By Adam Becker
Table of contents
What will save you?
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.
I believe that there is more to having a relationship with God and being born again than just going to church and reading your Bible, there is also more than just salvation. I believe that worship and relationship are vital keys to being born of the spirit of God and the whole Christian life that keeps you alive in Christ and close to him. Once we are saved and become a believer we become Christ's bride and just like an earthly marriage our heavenly marriage requires intimacy in order to stay healthy. We are also called sons and daughters of God and again we know from earthly families that a son or daughter needs to maintain a close relationship with their father in order to keep the family healthy. Part of that relationship and the Christian life is fellowship with other believers as the scriptures say:
Ephesians 2:19-21 NIV Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians above said that the "whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple of the Lord." Paul was not saying that one person becomes the holy temple but was speaking about many people coming together through Christ to become the temple.
The Bible also says about fellowship:
Hebrews 10:25 NIV Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the day approaching.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
It is clear through scripture that we are not to stop coming together and we are all to work together as one unit for we are one body. We need to fellowship with other believers in order to live a healthy Christian life. We also need to read the word of God on a daily basis to renew our minds for scripture says or the word:
2 Tim 3:16-17 NKJV All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Worship and Intimacy with God
There are many other things as well that we need to do in order to stay healthy and grow in our walk with the Lord such as prayer and other essentials. Most people work hard at making those things a priority in their Christian walk but many still lack the worship and intimacy with God that is vital to their spiritual health. I have personally gone through times in which I stopped getting into the corporate anointing or deep worship with God and I tell you I started to die inside. I looked ok, I talked ok, I even read my Bible, prayed and went to church but I was so dry inside. In the past I used to have very powerful times with God, He would even send me an angel once in a while to speak to me and other times He would speak but when I stopped going in to the Holy of Holies of worship all that stopped and there were no more angels and I barley ever heard from God or felt Him. My spiritual health was not what it should be or used to be. So many people are walking around this very day and believing that they are alive in Christ and alive in spirit but many are instead sick in spirit and their spiritual health is lacking.
Listen it says in John 3:5-8 NIV; Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
I tell you the truth when Christ said in the verse above that spirit gives birth to spirit, Christ was not talking about the spirit being found in a 12-step romans road process that meets all the modern theologians approval and He was not talking about saying a prayer or just accepting what He did on the cross and reading your Bible once a day as the way to be born of His spirit. Christ had more in mind or He would have laid it all out for us then and there in that verse for if it could be confined to mans reason and a 12 step-process than He surely would have laid it all out then and there knowing that for all time people would be reading that verse not to mention the man Christ was speaking with named Nicodemus would have liked a process and for an answer with reason and for it to all to line up with the Old Testament scriptures. Instead Christ said of the spirit; "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." This cannot fit into mans understanding, even the understanding that we have from the epistles and the rest of the New Testament, it can never fit into anyone's theology or 12 step-process. Listen, there is more to having a relationship with Jesus Christ than just accepting Him as your Lord and Savior, more than just reading your daily devotionals, there is more than just going to church and loving people and living a changed life, there is more than just praying to Him five hours a day.
Worshipping in Spirit and Truth
Christ said in John 4:23-24 NIV: "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
God is spirit and we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The truth part speaks of a heart issue and a true heart but the spirit part is what many don't understand. In order to be alive in Christ and born of spirit you must spend time with God in spirit. Listen, I will say it again, in order to be fully alive in Christ and have and maintain a healthy relationship you must worship the Lord in spirit with the right heart and if you don't do that almost as much as you read your Bible then you may be spiritually sick. You must submit your spirit to almighty God and touch his spirit. I am not talking about singing songs or praying prayers from your flesh, I am talking about letting the power and presence of almighty God totally saturate you and you totally yielding to it on a regular basis and it
communing with your spirit.
Now a person could be saved and make it to Heaven by just accepting Christ as Lord and living a changed life but I tell you that unless they truly worship God in spirit and spend time in His tangible presence then there spirit and walk with God will not be as healthy as it should be. Their relationship with God will be lacking. God wants to spend quality time with you, not just time where you read His Word, or where you pray or listen for His voice, God wants more than that, God wants all of you and He wants to be extremely intimate with you. What would one say or even the Bible say about a marriage between a man and a woman in which the woman doesn't draw near to her husband and have physical intimacy with him? One would say that they have a bad relationship and an unhealthy unbalanced marriage. In the same way God wants to touch you with His presence in a very tangible way.
Many believers are just walking around thinking that they have it all together and some are doing wonderful things for Gods kingdom. Just like on the movie "Facing the Giants" they are bringing glory to God in everything they do even recreation, but they lack the spirit, and many don't even believe in the spirit and they have made their Bible their God. But God is not dead and Christ didn't turn into the pages of a book. God is still alive and well and as real as He was in days of old and He has not changed. I am not against the Bible as I believe the scriptures to be divine, inerrant, authoritive and a part of the Christian life, but there is more to God than reading your Bible. You must have relationship and intimacy with Him. I am by no means saying that scripture is not God breathed; I am just saying that God is still alive and well and can be found other places than just the Bible.