A few days ago I wrote a post called What is a Christian and How Can I Recognize One Out In The Wild? If you read that post you would know what my take is on the definition of a Christian. As indicated in the above post, I believe we have to get serious about God's truth and God's word if we are going to confess to being a Christian. It is one thing to SAY you are a Christian, it is another thing entirely to actually BE a Christian. Being a Christian is not a passive activity, and that post explains why.
Back to Alistair.... I was checking out his Truth for Life ministry when I stumbled upon a sermon that blew me away. I found it to be so compelling and CONVICTING that I actually listened to it twice in two days and then listened to it again as I wrote this post. It is called The Apostles' Teachings and when you have about 40 minutes you really should listen to it. It gets really good at about the 18 minute mark and forward (the first two times I listened it was in the Android app and I didn't realize I was listening to part 2 which is the last 20-25 minutes or so of the audio linked above and is really the best part of the whole thing).
Essentially, this sermon teaches about how important Biblical doctrine is to the Christian heart. Without a solid and continually deepening knowledge of Scripture we are in big trouble trying to live a Christ-centered life. Getting this right and spending time in The Word is the precursor to getting everything else in life right.... because how we live our lives in ALL aspects of our lives comes from God in Scripture. We have to get serious about God's word if we are to be truly Christian.
This is not something I understood at all until very recently, but it makes total sense if you think about it. There is so much sin and temptation in the world. In our culture what is classified as sinful behavior in the Bible is actually glorified and looked at as a normal part of life (sex before marriage, abortions, living a gay lifestyle, selfishness and pride). Besides all that, there are so many BAD preachers out there; people who teach false doctrine, who turn scripture around to fit a non-Christian narrative, who share only a part of God's word out of context and then skew it some more. It's no wonder we can become easily confused and tripped up.
An example of this are those who try to say that all lifestyles should be welcomed and embraced because Jesus was inclusive and embraced everyone (cue examples like the 'woman at the well' which you can find in John 4). There are even entire churches and church leading pastors who are preaching "inclusiveness" and saying that Jesus only stood for loving everyone and nothing more. Without a solid knowledge of Biblical doctrine you would be at risk of believing these things because this teaching is EVERYWHERE, including in some of our churches. If you simply trusted man to tell you what God says, then you would be at the mercy of lady luck that you get the right man teaching the right stuff. Spending your own time in the Bible and learning what God actually says is your only defense against calling yourself a Christian but not actually being one because you are following the wrong christ.
My point is this: I lived 40 years of my life apart from Jesus. I went to Catholic school from K-12 and yet somehow knew nothing whatsoever about God's word and lived like I didn't. I "knew" how I should behave from years of going to church and Catholic school- but that never translated into changed behavior on my part. I was very susceptible to others' opinions on what God says we should do and made a lot of mistakes as a result. Now, as a saved child of God and a truly born again Christian, I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to understanding God's word- and this catching up involves a lot of reading and studying the Bible. Without doing that myself I would still be susceptible to false teaching.
The examples I have given above are not meant to call you to judge others who are living contrary to God's word. They are merely meant to be real life examples of how we can get confused. I'm sure you have good friends and close family who cause you to question or doubt what is true. I know I do. I have friends and family who fall on the sword over the "love" debate. The problem is, God's word is not that shallow or narrow. Yes, Jesus did love everyone, including sinners. I do not believe this is up for debate by anyone. His hope, though, is that all sinners will open their hearts to Him and repent, turn away from sin, and be saved. He loves them, but there are still standards to meet and laws to obey.
The path we are called to take is not necessarily the popular path and definitely not the common path. But.... God does not call us to take the popular or common path. He calls us to take His path, and we can only know what that path truly is by reading about it in the Bible. We must fact check what others tell us by going to the only place we can trust to be the true and authoritative source on the matter. Scripture.
As Christians we can live our lives as examples of what being filled with the Holy Spirit really looks like. Through the truth of Scripture, and a love for others rooted in Biblical honesty, we can help more sinners get into the Kingdom with us. We can do this ONLY through intentional study of the Word so we are leading others down the right path to salvation.
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many that enter through it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14