As I was driving along I-40 here yesterday, I saw something that started a chain of free-association in my head, and landed me on this thought: should we begin calling false converts "cowboy Christians?" Allow me to explain:
You see these guys all the time. They look the part. They act the part. They dress the part. They use all the right words and phrases. They walk around wearing the Wrangler™ Jeans, western shirts, a belt buckle that doubles as a full-length mirror, Justin™ Boots, cowboy hat. They've always got a wad of chew in their cheek, they go line-dancing every weekend, they go watch the rodeo every time it comes to town, and they drive a big, huge, full-size pickup truck,with dual rear wheels--and a sticker in the back window that says something like "Cowboy Up!"
By all of their outward appearances, you would swear they are a cowboy. There are truly real cowboys out there--but this guy ain't one of them.
But they're not.
What does this have to do with the church? This:
You see these guys all the time. They look the part. They act the part. They dress the part. They use all the right words and phrases. They walk around wearing the kahki dress pants, polo shirts, and they carry the biggest study Bible they can find. They've always got a smile on their face, they go to a building every Sunday and hear a speech, they have a couple CD's from a singer that used the word "God" or "Christ" in one of their songs once, and they drive a big, huge, full-size pickup truck, with dual rear wheels--and a fish sticker on their back bumper.
By all of their outward appearances, you would swear they are a Christian. There are truly real Christians out there--but this guy ain't one of them.
But they're not. They think they're saved because
"OK, we've got the checklist finished! Now we can just sit back and wait for that sweet by-and-by, 'cause we've got our ducks in a row, and we've got our ticket stamped!"
What they do not know--perhaps because their pastor has never told them--is that salvation is not about looking the part. It's not about whether you wear a shirt-and-tie, or an old pair of jeans, when you walk in Sunday morning. It's not about a list of "Things To Do" that we need to perform in order to get enough gold stars and smiley faces on God's Heavenly Chart.
Salvation is about seeing ourselves for being the dispicable creatures we are, and knowing that Christ Jesus--the Son of the Living God--came to earth, wrapped Himself in this disgusting stuff we call flesh, took our wounds, our stripes, our death, and made them His own, so that we could be the righteousness of God in Him. It is about seeing that all of our good deeds, and all of our "church" and all those little trinkets we call "good deeds" are nothing more than rags that are covered with the filth of human effort, and the stench of self-righteousness.
A person can look the part, they can dress the part, they can talk the part. But unless that person sees that there is absolutely no way for them to reconcile themselves to God apart from repenting from their sins and confessing Christ Jesus as their Savior AND Lord, they are a "Cowboy Christian." They look like one--but they ain't.
Isaiah 53:3-6--He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 64:5-7--You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—in these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities.
2nd Corinthians 5:21--For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Philippians 1:9-11--And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.