Charles and I were having a great discussion when I asked him what would happen if a truck came around the bend at a high speed and accidentally struck and killed him? What would he say to God when the Lord asked him why He should let him into heaven? Charles said, “Well the operative answer would be that I believe in Jesus Christ and am sorry for my sins.”
Indeed, when most people give me that answer I assume they are Christians. In Charles case, he had lived a dangerous lifestyle as a gang member in Los Angeles. At a point when he was despairing of life, he heard loud music in a church and went inside. There he heard the gospel message and at the age of 22 prayed to receive Christ. Most people would label Charles a Christian as a result of that action.
But hold the bus. Now seventeen years later, Charles is still struggling to make sense of life. When I asked him about Jesus, he had no idea that God’s Son was sinless. Nor did he understand why He came to earth or what role He played in providing salvation. Charles knew the name Jesus but had no intimate relationship or understanding of the good Shepherd. The extent of his spiritual knowledge was basically a one-time event. He heard of the Shepherd, called his name and then left to continue wandering in other fields with other herds. So it was a great joy to fill him in on who Jesus really is, why He matters and what He wants to do in Charles life. Charles left Main Street with a challenge to start following the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 10:4,14--When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice . . . “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me.”
The danger with labels is that we assume about people what may be wholly absent of fact. Just because a person has prayed to receive Christ does not mean that person knows Christ. Perhaps one of the deepest flaws in Christianity is we have multitudes of people wandering the planet who classify themselves as Christians but who have no spiritual education, training, or understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Labels invite laziness. They spur prejudice and affix meaning that in fact may constitute identity theft.
Charles and I had a splendid time talking about the church and why it is important to be in fellowship with those who KNOW Jesus, whose belief is founded in daily living with the One whose unfailing love changes our lives, gives us hope and meaning in our journey on the road home. Charles heard about the importance of daily immersion in the Bible and what it means to pray. Hallelujah! God in His faithfulness brought to us a lost man to reveal the true nature and purpose of His Son. So, the next time I hear someone say he or she is a Christian, I may just ask, “Oh really, and what exactly does that mean!” Something to think about . . . in reveration!
Human nature is fond of labels, but a label may be the counterfeit of confession.—Oswald Chambers in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
©2006 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)