By Adam Becker
Will going to church get me to heaven? So many people today think all you have to do to go to heaven is believe in God and go to church, others think that all you have to do is believe that Christ died for your sins on the cross and that guarantees that you are going to heaven. These same people continue to live a life not in line with how the Bible says that a Christian should live and they think that they are covered by grace but are they really saved and can they go on living the way the rest of the world lives and get to heaven in the end? Are they really children of God at all?
Every week people flock to Sunday services on a mission to fill a void in their lives, some local churches are very small while others are so large that the pastor has body guards and you can't even talk to him. Many people love their churches and believe in them but what good is church and can church save you, is church what is going to get you to heaven?
Church can be good for a few reasons but what many people and I have found is that local church is often not what it should be. God is not the local church and that the church is not perfect. Know that the local church is not going to save you and sometimes is not a good example, but its imperfections should not be a reason to discredit God or to get mad and live outside of the fellowship of other believers. Local churches are made up of and run by people and people are not perfect and nowhere in the Bible does it say that attending a church will save you. So if you have been going to a local church thinking that that will save you it won't. In order to find the answer to what will get us to heaven and what being a Christian is all about we must look beyond the local church and look to the scriptures and to Christ Himself, attending a church is not going to save you or anyone for that matter although fellowshipping with other believers is vital to your walk with God as I will discuss later in this book.
What about praying a prayer of salvation? I remember a while back a church I was attending was doing street evangelism and we had a script that we went by in order to minster to people. Basically you walked up to people and told them that God loves them and has a plan for their life and you ask them if they were to die today if they will go to heaven or not? You then tell them that the wages of sin is death and that all have fallen short of the glory of God but that Christ died for their sins and if they believe that and pray a prayer with you then they are going to heaven.
The whole thing worked and I personally prayed with and led hundreds of people to Christ and these people walked away thinking that they are now going to heaven. But their lives didn't change and they really weren't going to heaven at all, I felt pretty good but I didn't do a whole lot of good. Unfortunately many people including some pillars in the church believe that just by accepting that Christ died for our sins and praying a prayer that they are saved and they can continue to live as they please. This is not true salvation according to scripture and these people are not going to heaven.
So then are we saved by works or saved by faith, what will get us to heaven? I think that I have communicated that the church and just praying a prayer is not what is going to get you to heaven. But I think that best place to look for the answers and to find examples is in the word of God and not only look at one verse but take a balanced look at what the word of God says. We need to rest our theology and authority on the Bible
It Begins With the Cross!
The way to heaven and to God begins with Christ and the cross!
John 3:16-18 NIV "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
Most know the story of Adam and Eve and the fall and that after that there needed to be an atonement or sacrifice for our sins and for a few thousand years man had a sacrificial system set up but then Jesus Christ came and was the final sacrifice and paid the final price for our sins. That then made a way to God and for us to get to heaven. And by us just believing in Christ's substitutionary atonement we now have a way to heaven. But does it end there?
John 1:12 says; "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
Notice in John 1:12 it says He gave the right to become children of God, but a right doesn't guarantee that you will become a child of God. In the United States when you become 18 and are a citizen you have the right to vote but that doesn't mean that you will vote. In order to vote it takes more than just having a right to vote, you need to register, you need to get off your couch, you need to go to the place of voting on a specific date and time. Just having a right to something doesn't always get if for you.
By accepting Christ you then have a right to become Gods child but there are other factors involved to actually become a child of God.
Are We Saved By Works or By Faith, and is Just Accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior Enough?
The scriptures speak of grace and works as being part of true salvation, it begins with grace and the cross but it doesn't end there, works are evidence of being born again.
The Bible says;
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.
James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
So which is it are we saved by grace or works?
It may appear at first that the scriptures (James 2:14-26, Romans 3:21-26, Ephesians 2:8-9) disagree but that is not the case we need both grace and works.
The historical and original intended purpose of the book of James was to expose and correct hypocritical practices and not necessarily to teach the audience about Gods gift of grace through Christ or to correct legalism of which was the purpose of Paul's letters.
