Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can One Be a Christian if Jesus is Not Their Lord? (Part 6)

As tedious as this may apparently be, we press on in our study of this crucially vital topic.  As James Montgomery Boice said,

[We] are not dealing with some issue that is external to the faith, but with the central issue of all, namely, What does it mean to be a Christian? I consider [this] to be the greatest weakness of contemporary evangelical Christianity in America. Did I say weakness? It is more. It is a tragic error. It is the idea - where did it ever come from? - that one can be a Christian without being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This view promises false peace to thousands who have given verbal assent to this reductionist Christianity but are not truly in God's family.
He goes on to say,
Why is today's church so weak? Why are we able to claim many conversions and enroll many church members but have less and less impact on our culture? Why are Christians indistinguishable from the world? Is it not that many are calling people Christians who are actually unregenerate? Is it not that many are settling for a "form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5)?
Suffice it to say, Boice reminds us that this is an issue worth toiling over. The very glory of God in Christ is at stake, as it is expressly linked by Paul to the church's witness in the world (Eph. 3:10, 21; cf. Matt. 5:13, 14-16). Moreover, the final state of eternal souls is at stake. As I've heard it preached, "How much do you have to hate someone to not tell them the truth?"  If Jesus makes demands (e.g. His oft repeated, "If anyone would be My disciple, He must deny himself, take up His cross, and follow Me"), why do we edit - and even omit - them in our 'gospel' presentations?

As we saw in our first and second posts, those who do not do the will of God should not be considered children of God. If Hell is real - and it is - then we owe it to our fellow neighbors to love them enough to tell them the truth, for one must know the truth before they can be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 1:1; cf. Rom. 10:14-17).  No one has ever been saved by believing lies! Only the truth can set us free (John 8:32). And who does Jesus say are those who have been set free? "Those who abide in His Word", that is, those who hear it and "continue to follow His teaching" (8:31, NET). Here Jesus gives us the clearest definition of what it means to be His "disciple" (8:31): a disciple is one who follows Jesus Christ as Lord and thus "remains faithful to His teachings" (NLT).

In our next post, we will continue where part 5 left off: an examination of Pauline literature.

In marathon races, there are often stations set up along the way that offer a short reprieve where sustenance is offered to enable the weary runners to press on.  I hope this well-placed reminder of the importance of our discussion will encourage us to not grow weary in our studies.

In Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
Pastor Ryan Case

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