OK, this will likely be controversial, but for a while now I’ve been struggling with this phrase, “all you need to do to be saved is accept Jesus.” I can’t find it in Scripture and the Jesus I do find doesn’t seem in any way in need of our acceptance. (Indeed, we are in need of His!) Yet this is how most American Christians are told we can obtain salvation. A silent prayer repeated after a pastor or evangelist, maybe followed by a raised hand (with head bowed and eyes closed). But is that followed by a markedly changed life?
For the record, YES: I believe that we must believe, and confess with our mouth, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God to be saved. YES: I believe that if we ask for forgiveness of our sins, He is just and merciful and forgives us.
ALSO YES: A Christ-follower is known by their “fruit” and the branch that does not produce it is cut off. AND YES: Faith without works is dead. AND AGAIN YES: He who endures to the end will be saved.
I wonder how many of us would be Christ-followers in Indonesia? It costs me nothing to whisper simple prayer and raise my hand here in this country (yet). It doesn’t cost me anything but a little time to attend church, read my Bible or pray. I have done those things and so checked off my American Christian requirements. But following Christ costs the believer. We are told it costs us our very lives (see Jesus’s words in Luke 14:26-34). This has bothered me for quite some time: What if that silent prayer and raised hand isn’t enough? What if there are multitudes of Americans who think they are Christians because they believe they said the magic words and have obtained a ticket to heaven? What if many of us who think this way will be told on that final day, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”? After all the folks Jesus said that to in Matthew 7 actually did many mighty works in His name.When is the last time any of us performed a major miracle? He follows this by saying, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” I think the “and follows it” is pretty important here…
I am not saying confessed belief + works = salvation. Salvation results from the work of Christ alone. I am saying we are known by our fruit, specifically our love for others. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We take up our respective crosses and follow Him.
For years you could not tell the difference between me and a non-believer just by viewing my actions (other than the good-Christian-girl-checkpoints mentioned above). I certainly was not the disciple Jesus describes in that passage in Luke. What does that say? I think the answer to that question would be very different coming from a believer in Sudan than a believer in the comfy chairs of the typical American church. The answer from Bonhoeffer and Lewis and Edwards would be far different from what we might hear from some church leaders in America today.
Again: I am NOT questioning the mighty hand of God’s salvation nor His faithfulness to His children even when we are unfaithful to Him. I AM questioning whether our formulaic method of “asking Jesus in our hearts” has created untold numbers of people who think they are saved, but in reality are floating down a wide, comfortable river to eternity without Christ. And this is a very, very scary thought to me.
This is what I want to learn in a much deeper and daily way: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”