Written by Christie Frieg, USA
A story I heard recently got me thinking about the state of my faith:
One day, after he had conquered vast expanses of the known world and amassed an army larger and more fearsome than any other in existence, Alexander the Great looked over his assembled forces with a sense of satisfaction. That is, until his eyes landed on a soldier whose form deviated disgracefully from the rest of the army. He marched down towards said soldier, glared at him, and demanded, “Soldier! What is your name?” The soldier responded, “Alexander, sir.” Angered by this declaration, Alexander the Great said, “I command you to either change your name, or begin acting in a manner worthy of the grand title you currently bear!”
This story reminds me of what Jesus expects of those who desire to follow Him. In Luke 9:59–62, He explicitly told His followers to leave what they had behind (v.60) and stay focused on the task of proclaiming God’s kingdom (v.62). In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus declared that the way of salvation is narrow and the gate is small, and few will find it. In Matthew 10:37, He told His disciples to pick up their cross and follow Him. And in Matthew 7:21-23, He said that on the last day, there will be many people who will call on His name, believing that they truly know Him and had served Him with their lives, but He will say to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
Wow. As I began to piece these Scriptures together, they formed a pretty daunting picture, one that we often don’t talk about in church or think about in our daily lives. It’s an uncomfortable subject. You mean there are people who think they’re saved, but they’re not? Based on what Jesus has been saying, the answer appears to be yes. There will be people who may think they are saved, but who will not actually be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven.
In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
This is a reminder and warning for people who think they can simply quote Jesus’ name and claim to be a follower to enter heaven, without truly believing and showing a true willingness to follow Christ. Confessing our faith has to be done not just with words alone, but with a true willingness to follow Jesus in our hearts and do God’s will. And the sincerity of our words is reflected in our actions.
After we invite Jesus into our hearts and confess our faith, do we follow up on our confession with our lives? Or do we just stop there, and live our lives as we used to do, without any change in our hearts? While faith in Christ makes us righteous before God, our righteous acts are evidence of our faith. Our actions, and the fruit of our lives, show whether our faith is genuine or not.
This is very serious issue, one that challenged me as I thought and prayed about it. Have I truly picked up my cross? Have I turned to look back after putting my hands to the plough? Are my physical comforts keeping me from entering the kingdom of God? It might be easy to say, “Yes, Lord! I will bear my cross!”—but how many of us would actually do it?
What this means in practical terms in our lives may depend on our individual circumstances. It could mean denying our natural tendencies, physical comforts or things that we used to value but are not in line with God’s will. Or it could mean going out of our comfort zone—whatever that might be—and being willing to suffer the cost to obey God’s mission for us.
Not all of us are called to move to Africa and build an orphanage. God shapes each of us, like a potter shapes his clay, some for noble purposes, and some for ordinary. But no matter where we are, we have a mission to accomplish. And that is living out our faith and being a faithful witness to the gospel—in our words, thoughts and deeds.
Have we reached out to our unsaved friends at school or work? Are we bold in our declaration of Christ? Have we found widows, orphans or single mums in need and helped them? Do we honour our parents, bridle our tongues, and serve others above ourselves? All these may be challenging tasks, but the good news is that the Holy Spirit will show us how to accomplish God’s will. He wants us to succeed.
I pray that we can choose to live a life worthy of our title of “Christian”, and make ourselves worthy of a joyful welcome into the kingdom of God.