Witnessing for Christ in Hostile Territory 1 Corinthians 11:1 and Matthew 10:16 By Dr. David…
Christianity Is Not an Addendum
By T. A. McMahon
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” — Galatians 2:20
What’s an addendum? According to most dictionaries it’s a supplement or addition to something. So, the question for all of us who call ourselves Christians is: “Is our Christianity just an addition or supplement to our lives?” If that’s the case, we’re not reflecting what Christianity is all about. Galatians 2:20 spells out very clearly what a biblical Christian is. It’s a person who lives his life fully according to the teachings of the Word of God. It’s not a buffet in which you pick and choose only the items that appeal to you.
Consider some of the points the verse makes. Let’s start with “I am crucified with Christ.” Being “crucified” has to do with death. Crucifixion and death are not supplements or additions to one’s life. “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” Obviously, the verse isn’t talking about physical death, although that may take place, but more specifically it has to do with the sense of dying to sin and self: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24). Furthermore, the verse declares, “nevertheless I live; yet not I” (Galatians 2:20). If I live, but it’s not I, who is it? It’s the One with whom I’ve been crucified — Jesus! He lives in me (Colossians 1:27) “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). My life as a believer is therefore to be in obedience to “the faith,” the Word of God (“If a man love Me, he will keep My words…” John 14:23), and faith in Jesus our Savior “who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
Biblical repentance, meaning turning to Jesus for salvation, isn’t a matter of “testing the waters” to see if it’s agreeable to you. Nor is it an emotional response to something that sounds or feels good. Certainly, one’s emotions may be involved, but they cannot be the basis for the commitment that must take place. What sort of commitment? Merely all of one’s life — both temporal and eternal!
Commitments (or lack thereof) are rather diverse in our day and age, especially in the religious arena. Reciting the Shahadah three times qualifies one to become a Muslim. Sincerity isn’t a major factor, because it’s most often superseded by fear of being killed if one refuses to convert. The action of leaving the faith by converting to Christianity is also threatened at the cost of losing one’s life. Those who decide to convert to and commit themselves to becoming biblical Christians are more than aware of the cost they may suffer. Therefore, their commitment is without reservation.
Nearly all Roman Catholics and Mormons have become followers of their respective religions by being born into it. Choosing to leave their religions commonly involves being shunned by family members, friends, spouses, and children, especially among Mormons. Whereas the consequence is not as severe as it is with Islam, there is still a cost to consider when making a commitment to converting to biblical Christianity: the relationship with one’s immediate or extended family members may come to an end.
Sadly, where there is little or no persecution or opposition against Christians, many of the conversions fall into the “easy believism” category. Although that topic has been the subject of much debate with conflicting views, here is how I’m using it. Easy believism entails a lack of understanding of the biblical gospel, or the presentation of, and acceptance of, a false gospel. This has taken place among hundreds of thousands in Africa being led by Word of Faith and Positive Confession evangelists, and I have personally witnessed hundreds going forth to receive salvation in a large church in the Midwest. In the videos of the former, and in my observation of the latter, the biblical gospel was neither explained, nor were the simple verses (that a child could understand!) from scripture, given so that a person might believe and accept.
A false gospel can only lead to a commitment not sustained by biblical truth, therefore producing a Christian in name only.
What then of those who hear, believe, and receive the true gospel of salvation (i.e., they are born again, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and have received the gift of eternal life) yet his or her life in Christ is more of an addendum than a life that is fully committed to Jesus? To the degree that such a person is not wholly living out his life in Christ, he is missing out on much of what Jesus came to provide for him. As John 10:10 tells us, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” That includes the obvious blessings, but also the grace to deal with all the difficulties of our temporal life, and so much more.
Grace doesn’t stop at the day we were saved (without which our being saved would be impossible — Ephesians 2:8-10), but must be central to our walk with Jesus: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). Again, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” The only means by which we can walk with Jesus is through His grace. Colossians 3:1-3 spells out our instructions even more clearly: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
If our thinking or our walk with Jesus falls short of what those verses command (i.e., command, not suggest!), perhaps a few more verses will help increase our understanding: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2).
Here we have an important criterion in our walk with our Lord: “to please God.” That shouldn’t be a difficult evaluation. Are my decisions of everyday life glorifying to my Lord and Savior? That may seem a little over the top to many Christians, but is it really? I’ll leave that answer up to the reader of this article after he or she considers some of the daily decisions one makes that would not “please God.”
Another issue we need to consider in everyday life has to do with the things we are attracted to and things we desire or are enticed by. Scripture tells us where our focus needs to be: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:2-4).
Most people have heard the saying, usually intended as a putdown, “You’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good!” Hopefully, no believer gives that statement a second thought. The above verse dismisses that ignorance with haste, including reminding us that in “Christ, who is our life…” we are to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Sometimes as we read through the Scriptures we may miss the gist of what we’re being told. In other words, we don’t understand the application as it applies to much of our lives. For example, there’s John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I pray that should the opportunity arise for me to sacrifice my life for another person, by the grace and enablement of the Holy Spirit I could lay down my life for others.
But what of those situations that are far less dramatic; i.e., in those times when self doesn’t take to heart what the Word of God commands. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
The thought of sacrificing my life, as I said, is something I believe I could do. What makes me think so? Obviously, that isn’t something you can practice. However, there is a daily conflict that I’m in that may well encourage such a belief. It’s the recognition of what God’s Word says about my own heart, which is in a battle: “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” To the degree that I’m winning those skirmishes against my own self-interests, my confidence increases that I might be willing to put my life on the line for Jesus. However, if I have accustomed myself to dismiss the sins that I consider “no biggies,” they will hasten the process we learn of in Revelation 2:4, the slipping away from one’s love for Jesus.
But that raises a related question: Do I get more “heavenly rewards” for martyrdom than for performing acts of kindness, putting others first, doing “the [little?] things that are Jesus Christ’s,” and so forth? I don’t find that kind of reward-accounting in Scripture.
What then of my sins, especially those that in my own mind seem to be minor or insignificant ones? As a former Roman Catholic, I used to think in terms of mortal and venial sins. According to Catholicism, mortal sins damn one to hell if they are not confessed and absolved by a priest prior to one’s death. Venial sins, we were told, are the lesser of the two types of sin; it was taught they could be expiated in purgatory for however long that might take, and then we move on to heaven. Those unbiblical beliefs hung with me for some time after I was saved, at least to the degree that I continued to view some of my sins as not as offensive to Jesus as are others. I eventually came to a clearer understanding that “the wages of [any and all] sin is death,” and that death is not necessarily physical death but rather a separation that adversely affects my personal relationship with Jesus. He paid the full penalty for my sins and He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). Yet my sins will cause me to slip or drift away from Him, and the so-called little ones have a way of accumulating and increasing that slippage. That concern seems to be indicated in Revelation 2:4 and Hebrews 2:1: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” That can happen to any believer at any time and it will produce destructive consequences. The Hebrews 2:1 antidote to that condition is our giving “more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.” What then have we heard?
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” – (Matthew 16:24-25).
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:38-39).
Those verses among dozens and dozens of others describe what biblical Christianity is all about. All believers who do not take to heart to do all the things those verses command are, at the very least, depriving themselves of much of what Jesus came to provide for them.
Furthermore, and most significantly, they are seriously hampering their growth in fulfilling the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” – (Luke 10:27).
All thy heart, all thy soul, all thy strength, all thy mind! Again, an addendum has no place in the life of a biblical Christian.