, it’s what Christians call “convicting” – it shows that a lot of Christians are much more like the images of home made pop tarts that I saw while searching for the image at the top.  They are clearly full of the Holy Spirit – and are accomplishing amazing things with His power and in His name.

Here’s one example – from a church in China where a couple that had pretty much zero chance of having a baby because of physical problems that both of the parents had.  But, miraculously, they conceived.  They found out from an ultrasound scan that the baby was deformed.  Lots of people told them they needed to get an abortion.  But they felt that after God allowed them to conceive in the first place – there had to be a purpose for this baby’s life – and they asked their pastor (Paul) to lead a prayer effort on their behalf.  At first, Paul was reluctant to do it – couldn’t see how there could be a good outcome.  But the parents had already been talking to others in their church – so Paul, as pastor, couldn’t possibly tell them that there’s no point – that God couldn’t do anything.  So he agreed to lead this effort.

Here’s how it went –

Paul knew what he had to do. “I gathered the whole church,” he recalled, “and announced that we would be holding a special time of fasting and prayer for the baby and the couple.” The pastor had taken up his position, and the fervent attitude of prayer continued throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.

Grace came into the world two months prematurely. She weighed in at only two-and-a-half pounds and was kept in an incubator for two months in the children’s intensive care unit. During that time, neither mother nor father was allowed to hold or even visit their child. But the father was unmovable in his faith: He believed that their new daughter would be all right. Every day he diligently wrote out on a sheet of paper a different promise from the Word of God. He then asked his daughter’s nurse if she would please read this Scripture aloud to his child and then lay it on top of her cot afterwards. While not a Christian herself, the nurse was kind enough to carry out the father’s request.

Meanwhile, the church kept a prayer vigil going for Grace’s life in the hall outside of the ICU, with individual members taking turns in half-hour shifts to do spiritual battle throughout the day. A couple of months later, Grace had gained sufficient weight and was deemed healthy enough by the hospital to go home. Today, with no disabilities or disfigurements, she is flourishing, lively, active and, in Paul’s words, “a true miracle child!”

Would you do this?

Would your church do this?
Would you do this?

This isn’t even anything that would endanger our lives, if we were to do it.  There are other instances in the book where people risk going to jail – or even being killed.  I’m not even talking about those things.  I’m just talking about setting up a 24-hour prayer vigil that goes on not for days, not weeks, but months.  Would this happen in your church and would you be willing to be part of it?

As “difficult” as that one may have seemed – here’s another one that went on for more than a year – different parents – same church –

In her heart, she felt that she could not allow her baby to be killed. It just did not seem to be the right choice. Her husband agreed with her. The more they both thought and prayed about it, the more they believed she should see the pregnancy through. They believed by faith that God had meant for this life to exist. So who would they be, then, to end his life? They determined then and there that she would give birth to this child, come what may.

Nine months passed, and by faith, their son was born. He was underweight and unhealthy looking. After checking the newborn over, the doctor announced that the infant had a defective heart as well as a nonfunctioning kidney and pancreas, among other problems. The atmosphere after the delivery was heavy and depressing. All the signs indicated that this child would not survive long in this world. Even if he did manage to make it through his first year and go on to grow up, he would most likely be severely disabled.
The new parents did not waver in their faith. They lovingly took their newborn to church, and everyone gathered around the new family to pray for them, especially for the child. During the next year the church also faithfully sent teams to the family’s home to continue the prayer ministry.

The boy’s first birthday came. He had made it after all. The one-year-old was then taken to the hospital for another medical checkup. This time the doctors and nurses could not find any problems with his heart, kidney, pancreas or any other part of his body. He was not deformed in any way that they could see. It was incredible to them!

These are amazing stories.  Real.  They had an impact – on the families at the center of each prayer effort – and on the members of the church who participated.  It’s not “convenient” to do these things. Many people won’t do it even for one day.  Fewer still for a period of weeks.  It gets even harder when it goes to months.  And then over a year!  

That’s coming from someone who has something to give.  Someone who’s not a pop tart Christian.  Because they have lots to give from the Holy Spirit that’s filling them.  The Holy Spirit that goes to overflowing as they continue to give more and more.

A different church

These examples are from churches and people who face trouble from the government.  Officially, China is an atheist country.  Yes – they have a “state church” – one that’s approved by the communist government.  But it’s nothing like a real Christian church, where the Holy Spirit fills the people in that church.  A church like that – like Paul’s church that we just read about – it’s always in danger of being shut down by the government.

But Paul still worries.  He doesn’t use the words – but he’s worried that the church in China will become like the church here in the U.S. – and other western nations.  As more people move from small towns to big cities, life is changing in China.  As more people are OK with the state-sponsored church – the message of Jesus is getting lost.  
And the young people go to church in an environment different from their parents and grandparents.  It’s different.  While being a Christian in China isn’t easy today – it’s not as hard as it was before – like during the “cultural revolution”.  These young people lose sight of the difficulties that previous generations of Chinese people went through to become Christians.

