This post has been in the making for a while; just sitting gathering dust in my “drafts” folder. I’ve been hemming and hawing over posting it because it’s inconvenient, and it’s uncomfortable, and it’s just downright offensive – if it’s personally applicable that is. Everyone who knows me could attest to the fact that I do not shy away from speaking boldly for the sake of not being offensive to some, but this was different somehow.
Then a few days ago a friend of mine wrote a post very similar to this one, and it had virtually echoed a conversation I had just had to a point where I still don’t believe she wasn’t eavesdropping (kidding, Michelle!) But it served as very clear confirmation from the Lord. I realized that these were the hard things about Christianity, but they were the things that needed to be addressed in such a big way.
In modern day Christianity there currently exists a band-aid; a pretty, sticky, designer band-aid, that’s attempting to cover a rotten and festering wound. They’re doing anything they can to avoid the source of the infection deep below the surface. I suppose at the core of it you could call the problem “compromise”, but given the state of things that just seems too tame. A more appropriate description would be something like “deception” or “negligence” or “selfishness.” It’s truly an epidemic in America. Christians living in unapologetic sin with complete disregard for their actions; they keep words like like “grace,” “forgiveness,” and “love” in their vocabulary arsenal for a quick justification should the need arise.
But this isn’t right. It isn’t the way a Christian should live, and I would dare say that it isn’t the way a Christian can live.
There were some verses I read recently that began my study of this, and I believe it sums the whole issue up perfectly. 1 John chapter 2 verses 3 – 6
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
These are just three small verses, but oh, are they heavy. In order to really grasp the fullness behind this we have to break it down.
Verse 3 – And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments
John is telling us something here, and we need to pay attention. How do we know that we know the Lord? If we keep his commandments. Not because we keep them, and not if you have warm fuzzy feelings in your heart, but if we keep his commandments. This symbolizes so many things. Firstly, this is kind of like saying “Put your money where your mouth is” or “The proof is in the pudding,” because being a follower of Jesus is first and foremost a choice. We can say we know Him all we want to, but it’s nothing more than lip service if we do not continue to choose Him. Imagine you have a friend who tells you that you are their most important friend, but then they never call you, they bad mouth you behind your back, and you get stood up on lunch dates. It wouldn’t take an astrophysicist to figure out that you are clearly not the most important person to them. Our relationship with our God is no different. A relationship with Christ is not a matter of the tongue, it is a matter of the heart.
Secondly, knowing Jesus is important. Really, really important. Why? Because of Matthew 7:21 – 23; “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” Lip service does not get us eternity. Only knowing Jesus will do that, He says so in red ink, and as we just read in the above verses we know that if we know Him we keep His commandments.
Verse 4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him
Those who claim to know him but do not live accordingly are the very people referenced in Matthew 7:21-23, but I think I’ve gone over the implications of that sufficiently. What I want to focus on here is in the last part – “and the truth is not in him.” The Greek word for truth here is also the same word for truth in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I don’t believe in biblical coincidences, and I feel it’s safe to say that the meaning is interchangeable. So it could really be read like this: “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and Jesus is not in him.” If Jesus is not in someone then what is it that separates them from the world? What is it that will save them from eternal judgement? The answer of course is nothing.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:4-7
We cannot hope to survive these fires apart from Christ, and Christ is not in us if we will not follow His commandments. This is not a requirement of salvation – it is the result of it. In fact it cannot be done without salvation, we read that in verse 5 of the above verse, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
This is why our actions are proof of our true commitment, because if we are not truly saved we cannot keep his commandments and bear fruit, and if we are not keeping his commandments and if we are bearing a life of bad fruit, we are not truly saved.
Ah. There’s the kicker. This is the part where feathers are ruffled and angry retorts are imagined. This is the part that is inconvenient. But it’s all right there in the Word.
Verse 6 – “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
If we are saved we will walk as He walked, we will live as He lived.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not preaching an acts based salvation. Our works will not get us into eternity with Christ, and if we are truly saved our works will not cause us to lose it. Jesus’ blood is all consuming and all encompassing, but it is not a cheap cover up. It is not a quick fix or the easy way out.
We are humans, and therefore we are not sea creatures. We may sometimes immerse in water – when we wash, when we swim, when we clean – but we do not live there, we do not dwell in a state of submersion. It is the same with Christianity. When we are saved we are no longer the old creature. We may sometimes slip and fall and make mistakes, we will always struggle with sin – but we do not live there, we do not dwell in a state of unapologetic sinfulness. This is how we know we are not
sea creatures of the world. This is how we know we are saved.
This country is filled with feel good Christians. Christians who smoke pot and black out in drunken stupors on Saturday night, may or may not come to church on Sunday, and cheat their employers of money on Mondays. Christians who haven’t prayed an unselfish prayer in maybe their entire lives. Christians who are hateful, racist, and sexist. Christians who sleep with non-believers, who play with fire, who seduce spouses and flirt with the enemy. Christians who fulfill their fleshly demands over and over and over, and then stop and say a prayer of empty repentance when their slate has gotten too crowded, just so they have room to start over the next day. They kick and scream, consumed with self righteous anger when rebuked, they will not listen to reproof – even when it is the Lord’s. If this pattern remains unchanged I fear the judgement they will bring down not only on themselves but on the rest of the nation who follows their lead. The wages of sin is death – someone has to pay for it. It’s either going to be Jesus, or it’s going to be us.
The lost are just that – lost. They cannot understand and they do not see. But those who see, those who understand, and those who choose to refuse to live according to His word anyway, they are the ones I am addressing. Examine yourselves – test yourselves against the best example we have. Are you living like Jesus? Or are you living for yourself? We cannot live a life of blatant sin and believe ourselves Christians. We cannot. We are not. And if we choose to we will be refused.
In closing I want to be so clear, I want to encourage you. If you have truly committed to Jesus, if you have given your life to him and desire His ways but you struggle with sin, even repeated sin – do not be discouraged. Grace is there for you, it is a safety net protecting you from here to eternity. He who began a good work in you WILL see it through. Your shortcomings do not make you condemned, they make you a sinner in need of grace, just like the rest of us. Just like me. I have to throw myself before the cross and beg for mercy and forgiveness every day of my life, I am the chiefest of sinners. The difference is in that. Where do you find yourself at the end of the day? At the feet of Jesus, washing in the glow of redemption and grace? Or stumbling down the wide path, leaving Jesus far behind until you need something again?
Choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Choose wisely, friends.