Fully Devoted Followers; or Born Again Family; A Caution against Substitute Christianity


 Without intending to cast disparagement on anyone, there is a popular phrase that is often used in “trending Christianity” that needs to be put to the test of Biblical Christianity.  As the old quaker soldier said once on the battle field, “Dear sir, I wouldn’t harm thee for the world, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot.”  In one variation or another, the phrase or something like it pops up in purpose statements, creeds, and other declarations of faith and ministry intentions.  It will say something like this, “Our purpose is to help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ,” or some other arrangement of those thoughts.  Now while that sounds chic, authentic, organic, relevant, emergent, modern, cool, phat, withit, groovy, truth-o-centric, atmospheric, volcanic and allogenic . . . it may fall short of the work of the gospel.

The fact is that someone can be a “fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ” and still be as lost as a fruit fly in a snow storm.   As we understand the scriptures, devoted followers are not the same as converted sinners.  No doubt there are those who say it is just a matter of terminology, but terminology affects understanding, and when someone misunderstands the truth, they eventually wind up believing a lie. 

Biblically speaking, becoming one of Christ’s followers never saved a soul; being born as one of Christ’s family members never failed to save a soul.  That’s why Jesus said, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  The New Belief that brings a New Birth must precede a New Behavior.   Following Jesus without being in the Family of Jesus makes a man no better than Judas, and no different from those “disciples” who walked with Christ no more once He began preaching of the partaking of His sacrifice.  “Committment” is not the same as “Conversion;” “Reverence” is not the same as “Repentance.”  Getting people to bow their head and obey the “teachings” of Christ is not the same as someone who will bow their knee and become a new creature in Christ.   Until there is a transformation in a man’s spiritual DNA, and his spirit is made alive, following the teachings of Christ do him as much good as a flashlight does to a blind man.

The truth is that we cannot make disciples out of lost people, we can only make disciples out of saved people.   Teaching someone to be a follower of Christ before they are in the Family of Christ might make ministries feel better in the moment, but the reality is that people wind up living a substitute Christianity.  Adrian Rogers once pointed out the difference in “committment/devotion” and “surrender.”  Someone who is devoted, or committed is still in charge the decisions that they make in their life.  In other words it is their decision to agree with God’s command and then they do it.  When someone is surrendered to the Lord, they are no longer in charge of their life, and obedience is not a decision, it is in their spiritual DNA being compelled and led by the Lord. 

As William Booth so famously said, “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” 

Now all of that being said, there is something to be said about being a “follower” of Jesus Christ. – All who are in the Family ought to Follow!  Every born again believer should be a full-fledged follower.  One can be a follower who is not in the family, but there should never be one in the Family who is not a follower.  There is an eternal danger in getting the cart before the horse, or better yet, discipleship before conversion.   

We understand that we are commanded to “make disciples”, but disciples can only be made out of  saved men.  Discipleship is not the same as conversion, and confusing the two is not a change worth making.

2 comments on “Fully Devoted Followers; or Born Again Family; A Caution against Substitute Christianity

  1. Dawn R. says:

    Bro. Jeff,
    I appreciate & agree with this post, but I have a couple of questions. By saying that our new spiritual DNA includes happy obedience, does this mean obedience will never be “hard” for us or require sacrifice? I know that God gives us a new nature at salvation, but there are times when obedience is difficult for me & I don’t necessarily “feel” like doing what is right….but I do because I want to obey God’s word. Please understand I’m not being argumentative but am honestly asking to get a better understanding. I have a Calvinist friend (btw I love your teachings on Calvinism & couldn’t agree more) who believes that “total depravity” means we have no ability to obey even after salvation & if it requires any effort on our part then we must not really be saved and have a new nature…..

    Also, can you give me some insight on how to avoid getting discipleship before conversion when it comes to children? As a Christian it is impossible to not raise your children in church (nor would you not want to), but how do you do that without showing them grace before law (instead of law before grace to show them their sinfulness & drive them to the Savior)? My children (4&5) already talk about Jesus dying on the cross all the time from SS lessons & Bible study we do at home. How do we start at “square one” once they reach the age of accountability when they already will know what living out the Christian life should look like after salvation?

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    • Dawn,
      Thank you for reading the blog. My apologies for the lateness of response. As a Pastor, there are many seasons when this blog winds up at the bottom of the list, and is why for the last several months, writing new articles has been placed aside.
      That being said, the fact is that “happy obedience” is often “hard obedience” when we are trying to obey God with the power and strength of our flesh. (Old nature.) The only real way that you and I can have a “happy obedience” is by surrender, rather than through strength. Sometimes our problem is not that the “Spirit is willing and the flesh weak” the problem is that sometimes the “Spirit is willing but the flesh is too strong.” One way to tell if we are obeying in the strength of our flesh, or in surrender to the Spirit, is the measure of internal difficulty. The “hard” part is the giving in to the Lord’s known will, which means letting go of our personal desires.
      As far as your children go, always be “discipling them” regardless of their age. “Square One” comes when the Spirit of God will convict them of their sin, and enlighten them of their need to be saved. Always be teaching them the things of God’s Word, and the need to trust Jesus and obey God’s Word. The Spirit of God will use the Word of God to do the Work of God in their lives. Give them the Word, but let God move in their spirit.

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