What does it take to be a Christian? Sadly, lots of people, even some in church, don’t know the real answer to that question. Do you?
There really, tragically are those who profess to be Christians and are no more saved than the nearest can of paint. That breaks my heart! It makes me want to cry and shout and desperately give them a good shake. Not that I ever would. But what if they never realize the truth?
But wait. Hold it right there. If these people are accepting of Christianity, are ok with going to church, and maybe even firmly believe there is a God, why aren’t they “real Christians?” Isn’t Christianity based on faith alone?
Yes, it is. But there’s a difference between faith and vague hope.
Vague hope, as I call it, is something that I have seen on social media more than anywhere else. When people are in a hard situation and in need of security, they suddenly believe in God. When someone has died, Facebook friends comment post all kinds of ideas about Heaven and God’s love. There are photos that people share that say things like “Repost if you believe God cares” or “Repin if you believe in the power of prayer,” and people who would never sit down to read the Bible do so. For many, God certainly exists and He comes to the rescue when needed, but as far as daily life is concerned, He has very little to do with it.
Faith is more than just believing that God is out there somewhere watching us. The Bible says in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”
I don’t think that anyone would argue that demons are true Christians- yet even they believe that God exists! In fact, they even tremble in fear before Him!
It has to be something more than just belief. So what is it?
In John 3, Jesus was speaking to a man about salvation and he referred to it as being “born again.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that one who is in Christ is a “new creation.” When someone accepts Christ as their Savior, when they truly become Christians, they become totally new. It’s like they have been completely reborn or made over again.
“Repentance” is a word the Bible sometimes uses when talking about that moment of transformation and salvation, and I think it explains things really well. It has to do with a feeling of shame for your sins and a fierce desire and commitment to turn away from those sins. Someone who just believes there is a God won’t necessarily ever repent. But since salvation is not at all based on doing the right thing, so it can’t be based on just cleaning your life up (Ephesians 2:8-9), how do those tie together?
Well, salvation comes at a point when we humbly realize we can do nothing but God has done everything. That’s repentance, and it’s also faith. It happens when we realize with our whole selves that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), when we realize that there is no possible way we can change the fact that we have rebelled against God, and when we realize that Jesus’s death on the cross was meant to take all of the punishment we deserved: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
I still remember the day that I realized that what Jesus had done on the cross meant that I could be saved. I knew that I had sinned more times in my life than I could count and that there was no way I could fix that on my own. I also knew, though, that Jesus already had if I would just ask Him to make me new and to be my Lord and Savior. So I got on my knees and did just that. Romans 10:9 says, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And that’s forever. No matter what.
Believing God exists doesn’t make you a Christian. Accepting His gift of salvation does. It’s that simple, and the Bible tells us, God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Any. All.