Being a Christian Actually Requires Following Jesus

Hi, friends! Today’s post delves into what it means to be a Christian. We claim to follow Jesus, but do we actually follow Jesus? Let’s discuss.

Musings on Salvation

Over the last couple years, I’ve undergone a spiritual transformation, as if a lightbulb went off in my head. I started reading scripture and praying consistently, and God spoke to me through His word and through personal revelations. I seemed to see my reflection in His mirror clearly for the first time, and scales still fall from my eyes daily. I went from a church goer to a disciple of Jesus.

Since I have always claimed the title of “Christian,” these realizations have caused me to ponder what it truly means to be a Christian (FYI, the term was first used to describe followers of Jesus in the Book of Acts). Does saying “The Sinner’s Prayer” then living like the rest of the world give someone a golden ticket to heaven? Are we only called to a lifetime of lip service, or will many of us cry “Lord, Lord” on Judgement Day–only to be answered with “I never knew you?”

A Conversation in Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Recently, I read a stirring book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and this post was inspired by an exchange in the novel. Uncle Tom, a slave and a man of great faith, asks his owner to read him some scripture; Tom struggles with reading, and he also wants his master to learn about Jesus. The master reads Matthew 25:31-46, which tells of Jesus metaphorically separating sheep from goats on Judgement Day.

the day of judgement by fra angelico
The Day of Judgement by Fra Angelico

What is the criteria?Whether people had fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned, and ministered to “the least of these.”

The master stops reading and becomes anxious. Bear in mind that he considers himself a good man because he treats his slaves gently. He muses in a borderline-humorous way that his minding his own business and not actively hurting others isn’t quite good enough.

Reflections

We like to live in our little bubbles, and we think not being a thief or a murderer or a rapist means we are good people, even good Christians! Like Tom’s master, we need to understand that we are called to a purpose much grander than living in a bubble, minding our own business.

Reading the exchange in the book recalled the questions about true salvation I’ve mulled over lately. According to the scripture above, reciting The Sinner’s Prayer is moot if one doesn’t actively engage in ministry. When Jesus separates sheep and goats, I don’t think He’ll say, “once saved, always saved.” Apparently, being a Christian requires…I dunno…following Jesus.

[I must clarify that I don’t promote “works salvation,” the concept that people earn their salvation through good works. Scripture tells us repeatedly that we have no reason to boast because salvation is a GIFT that we did not and cannot earn. However, I believe that if we truly love and seek the Lord, we become inspired to engage in ministry, sharing His love with others and living out our testimonies.]

I end this post with some scripture; I had many options but decided to narrow it down for your reading pleasure. 🙂 Emphasis added by me.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23, NIV)

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:18-20, NIV)

Thanks for reading! Do you think disciples of Jesus need to bear fruit and engage in ministry? Let me know in the comments.

More relevant scripture on this subject:

Life Update: Expanding my Ministry

Hi, friends. Today’s post is casual and personal. This is an update on the ministry I’ve been up to lately! [In other words, here are the reasons I’ve been pressed for time to keep up with your blogs lately–I’m trying to catch up, though!]

I attend a United Methodist Church. UMC’s are all connected as an international denomination.

Lay Servant Class

In the UMC, members of the laity (aka congregation members) can take classes to develop their leadership skills at Lay Servant Class. Our district of UMC’s includes about 150 churches; is it crazy that we have six districts in just the Western North Carolina Conference? Anyways, I attended the classes for four years straight–Basic (required for first-timers), UMC History, Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition, and Preaching.

I serve as an “intern” for one of the Basic courses this year and will be a regular teacher next year if I “pass.” [Below are a few pics of my class from Sunday.] Every single class sold out this year; praise God!

Helping teach a class this year (last weekend and this upcoming weekend) has been a wonderful experience. I think I can definitively call “teaching” one of my spiritual gifts because it brings me such joy, and others have remarked that they love listening to me. Any glory is not my own; I am simply investing my talent instead of burying it; the talent was given by my master. 😉

United Methodist Women

United Methodist Women is a women’s mission organization that operates in the US and globally with the goal of “turning faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women, children and youth around the world.” Women seeking a social club should flee in the opposite direction because these ladies put their money (and their ministry) where their mouth is! I truly admire their grit. [Below are a few pics from a newsletter I created. I didn’t make the Conference Events flyer.]

I now serve as the Communications Coordinator for our United Methodist Women district, which first and foremost means that I create our quarterly newsletters. Little did I know how much of a learning curve there would be in taking on an extensive graphic design project! I spent countless hours working; most of that was trial-and-error. Thank the Lord for Canva, though. It all paid off with the result of an aesthetically-pleasing newsletter and a lot of happy ladies. I had a few minutes to feel proud of my work before starting on the second newsletter. 😆

More Ministry

I teach the adult Sunday school class at my church, which has also brought me such joy. I usually preach in my pastor’s place when she leaves town. Starting this Sunday, I am delivering the message three weeks in a row because some local clergy and laity are travelling to the Holy Lands. My message this coming Sunday uses the verses 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. 🙂 I also consider my involvement in the Christian blogging community an avenue of ministry.

Final Thoughts

If it sounds like I am “humble bragging,” know that I view these opportunities as blessings and only do these things to build up the body of Christ. I have shared stories about my struggles with pride and validation in the past (here).

So here is my life update! Brothers and sisters, remember that Jesus did not come into the world to be served but to serve!

Sidenote: both Lay Servant Class and United Methodist Women include racial diversity. I can’t think of any other context where I’m surrounded by equal amounts of black people and white people. It feels awesome to be a part of that unity.

Thanks for reading! Please let us know in the comments–how has God used you lately, good and faithful servant? Bless us by sharing your ministry.

The joyful energy of this song is my aesthetic lately–