About thirty-five years ago, just after I became a Christian, I received some of the best advice I ever heard. An old retired pastor took me aside after church one Sunday and said, "Kathi, if you want to be a Christian who makes a difference in this world, read your Bible with an eye toward making a list of those things you're willing to go to war over, and then never compromise on that list. But keep it short."

I didn't really understand what he meant then, but I have come to appreciate his words over the three and a half decades since he spoke them to me. 

First, he was telling me the importance of defining what I believe. Using the Scriptures as my guideline, I needed to isolate those issues that were of life-and-death importance—study them, meditate on them, pray over them, and be willing to live or die by them. That was no easy task. I was already twenty-six years old when I became a believer and I hadn't been raised in a Christian home, so I had a lot to learn! But I dug in and started reading, studying, and questioning, until I finally came to a place that I truly knew what tenets of the faith were black and white, do or die, no-compromise issues. At that point I had to make the commitment to stand for those issues at any cost.

Christians in other countries understand that. Many people around the world lay their very lives on the line by converting to Christianity. Public baptism is tantamount to waving a red flag in an angry bull's face. But these heroic brothers and sisters make a decision to follow Christ, regardless of the consequences, and they don't compromise.

That should be the mark of all believers, for if what we say we believe does not govern our actions, then perhaps we don't truly believe it. Our list should be well thought-out—and then followed at every point, even if into the proverbial lions' den.

But what about the second part of that old pastor's advice? Not only did he instruct me to develop a do-or-die list based on the Scriptures, but he also cautioned me to keep the list short. What did he mean by that?

He didn't explain himself, but I believe he was warning me not to become legalistic, to add rules and regulations that were actually based in personal choice rather than God's Word. For instance, I've long since come to the point of deciding that whether or not one is baptized by sprinkling or submersion is not something I'm willing to go to war over. Nor am I willing to fight to the death over a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation stance. Therefore, though I have my personal opinions on those subjects (based on my own study of God's Word), I keep them off my list.

I do, however, include on my list things like the fact that there is no other way to heaven except through true repentance from sin and accepting Jesus as Savior; that Jesus was born of a virgin; that apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins; that the Bible is God's inerrant Word; that Jesus died not only for the sins of the world but for the sins of any individual who would turn to Him, regardless of the sin in that individual's life; that we must be born again if ever we are to see the Kingdom of God; and that just as Jesus came once as the Lamb of God, He will come again as the Lion of Judah.

It is a relatively short list, but one I am willing to live for—and die for, if necessary. It is also an exclusive list. Though my list includes the point that salvation is open to anyone who will come, it also includes the necessity of coming in repentance through Jesus—no other way. And that, beloved, is becoming a more and more unpopular message with each passing day. With tolerance of all beliefs, meaning that we accept that any/all faiths are equal to another, being touted as the compassionate and loving road to walk in this world, true Christians will continue to find themselves on the outside looking in, out of step and out of place.