You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!—James 2:19 (ESV)
According to a September study published by Pew Research Center, the number of Americans identifying as Christians has fallen from about 90 percent in the 1990s to 63 percent, particularly as young adults continually reject the faith of their parents. What surprises me, however, is not how few people profess to be Christ followers but how many. We live in a time of the great deception.
My bet is that if you were to establish biblical parameters of what it means to be a Christian, the number would be much lower than reflected in the Pew study. What I see happening—and maybe you do as well—is how the tag of “Christian” has gotten watered down to apply to anyone with a general belief in God. But the biblical definition is much more narrow.
Yet to all who did receive Him [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—John 1:12-13 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”—John 14:6 (NIV)
It’s not enough to believe in the existence of God. It’s not even enough to believe in the existence of Jesus. The demons themselves believe, but they refuse to bow before Him. They remain determined to defy Him despite assurances the end of the story is written and their fate is certain. Their eternal destiny is sealed within the fires of Hell.
Meanwhile, they delude the masses with complacency, lulling them to a listless spiritual slumber. But unless the masses awaken from their slumber on this side of eternity, they will be jarred into a horrible, unending reality from which no one can awaken.
Some people may say, “That’s not me. I prayed a prayer at a church service.” But prayers don’t save us. Jesus saves us. Unless we recognize our utter depravity and inability to earn our way to heaven—unless we recognize Jesus is who He says He is and can do what He says only He can do—our prayers avail nothing. We must come before Him broken, repentant and desperate, recognizing He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
When we do that, our hearts change. Our lives change. Our motivations change. Our priorities change. Our goals change. Our attitudes change.
If we haven’t experienced that change, it’s very possible we haven’t experienced salvation in Jesus. Do we rejoice over the things that bring Him joy? Do our hearts break over the things that break His? A tree is known by its fruit.
I can tell you this with certainty: If 63 percent of Americans truly had experienced salvation in Christ, this country would not be a hotbed of division, violence, addiction, perversion, deceit and confusion. May God’s light shine in the darkness and the darkness not overcome it.