Cruise Control Christianity

March 8, 2024

Cruise Control Christianity


My heartbeat surrounding the collegiate residency at Mercy Hill Church has
been the people. I love the relational aspect that comes with campus ministry.
Because of my residency position each week, I’m given ample opportunities to
work closely with my ministry team and spend time with college students. I
want to leave a Gospel Impact on my ministry team and the students I
encounter. Secondary to this goal, but not separate, I desire to understand the
feelings, goals, fears, and dreams of the people I encounter, especially those I
see on a regular basis.

Seminary is a major component and advantage of the residency at Mercy Hill
Church. But with my relational strengths, I wasn’t as excited about returning to
school for two more years. Unexpectedly, I experienced a huge growth point
from seminary. Naturally, I wouldn’t have experienced this growth point without
the residency.

In the summer of ‘23, I was enrolled in a mentorship class under Brandon
Newton, Residency Director of Mercy Hill Church. The readings selected by my
mentor included The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero, Gentle and
Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund, and The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges.
One day, as I was reading The Discipline of Grace, my intention for reading the
book changed. Initially, I was reading merely for the educational component of
the class. Then, out of nowhere, suddenly, I read the words “Cruise-control
Christianity,” and a feeling of conviction came about to me.

“Cruise-control Christianity” is common among Christians. Jerry Bridges
explains in his writing that there are two types of sin: flagrant and refined.
Flagrant sins are obvious. “Sexual immorality, drunkenness, lying, cheating,
stealing, and murder.” Refined sins are subtle and deceptive but more prevalent
than flagrant sins. Examples of refined sins include “judgment, speaking
critically of others, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, and irritability.”

Cruise-control Christianity is fueled by Cruise-control obedience. Cruise-control
obedience means you’re complacent yet completely satisfied with a set standard
of sins. As you coast along in refined sins, you feel okay if you don’t cross the
line into flagrant sin territory. The people you closely associate yourself with can
have an effect on your refined sins. By nature, it is easy to compare yourself to
someone and then label yourself as “good” or “bad” based on that comparison.
This is a very dangerous place to be in because sin is a very serious issue. There
is no room to be a genuine Christian and to be comfortable with your sins.
The cost of sin, whether flagrant or refined, is death. “For the wages of sin is
death” (Romans 6:23a). The Bible presents this not just as a general problem
but a personal one. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
(Romans 3:23). If sin has enough power to take away your life, please listen
attentively and with urgency; no type of sin is okay.

As I continued reading more into The Discipline of Grace, you might find it
surprising that although I grieved over my refined sin and felt emotional about it,
I was never crushed by my sin. This is only because of my hope in Christ.
Without Christ, my sin would surely crush me, and I would be filled with all
sorts of shame and guilt. But because of Christ, I can approach my sin because
Christ has defeated all sin by sacrificing his own life on the cross. Christ never
sinned and never deserved death. But Christ freely chose to taste death so that I
never would. “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ our Lord” (Romans

Because of my hope in Christ, I have been graciously given eternal life. The
Gospel leads me to a lifestyle of repentance. Repentance is the act of turning
away from your sins and following Jesus. The Gospel gives me a relationship
with God and frees me from living a lifestyle trapped in legalism or
antinomianism. Tim Keller explains this well in his book, Preaching. “Legalism is
the view that we can put a guide in our depth and procure his (God’s) blessing
with our goodness. Antinomianism is the idea that we can relate to God without
being in his word and obeying his commands. Both views miss a crucial aspect
of how the gospel functions.”

Surprisingly, my seminary experience has encouraged my personal walk with
the Lord and has shaped my leadership. “We know that all things work together
for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28). Reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges has seemed to
have the most profound impact on my life through my seminary education. I’m
grateful for the conviction I received, not by Jerry Bridges, but by the Lord using
his book to help lead me into repentance of my refined sins.

As I continue my Christian walk, I will continue to deal with my refined sins. I’m
asking that the Lord graciously make me aware of my sins so I can return to
repentance. I can approach and deal with my sin because Christ has already
dealt with it and defeated all sin by dying and resurrecting on the cross.

-Cameron Belk (College Ministry Resident)

Bridges, Jerry. 2018. The Discipline of Grace. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Clifton Strengths Finder
Keller, Timothy. 2016. Preaching : Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.
New York, NY: Penguin Books.