If Jesus Gives Eternal Life But You Refuse to Live It, Have You Really Received It?

aziz-acharki-426422-unsplashWhat do you mean when you say you are a Christian?

In a Christian-majority country like ours, people mean different things when they claim the Christian label.

At the lowest, most basic level, you claim being a Christian because you aren’t Muslim, Jewish or Hindu. But it also means that you aren’t an atheist. You believe in the existence of God, and that belief tends to take the form that Christians describe. If you were to go to a place of worship, it’d be a church not a mosque. If you had spiritual questions, you’d talk to a pastor or a priest, not a rabbi or imam.

Not too far from this are those who consider themselves traditional Americans, and in their definition traditional Americans are Christians. They are patriotic, love the traditional family, will fight to protect our freedoms, and fear God. These are characteristics of traditional Americans/traditional Christians. To be one is to be the other.

Then there are those who belong to a group of people with shared values, beliefs, and a worldview, and those values, beliefs and worldview are identified as Christian. For these people, the values, beliefs and worldview are not as important as belonging. They may not cling to some of the values, or have much depth of understanding of the beliefs, or be able to articulate the worldview, but they claim them because people they respect or whose approval they seek claim these values, beliefs, and worldview.

Those who do cling to the values, who understand the beliefs, and not only articulate the Christian worldview but promote it don’t care as much about belonging as they do about being right on matters where being right matters. For them Christian doctrine isn’t a matter of struggling to comprehend the incomprehensible but the struggle of orthodoxy over heresy, right over wrong, light over darkness, good over evil. A Christian is one who believes rightly.

On another level are those who are Christians because they prayed a prayer and invited Jesus into their hearts, and nothing else really matters. There are really two versions of this Christian.

One believes that once you’ve prayed the prayer and invited Jesus into your heart, everything that needs to happen has happened. Literally nothing else matters—not church membership or church attendance, not learning Christian doctrine, not belonging to a Christian organization, or even living a particularly Christian life.

Accepting Christ leads to the forgiveness of sin, which is the only thing keeping them from an eternity in heaven. Once that is taken care of, everything else is extra.

The other version is the person for whom a personal relationship with Jesus is paramount. Nothing else matters as long they feel close to Jesus.

They don’t understand doctrine and don’t care to. They aren’t engaged in Christian action and don’t feel compelled to.

What matters most is having “quiet time” with Jesus every day, spending time praying and perhaps meditating, feeling the presence of Christ and being engulfed in the warmth of his gentle spirit.

These are all ways people define what it means to be a Christian. Maybe you found yourself agreeing with one or maybe more of these definitions. How many of us, however, define it the way Jesus defines it?

As one who hears what Jesus says and does it.

As one who does what Jesus says, not because it makes sense or because it’ll work in the real world, but simply because he says it.

As one who “does the will of my Father in Heaven.”

As one who picks up a cross and follows him.

If that’s what it means for be a Christian, how many of us could claim that for ourselves?

All these other definitions are true in some sense. Christians follow one form of faith over against others. They gain a belonging in a world-wide movement, and find community among those with similar values, beliefs, and worldview. They gain a personal relationship with Jesus and the forgiveness that goes with it.

But none of these mean anything if we don’t do what Jesus says.

And when we are obedient, all become true.

Photo by Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

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