Here is a nice question from a podcast/radio listener named J. P. that illustrates the importance of clear thinking in evangelism:
I try to talk to my pastor about John’s Gospel. It says that we are to believe in Jesus for eternal life. But he says salvation takes more than just believing. He says we must take the whole Bible in context, not just John. His example was Luke 14:26-35, which he believes shows that more than just believing is needed.… Can you talk a little about this please? Love you guys’ program. I try not to miss an episode. God bless you!
J. P. does not say what type of church this is. But it does not matter. We hear this same type of report from nearly every type of church, including even Bible churches, community churches, non-denominational churches, independent Baptist churches, Southern Baptist churches, and so on.
Luke 14:26-35 is a discipleship passage. There the Lord says that in order to be His disciples, we must put Him first in our lives. Note the words in italics. The issue in Luke 14 is what we must do to follow Christ, not what we must do to be born again.
Sadly, many in Christianity today merge discipleship and salvation truth. J. P.’s pastor surely means well. But by merging the condition for following Christ with the condition for being born again, he has inadvertently distorted the saving message (Gal 1:6-9). Instead of “whoever believes in Him will not perish, but has everlasting life” (John 3:16), the condition is “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). You do not have to be a theologian to see that those are quite different conditions.
Maybe an illustration will help clarify this. What is the condition for being a member of the Libertarian Party? You must believe in the principles for which it stands. But what does it take to be a disciple of the Libertarian Party? More than belief is required. You must read Libertarian publications, attend Libertarian rallies, and promote the Libertarian agenda. If you join the Libertarian Party, you can rightly say that you are a Libertarian. But only if you give yourself to learning and applying the Libertarian way will you be a disciple. (This illustration fails slightly since it takes more than belief to join a political party. You must also fill out and sign a registration card. But if political parties were like God, then once we believed, they would know, and we’d be instantly registered.)
A few years ago, I joined an organization. I believed in what they stood for. But they wanted more than that. They wanted my devotion. I started getting emails every day from them. They wanted me to stay abreast of all the issues. And they wanted a response each time. Would I sign a petition? Would I give a donation? Would I call my senators? I was happy to be a member, but I did not want to devote myself to their cause.
How about you? Are you a member of the Body of Christ? You are if you have believed in Him for everlasting life. But are you a follower of Christ? You are if you put Him first in your life.
May J. P.’s tribe increase. May we all be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).