Published: November 13, 2009 09:22 am
Misty Shultz: Saying you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are one
Evangelism is not my spiritual gift, and sharing the gospel has never come naturally.
In fact I’ve done such a terrible job of leading people through the prayer of repentance that I’ve actually wondered if I jeopardized their salvation.
You might laugh, but I’m serious.
I have really had to learn how to share the gospel, and I’ve had to learn when to share the gospel.
Just so there is no confusion, I’m not just talking about determining the most opportune time to tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus.
Thankfully, I knew that sharing the gospel with the gal in the bathroom stall next to me probably wouldn’t be very profitable, although I could be surprised.
I’m talking about learning when sharing the gospel is necessary.
For years, I assumed that if people said they were Christian, they knew Jesus.
With this confidence, I would just shoot up a little prayer of thanks, take them at their word and go on with my day.
Boy, was I naïve!
I had no idea that many of these people were simply applying a common religious label to themselves because they either wanted to believe they were Christian, or they didn’t want to answer additional questions.
Now I’m aware that the words of a prayer never guarantee salvation.
Words can just be words, and salvation is always a matter of the heart.
Unfortunately, many people have prayed a prayer during an emotional moment but failed to enter into a relationship with Jesus because they did not fully embrace what they were praying.
I run into this devastating truth almost every single day.
I work for a ministry that strives to share the gospel with each of its clients.
When people walk through our door, they know we are a Christian organization, and they choose to visit us under this premise.
Although we never, ever push anyone into discussion about spiritual issues, we do ask if they have a religious preference and if they attend church.
I would estimate that about 70 percent of the people who visit our ministry list “Christian” as their religious preference, and about 10 percent attend church on a semiregular basis.
For those who claim Christianity, we ask when they became a Christian and what being a Christian means to them.
Most say they believe in God. Some say Christianity equals being a good person. Others tell you they aren’t sure what being a Christian means.
My point is this: A whole lot of folks out there falsely believe they are Christians, or they claim Christianity simply because certain family members are Christians, they attended a Christian church a few times, or they believe there is a God.
This breaks my heart because these precious people are missing the boat in a very big way — a way that could cost them their eternal future.
You see, simply saying a prayer or believing in God does not guarantee salvation.
When Thomas asked Jesus how he could know the way, Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6, NKJV)
And later, after Jesus had been crucified and resurrected, Jesus’ beloved apostle John explained, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:11-13, NKJV)
Do you see how important Jesus is in the concept of Christianity?
We cannot simply attend a Christian church or have Christian parents and make it into heaven. There is much more to the equation.
Sadly, many wonderful people spend their entire lives without this awareness.
We hear them refer to themselves as Christians and assume they have a relationship with Jesus.
So, out of laziness, fear, discomfort, time constraints or a whole list of other reasons, we fail to find out what they really believe. And, when we fail to do this, we fail them.
Their parents’ faith can’t get them into heaven. Their church attendance can’t get them into heaven. Their empty prayer can’t get them into heaven.
They must truly know and truly understand that Jesus is absolutely, without a doubt, the only way to have eternal life with God.
Anyone who professes Christianity but believes there is another way to God is completely disillusioned.
In a world that tells us all religions serve the same God, and we can spend eternity with him just by believing he exists, Christians have our work cut out for us.
We can’t assume that because someone said a prayer or was baptized as a child, they know Jesus. They might know him, but what if they don‘t?
We must delve deeper, we must ask the tough questions, and we must find out if they know that being a Christian means being a “little Christ”
And the only way to be a little Christ is to first know him as our Lord and Savior.
Misty Shultz holds master’s degrees in marriage and family counseling and Christian education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.