The purpose of the letters is very significant and should not be overlooked, as well as the main theme of the New Testament, which is Christ the unearned gift. James' letter compliments Paul's.
There is only one theology. Salvation (Faith) starts with grace as a gift which Paul wrote, "a gift that cannot be earned by works." But it does not end there!
Salvation and faith are equal to a new birth or a new creation, the old is gone. And if we are born again as a child of God then we will start to bare a resemblance of the characteristics of our Father. If we do not then our faith or salvation is not genuine. It's kind of like a DNA test, after we are reborn our DNA should resemble and be compatible with our Fathers.
There is to be a change and the Bible says that there is to be a change;
1 John 3:9-10 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
That is a strong verse but it is truth and there is to be a change. But don't be discouraged by that verse because if you read in to it, it says "will continue to sin." It is not saying that you won't sin, it is saying that you won't continue to sin, it is speaking of habitual sin. Once the Holy Spirit comes to live within you, you will not want to sin anymore and your habitual sins will start to end. That change is meant to glorify God. Works are not meant for boasting, they're meant to glorify God.
But it is a process and we are all at different levels at different times.
We will never be perfect! It is a process, C. S. Lewis wrote, "Christian Miss Bates may have an unkinder tongue than unbelieving Dick Firkin. That by itself, does not tell us whether Christianity works. The question is what Miss Bates' tongue would be like if she were not a Christian and what Dick's would be like if he became one. Miss Bates and Dick, as a result of natural causes and early upbringing have certain temperaments."
We are all at different levels some are a little farther than others but a change should be obvious how much of a change can depend on the person. Lets say that a person said the "F" word 30 times a day before they came to Christ and now after they came to Christ they only say it once every other day, there was a change and that is some fruit, I am not condoning saying the "F" word but there are many Christians that do, but they were raised in it and then they came to Christ and there was a change in their life, if you are truly saved than there should be an evident change in your life.
By no means am I saying that you earn your salvation by works Christ's atonement on the cross paid the price for your sins but there is to be a change in your life if you are really born of God. That change is what I am stressing here. You have to yield to the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify you and change you. You just cant pray a prayer to receive Christ as your Lord and savior and go on living like you always did. One thing I want to point out is that once you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and you repent and ask Him to be your savior the Holy Spirit comes to live within you if you really mean it and believe that He is Lord and died for your sins. Then the Holy Spirit that is in you starts to change you and you don't want to live as you always did anymore and you start to see a change. You start to do works out of your love for God and the change of the Holy Spirit. But you don't really have to work very hard to change, the Holy Spirit does the work, you just need to believe that Christ is your Lord and Savior and love Him and the Holy Spirit will produce the works and bring about the change. You may not see a change at first and it may take years but if you are really born again a change will come. I have seen times when i have tried to bring about that change on my own and failed and tried to do works and failed. Then years later the Holy Spirit will just one day take that urge to commit a certain sin out of my heart and change me. I couldnt bring it about on my own the Holy Spirit had to and it took time. As you grow in the Lord if you are truly born again and saved the Holy Spirit will change you and draw you into greater Holiness. If you don't and haven't changed according to the Bible and its been many years and nothing is different at all that most likely means you aren't saved in the first place. Again were not going to be perfect but there will be a change and some conviction and leading of the spirit. The Bible says that just believing that there is a God and and who Jesus is is not enough even the demons believe the Bible says. Mathew 7 verses 21 - 23 say: 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
If you haven't accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior please consider doing so today it doesn't matter what you have done he loves you and His work on the cross has made atonement for your sins. Just repent and ask Jesus into your heart and yield to Him and He will do the rest. You can pray this prayer with me right now but you have to mean it. Just say, Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sins. I make you my Lord and savior, I believe you died for me on the cross and I want you to take over my life and live within me. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God and Holy boldness. Help me fullfil all that you have called me to do and I thank you that I am now forgiven and on my way to heaven in Jesus name Amen. If you prayed that prayer and meant it Jesus will send you the Holy Spirit to live within you and change you and you are forgiven of your sins and in right standing with God. Get in to a good church or Bible group, learn the Bible, get discipled and grow in the Lord.