To become a follower of Jesus, here are the words of the Bible: repent, believe, turn from sin, turn from yourself, trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is a total reorientation of life. And if we're not careful we can assent to certain truths and say certain words totally apart from heart change.
Do you think these attitudes are common outside the "culturally Christian" South?
I do. I can't speak for every culture and context, but even when I've been in places around the world, whether it's India or parts of Asia, I've been in gatherings where following Jesus is reduced to, "Bow your heads, say these words, raise your hands, and now you're a follower of Jesus." Is it common in the South? Absolutely. But I don't think the minimizing the magnitude of following Jesus is merely something that's going on in the South.
The way cultural Christianity plays out is going to be different in different places of the world. One example in the book is Jamaica. I'm praying through Operation World for Jamaica right now. Operation World says that Jamaica is almost exclusively a Christian country; they have more churches per square mile than almost any other country. It's something like 90 percent Christian. But most people in Jamaica don't follow the teachings of Jesus or are not a part of churches. There's a clear disconnect. To say they're mostly Christian, and yet don't follow the teachings of Jesus—that doesn't add up.
I'm not trying to just pick on Jamaica, and I'm not just trying to pick on the South. I think there's spiritual deception here. It's what Jesus is stressing in Matthew 7: "'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Those are some of the most frightening words for me as a pastor. There will be many people, and not just in the South, who will be shocked to hear Jesus say "I never knew you."
You say that many born-again Christians are "dangerously deceived" about actually being Christian, and "multitudes of men and women at this moment think they are saved from their sins when they are not." How can you tell who is and who is not a real Christian?
Scripture says a lot about how we can tell who is and who is not a follower of Christ. Now, I want to be careful not to communicate that we need to do certain things in order to be saved, or do certain things to earn the favor or the love of God. That misses the whole point of Christianity. That's why I try to spend the beginning of the book, particularly the second chapter, just focusing on the grace that lies at the heart of Christianity—what God does for us that we could never do for ourselves.
But when we come face to face with grace, the God of the universe reaches down in the depths of our souls, forgives our sins, and fills us with his Spirit. Our life is going to look radically different as a result. The way we think is going to be different. What we desire is going to be different. How we live is going to be different.
Now, obviously there's a process in that. Nobody's perfect. That process is never complete until our life is over and we experience glorification with God in heaven. But there is a process that is taking place. That's what Jesus talks about in Matthew 7. He's talking about the fruit in our lives. The good tree bears good fruit, and the bad tree bears bad fruit. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us to examine ourselves, to test ourselves to see if we're in the faith. Self examination is important in our lives. But because the danger of spiritual deception, we'll find in our own favor. It's not surprising that the adversary would use a tactic of deception to convince people they're in the kingdom when they're not.