I live in the mid-west. In the middle of the mid-west to be exact. Right, smack-dab in the middle of the Bible-belt.
I grew up believing that everyone I knew, and most of the people I didn't know, were Christians. I believed that I didn't really need to tell the people around me about Jesus because everyone already knew who he was.
What I didn't realize was that not everyone who knew whom Jesus was, was a Christian. Knowing about Jesus doesn't make you a Christian, following Jesus does. Don't for a second get those two confused. I spent the majority of my life making that mistake.
I knew who Jesus was, I even knew what he did for me, and I was thankful for it. But I didn't follow him. I didn't live my life like he would. I didn't listen to his commands, do what he asked of me or even treat him like a friend. I certainly knew who Jesus was, but was I Christian? I honestly don't know. I believed I was. I would have told you I was. But there was very little evidence of that in my life.
One of my very favorite Bible verses is Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." I had confessed with my mouth and I believed with my heart, but was that enough? To tell you the truth I still don't honestly know the answer to that. I believe that scripture with my whole heart and soul.
But I also know that we are called to more than that. Jesus says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say?" and he criticizes people for listening to his word and not obeying them. That was ME!!! Too often, it still is me!
There are still so many things I don't know, so many answers I don't have. But this is what I do know. Being a Christian is not an adjective, it is a verb. It is not a label, it is an action. It is nothing something you say you are, it is something you do. And it takes work. A lot of work. If being a Christian isn't hard for you sometimes, than you're not doing it right. (that sounds a little harsh, please read that gently)
The great thing about seminary is I am reading books I never would have read on my own. Ignatius Loyola is a 16th century Catholic leader who founded the Jesuit order. Left to my own devices, I don't usually do a lot of 16th century or Catholic reading, but I had to read him for class and I really enjoyed what he had to say. Loyola states that "willful acts of conversing with God require greater reverence then merely understanding." Understanding who Jesus is, what he did, and what the Bible says about him is not enough. In order to converse with God, to talk to him, and have a relationship with him, requires more than knowledge of him. It takes reverence, and discipline. Loyola goes on to say something along the lines of, you must exercise your spirit as you exercise your physical self.
To get physically stronger, you have to work out, it takes a time commitment. To get intellectually stronger, you have to study, that too takes a time commitment. To get spiritually stronger, you have to do the work, and it takes a time commitment.
To be a Christian takes action, it means doing, it means listening and obeying. And it takes time, it means putting other things aside and spending that time with God.
So are you someone simply someone who knows whom Jesus is, or are you a Christian?