Are you a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ? That’s a crazy question to ask the members of a church, isn’t it?! Of course, we’re all Christians! We go to church! We believe in God! That’s where Christians go and that’s what they believe, right!?! Well, many of us go to McDonald’s occasionally, that doesn’t make us hamburgers, does it?? And there are many people in the world today who say they believe in God who aren’t Christians. Don’t get me wrong. I can’t/won’t ‘judge’ anyone’s faith. The one, true God is the only judge. (I Corinthians 8:4-6; James 4:12) I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone who claimed to be a true follower of Jesus that they weren’t….even if I seriously wondered how they could make that claim. Only God sees and knows the heart. (I Samuel 16:7) He is the one who knows which names are recorded in the ‘book of life’ and which ones aren’t. (Revelation 20:15) But Jesus did make it clear that there will be people who show up in judgment, at the gates of heaven, expecting to be welcomed in….who will be turned away. (Matthew 7:21-23) So it seems like a legitimate question to ask, “Are you a Christian, really?!” (….and yes, I am asking myself the same question.)
How does one know whether she/he is truly a Christ follower? The first test is our confession of faith. Paul wrote, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) If we made that confession, through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38) then we can be confident that we truly know Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Right?! Except for that one troubling phrase in that verse….‘believe in your heart.’ How do we know if we REALLY ‘believe in our hearts’ that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Lord of all?
Let’s consider the words of Jesus (since he is the one who, alone, can challenge the validity of our faith). Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ (that’s an outward confession of faith, right?!) will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) So Jesus stated that the proof that our confession of faith in him is genuine (that we truly ‘believe in our heart’ that God raised him from the dead) is ‘doing the will of his Father who is in heaven.’ His half-brother, James, agreed with Jesus’ statement by writing that ‘saving faith’ is belief which actually results in godly behavior/action. (James 2:14-26) The true follower of Jesus is the one who does the will of God. So the next important question is what is the ‘will of God?’ If we are doing that then we know that our confession of faith is genuine…..that we are truly Christ followers!
Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Our Father in heaven,…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) Paul wrote that God’s will for our lives is “good, pleasing, and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) But neither defined what God’s will is, so we must. God’s will is what he desires us to do. As Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Whatever God tells us to do is ‘his will.’ So let’s consider a simple thing which God has told us to do….to see if we are doing ‘his will.’ In Matthew 17:5 God said to Peter, James, and John, (an actual quote from above) “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” God, our heavenly Father, told us to listen to his beloved Son! To listen to Jesus is to do the will of God. So do you seek to hear….do you listen to what Jesus is saying to you? Jesus speaks to his followers by his Spirit within them (Romans 8:14) and through his Word. (Matthew 7:24; Colossians 3:16; John 1:1; 17:17) Do you read your Bible daily/often (surveys show only 20% of church members read the Bible ever!)? Do you get quiet & listen to what his Spirit is saying to you (Romans 8:9; II Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 5:25)? If we don’t ‘listen’ to Jesus, as a way of life, is our profession of faith in him real?
We can stop there. If we’re not listening to Jesus we are not truly his followers and there is no reason to probe further. Our faith is not real and we must repent of our sins, confess Jesus as our Lord, be baptized in his name, and begin listening to him! Right?! But for those of us who concluded that we are ‘listening’ to Jesus, as a way of life, continue we must. Again, Jesus' half-brother, James warned, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says.” (James 1:22) So then, it’s not enough just to listen to what Jesus says to us, his true followers do what he tells them to do. He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)
So what is Jesus commanding his true followers to do? Well, Jesus did give us his great mission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Are we doing that? As we go about our lives, are we seeking to share the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus? Are we asking God to lead us to or to bring to us those who don’t know Jesus? Are our lives focused on making disciples of Jesus and teaching others to obey him, even as we listen to our Lord and obey what he tells us to do?! If not, are we truly following Jesus? Is it possible to be a genuine Christ follower and not be all about carrying out his great mission??? Again, at this point, many of us need to stop reading, repent of our sins, confess our Jesus as our Lord, be baptized in his name, begin listening to him, and focus our lives on carrying out his great mission! Or am I missing something? Are you (am I) a Christian? Really?!
To be continued………