Hi, friends! Today’s post delves into what it means to be a Christian. We claim to follow Jesus, but do we actually follow Jesus? Let’s discuss.
Musings on Salvation
Over the last couple years, I’ve undergone a spiritual transformation, as if a lightbulb went off in my head. I started reading scripture and praying consistently, and God spoke to me through His word and through personal revelations. I seemed to see my reflection in His mirror clearly for the first time, and scales still fall from my eyes daily. I went from a church goer to a disciple of Jesus.
Since I have always claimed the title of “Christian,” these realizations have caused me to ponder what it truly means to be a Christian (FYI, the term was first used to describe followers of Jesus in the Book of Acts). Does saying “The Sinner’s Prayer” then living like the rest of the world give someone a golden ticket to heaven? Are we only called to a lifetime of lip service, or will many of us cry “Lord, Lord” on Judgement Day–only to be answered with “I never knew you?”
A Conversation in Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Recently, I read a stirring book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and this post was inspired by an exchange in the novel. Uncle Tom, a slave and a man of great faith, asks his owner to read him some scripture; Tom struggles with reading, and he also wants his master to learn about Jesus. The master reads Matthew 25:31-46, which tells of Jesus metaphorically separating sheep from goats on Judgement Day.
What is the criteria? … Whether people had fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned, and ministered to “the least of these.”
The master stops reading and becomes anxious. Bear in mind that he considers himself a good man because he treats his slaves gently. He muses in a borderline-humorous way that his minding his own business and not actively hurting others isn’t quite good enough.
We like to live in our little bubbles, and we think not being a thief or a murderer or a rapist means we are good people, even good Christians! Like Tom’s master, we need to understand that we are called to a purpose much grander than living in a bubble, minding our own business.
Reading the exchange in the book recalled the questions about true salvation I’ve mulled over lately. According to the scripture above, reciting The Sinner’s Prayer is moot if one doesn’t actively engage in ministry. When Jesus separates sheep and goats, I don’t think He’ll say, “once saved, always saved.” Apparently, being a Christian requires…I dunno…following Jesus.
[I must clarify that I don’t promote “works salvation,” the concept that people earn their salvation through good works. Scripture tells us repeatedly that we have no reason to boast because salvation is a GIFT that we did not and cannot earn. However, I believe that if we truly love and seek the Lord, we become inspired to engage in ministry, sharing His love with others and living out our testimonies.]
I end this post with some scripture; I had many options but decided to narrow it down for your reading pleasure. 🙂 Emphasis added by me.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23, NIV)
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:18-20, NIV)
Thanks for reading! Do you think disciples of Jesus need to bear fruit and engage in ministry? Let me know in the comments.
More relevant scripture on this subject: