Doctrinal beliefs do not make a Christian. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus in all he or she does. A Christian is a student of Jesus. A Christian’s life is dedicated to Jesus, and is transformed and becomes like Jesus. A Christian is one who dies to their agenda and lives for Christ. Under this definition, some may find it hard to answer affirmatively.
Lots of folks like Jesus. Lots of folks hate the church. From both inside and outside the church, the Church has been called arrogant, hypocritical, judgmental, and irrelevant. Pastors and parishioners cannot hide behind scriptural claims that these observations are the persecution Jesus anticipated for his followers – not even close. The emphasis on doctrinal beliefs, rather than following Jesus, has, in part, led to the Church’s current state. This is not to say doctrine doesn’t have its place, of course it does. But quoting doctrine versus allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us is no comparison.
Many claim to be Christians and can state the doctrine with all the smugness of Pastor Charles L. Worley. But few would care to answer the following from Jesus: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord, ‘ and do not do what I tell you?” I’d be shaking in my boots at this query – or any other from him for that matter. Jesus is concerned with our transformation. He invites people to become his students – to learn from him. This means that we are to do what Jesus did. To be a student of Jesus we are to become like Jesus in thought and deed. We are to be obedient. This is done through prayer, meditation, fasting, study, solitude, and more.
Following Jesus in the Kingdom of God is the narrow gate, not doctrinal correctness. Dallas Willard writes: The narrow gate is not, as so often assumed, doctrinal correctness. The narrow gate is obedience – and the confidence in Jesus to it. We can add too this that, doctrine, while it has it’s place, is not what sets Christians apart from the world. Living like Jesus sets one apart – it can’t be missed!
The world cannot miss someone living out a Jesus-driven life. The trouble with the church is a that there are not enough folks doing this. Fortunately, this is changing. Local pastors, mega churches, denominational organizations, outsiders, and others are shifting the focus. We shall see what comes. Jump in – the river of living water is great.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson