Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Reason #2 – Christians in America don’t know what makes you a Christian

I think the second reason that some Christians are so mean – or act nothing like Jesus – is because we evangelize people the wrong way. By that I mean that we tell people that they are “Christians” if they have prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” regardless of how they are living their lives right now.

This “Sinner’s Prayer” appears nowhere in the Bible, by the way. It’s just something we made up to make it easier to evangelize. This focus on ease of conversion is part of what’s wrong with the Church today. Rather than to invite people to follow Jesus (become Disciples) and obey Him in their actual lives, we urge them to repeat after us: “Jesus I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and that you rose from the dead and that you are coming back to take me to live with you in Heaven one day. Thank you Jesus for your gift of eternal life which I receive today. Amen.”

Once we get people to repeat this prayer (or something like it) we tell them that they are now “Christians”. Of course, getting them to pray that prayer isn’t so difficult if you start off by asking them something like, “Do you know that if you died tonight you would be in Heaven tomorrow?” or maybe even “With every head bowed and every eye closed, please just quickly raise your hand if you don’t want to burn in hell forever. I see that hand, thank you.” And then we ask them to repeat that magic prayer and – voila - they will go to heaven when they die.

Of course, Jesus had a slightly different method. First of all he called for people to follow Him. Not too complicated. Might actually fit that on a bumper sticker. But then He added that if anyone wanted to follow Him (become a disciple) they would have to give up just one thing – He called it “everything.”

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)


“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

This is pretty different, I’ll admit. Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about a preference for burning forever or not. Notice that He doesn’t ask them to repeat any magic prayers. Later on, just before He left His Kingdom in the hands of those same disciples He added this part:

“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)

So, Jesus expected us to make more followers (disciples) and then to “teach them to obey everything (He) commanded.”

Obedience is part of the package, according to Jesus. If you’re going to call yourself a “follower of Jesus” you might just have to, you know, follow Him and stuff.

This sort of theology allows people to think that just because they repeated a prayer when they were nine years old, they can go ahead and live any way they want – even become a Satanist or a Hindu, or whatever – and still go to heaven when they die. But that’s not what Jesus says. He says that only those who “remain in (Him)” have life and those who do not remain in Him do not have life. In fact, those who do not remain in Christ are the ones who will be “like a branch that is cast out..and thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6)

Trust me, if you prayed a prayer a few years ago but today you are far away from Christ and you are not remaining in fellowship and relationship with Jesus, you will not end up where you wanted to be. Or, as Paul says in Collosians 3:3-4:

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

The problem is that we’ve turned salvation into a “thing”. We’ve overstressed the fact that salvation is a “gift” and then carried that metaphor out to an illogical (and heretical) conclusion.

Yes, salvation is a gift from God, in the sense that it is free and you don’t deserve it. But it’s not a gift in the sense that you can take it (like a pair of socks) and wear it apart from the one who gave it to you. That’s not how salvation works. Apart from Christ there is no life. Those who are in Christ have life, those who do not have Christ do not have life. Therefore, we need to remain in Christ and as long as we cling to Jesus we have that life.

Or, as the Apostle John states it:

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

If you prayed a prayer just so that you could go to Heaven when you die, you might not be a Christian.
I urge you to take a moment and pray a different sort of prayer. Something that takes into account that you are alive today and that you want your life to be lived in Christ right now. This prayer should be about surrendering your will and your attitudes to Christ Jesus, and dying to yourself so that Jesus’ life can fill you on the inside and spill out to those on the outside.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

See? Isn’t that better? Now, the deal is you will need to do this again tomorrow. All of us need to daily take up our cross and die (over and over again) so that Christ can live in us.

If we do that, we might just avoid being mean to others and at the very least we will be doing our best to obey Jesus in our actual lives. That means loving others, forgiving those who offend us, and serving the people He puts in our path.

Try it! It’s pretty amazing.




Sara McAllister said...

Great post. I grew up in a church that was fixated on the "sinner's prayer." I didn't see many changed hearts though and almost gave up on it when my parents ditched church. Thankfully, God led me to a great church. As Bonhoeffer said, grace isn't cheap.

Eli said...

interesting. though i agree some/many christians are nice to one another but mean to outsiders... i have also witnessed plenty of christians who are mean to other christians because they do not think or feel or do as they do.
I'm all for 'obedience', but its dissapointing when people use certain measures as a way of judging other christians. So maybe its how they do leadership, or helping the poor or doctrine or worship or communal sharing.
We must resist the urge to dillute the full scope of what loving one another and the world is.

The Good Tale said...

A gift for you from the wilderness Rev 12:6... The turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children is delivered for not one child of God will be put in a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5. The burden of proof lies with you Acts 3:23. Prophecy is fulfilled, Rev 12:5, 13 the true word John 1:1 of God is now delivered to the world as a witness. Prove all things for it is written http://thegoodtale.blogspot.com

NoahM said...

What about our Statements of Faith if all they became was "Every day I will deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus"?

What would happen to all those Sunday Schools and Study Groups where we must examine the far more elaborate statements that we have build up over the years?

Simplicity rather than complexity? Behavior rather than "beliefs"? What heresy are you preaching? ;-)