“Through Him, everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” ~Acts 13:39
The other day, I saw a facebook friend post a bumper sticker that read “Religion is good. But not all “Christians” are saved.” He posted this so that he could protest it (vehemently), saying “I don’t have a ‘relationship’ with Jesus. I didn’t ‘give’ my life to Christ. I didn’t turn away from a life of sin or get circumcised to be saved. I BELIEVED on the LORD Jesus Christ and was passed from death unto life because HE GAVE. I can NEVER lose my salvation.”
I know many Christians who take both of these views, and many with views in between. I so often hear “I’m going to Heaven and that person isn’t” or I’ve even heard “Jesus take me home; I can’t handle the corruption that’s here.”
First of all, if you want my opinion on the bumper sticker, I’d say that Jesus is good, and religion is an imperfect, human interpretation of Him.
Now to address my friend’s comment. Yes, Jesus said that the way to the Father was through Him. We need to believe in Him to be saved. In theory, just saying “I believe that Jesus Christ existed and is my savior” is enough to get you saved. Some people don’t go any further than that, and still make it to heaven. Simple, right?
However, there’s a lot more to this belief thing than just that. For instance, if you believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior, if you believe that most basic part of Him, don’t you have to believe all of Him? What about the part of Him that said He was the living bread that came down from heaven? If He is the living bread, don’t we need to look to Him daily for nourishment? How can we do that without a relationship with Him? What about the part of Him that refused to condemn an adulterous woman but merely told her not to do it again; what about the part of Him that said after He was risen from the dead He would send an Advocate, a Counselor, to guide us and advise us? Is this Advocate not the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us? Is it possible to truly say “I don’t have a ‘relationship’ with Jesus, but I believe in Him?” That’s like cutting out your internal organs and saying you have a fully functional and healthy body.
As we progress through our walks with Christ, He reveals more and more of Himself to us, and shapes our hearts more and more like His own. That’s the epitome of a progressing relationship, and to stay in His will, there are changes we need to make along the way.
And let’s not forget Jesus’ distinction of true and false disciples. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Yes, belief is all that it takes to get into Heaven. HOWEVER, belief is a continuous process, to be renewed and refined. If you had asked me at age 5 “do you believe in Jesus?”, my answer would have been an undoubted ‘yes!’. At age 20, my answer was “I believe in something, some power that means we aren’t here by mistake, but I’m not sure that it’s God per se”. Now at 27, my answer is “of course!”. If I had died as a child, I would’ve gotten into heaven. But it wasn’t until my twenties that God told me what salvation and Christianity truly meant. Does that mean I didn’t really believe in Jesus as a child? Of course not; I believed. It’s just that later, when God brought me back to Him, He revealed more of Himself to me, and refined that belief and grew it into something unshakable (given my stint as an agnostic, my childhood faith was clearly shakable).
When we ignore the commands of God, or when we spend time in our Babylons, or even fail to love others the way He wants, we’re essentially saying that our daily worldly desires are more important than His. We’re saying that God is not as important as us. He tells us how important He is to us; He’s our daily bread! We need Him! To act any other way is to essentially say “God, we don’t believe You that You’re most important, so I’m going to cut my prayer time short to go on facebook.” If we believed that God is who He says He is, every moment of every day, we would act like it; and our walks with God would look much different. That’s why when people spend their lives proclaiming Jesus as Lord like we’re told to, but then deny His name through a life of jealousy and judgement, their salvation may be in jeopardy. Maybe not. Only God knows where everybody is on their individual walks with Him; He knows who accepted Him with their last breath and didn’t have time to change their ways, and He knows who had plenty of chances to repent the darkness in their heart and should have known better.
But if your belief in Jesus is exactly the same as it always was, your walk looks the same and you haven’t grown in your belief, that’s a problem. God is not stagnant. Chances are, He’s tried to reveal more to you and you missed it. So spend some time with Him; ask Him to reveal the areas of unbelief that you harbor in your heart. And give them up to Him, so that He can have mercy on them and guide you from here on out. And if He IS moving a lot in your life, I want to hear about it! So write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.