Tuesday, January 04, 2005




In the last column, we talked about how nobody is really following Jesus anymore. It is sort of sad, but we can’t help but face the awful truth. Jesus doesn’t inspire followers anymore.

Christian author Dallas Willard once said, “There is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus' expense and have nothing more to do with him.”

Noted theologian A. W. Tozer once remarked that “a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles—the widely—accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!" (From his book I Call It Heresy)

He goes even as far as to suggest, "that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures."

What we have in modern American Christianity is a brand of religion that says to its founder, "I'd like a little of your blood to cover my sins, but I don't care to follow you or take your teachings seriously. If you would please excuse me, I’ll get on with my life. See you in heaven." Dallas Willard calls those kinds of people “Vampire Christians” because all they want is some of Jesus’ blood, but none of His leadership.

Does this make any sense? Does this sound to you like what Jesus had in mind for His church?

Why would anyone align him/herself with someone as radical as Jesus and then totally ignore His teachings?

What if you met a guy who said he was a Muslim, but after interviewing him you discovered that he didn't read the Koran, didn't attempt to live his life in obedience to Mohammed, didn't seek to become more like a person who modeled Islam, etc. In what way would that guy be a Muslim? You could say the same of a Buddhist or a Mormon or whatever.

Clearly, Jesus taught and expected that those who followed Him would put His words into practice and respond with obedience. "We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:3).

In my Bible I’ve penciled the word “Yowza!” right next to that verse. You might want to do that too.

According to this verse, and many others in the New Testament, the way to know for yourself whether or not you have actually come to know Jesus is to ask yourself if you’re obedient to Him or not.

Jesus did spend a lot of time on the subject of obedience. He seemed to really stress it. He seemed to really expect that we would obey Him and seek after Him and encourage each other to do the same.

I've been looking at the verse where Jesus speaks to those on His right and on His left at the Judgement seat. Both sides call Him "Lord", and both sides did the same works, but only one group was allowed into the Kingdom— the group that showed compassion to the sick, the hungry, the poor and that "knew" Jesus. (Suggesting that they did these acts of mercy BECAUSE they truly "knew" Jesus and were responding out of a heart of love).

Jesus was also careful to warn us that just because we call Him “Lord” doesn’t mean that we’ll actually see the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus states, Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

The Great Commission that Jesus left to his church had discipleship and obedience built into it. 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 (Matthew 28: 19- 20).

How many churches do you know of that offer classes like “How To Love Your Enemies”? Virtually no church on the horizon has any real, practical method of actually training their flock on how to go about obeying the teachings of Christ, and yet, this is exactly what Jesus left us to accomplish.

It makes one wonder, what are we doing with our time? What is the church about if not training us to be followers of Christ himself?

I have to be fair. After writing that last column, I started to think about how many people I knew who had ever actually lived out the teachings of Christ and I did find one person.

My friend David used to be the Children’s pastor at my previous church. He and his wife helped my family get through a very difficult year and a half when I was without gainful employment after I was laid off. That alone was an amazing thing for me, but then David and his wife did something that astounded me even more.

Even after seeing the difficulty we were going through, they willingly quit their jobs, sold everything they owned and entered the mission field, taking their three children with them. I can’t think of anything else more amazing than that. For a follower of Christ to take Jesus so seriously that they would enter a life of complete surrender and submission like that astounds me. It blesses me. It challenges me.

Maybe there’s hope yet for this generation? Maybe there really are followers out there who really do take Jesus seriously, and choose willingly to surrender themselves to His authority.

I pray their tribe will increase.

I want to be in that tribe.

[Keith Giles is a Pastor at The River Church in Tustin, California. He's currently writing his own story about his year and a half in the wilderness, and putting together a few subversive projects of his own in his spare time. You can see one of them here at www.parabolicjournal.com]

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