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Q. If most Americans are Christians how come they don't act like it? (M.A.)
Good question! Let's take a look…
Barna research states that 80% of Americans claim to be Christians. Yet, Pastor John MacArthur makes the point that the best mission field is right inside our churches.
I tend to agree with MacArthur.
We have found that many people who say they are Christian in churches are really not. In fact, some state that they believe Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead. But, after a period of strong doctrinal teaching they discover that they really didn't believe this core salvation message at all (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
I never knew you…
This is confirmed in Scripture. Luke 13:23-30 presents an interesting picture:
"And someone said to him, 'Lord, will those who are saved be few?' And he said to them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-24, ESV).
"When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'" (13:25-27).
Hell may be seeing You in Heaven!
Then in one of the most tantalizing passages we never talk about, Jesus warns:
"In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all of the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out" (13:28).
In other words, part of the torment of hell may be seeing you or me in heaven! Ouch…
Unbelievers Masquerading as Believers
There are many people attending church week after week who really don't believe that Jesus is God in human flesh. They don't believe Jesus is the Son of God, either. Or they don't believe that Jesus was born from a virgin. Neither do they believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead or that He holds the key to eternal life.
Some believe that church membership gets them into heaven. Or they think that being baptized as an infant gives them a ticket to heaven. Many of these will be shocked when they discover too late that they were not believers at all.
Gospel in a Nutshell:
As a result, all Christians should know 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4 for memory because it clearly defines the saving gospel. A saved Christian believes that Christ died for their sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (according to Old Testament prophecies). This is the "bare bones" of a saving belief in the redemptive work and lordship of Jesus Christ.
Church Growth - Blasphemy!
This is one reason why we believe that churches need to quit focusing on shallow church growth - on numbers - and begin to disciple their members, instead.
Home Bible Studies
One of the keys to making sure church members are "saved" is to emphasize home bible studies and fellowship. This provides an atmosphere of accountability to one another and quickly brings to light those who are really not believers. Then we can minister to one another and teach sound doctrine. Then we can provide literature and teachings on evidences for our faith. This is what truly causes dynamic growth of the fellowship.
Art Credit: Bible Study photo available from nashvilledreamcenter.com.
Authors Ken Emilio holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. Valorie received the MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins.
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