Are you a “Nike Christian?” What does that even mean? And once you know, how can you make sure you are NOT a Christian overwhelmed by “just doing it,” but instead trusting in your Savior who did it all for you, and is even now at work in your life by His Spirit? That is what this article, excerpted from Dr. Dan Doriani’s book The New Man: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart, can help you reflect on!
Performance Christianity, or Nike Christianity, is a “just do it” approach to the Christian life. Nike Christianity is a form of legalism. Nike Christians avoid the worst errors, but so accentuate obedience to God’s law that other ideas shrivel up. They think of Christian living as little more than obedience to God’s law.
They reason, “God says we should tithe, so tithe.
The Bible says we must pray, so pray.
It says submit to leaders, witness, read Scripture, so we should submit, witness, and read.”
Some Christian leaders unintentionally support Nike Christianity. They reason, “God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son’s life. Now he demands our service in return. This is our duty.”
They dwell on God’s law and neglect the other aspects of the Christian life—the love of others, the nurture of character, the pursuit of noble but entirely optional projects, and more…
But obedience is one element of the Christian life, not the whole. Indeed, the emphasis on obedience places the will ahead of the heart. – From beginning to end, God’s love and grace go before his demands. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). The love of Christ, who died for us, compels us to live not for ourselves but for God (2 Cor. 5:14–15). It is “the grace of God,” not the law of God, that “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:11–12).
Commands don’t change people, love does. Unless God first loves a man and reconciles that man to himself, he cannot obey God’s commands. Law, by itself, cannot change the heart.