On June 10, 1992, I became a Christian. There are many thoughts out there today as to how one becomes a Christian. I believe the New Testament gives plenty of examples that the way to Christ and salvation eternal is through hearing the word of God, believing in what it says, changing your sinful ways, confessing that Jesus is Lord, and giving yourself over to him in immersion through baptism. When you give yourself over to Jesus, you do it completely.
I remember the night I became a Christian. My father baptized me after I walked down the aisle to the Church of Christ classic song, “Just As I Am”. I remember making my confession before the 30 or so people at the Bethel Church of Christ that night, my father plunging me into the water, and re-emerging as a new creature buried in Christ, with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I told God that night that I wanted to give my life to Him, completely. While I have not even come close to being perfect, I have tried my hardest, and am committed to raising my family in a Christian home.
Recently, Billy Graham’s son Franklin was asked if he believed that Barack Obama was a Christian. He stated “He has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian? For him, going to church means he’s a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith, and we have trusted him as our Lord and Savior. That’s the definition of a Christian. It’s not as to what church you are a member of. A membership doesn’t make you Christian.”
A membership doesn’t make you Christian – there’s a lot of validity in that. For a lot of us, we feel that just going to church makes you a Christian. We believe that if our name is on the roll in a congregation of some sort, that we’re on God’s roll for entry into Heaven.
In an article challenging Franklin’s response of Obama’s Christianity, Roland Martin a syndicated columnist for CNN and author of “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House.”, said “Any Christian will tell you: If a person verbally professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that person is considered saved. No ifs, ands or buts. That’s when the conversation should end.”
I can’t help but think its not that simple. First of all, “any Christian” will not say that. True Christians will say that there is more to following Christ than just saying Jesus is my Lord and Savior. The apostles left their nets, their jobs, their families and their livelihood to follow Christ. Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor so he could inherit eternal life. Jesus never simply said “Believe in me, and that’s all”. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells those of us who have given our lives over to him to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them everything I have commanded you.”
We see in the following years of the first Christians that they did this. In Acts, we see that the Christians dedicated themselves to each other. They helped each other out. They committed to being together, in a “corporate” setting and in their own personal lives. We can’t simply just add water to our spiritual lives and expect it to grow into a full, mature Christian. We can’t expect to just add water, never commit to God’s church, and expect that he approves of it.
We’ve read of professional athletes being kicked off their teams, traded away, or even fired simply because they didn’t show up to practice. Practice is an important part of being an athlete. They can’t just show up to the games and expect to first of all be a team, but second of all, to be any good. When you don’t practice together, you don’t know each other’s game, and therefore can’t be productive. One or two people may be successful, but as a team you will not succeed.
Yet, for some people, they treat their eternal salvation, their identity with God, as a casual social club.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that if you fail to go to church services every time the doors are open, that you’ll be eternally condemned. I’m not going to tell you that if you fail to meet with fellow Christians every day to encourage each other and to teach the lost, that God won’t have a place for you in eternity.
But I will say that you’re missing out on your full potential as a Christian. This isn’t an argument for whether or not baptism is essential to salvation. This isn’t an argument about what church you have to belong to in order to have eternal life. Those discussions are for a different time and place. This is a plea that we need to restore the community found in the New Testament church, so that we aren’t just Christians in name, but that we are Christians in every aspect of our lives.
A business person seeking to climb the ladder of success would never think of just phoning in their work each week. They know that they have to live that life daily, as best as they can, so that they can succeed. They are going to devote themselves to that company, so that the presidents and managers can see how much it means to them, and that they are committed to the cause.
Instant coffee is okay, but slow drip is better. TV Dinners suffice, but are nothing compared to a meal someone prepared in love all day long. When we commit to the Christian life, instead of just pulling it all together once a week, or once a month, God will take note and reward our hard work, in this life and the next. May God be praised as we all dedicate ourselves to Him.