What does it actually mean to be a Christian? Does it mean going to church a certain amount of times per week? Does it make you a Christian if you do certain rituals or say certain things? Is it how “good” you are?
I actually think this is a big problem in the Bible Belt – where most everyone knows about Jesus. Why is religion vs. being born again such an epidemic in the Bible Belt? It’s a part of our culture. Most of us were raised in church. Many think that if you know who Jesus is and go to church on Sunday that makes you a Christian. BUT if this were the case, the devil himself would be a Christian. Doesn’t he know God? Hasn’t he been in his presence?
Being a born again means you now have Jesus in your heart. You FOLLOW him and his word. You have a relationship with him.
Does knowing who my husband is (like knowing Jesus), living in my husband’s house (like going to church), and sleeping in his bed (like doing rituals & traditions) make me a good a faithful wife? No.
Having a loving and trusting relationship with him does. I do things for him out of love. I make decisions based on that fact. Am I going to see just how much I can get away with without him resenting me? No! Then, why do that with Christ? It’s not about how far we can get without crossing a boundary. For instance, I wouldn’t commit adultery against my husband because I wouldn’t want to lose him or his trust. I also wouldn’t purposefully lust after other men because I would know in my heart that I was sinning against him. But how would he know if I stared too long at another guy’s muscles? Why should I care? I could totally get away with it! If I caught myself in an episode like this, I would turn my head because that is being unfaithful. I have a RELATIONSHIP with my husband. My affection is for him and him alone. I know this in my heart and I wouldn’t want to pig-headedly do anything that would hurt him. That’s how we should also be with Christ……… Not I can do A, B, C, D, etc., and still keep my status as a Christian (or wife)…….Not I can do A, B, C, etc., and that will make me a good Christian (or good wife.) My works are worthless if my heart isn’t in it. That would be just going through the motions.
Matt.19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
These things ^ set us apart as Christians. Every single one of these things stems from the heart. Would I murder my neighbor if I had love for him/her? Matters of the heart reveal themselves in our actions.
Jesus said to follow him and we will gain salvation.
Jesus didn’t say: “Do the rituals of your church and you will be saved.”
“Chant this phrase relentlessly and you will be saved.”
“Make yourself look like everyone else in your church and you will be saved.’’
“Go to church __ amount of times and you will be saved.”
“Remember __ amount of bible verses and you will be saved.”
The above statements are directly in line with how a Pharisee acts.
Jesus said to follow him. He didn’t tell us to go through the motions. He didn’t tell us to set our human standards and pridefully point out all the things we do “better” than others. Legalism won’t save you. Jesus cares about where your heart is.
Isaiah 57:12 I will expose your righteousness and your works and they will not benefit you.
Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.