Friday, February 02, 2007

The Characteristic of a True Disciple

21"Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as `Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. 22On judgment day many will tell me, `Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' 23But I will reply, `I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized'" (Matthew 7:21-23; NLT).

I find this teaching of Jesus quite interesting. The point Jesus is making here is that not everyone who refers to Him as Lord is a Christian. This is pretty easy to understand because we are witness to numerous people who make a claim to be Christians, but their lives reflect a very different lifestyle.

Some people understand the Truth, it makes sense to them, but somewhere in their lives there is a disconnect. The truth which makes sense in the mind never makes it to their hearts. While they agree with what Jesus says their lives are never changed.

That is not what I find interesting about this teaching, because that is the obvious application to what Jesus is saying. To truly be a Christian requires more than verbal acknowledgement. It also requires obedience to God's will.

What I find interesting are the activities these false disciples were doing. They were proclaiming a word from God (prophesying), casting out demons, and performing miracles. In my mind these would be signs that they had a close relationship with God. If a person could do those things it would seem that they were the genuine article. Yet it seem Jesus has a different understanding. Jesus wants us to understand that these things are not necessarily evidence for a true disciple.

I don't know how it is possible to fake such things without having a relationship with God, but I do know that it is easy to fake the public side of ministry. It is easy for me to wow people with a great sermon, to write words that reflect Biblical teachings, and to have a "correct" theology to make the people at church believe that I know my Bible. It is possible to go through ministry without real faith in God.

Real faith makes us step out of our comfort zone to do the things that need to be done. Real faith seeks to make changes in our lives so sin is no longer our master. Real faith is seen in our behavior. What makes a person a Christian is not a flourishing public ministry or correct theology, but a Christ-like life of faith which is expressed by love.

How does this apply to you and me? It is to easy to use this passage of Scripture to judge people who are not living up to our standards of what a Christian to be. While we need to be vigilant concerning our leaders and teachers I think we need to approach this passage primarily as a warning for us.

Are we too wrapped up with what other people think about us? Do we put on a spiritual or religious mask in front of certain people so they will think we are great "Christians"? Is part of our identity derived from this "Christian" image we think other people have of us?

Being a follower of Jesus isn't about doing "religious" activities and making other people believe that we are "spiritual" people. Being a follower of Jesus is about following Jesus where ever He leads, throwing off sinful habits, and living a life of faith. This is how we get to know Jesus, and how Jesus gets to know us. "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!" (Matthew 25:21; NLT).

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