My friend, Wayne, had a very insightful comment after hearing our interview Tuesday night. “Our brothers in that part of Christendom focus on the teachings of Jesus whereas evangelicals focus on the substitutionary atonement. Granted, in our circles, discipleship … apprenticeship to Jesus … sanctification … is supposed to be the process of becoming like Jesus (or, if you will, focusing on obedience to His teaching). I fear, however, that there is a huge disconnect because we make such a big issue of ‘getting saved’ as a transaction assuring heaven that sanctification (in most evangelical circles) simply translates into being a good American and adding on prayer, Bible reading and church attendance.”
Wayne’s comment deserves a good deal of thought. I agree, that as evangelicals in America we focus so much on salvation that we skirt over what happens after that — what it means to be a disciple of Christ. There are more than likely many Muslims who know more about the teachings of Jesus than we do. It’s as if once we get saved that’s the end of it. Like Wayne said: go to church, read your Bible once in a while, pray when you’re in trouble … that’s about it for discipleship in America.
Did Jesus tell us to go into all the world and make converts? Get as many people as possible to accept Jesus as their personal savior? What is that anyway? “Accepting Jesus as your own personal savior” is nowhere in the Bible! As if you could have your own personal Jesus. That doesn’t sound like a person who makes any demands on my life. That sounds like God in my back pocket. Want to see my own personal Jesus? Here, I think I might have a selfie of him in my phone.
No, Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples, “Teaching them everything I have taught you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Everything He taught His disciples in three years of walking and talking together? Do you know that? I don’t, and that’s supposed to be my job. So, how are we doing on the Great Commission? Not to too well, I would venture to say. I doubt there are many Christians who can tell much, if anything, about what is in the Sermon on the Mount, much less the rest of the teachings of Jesus in the gospels.
Not that the teachings of Jesus will save you, but once you are saved, don’t you think you would want to know and follow everything Jesus actually said? Don’t you think that would be the most precious thing you own — the thing you know better than anything else? Jesus makes it pretty clear that a disciple of His is one who knows and follows everything that He taught His disciples. I don’t think you can do that in a seminar, a booklet, or a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. More like a lifetime of walking and talking and pouring over the words of Jesus — what Tony Campolo calls Red Letter Christians (red letters being the print versions of the Bible that have all of the words that Jesus spoke printed in red).
This is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we’re talking about. The one through whom all things were created in whom all things exist. He’s so much more than our personal savior. Hear Him and follow.