Jesus – “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter God’s kingdom. The only people who will enter are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On that last day many will call me Lord. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, by the power of your name we spoke for God. And by your name we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ Then I will tell those people clearly, ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong. I never knew you.'” – Matthew 7:21-23
I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity over this past week.
Well I am a Jesus-follower. And then I am involved in this study a couple of our men’s groups have started, using CS Lewis’s book Mere Christianity.
We’ve had some conversation around the idea (it’s one that’s been kicking around) that “Christian” could be interchangeable with concepts such as good, kind, generous, compassionate, humble etc. I understand how that could happen, because the fruit – or the evidence – of the work of the Spirit in someone’s life is exactly that (patience, kindness, goodness, self-control etc – Galatians 5:22-23))… and the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with, “Love is patient, love is kind.”.. and it was Jesus who said that everything, absolutely everything, needs to be poured through the filter of loving God and our neighbor with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:28-31).
This is the quality of evidence God would certainly be looking for in people who claim to follow Jesus. That much is clear.
But the word “Christian” is not a term intended to describe someone’s character. If it was, then an atheist or a Muslim or a Hindu who is kind and generous and humble and gentle and compassionate would be, “just as Christian” (or more so) than the average person who has been baptized and joined a church.
But That’s Not it! –
But that’s not what Christianity is! A Christian is someone who has accepted the teachings of Jesus and made a commitment to follow Jesus as a disciple.
We can reasonably expect that following Jesus would lead to compassion and kindness and goodness and more, trusting that the decision to become a Christian actually makes a difference! That makes good sense – because Jesus himself felt/feels that way too! Jesus was quite clear about, “people who say Lord, Lord… but I don’t even know them!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
But it’s not the behavior that makes the Christian, it’s responding to Christ’s invitation to become a disciple that leads to following in his way.
This is not about judgment or “going to heaven” –
One aspect of this conversation that tends to concern people is the idea of “heaven,” or “salvation.” They want it to be true that simply being good and doing good will result in life everlasting, no matter what religion you choose.
But this conversation is not about that. What happens after someone dies is God’s issue to decide, not ours to judge. All I know is that “I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
I have this confidence that I am already actively engaged in salvation (salvation is being involved in what God is up to), and that this life with God will continue after I die. I understand that this is possible because Jesus has made the way clear.
So I can speak with confidence for myself, and I’d invite everyone to respond affirmatively to Christ’s invitation to walk with him, no matter what their religion.
A Christian, then, is someone who accepts Christ’s invitation and follows the Way. If that decision does not lead us to love, and good works, and evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, then it wouldn’t surprise me for a minute to hear Jesus say, “Who are you? I never even knew you…”
This is the most important point:
You see I wouldn’t presume to speak for God, but I do know this: if only I ask (if only we ask) I know that Jesus will speak for me, and Jesus would speak for you too.
I wouldn’t presume to speak for God, but I do know this: if only I ask (if only we ask) I know that Jesus will speak for me, and Jesus would speak for you too.
In love, and because of love – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.