Introduction - Boy, are we all different! The world is colored by a vast array of personalities, opinions, and interests. Aren't we glad we are not all the same--dull...
Choose Your Plan
A trip to the phone store can be a daunting experience. So many plans. So many options and tracks you can take, depending upon what you want to spend and the benefits of spending it.
Some Bible teachers present Christianity that way. You can choose Plan A-- Regular Christian, or Plan B--Disciple of Christ. Some teach that you can be a Christian without being a disciple. Is this what Jesus taught? Does the Bible present two options for those who would call themselves Christians?
Consider the ramifications. With Plan A, you simply believe, ask Jesus into your heart, and then go about your regular life with only a few minor adjustments, like some church attendance or cleaning up your language. Just enough to look Christian. With this plan you get pardon from the Father, Jesus as your friend, and the Holy Spirit as your Comforter. On top of that you can look forward to eternal life in heaven. Ignoring Romans 6 won't be difficult because you don't really need to read the Bible anyway. Bible Verse snippets texted from Plan B Christians to your phone is all the spiritual food you really need. You can continue like this your entire life, and expect heaven as your reward for simply believing.
Plan B, discipleship, offers all the benefits of Plan A, however it requires that you go through a sometimes painful new birth process that will result in dying to your sin, enduring hardship, expecting suffering, practicing self-denial, and loving Jesus more than anything else. Your chief desire will be holiness, which means you follow Jesus even when it hurts. In addition to heaven, you are promised some ambiguous rewards that you hang on to for a few minutes before casting them at Jesus' feet, and then everyone is even. Heaven is presented as an equal opportunity destination.
Now, who in their right mind would choose Plan B?
Did Jesus present it that way? In Acts 11:26, the two plans combine. It says, "The disciples were first called Christians." They were called "little Christs" as a form of ridicule. The word Christian originated as a taunt from unbelievers as a way to mock followers of Christ who were trying to live like Jesus. But since then, we have so misconstrued the term that it has lost original meaning. In our world, Christian no longer means "little Christs." It often stands for religious bigoted hypocrites who hide their secret sins while loudly decrying the open ones of others. Or it implies Bible-tainted worldliness. Neither fits the original definition. Nor is either offered by God as an option for those who would inherit eternal life.
We can isolate a few verses that say all we need to do is "believe." But if we take the whole counsel of God, all Jesus' words in their entirety, and consider what it takes to gain eternal life, the message seems clear. It is the same answer Jesus gave the rich young ruler: "Sell all you have and come follow me." The pious young lawyer already believed, but he wasn't willing to be a disciple. At no point did Jesus offer him Plan A.
The young man went away sad. (Mark 10:21-22)
I think that says it all.