Being a Christian Actually Requires Following Jesus

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.

the day of judgement by fra angelico
The Day of Judgement by Fra Angelico

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.

Reflections

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:

59 comments

  1. I think that sometimes us Christians are to quick on whether we see fruit in someone’s life or not. God has the over the long haul view. My life is a good example. I first trusted Christ when I was 19, but for a good many years anyone would have been justified to think I was not a Christian, but the seed of the gospel was in my spirit the whole time. It began to show fruit in 1989.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Good point, Matt. I can relate because I feel that God planted seeds in my heart a long time ago, but they took a while to come to fruition. I ran across an English assignment from high school the other day and was almost surprised to see that I was already talking about dedicating my life to God in service. It just took a few years of mistakes, experiences, and realizations to really start living into that. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I hadn’t thought of it in those words, but that is so true, Cindy! We show God’s love through the fruits of the Spirit, but biblical love is also a verb, and loving our neighbor can mean lots of things from comforting them after the death of a loved one to helping them with some chore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There is the possibility that Christians do good deeds in secret, so I’m not a perfect judge. However, if all my interactions with someone lack fruit…I’m concerned about that “Christian.”

    Evangelism should happen naturally with Christians, but it may look different based of the nation you are in and your maturity in the faith. Believers in hostile nations risk much to share their faith, so it takes time to weigh the risk.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Lily, thank you for giving us truths to ponder. “Do we need to bear fruit?” When the seed of God’s Word is planted in a new heart ~ a fertile heart~ it will naturally bear the fruit of His seed. He chooses the vessel, provides the soil, plants the seed, nurtures, and waters what He plants. Jesus said that what HIs Father did not plant will be dug up. Blessings as you continue to grow and flourish in HIs hands.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Good job Lily as always. You are so inspiring. I have said it before and I will say it again I admire you for the person you are and the person you are becoming in your faith. Unfortunately it usually takes most of us longer, most of the time to have the understanding that has grown in you. You are Gods deciple.. Love you Deb

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Great post. I found it really thought-provoking Lily. I think if we are faithful in doing the work God has called us to then it will bear fruit. From time to time, God is gracious to reveal that fruit and help us see the role we played–as vessels—in it blossoming. Blessings.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like how you said that God is sometimes gracious enough to help us see the role we played in something coming to fruition. It makes me consider the fact that we don’t always see the full impact of what we do and have to trust God enough to play our roles. Reminds me of a phrase my pastor uses– “Our job isn’t to worry about the bottom line.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lily, you are correct that true disciples of Jesus must bear fruit and engage in ministry. Jesus didn’t die for us to continue to remain selfish and narcissitic. He died for one reason so we could love like He could and part of showing his love is serving Him by serving others. By the way, I wrote a paper in college defending the character of Uncle Tom as one worth emulating because of his Christian beliefs. So many ostracize him but I don’t know it is entirely fair to do so.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I completely agree with you that Jesus didn’t die so we could be selfish and that we show our love for Him and for our neighbors by serving them! That’s awesome about writing the essay defending Uncle Tom!! I wrote a post about a month ago where I defended the book and listed out three reasons it swayed hearts. Suffice to say that I feel the book’s legacy has been totally misunderstood/disgraced.

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      1. The professor for the class I wrote the paper about Uncle Tom was an atheist besides. Regardless, I think you are right that the book’s legacy has often been misunderstood. It is quite flowery in its language and a bit drawn out at times but that was the literary style at the time and people’s attention spans were longer before the invention of television nearly a century later.

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  7. Love this post! In my thinking, the sinner’s prayer isn’t worth the breath it took to say it unless there is a repentant spirit to go along with it. You have to truly mean every word of the prayer to become a Christian. Once you are a Christian, you should have a desire to study the Word, and to help and encourage others. In other words, to work for God and follow His lead. When you do that, you are bearing fruit. Your fellow blogger, Sissy.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Yes and yes and yes again to this post!! I grew up protestant and often thinking aloud along ‘these lines’ would get someone accused of being works-based as ‘all you needed was to profess Christ to be saved’ (and I do still believe that!) Yet the idea that you could profess Christ once and do whatever you wanted afterward never set well with me. I always sensed there was ‘more to it’ as well.
    I think I first ‘seriously’ grappled with the idea of discipleship in my early thirties–when I could no longer ignore the clear clarion call of ‘discipleship’ in the gospels. Around that time I met a fellow believer who told me that many call on Jesus for salvation but few are wiling to make Him ‘Lord over their life’. Which made me wonder, are we really ‘saved’; if Jesus isn’t Lord over our life?
    Great post. Love the title, made me laugh!!! ❤️🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Salt! I am also protestant. You can tell that because of the obligatory clarifying statement pertaining to works salvation, haha! It’s a neat coincidence (aka God moment) that you mention the statement that few are willing to make Jesus “Lord over their life” because my SS class is studying a book that examines the Apostle’s Creed line-by-line. The first line about Jesus reads “[We believe in] Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord,” and we discussed what it really means to let Jesus be Lord of our lives!

      I don’t believe in golden tickets to heaven earned by an unrepentant prayer or even by church attendance, donations, etc. Discipleship or bust! The call is blatantly interwoven in every NT book. Too bad there are Christians who don’t read the Bible. Lord, help them!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a beautifully written and thought-provoking blog. Thank you for sharing! We would love to have your perspective and voice on DailyPS – a multi-author Christian blog. If you ever want to guest post, please check out our site!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I love this Lilly! I have a similar past. I have always been Chrisitan but realized recently that loving God is about a lot more than just declaring that. We have to live our lives showing His love to the world!

    Thanks for sharing. I am loving your work. I would love it if you could give me some feedback on my blog. I will link it below, but no expectations!

    Continue the great writing!

    http://postcardsfrommattie.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Absolutely! All fall short! But at some level there should be some good fruit, in the same sense it’s hard to tell where someone is in their walk with Christ from one glance, conversation and connection is needed.

    Everyone is at different stages, it is important to discern where our brothers and sisters are so we can help each other best !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Caroline! You’re right that we can never tell where exactly someone is in their walk; that’s between the person and God. But we still know a tree by the fruit it bears!

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  12. Works really isn’t complicated but we make it complicated. Faith without works is dead. And we are saved by grace. I love that you covered this. Our walk with Christ must reflect Him. I also view works much more beyond what we physically do but seeing God’s hand active in our life as well. As you said. scales falling from eyes, and changes taking place within.

    In the right way, salvation in Christ leads to works, not the other way around. And these works often are manifestations from the Holy Spirit working within. ❤ We cannot have the love of Christ without Him. And only in Him can we draw closer and reach others. ❤

    Great post!!!

    Like

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