Just yesterday, I was listening to an evangelist named Paul Washer as I was doing some work. He is a man from the South with a heart for Christ and His message on YouTube has now been sent to me by numerous people meaning that it was time for me to finally listen to it in its entirety. This particular video has had an astronomical amount of viewers and it's clear why, this guy, with all his heart aims to teach the gospel of Jesus and nothing else. There is no fluff, no "Sports Center" style humor, no Seminarian structure, no watering down of what Jesus said, and no compromising of God's word. Sure there were some things that were tough to hear, offensive to the follower and non-follower of Christ who haven't died to their "self" for His sake, and even downright scary, but I could not help but be influenced by the truth being spoken through the mouth of this man by the Spirit of God to an approximate crowd of 5,000 teenagers.
The message was based on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7:15-23 which says,
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
As I considered these words, I couldn't help but line them up to today's passage in Psalm 37 and what God has in store for those considered to be evil in His sight (not mine or yours). So often as American Christian's we believe that saying the "Jesus prayer" is enough to get us "in", that showing up on Sunday means being a "church member", and that if we give ten percent we've pretty much punched our ticket to paradise (in the NT there is no call that you must give 10%, it was mosaic law, and there was also no paid "clergy" in the early church). Yet the passage above says that unless "good fruit" is being produced in us, like all "bad fruit" we will be thrown into the fire. Scary thought, but if you've ever wondered if you're "saved", you only need to look at the "good fruit" being produced in your life. If what you or others see is "bad fruit" according to Scripture, you can consider yourself the "transgressor" in the Psalm above. This isn't meant to scare you, it's mean to remind you that just saying something isn't enough, and just doing the Christian thing isn't enough, what's enough is getting over yourself enough to let the Spirit work in you, producing the very fruit that Christ himself produced when we walked in Berkenstock's (right?) 2000 years ago.
Unfortunately, as humans, we've made being a Christian so much more difficult than God ever intended it to be. Heck, according to His word, we don't even see Jesus telling people to go make "Christians" of all the nations in the sense that we use the word "Christian" today (this does not mean I believe that being anything other than a disciple of Christ in which He is our Savior, King and Lord is enough to not be thrown into the fire according to Scripture). Even worse, is we've begun worshiping teachers as if they're closer to God than we are, we've created a hierarchy within the body, and we pick and choose who we love based on their agreement of how we believe Scripture should be interpreted. Because we have held on so tightly to being Christian, it's difficult to see Christ in much of what us "Christians" are doing anymore unless it's a big sticker on our car, a fish symbol on our business card or speaking Christianese at a Starbucks with somebody else who loves how great their messages are at "church" and don't live out the gospel in which they have the ability as a "royal priest" to share.
The more I contemplate and compare the message of Jesus in Matthew 7 and today's Psalm, I can't help but think that many "Christians" have continued to strive in their lives (guilty), aiming to complete their "Christian" check list and have never really walked WITH Christ. They have chosen to keep the goals of this life and try adding Jesus into that mix all while wondering how a life in Christ could be so uncomfortable. (Ironically, according to George Barna 65-70% of Americans call themselves evangelical Christians. If that was true, wouldn't the "fruit" look much different here?). Maybe the lack of comfort comes from your own will, refusing to lay down so that the Spirit of God may have all of you? Just a thought.
Like God's word says, a life without Christ is a life leading to eternal destruction and though we can become a "better Adam" here on Earth when we, in our own power, do some things like Jesus, we never become the new creation that produces the "good fruit" that reminds us of our salvation if we don't let the Spirit of God have full authority in our few years on Earth. If only we would believe that God through Christ wants to make us into the loving creatures He created us to be, we could truly be born again (emptied out) and made to be the hands, feet, mouth, ears, and heart of Christ that he intended when He called the church His body.
If you are creating a Jesus that makes you comfortable, that makes you want to make yourself a better person, and that gives you an insurance policy in case the Bible is right, then you are missing out on the true Jesus who gives an abundant life. Jesus never wants you to have the job of making yourself a Christian, what he wants is His permission to change you by His Spirit as you come to the end of your "self". The book of Hebrews states that, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. "(Heb 1:3). According to God's word, this very Jesus, the one who is the exact representation of God's being, the one who came to forgive sins, and the one who has left His Spirit to lead and change us, is the only person or thing that gives this life meaning because He is the one who created life in the first place.
If you are striving to be like Jesus, to be a better Christian, to pride in being a "member" of a hip building because you consider that community or to be anything other than a new creation in Him in which "good fruit" is produced you are missing out. By Jesus alone, who is the head of the Church are you considered a "royal priest" (1 Pet. 2) and nobody can take that away. This being a "royal priest" however, by no means, gives you permission to do your "own" thing skipping out on living a life in Christ with other members of the body regardless of the building or day of the week. Even Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us against that very notion to go it alone when it states, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." If you are a new creation in Christ we are a family that will never taste destruction as nothing can separate us from Him."
As followers of Christ, a new creation, we need not worry about death and destruction because it has been defeated for those who are producing "good fruit". We need not concern ourselves with hierarchy because we are all a "royal priesthood", we need not worry about where we'll live, what we'll eat, or our health because Jesus calls us to total abandonment of self in order to completely trust in Him. Stop the striving, stop the trying, stop trying to be "relevant" and just follow Christ. It is the only thing that guarantees a life worth living, it is the only commitment that reconciles you to the one true God, and it is the only thing that promises an eternal life in the Kingdom of God in which your 401k cannot be destroyed, your investments never go away, and perfect Love surrounds all those who accept it.