" If we take Jesus' teaching seriously many maybe most Christians in the U.S. may actually be lost spiritually."
Is that hyperboly, or do I really mean it? Sadly, I am serious! As I said in a blog a few weeks ago I grew up believing that the most important criteria for being a Christian was believing that Jesus Christ was (is) the Son of God, died on the cross for my sins and rose again to prove he had the power to conquer death and all I needed to do was confess I was a sinner and receive him as my Lord and Savior. That done, I was "saved." What I was also told, but I like many Christians I made it a footnote in my gospel journey;
Jesus also said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15. In John 14:21 Jesus put the same idea another way. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." And if you read all of John 14 carefully Jesus says the same thing a number of other times.
Then at the end of John he asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" When Peter insists he does, in every case Jesus says, "Then feed my sheep." (Obey me.) Lets be clear, Jesus' love for us is not dependent on our obedience. But Jesus is telling us in no uncertain terms that our obedience to his teachings is his criteria for determining if we really love him. And can we honestly claim he's our Savior and Lord and not be very serious about obedience? I don't think so.
Obedience is as important to our salvation as believing in Christ death!
Some of you may be shocked at that. But think about it, Christians have always believed people are saved by faith alone, but what is faith if it isn't acting on what we believe to be true. And not just once when we "gave our life to Jesus." True Christian faith is believing Jesus is the Son of God with such conviction that we commit our lives to living radically different than other people even if it's costly to us." Jesus' own brother James said, "Faith without deeds is dead". Dead! It's just not possible to separate obedience from faith.
It is true that without Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, obedience alone would not save any of us. But it's also true that simply believing Jesus is the Son of God doesn't save anyone either. Even Satan believes that.
So here's what I tell Christians often, "Please do not tell Jesus you love him, if you aren't serious about obedience, and heart-broken when you are not. Don't say it, don't sing it, don't claim it. Better to wait until it is the highest priority in your life, before you tell him you love him." Still doubtful?
When Jesus was told that his family was outside the meeting place where he was teaching he went out of his way to make it crystal clear that although he did have a biological family, "My mother and brothers are those who heard God's word and put it into practice." -Luke 8:21
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." -Revelations 3:14-16
So, when I confess my sin to God, but do little to change how I think, or behave whether I mean to or not, I'm telling Jesus, "I don't love or trust you enough to obey you". Are you doing the same?