I observe. I reflect. I analyze. I ponder. Typically, I am slow to conclude. In other words, I often see things and develop a particular opinion, but sometimes I hesitate to settle on a final conclusion due to the necessary implications of that conclusion. Perhaps I do not want to believe the inevitable. Perhaps the obvious truth causes me discomfort. I know what you may be thinking as you read: “What in the world are you talking about?” I’m glad you asked.
I have a growing concern as I observe the culture of Christianity around me. I once heard a statement attributed to Billy Graham saying he believed as many as fifty percent of the people attending local churches on a given Sunday were not truly followers of Christ. This is not to say they lacked the outward appearance of “good church folks,” but it speaks more to the idea that many people may be trusting in something or someone other than the finished work of Christ for their salvation. Now, they may never admit such a charge outright, but their behavior may paint just such a picture. This begs the question, “What does true biblical Christianity look like?”
Almost three years ago I was teaching through the book of Colossians for the student ministry of the church I served. One particular evening we were considering the first portion of chapter two in which we read the key verses of the letter. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col 2:9-10). Paul’s central theme here is the supremacy of Christ over all creation. It is this supremacy to which followers of Christ must appropriately respond. A truth central to Christianity surfaces in this passage: a Christian must BELIEVE Christ in order to FOLLOW Christ.
There is, in my opinion, an apparent disconnect between the way Scripture describes a true follower of Christ and the way the American church describes a true follower of Christ. In fact, there appears to be disagreement on what constitutes true biblical conversion. I believe there is no other logical explanation for the growing cultural perception of the church as both impotent and irrelevant. David Platt explains:
According to research (Barna Group, April 10, 2009), many “Christians” no longer believe that God is the supreme Creator and Ruler of the universe. Such “Christians” believe that everyone is god or that maybe god is simply the realization of one’s human potential. Over half of “Christians” don’t believe that the Holy Spirit or Satan is real, and tens of millions of them don’t believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Finally, almost half of “Christians” don’t believe the Bible is completely true.
I put Christians in quotation marks for what I hope by now is an obvious reason: such “Christians” are not Christians. It is impossible to follow Jesus yet disregard, discredit, and disbelieve his Word. Simply put, to follow Jesus is to believe Jesus (emphasis mine) (Platt, Follow Me, 77).
Jesus has never lied. His Word is always completely truthful. In addition, the Word of God is the standard by which all truth is judged. This is the critical point which I labored to drive home for those students that night. There is practical value for this truth as well. Friends, we are called to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we cannot afford to cling to any beliefs that are inconsistent with Scripture. It matters not whether we must struggle in order to process certain portions of biblical truth. It does, however, matter whether we are willing to submit to the complete Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This lesson is difficult. I am still in the process of learning this lesson myself, but it must be learned. If I am to claim the name of Christ, then I must submit to His Lordship in every area. This includes, not only my actions, but also my beliefs concerning salvation, justification, sanctification, discipleship and so on. I must always remember that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). I do not know better than Jesus, nor will I ever.