There is a glaring flaw in the way that so many Christians understand what it means to be a Christian (a follower of Christ). To get right to the point, here’s the flaw as I see it: It is the notion that to get someone saved, all that is required is for someone to say a prayer and “really mean it in their heart.” They may even sign a “spiritual birth certificate” so that they can look on that piece of paper for assurance whenever they have times in their life when they doubt their standing with Jesus. After the initial prayer, they can stray away from church, they can have no craving to read God’s Word, they can hardly spend any time in prayer and rarely, if ever, share their faith. As long as they’ve “said the prayer,” they’re OK … at least that’s how many American Christians think.

But, this isn’t true biblical Christianity. It’s not even close. Let me show you why it’s not:

In Matthew 7, we have the classic text where Jesus encouraged His listeners to be sure that they knew they were headed to Heaven. Listen to Him speak:

“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).

Now, if those instructions were in a vacuum, if Jesus had said nothing further to qualify His statement, maybe there would be room for various interpretations of what it actually means to be saved. But, He didn’t stop there. He continued…

In the next verses (Matthew 7:15-20), Jesus encouraged His listeners to watch out for false prophets. These are folks who are not headed for Heaven and will strive to keep others from going as well.

The question arises: “How can we know if someone is a false prophet? How can we know whether they are true followers of Christ or not?” Do we ask if they’ve said a prayer? Of course not. Twice, Jesus made it clear how we could determine someone’s allegiance to Him. Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16, 20). In short, Jesus said that you can know whether a “spokesman for God” is saved or lost based upon how they act (not whether or not they’ve said a prayer.)

Let’s continue…

In the next verses (Matthew 7:21-23), Jesus warns about the approaching Day of Judgment. The concern is that there are those who think they are headed for Heaven who, to their shock, will hear Him say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

The question arises: “How can we know whether we will hear Him say ‘Well done!’ or ‘Depart from me’? How can we know whether we are headed for Hell or Heaven? Is it based upon whether we’ve said a prayer and really meant it in our hearts or is there another tell-tell sign?” Jesus answers that question in the text: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). (underline mine)

Did you catch that? It’s not based upon words said but actions performed. Not whether we’ve said, “Lord, Lord” but whether we’ve done what God desires.

Let’s continue…

In the next verses (Matthew 7:24-27), Jesus tells the story about the wise man who built upon the rock and the foolish man who built upon the sand. I believe this passages is often misinterpreted. Some believe it is talking about whether or not people can weather the storms of life. That’s not at all the point that Jesus was making.

If we simply look at the context, we realize that Jesus has been stating that true followers of Christ are identified by what they do. It is their actions that give testimony to their true spiritual condition and their eternal destination.

In Matthew 7:24-27, the storm represents the Day of Judgment. It represents the Day on which each individual will hear whether the life he has lived will survive (eternal life in Heaven) or whether it will be destroyed (Hell).

The question arises: “How can we know whether we are wise or foolish … whether we are building on the rock or sand … whether we are headed for Heaven or Hell?” The answer is found in Matthew 7:24 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Listen to what Jesus said about the foolish man in Matthew 7:26 – “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Did you catch that? What we do testifies to who we really are!

To be sure, we don’t get to Heaven by our actions. That much is clear in Scripture. We are saved by God’s grace, by trusting in Jesus alone for eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9). But our actions give a clear picture of our true spiritual condition (Ephesians 2:10 is what we were saved for. We were saved to do good works.).

It is wonderful beyond words when someone prays to give their life to Jesus. But, just as important is the life they live after that. Their actions will either validate the claim that they are saved or their actions will testify that their prayer was just so many empty, impotent words.

So, what must change in our presentation of the Gospel? Simply this: Don’t tell others that all they need to do to be saved is say a prayer. Make it clear that it is an act of faith, trusting Jesus to forgive them and save them. But, it is also acknowledging Jesus as Lord which means they are giving up control of their life. They are surrendering the rest of their lives to Jesus as their Lord, their Master (Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11). And that requires obedience. It requires action. It requires doing God’s will.

Then, and only then will they bear the fruit of a believer and have a basis for being absolutely certain that they are truly saved and headed for Heaven when they walk through death’s door.

THAT is biblical Christianity!