A recent headline on Albert Mohler caught my eye: Anne Lamott Kills a Man – And Writes About It. I am not familiar with this writer, but Mohler describes her thusly:
“Yet, at the same time, she has managed to identify herself in some sense as a Christian writer, and she describes her own mode of Christian discipleship in terms of being ‘Jesusy.’ She has become something of a literary icon among mainline Protestants and leftward evangelicals.”
I wasn’t thinking of Anne Lamott when I saw one of my best friends yesterday. She was the first real friend I made after becoming a Christian, nearly
thirty years ago; my first Christian friend. She was my maid of honor at my wedding some years later. We haven’t always lived close by, but we have always stayed in touch. Now we live in next door cities, so we try to see each other once a month or so.
But quickly the conversation turned to something we had both been noticing independently lately; a trend in the church: Christians who believe that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, but who do not live changed lives, or who applaud behaviors and decisions which are clearly condemned in Scripture.
We started asking each other that most basic of questions: what does it mean to be saved? Is mental assent that Jesus is the Son of God enough? Perhaps that would make you ‘Jesusy,’ but would it make you saved? We both agreed no. Even the demons believe, and tremble. How about mental assent that Jesus died on the cross for my sins? Is that enough to get a railway ticket on the goin’ to heaven train?
We both agreed no, again. Faith in Jesus Christ which saves, is also faith in Jesus Christ which transforms, we agreed James taught. Jesus cautioned His disciples to count the cost. He did not sugar- coat a life of following Him: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword;” “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me;” “You will be reviled by all for My name’s sake.”
We talked about our own born again experience, our own process of new Christian discipleship, and when the last time we had heard the Gospel message of Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! in an altar call. How many times had we heard the “ask Jesus into your heart” instruction and how many times had we not heard the “repent, and go and sin no more” instruction at an altar call? I know I hear the “ask Jesus into your heart” message every week …
I started looking in the New Testament for that phrase in connection with salvation instruction; and I could not find it. The only place I did find it, in fact, was in Revelation 3:14-22: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me,” but Jesus even preceeds that with “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” In our haste to make converts, are we teaching error to the world?
We are living in an age where sin isn’t even called ‘sin’ in the church. Any unrighteousness is embraced by “Christians” in the name of love, even openly as in this writer’s case. Were we to stumble upon a time machine and be instantly transported back to Judea to hear one of Jesus’ messages, or Peter’s, or Paul’s, would we recognize it? If Paul were to stumble into one of today’s megachurches, and listen to the message, would he recognize it as Christian?