Who are you? Are you a Christian in name only? Or are you a casual Christian? Or are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? What determines your Christian identity?
A Christian in name only tends to know very little of the Christian faith. They most likely will say they are a ‘good person’ and that makes them Christian. Unfortunately for them, they are wrong. Heaven is not for ‘good’ people. Heaven is for those who recognize they are bad, sinners in need of a savior. Christians have received forgiveness and salvation because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. He died for each one of us and rose again that we might have life in him. A Christian has this relationship with the Triune God that was given to them.
A casual Christian is one who does ‘Christian things’ now and then or even weekly. They most likely have that relationship with God, but they are casual about their faith. They are Christian infants that still need milk instead of advancing to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). They have not grown in their faith because they are casual about it. They seem to be missing the desire or the discipline to grow in their faith.
In response to one’s salvation, a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ should have that desire to follow Jesus, to love him, and to learn of him. A disciple wants to become like Jesus, to imitate him (Ephesians 5:1-2). There are many Bible passages that can help us. I will bring up only the one that has been recently on my mind. In the Gospel of John Jesus says four times, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15,21,23,24). That is a hard saying and he says it four times in just a few verses. The commandments can be summed up with ‘love God and love people’ (Matthew 22:36-40). And that love is defined as acting out of the commitment to put the other person’s best interests ahead of your own. Many times, I have trouble loving. Many times, judgemental thoughts pop into my head, or I do not want to deal with these strange and different people. Those times I am being self-centered. And yet Jesus calls us to reach out to them and to love them, not just some of them but all of them. Jesus has given us the Great Commission to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). That means we get to walk with them in life, love them, and share the good news of God’s love for them.
Fortunately, God does not leave us alone to become a disciple and to love. The Holy Spirit comes to be our Helper, Comforter, Advocate, and Councillor. In that very same passage, where Jesus tells his disciples four times to “keep my commandments”, he also promises the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-27). The Holy Spirit is there to assist and empower our Christian life. We are not alone in our journey. Moreover, Jesus helps us understand our dependence on him. Jesus describes himself as the vine and we are the branches. That power to love flows from him to us, and by abiding in him we bear that fruit of love (John 15:1-17). Without Jesus, we wither and die. With God’s help, we are able to succeed. But God provides even more help for us.
We also have the help of local Christians who walk alongside us to help enable us to love God and love people more. God did not plan for any ‘Lone Ranger Christians’, rather throughout the Bible you find God’s people always gather together in community. It is through Christian community that spiritual growth happens (Ephesians 4:11-16). It is in the body of Christ that discipleship happens, and I have found that happens more in small group settings than not, so connect up with a small group at your local church and learn of Jesus. Our local congregations should be where we teach, learn and put into action the love of Jesus.
This post was inspired by a short book by Mike Falkenstine called “Being and Making Disciples in the Western Church”. Here are his five focus areas for local church leaders on making disciples.
- A High View of Scripture
- A Steely-Eyed Commitment to Making Disciples that Make Disciples
- A Determination to Equip All Your People
- A Confident Expectation in the Power of the Gospel
- An Awareness that Spiritual Growth Happens Primarily through Community
So are we being too casual, individually and/or corporately, with our Christian Faith?