For evangelicals, ‘accepting Christ’ is at the heart of becoming a genuine Christian, and refers to acknowledging sin and declaring the need for Jesus Christ as savior . . . the expectation evangelicals have is of a radical change, a 180-degree turn from the life of sin to following Christ. — NYTimes
This defines the problem I have with evangelical Christianity. The above quote comes from an interview with James Dobson where he claims that Trump has recently accepted Christ and is a baby Christian.
Let’s look at the quote.
To an evangelical, accepting Christ means that you acknowledge that you sin and that you need Jesus to save you. The problem with this, as the Epistle of James explains, even “devils” know these facts. “Facts” is all they are. Knowing facts about Jesus and believing Jesus was who he said he was is nice, but it in no way makes one a follower of Jesus. In like manner, knowing facts about yourself (that you screw up) in no way makes you a follower of Jesus. Even being sorry that you screw up in no way makes you a follower of Jesus.
You actually have to follow Jesus to be a follower of Jesus. By the way, followers of Jesus screw up all the time.
In the early days of Christianity, when someone wanted to come into the community of Christians, they were taught what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. They were taught all the things that Jesus taught. They were told they’d need to love – even their enemies, to serve others, to give up their own desires for the desires of Christ, and to put the concerns of others before their own concerns. When they were ready to make a commitment to following the way of Jesus, knowing that they did not have the power within themselves, but that the Holy Spirit would indwell and empower them, then they were baptized into the community. This decision was often met with a hefty bit of persecution by outsiders who didn’t like this radical way of living. It was not an easy or trivial decision to make.
Evangelicals today treat becoming a Christian like believing in fairies. All you have to do is believe hard enough, be sorry enough, and voila you are a baby Christian. Part of this is because they translate scripture to say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” when the phrase is better translated “Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Believe has magic fairy dust sprinkled all over it – the term baby Christian kind of fits. Trust, however, connotes complete commitment to the person of Christ and the way of life that Jesus taught. It is an intentional informed adult decision (though children are capable of making it).
I don’t know what goes on in any of the political candidates’ spiritual lives. Nor do I care to judge Trump. But I know that no 180-degree turn is going to happen by mastering a set of facts. Jesus put it this way:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? . . . So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. — Jesus (Luk 14:28-33)
Jesus wants us to count the cost and then make a decision to follow him. And uh oh. That decision anticipates sacrificing everything. Is Trump willing to give up all his possessions? Am I?
How many of us really want to be followers of Jesus?
Check out April’s Books, Disorderly Bible Studies, for group and individual study.