The obedience of faith or "Christian sharia"?

I led a young man to Christ a few years ago, a week later Andy walked away. We were discussing baptism, the first step of an obedient disciple.

andy: Do you mean I would have to be a real Christian?
steve: Andy what do you mean?
andy: If I got baptized, I’d have to be a real Christian and stop sleeping around.

He understood the meaning of repentance and faith better than many Christians.

The obedience of faith is at the heart of movements that multiply disciples and churches. Some people have confused the obedience of faith with a Christian version of sharia (Islamic law). Identity in Christ is the only true foundation for following Jesus in loving obedience. The question of baptism helped Andy discover that he hadn’t yet truly repented and believed. What's more, he didn’t want to. He was happy to pray a prayer but not forsake the ladies. I’ve spent the last few months in Ephesians with the help of Clinton Arnold’s commentary. Here’s his take on what Ephesians says about our identity in Christ.

  1. We are dearly loved. Paul stresses that believers are dearly loved by the Father and by the Son (5:1–2). God demonstrated his love by giving his Son (see also Rom 5:8) and Christ has shown us his love by his willing self-sacrifice on our behalf. This fact should be a significant motivation for us to love one another.
  2. We are forgiven. Paul declares that God has forgiven us in Christ (4:32b; see also 1:7). This truth will motivate us to forgive one another.
  3. The Holy Spirit lives in us. Because of the presence of the Spirit in our lives, a truth that Paul has emphasized earlier (1:13, 17; 2:18, 22; 3:16; 4:3, 4, 23), we are divinely assisted in the process of renewal. Nevertheless, if we choose not to cooperate with the Spirit, the Spirit does not leave us but is deeply grieved (4:30). The reality of the personhood of the Spirit and his presence with us should motivate us and empower us to develop holy lives.
  4. We have a future with God. The Spirit is a seal guaranteeing our future redemption in the consummation of the ages (4:30; see also 1:10, 13–14). This fact should not only give us a feeling of profound security, but motivate us to align ourselves with the purposes of God. 5. We are joined to one another in the body of Christ. Paul here reiterates the fact that every believer is an integral part of the community of believers (4:25c). The body of Christ imagery has been prominent in this letter (see 1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30). This truth not only should help us to correct wrong attitudes, but should motivate us to exercise the utmost of caution in how we talk to each other. Paul encourages the expression of words that build up and give grace (4:29). He likewise urges believers to work hard so that they can help brothers and sisters who have material needs.

If this is true about who we are, nothing is too good to be true. No sacrifice is too great in response to God’s grace in Christ. That’s why nobody is asked to just “pray a prayer” in the New Testament. We make disciples of all nations by going, by baptizing and by teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.