“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you who behave lawlessly.’
“Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
If you consider what is actually taught and practiced, there seems to be centuries and centuries of mainstream Christian teaching focusing on Christ and Christ’s self-sacrificial death on the cross as being the basis for salvation and what it means to be a Christian and in the faith. Many will go to the book of Hebrews to underscore that. What Christ did accomplish on the cross is unique, redemptive, and universal as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. No one or nothing else can replicate that. It’s done, completely accomplished.
But what follows from that is a faith which receives and gives. If we are not active in our faith, as James tells us, whatever faith we think we have in Christ and Christ’s death for sins is null and void for us. It is dead. Faith that doesn’t make a difference in our lives is not the faith Jesus talks about in Scripture. Even though there’s truth in it, it’s not good enough to say, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” (bumper sticker). There has to be cleansing of sin in a regenerative process symbolized as a marker and witness in water baptism with the baptism of the Spirit which effects the change.
What that brings is nothing less than a following of Christ which takes seriously all of Christ’s teachings and commands. Unless Jesus in “the great commission” at the end of Matthew’s gospel is mistaken when he told his disciples to teach new disciples of every nation to obey all he had commanded them, and that he would be with them in this, to the very end of the age, meaning up to the time of his return.
A good place to start in this is Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This will become a life-long project for us, and we’ll never get it perfectly. But unless we’re dead set and fully committed to both listen, listen and listen some more and keep listening, as well as put into practice everything, every day, then we’re not really followers of Christ. And we’re not really “in Christ.” No matter what we say about resting in Christ’s once for all sacrifice on the cross. Unless Jesus didn’t really mean what he said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, as quoted above.