What if I told you that it was possible to know all of God’s Word, front to back, serve on church committees, even pastor a church, share the gospel with thousands of people…and still spend eternity in hell? What if I told you that you could spend 12 hours a day in prayer, six sharing your faith, and the other six fasting, and despite all of the Christian conferences you went to and all the Christian music you listened to, still spend eternity in hell?
I shared this quote from a book called “Gospel-Centered Discipleship” by Jonathan Dodson last night on Facebook: “Jesus, alone, should take the center place in our lives, not our Bible reading, evangelism, character, or effort to be different or spiritual.”
At the end of the day, the actions listed in the opening paragraph amount to nothing, separated from a relationship with Christ Himself. Because at the end of the day, what makes you a Christian is not Christianity. It is not immersing yourself into a religious setting, simply trying to live life differently and hoping that being a part of Christian culture can do that. What makes you a Christian is Christ.
I think it’s easy to forget that, especially in American culture. American culture emphasizes being swept up in the latest and greatest trends and fads, and unfortunately, this way of thinking makes its way into our churches. We have to have the newest worship music on Sunday morning. Make sure everyone knows about the next big conference in town, because (insert favorite late 20s-early 40s-age speaker here) will be there! Have you read the newest book from (insert favorite Christian author here)?
None of those things are bad. We are blessed with Godly men and women that can write well, sing well and teach well, for the glory of God here in America. And it is wise to take advantage of that, to listen to godly preaching, to read good books about God and the Christian life.
But if all of our Christian “things” are not driving us to boast and rejoice more in God, they are worthless. If we do these things divorced from knowing and trusting and following Christ, it is worthless.
It is possible (I know because I’m guilty of it, too) to enjoy Christian things without enjoying God. It is possible to idolize Christianity. We consider ourselves Christian because of how much time we spend in Bible study, or how much time we spend in prayer, or because we read a certain author’s books.
All of the Bible reading, praying, fasting and mission trips in the world can never replace repentance and faith in Christ. Ultimately, God will declare you righteous based on your relationship with Him, not all of the secondary things that accompany that relationship.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). We are not guaranteed that our favorite music, favorite speaker, favorite writer, will be here tomorrow when we wake up, much less in 30 years or more. But Jesus Christ will reign as Lord forever, and His Word shall stand for eternity.
Are we caught up in Him? Or are we caught up in Christian culture? Do we love Him? Or do we love the idea of loving Him? Do we love knowing Him? Or do we love Christian culture? All of the things mentioned here that are associated with Christianity are just that. They are things. They are disciplines. They are good things, gifts from God. But they are not God Himself.
So, please, listen to godly music and preaching. If you’re blessed to go to a Christian conference, go. If you have a chance to share the gospel, by all means, do share the gospel, boldly! But don’t do those things because you think that’s what makes you a Christian. Read your Bible, pray to God, share your faith, because, God, in His amazing grace, has made you a Christian through Jesus Christ.
Let Jesus be at the center of your life. Better yet, let Jesus be your life, period. And let everything else that comes with a relationship with Him take its rightful place as gifts from God to help us trust Him, love Him, delight in Him, obey Him, and share Him with others.
Father, may we never confuse Christian culture or Christianity with Christ Himself. May we never think that doing Christian things makes us a Christian. May we remember and rejoice that we are saved through Christ alone, and may all that we do in light of that be for your glory.