Summary: Salvation is not a matter of saying or doing something but trusting Someone.
Sometime ago I was down in the West Indies for some speaking engagements. While there I had one of the most unusual yet amusing things happen. Upon arriving on the first island, endeavoring to be a friendly guy, I began engaging in conversation with the people who live there. In those moments we talked about everything from the palm trees to the people and everything from the seashore to the sun. But after finishing my conversation I would look at them and say "good night" and begin to walk away. Each time, they would look at me like I was one strange person -- a fresh arrival from another planet. After doing this for several days and getting some weird reactions, I sat down with a friend who had lived there for years. We began talking to one of the people who lived on the island. When we finished our conversation with this person and started to walk away, he said nothing but I said, "good night." Then not only did the man to whom I was speaking look at me like I was strange, even my friend looked at me like I might have some undiagnosed problem. After we were away from the person, he laughed and laughed and laughed. You can imagine my first question. "What are you laughing about?" He said, "Well, Larry, it just dawned on me. No one has explained something to you. Down here we don’t say ’good night’ to end a conversation. We say it to begin one. All you do is walk up to this person, say egood nightf and begin talking to him. So the people are trying to figure out why you are saying ’good night’ after you have already conversed with them. Then as soon as you do, you turn and you walk away." Well needless to say, I learned quickly that a word as simple as ’good night’ can mean different things to different people. To some it closes a conversation, to others it commences one.
But not only is that true of a word so simple as "good night" it is also true of a word as simple as "Christian." This word means different things to different people. If you were to ask the average person, "What is a Christian?" you would get a variety of answers. Some would say, "A Christian is someone who goes to church every Sunday." Others would say, "Oh no, a Christian is a member of a church because after all some go every Sunday who are not members." Then others wouldn’t even mention the word church in their definition. They would say a Christian is a person who loves the Lord and tries to do what is right. Whatever God says, they do it. Others would say a Christian is a person who lives by the Ten Commandments „Ÿ not one, not five, not six, but all ten. Then others would disagree with all those, at least in part. They would say, a Christian is someone who is baptized and no one is a Christian until he is. But if you were to ask 100 different people the question, "What is a Christian?" it is safe to say that you would get at least ten different answers.
But when you really think about it, it doesn’t matter what you or I think. That is, God won’t examine me by your definition and He won’t examine you by mine. Instead, the important question is, what does the Lord say? How does God define a Christian? There was a man on trial for committing a felony. Various witnesses gave their testimony. During a recess, he was asked, "What did the witnesses say?" The man responded, "The witnesses? It really doesn’t matter what they say. The only thing that will matter is what the judge says." In a similar way, it does not matter what you or I think. God will not examine you by my definition and He will not examine me by yours. The important question is what does God say? How would God define a Christian?
If the answer surprises you as much as it did the people in Jesus’ day, you are in for the surprise of your life. Look at verse 28 of this same chapter which says, "And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching." "Astonished" means spellbound. A hush went over the audience. Children stopped their play. Adults ceased conversation. And even though it was at the end of one of His messages and all the people were free to go home, they were so frozen by his words they could not lift a foot or more a finger to go anywhere.
And the thing that astounded them the most was not only what He said but the authority with which He said it. Look at verse 29, "For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."