Friday, August 27, 2010

What is a Christian? I mean, really?

When Jesus called people to follow Him, He carefully instructed them on the cost. Halfhearted people who were not willing to make the commitment did not respond. Thus He turned away anyone who was reluctant to pay the price – such as the rich young ruler.

Jesus likened halfhearted commitment to a half-built tower. A builder eagerly begins a construction project without counting the cost. Half way through the project he runs out of money and materials, the work comes to a stop, and this half-built tower becomes a monument to his folly (Luke 14:28-30).

Likewise, the Christian landscape today is strewn with the wreckage of half-built towers – the ruins of those who began to build a spiritual life and then fell away. Their commitment was casul and half-hearted, containing no depth. Instead of surrendering to divine authority and continuing to build, huge numbers of people have opted to cover themselves with a thin veneer of Christianity that looks the part, but isn’t resulting in life-change.

A Christian is not one who simply buys “fire insurance.” The New Testament is very clear that true faith in Jesus Christ is EXPRESSED through in a LIFE OF SUBMISSION and OBEDIENCE. To state it very plainly – Christians “follow” Christ. They are unquestionably committed to Christ as both Lord and Savior. They desire to please God. When they fail, the seek God’s forgiveness and move forward. That is their natural bent – towards God – never back to their old life.

Those who think they can simply affirm a list of gospel facts and continue to live any way they please should examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Unlike preachers today who go to great lengths to avoid upsetting anyone’s assurance, Jesus was determined to destroy the false hope of all who falsely thought they were saved (see Matthew 7:21-23). His message stands in stark contrast to the soft gospel message today, which seems designed to prop up false assurance. The pattern today is to give people an easy message, have them sign a card or say a prayer, or whatever; then tell them they are saved and to never doubt it. Jesus demolished those notions.

It has become quite popular to teach professing Christians that they can enjoy the assurance of salvation no matter what their lives are like. After all, some argue, salvation is a free gift given to people who simply believe the gospel facts, and therefore how one lives has nothing to do with assurance. That kind of teaching actually encourages professing Christians to live in hypocrisy and discourages self-examination. And it clearly violates scripture; we are commanded to examine ourselves at least as often as we take communion (I Corinthians 11:28).

Are we to believe that people who live in an unbroken pattern of sin are truly born again? Is this what a new testament Christian is supposed to look like? Does God really want us to base our assurance on the fact that we signed on the dotted line some time in our past? Yet that is exactly the assumption that Christians have been taught to make. They have been offered the promise of eternal life without the necessity of surrender to divine authority.

As a pastor I often rebaptize people who once “made a decision,” were baptized, yet experienced no change. They come later to true conversion and seek baptism again as an expression of genuine salvation. For this I am very grateful because it means this person has now come under divine authority and their desire is to please God.

Genuine assurance comes from seeing the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in one’s life, not from clinging to the memory of some past experience.

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