Towards the end of the chapter in the book that talks about Paul’s church, we see him say this –

Sometimes the result is that people do not truly understand what they are getting into. In terms of Christianity, while it is always positive when people want to commit their lives to Jesus, Paul cannot help but feel misgivings about the quality of faith today in some of these new converts, and their capacity to mature. He fears that their faith is under threat of being diluted and their growth stunted. In his opinion, the biggest challenge facing the Church in China today is that they will simply become “Sunday Christians.”

“Many people claim to be Christians,” he says. “But when you hear them talk about their values and see their world view, you realize they are actually very materialistic. Their spiritual understanding is not very deep, and there is not much devotion to Christ.” Paul believes that the reason for the widening shallowness and immaturity of faith is that many people do not read the Bible and, therefore, do not understand the Father’s heart.

Paul is worried about the church in China having more and more pop tart Christians.

Compare this with Jesus’ original followers.  The information below – while not completely verifiable in 100% trustworthy historical documents – is from the Catholic Encyclopedia –

According to tradition, all of the twelve apostles died as martyrs during the first century A.D. Only St. John, the writer of the Gospel with his name and the Book of Revelation died a natural death. It is believed he died near the year 100 A.D.

The possible causes of death of each of the Twelve Apostles:

Andrew: Martyrdom by crucifixion (bound, not nailed, to a cross).
Bartholomew (Often identified with Nathaniel in the New Testament): Martyrdom by being either 1. Beheaded, or 2. Flayed alive and crucified, head downward.
James the Greater: Martyrdom by being beheaded or stabbed with a sword.
James the Lesser: Martyrdom by being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple at Jerusalem , then stoned and beaten with clubs.
John: Died of old age.
Jude (Often identified with Thaddeus in the New Testament): Martyrdom by being beaten to death with a club.
Judas: Suicide.
Matthew: Martyrdom by being burned, stoned, or beheaded.
Peter: Martyrdom by crucifixion at Rome with his head downwards.
Philip: Martyrdom.
Simon: Martyrdom by crucifixion.1 or being sawn in half.
Thomas: Martyrdom by being stabbed with a spear.

It’s of note that John, the one listed as dying of old age, was tortured – including being burned in oil.  Normally – that would be incredibly fatal.  So it’s only by the act of a miracle of God that John died of old age – imprisoned in a cave on the island of Patmos, in Greece.

Again – what I’m writing about here isn’t even close to the level of “filling” that these Apostles had.  

I’m just talking about things like prayer vigils – visiting families and providing food/comfort/support.

Paul is afraid the church in China will turn into a church full of pop tart Christians.

I’m afraid that the church here in this country – and many western countries – already has lots of pop tart Christians.

Let’s look again at the passage from 1 Corinthians, but this time from a different point of view. One of encouragement to improve.

1Co 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Yes – pop tart Christians can be saved.  But only as one escaping the fire.  How much love does one truly have for Jesus – how much do we really believe Jesus – how much are we following Jesus – if the best we can do is to be saved as one escaping a fire?

If you see yourself as maybe being a pop tart Christian – don’t like the picture I just painted – and want to do something about it – consider what Paul wrote just after that last quote –

1Co 3:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

What else did Jesus say about the Holy Spirit and not going off as a Pop Tart Christian?

Now, consider Jesus’ words from the beginning of the book of Acts –

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven

Ac 1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach :2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. :3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Ac 1:6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Ac 1:7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus refers again to the Holy Spirit.  

To not be what I call a pop tart Christian – we need to be filled.  Not with strawberry, blueberry, chocolate, or some sweet thing.  We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Filled to overflowing.

And then – consider this – which happened just after Jesus spoke the words above –

Ac 1:9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Ac 1:10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Look closely at what just happened there.

Jesus was taken up to Heaven.  His followers were just looking up to the sky – just standing there.

The angels ask them – why do you stand here looking into the sky?

The implication was this – Don’t just stand around looking up in the sky.  You have something to do.  Jesus told you to wait for the Holy Spirit.  And after you are filled with the Holy Spirit – you have another task – tell everyone about the good news – baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And teach them to obey Jesus’ teachings – all of them, not just the ones that sound easy and don’t require anything of us.

And all of that means – don’t be a pop tart Christian.  And don’t fill the world with more pop tart Christians.  Be a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit.  And help God fill the world with other Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit.

For a deeper look into just standing there and doing nothing, I invite you to check out why do you stand here looking into the sky?

Conclusion – What Is A Pop Tart Christian?

So – we shouldn’t be a Pop Tart Christian, thinking you’ve got it all, no problem, it’s easy. Especially when we’re new Christians. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be just standing around looking up into the sky either.

No – being a Christian is a life-long process. There’s always room for growth. Always opportunities to grow our faith. And to learn. Then to put what we learn into practice.

For a much deeper look into what this is all about, please check out Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?

  • 1
    The Student Bible: New International Vision; Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
  • 2
    The Student Bible: New International Vision; Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

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