Some years ago, I was asked to help officiate a funeral with another pastor. A funeral is a difficult enough event without the added complexity of the two pastors leading it also disagreeing on what should be said.
We both agreed that it would be Jesus, and not us, who decided if the deceased would go to heaven or hell. However, we disagreed on what we would say publicly to gathered family and friends about the eternal destination of the deceased.
The other pastor wanted to assure everyone that the deceased had died and gone to heaven. I was not so sure and did not want to give the people such concrete assurance. Instead, I wanted to focus more on them and their grieving process than the final destination of the deceased.
The pastor and I debated back and forth a bit before the funeral started. He said that when the deceased was little, this person had prayed a prayer to become a Christian. Therefore, he argued, this person had at one point believed in Jesus and was saved forever. In response, I pointed out that the deceased spent the next 60 or 70 years of life without any evidence of living as a Christian. The person apparently did not pray, read the Bible, attend church, have any Christian friends, do anything that was clearly Christian, and did not raise his own kids to know anything about Christ or Christianity.
Christianity is about believing in Jesus, but it is also about following Jesus. Jesus began His earthly ministry saying, in John 1:43, “Follow me.” To be a Christian is, at the most basic level, someone who follows Jesus. Practically, this means that Jesus is the highest authority and senior leader in his or her life. This also means that Christians practice obedience to what they know, starting with what they learn in the Bible. And, it means that their life is lived in relationship with Jesus.
Is there any area of your life in which you are not currently and actively following Jesus?