As I read I thought how much this is like a large segment of Christianity today. Folks gather in buildings every Sunday and listen to what essentially is a list of rules that they must follow in order to be in the gang. These rules range from behavior codes regarding dress, music, etc., to principles and steps to follow to be a better _______________. The unfortunate thing is that some in those buildings think they are part of the Body because they made a decision and are following the rules, but are deluded. While determining whether someone really belongs to Christ is way above my pay grade, a good look at the fruit shows a problem.
The rules and the principles and steps are like the rules in Tom Sawyer's gang; they do not correspond to reality. What is real is that Jesus has finished it. He has done everything that needed to be done. Christ has accomplished everything we need. When he said, "It is finished," on the cross, he meant it. He has called us to follow him, and has given us everything we need to do that. Christ did not call us to give assent to a set of propositions about him. He did not tell us to follow a set of rules, to get our act together, or to "get right" with him. He called us into relationship with him.
It is true that a relationship with Jesus will bring about changes in our lives. We are a new creation, and we are called to live as people who are different. Those changes that make us different will come about by the Spirit of God in us, not from following a set of rules or steps. We are not only saved without human effort, we also live in the power of the Spirit, not our own power. We can not get any closer to God by our efforts, we can not please God in our own strength. Everything we do must be done by God's power. Tom Sawyer's gang failed because they were trying to be a gang like Tom had read about, but had no ability to do what those gangs did. How many Christians flounder in their lives, and how many congregations are powerless because they are trying to be what they have read about, but are doing it in their own power.
Tom Sawyer's gang was playing at being a gang. I wonder how many of us who claim Christ are playing at following him. What would it look like if churches were made up of people who were fully committed to following Jesus in the power of the Spirit?