It's possible to call yourself a Christian and not be one.
It began as an ordinary day.
- Laundry done
- Went to the market
- Animals fed
- Chariots cleaned
- Assignments given
- Chores delegated
Malchus carefully went through his list as he did every morning. As the head servant of the high priest — Caiphus — he was intent on making his employer proud. But his ordinary morning routine was suddenly cut short by his boss.
"Malchus, be ready," Caiphus said. "You're going to lead the soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. We'll wait till it's pitch black. Around midnight."
Just Following Orders
Malchus quickly created a new list and in midnight darkness led an army to capture Jesus. They made their way into the Garden. Peter, James and John had been sleeping but quickly awakened to the sound of the soldiers' footsteps. Judas planted a kiss on Christ's face, and what followed next would be a nightmare that Malchus would never forget.
Peter instantly pulled a dagger from his belt and swung it wildly. Malchus was struck. It was sudden. It was precise. His ear completely off of his head. The pain. He'd never felt anything so excruciating. He placed his hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, but it was no use. The blood gushed from the side of his head, down his neck and onto his cloak.
So much pain.
He wobbled. Placing his hand on Someone's shoulder; he dropped to one knee.
As quickly as it happened ... in one fluid motion ... it changed. The One whose shoulder he grabbed looked him in the eyes with such love and kindness, it dissipated the hurt. And in one fluid motion, this Man placed the ear back on Malchus' head.
The pain gone.
The ear there.
The only indication there ever was a wound was the blood caked into his chest and his soiled garments.
The soldiers quickly pulled Jesus to His feet and shackled Him, leading Him away for three illegal trials and physical torture.
The next time Malchus saw Jesus, He was almost unrecognizable and hanging on a Cross.
Maybe you remember the above story found in Luke 22:49-51. It's actually mentioned in all four gospels. But it's only a brief mention. We don't get the full story, and we're left with the burning question, "What happened next?"
Did Malchus quit his job and join the group of growing Christians and help plant churches? Or did he simply continue living with no changes in his lifestyle or routine?
The frightening truth is this: We can be in the presence of Christ — we can experience His touch — we can even be healed by Him ... yet walk away and never know Him.
Churches are filled with people each week who stand in the presence of God, lift their hands in worship, enjoy fellowship with believers but don't know Him.
Christ himself said the way is extremely narrow. "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14, ESV).
Only a few find it?
Wouldn't it seem if we're on the road, we'd go through the gate? This is disturbing. Could it be that many people in churches each week really aren't even headed toward that narrow gate?
You may be familiar with another disturbing account in the Gospel of Matthew. The disciples are arguing about who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. James and John's mom (we'll call her Mrs. Zebedee) has already approached Jesus about the possibility of her two boys getting the spots of highest position. "Can James and John sit at Your right- and left-hand positions when You set up Your kingdom?" she asked.
The other disciples heard about it and were indignant. Not bothered. Indignant. So they argue amongst themselves. Jesus walks into the argument, pulls a little child onto His lap and says something a bit disturbing:
"Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven'" (Matthew 18:2-3, NKJV).
I want to say, "Jesus, have You forgotten to whom You're speaking? These are Your disciples. They've left everything to follow You. Of course they're going to heaven!"
And I can almost hear Jesus responding, "Quit concerning yourselves with who will be the greatest in the kingdom and start focusing on whether you'll even get in."
In John 14, Jesus begins to comfort the disciples. He knows His death is coming soon. He's prepping the 12. He tells them not to be troubled. He encourages them to experience His deep peace. He lets them know He'll return for them, and they'll be with Him. Thomas doesn't get it and tells Jesus they don't know the way to where He's going.
Jesus responds: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him" (John 14:6-7, ESV).
Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us" (John 14:8).
Listen closely to Christ's response: "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?" (John 14:9).
Is Jesus saying that even a disciple can walk with Him, duplicate His miracles, listen to His sermons, sit at His feet and yet not really know Him?
Maybe only a few will find that narrow gateway. What about you? Have you found it? Have you entered through it? Are you truly a Christian?
Let's go back to the disciples' argument for a second. Jesus told them they needed to be converted. That suggests change. Transformation. Renewal.
We can be in His presence, sing the songs, raise our hands, pray the prayers and even lead Bible studies. But unless we've allowed Him to truly convert, change, transform us ... perhaps we're not really a Christian.
Maybe you've heard a baby cry during church and noticed the mother give him a pacifier. For a while the baby is pleased, but before long he realizes he's not getting the good stuff. If he could talk, he'd say, "Mama's just messing with me. This isn't real!"
Could it be that many of us have become pacified with a very close substitute of Christ? We've become so happy with church, with praise and worship; so excited about small group and serving at a soup kitchen ... that we've duped ourselves into settling for something very good but something that's not an actual intimate, growing relationship with Jesus Christ?
What Is a Christian?
Unfortunately, many people assume that because they believe in God, they're Christians. But even Satan believes in God! Being a Christian is more than intellectual acknowledgement.
- It's recognizing that you are a sinner. (Romans 3:23)
- It's knowing that the price for sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
- It's believing that God loves you so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- It's repenting of your sins. (Acts 17:30)
Many people make it to this point and stop. To repent of your sins means to actually walk away from a sinful lifestyle. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that He forgave her and to sin no more. Often people call themselves Christians without ever walking away from their sinful lifestyle.
- It's asking God to forgive you of your sins and accepting His forgiveness. (Romans 3:24; 10:10; 10:13)
- It's allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your mind. (Romans 12:1)
Is That All?
After you've done this, you'll want to talk with your pastor about becoming baptized. You'll also want to read your Bible consistently and pray daily. Get involved in church. Join a Bible study with others who can assist and encourage you in your spiritual growth.
Christianity isn't rocket science. If you'll maintain intimacy with Christ on a daily basis, you'll find yourself growing closer to Him and becoming more like Him. And that's proof that you've been converted, that you're on the narrow road and walking through the narrow gate.
You have a choice: You can be sure you're actually following Christ and have been converted, or you can settle for simply being in His presence and enjoying the trimmings of Christianity.
If you're not a Christian and would like to give your heart to Christ, you can start by praying this prayer. It's not magic. You have to mean it:
I believe You are the Son of God and that You died for my sins. I don't deserve that gift, but I sure am grateful for it! Thank You so much! I admit I'm a sinner. But I'm repenting of my sins. I'm walking away from a sinful lifestyle, and I'm committing to live in obedience to You. Will You forgive me? I'm placing my faith in You. Thank You for wiping my slate clean and giving me a brand-new start. I give You my life, Jesus. I love You and want to become like You. Please mold me into Your likeness. Amen.
Christ came to restore. To heal. Not simply to an ear or a part of you, but to the whole of you. Let Him do it.
Copyright 2013 Susie Shellenberger. All rights reserved.