By Robert Kiser
It is a common belief that good people that believe in God will go to heaven. There are indeed good people that believe in God that will go to heaven. There are also good people that believe in God that will go to Hell. Being a good person and believing in God is not what gets a person into heaven.
In the Bible James tells us even the demons believe there is one God and shudder. Isaiah tells us that our righteousness is like a filthy rag before the Lord. This means even your best acts or most sincere prayer is corrupt, filthy and stained. The Bible tells us that every person in their very best state is altogether vanity. You see man is not the standard of good; God is the standard of good. All of us have sinned and fall short. Every single one of us is guilty and has broken God’s laws.
Have you ever told a lie? Stole something small? Envied your neighbors possessions or relationships? According to the Bible even breaking one of God’s laws makes you guilty. Picture someone in court for driving 75 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. They tell the judge that just this week I have helped feed the homeless. I went to church twice and I helped a little old lady putting her groceries into her car. Is an honest judge with great concern for the law going to let them off the hook for speeding? No he is not! God is the one who will judge each and every one of us. His justice demands payment for each and every sin. Now none of us can keep the law of God. The Bible tells us the law was meant to be a tutor to lead s to Christ. True within the law there are a lot of things that we should apply to our lives, but you will never actually live the law without breaking it. Breaking the law is a sin and one sin is enough to separate us from God for eternity in a place called Hell. Now many will say that is not fair! Considering that God himself paid a great price to provide a way of escape he considers it fair. It reminds me of a poster I once had that said “There are 2 factors for human enlightenment (1) There is a God (2) You are not Him!
What is his way of escape? It is a genuine decision to leave your old life and commit everything you are and own to Jesus. You are not your own person you were bought with a price at the cross. You can believe that God is real and lead a pretty good life without doing this and never actually be saved.
Unfortunately we as Christians often throw around words that many do not really understand. What does it mean to be saved? Saved means rescued or delivered. Rescued or delivered from what? According to the bible we can be rescued and delivered from the wrath of God. That brings us to the next words we often hear “the gospel” what does that mean? Well gospel means good news. The good news is you can be rescued and delivered from the wrath of God. Another term we use is to be born again. Jesus told Nicodemus that we must be born again. The bible describes us as dead in or trespasses and sin. So spiritually we are considered dead even though we have been physically born and are physically alive. When we receive our spiritual birth we are born again and then we are adopted into God’s family before this point we are not God’s children.
So if just believing in God and being good does not save me; how am I saved? We can be saved by accepting God’s payment for our sins. The bible tells us we must repent and we are saved by faith. Repent is more than just temporarily feeling sorry for what we have done. Repent is a change of mind. What are we to change or mind about? This is where we quit trying to run our own lives and decide to relinquish everything to the Lord and let him be in control. Part of the definition of Faith in Webster’s Dictionary is loyal and trusting. Now as mentioned earlier the demons believe in God, but they are not loyal and trusting to God. So we decide to accept Jesus’ payment for our sins on the cross and in doing so we change our mind about who is in control of or life and desire to become loyal and trusting to God.
Now this is a heart decision and is not an actual action or work. When we sincerely do this we are saved by grace. This means we do not deserve or earn it in any way, but rather we accept our salvation as a gift from God. This has absolutely nothing to do with you being a good person. This has everything to do with Jesus taking all of your sins past, present and future upon himself on the cross. Jesus dying on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. Jesus takes our sins away and replaces it with his own righteousness. Not only are we declared not guilty we are declared righteous and then there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We are saved by grace and not of works or good deeds. (Eph.2:8-9)
Now some get confused because James says we are justified by our works. Well justified does not mean saved. As James illustrates justified is to show outward evidence that we really are saved. In other words if you have a genuine faith then good deeds or works is the natural fruit or results of it. James and Paul both used Abraham as an example when you study all of the related passages you will find that all of the following statements are true.
Abraham was saved by faith alone
Abraham was justified by works
Abraham was not justified by works alone
I have met people that believed that they were going to heaven because years before they said a prayer like they were told. Yet there never was any change in their life. This means there never really was true repentance or genuine faith. The Bible teaches that if we have true faith then our life will change and it will continue to change the rest of our lives. This is a point that James was trying to emphasize. James asked the all important question: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14) The answer to the question is “No” because it isn’t genuine faith. Works is the fruit of having real faith. Yet we are not saved by our works. It is only the fruit of real faith. We do good works because we are saved. We do not do good works to become saved. A sheep says baaa baaa because it is a sheep. The sheep does not say baaa baaa to become a sheep.
Obedience has results that are often desired by the true Christian. Do you want the fruits of the spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness? Do you want the Lord to answer your prayers? Do you want to be in the will of God? Do you want to see real purpose in your life? Do you want to be used by God and see fruit? Well my friend that comes from obedience. A well behaved child is more likely to be rewarded by the Lord than a selfish wining brat which we often are! However obedience is not what saves us. We are saved by grace alone.
One of our first acts of obedience as a Christian is to be baptized. In doing so we are identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are saying that we will put to death the old sinful nature and raise a new person. We will take up or cross and follow Jesus. Following Jesus is a process that will continue the rest of your life. It is not just a one time or weekly event.
By accepting Jesus payment for your sins and totally committing your life to him you can be saved from the wrath of God. This is something that no person deserves or can earn. This is a gift of God. It can be accepted on the Lords terms or you can turn it down.
My personal advice is to accept this gift and flee from the wrath to come!
This of course does not mean that your life is suddenly going to become easy. In many respects my life got harder after turning to Christ because I suddenly became concerned about what was morally or ethically right. It amazes me that some would refer to Christianity as a crutch for the weak. I found that that is the opposite of reality in my own life. That being said your life here may not be easier, but it will certainly end up having more meaning and purpose. Furthermore it makes even the bad hopeful when you focus on the beautiful eternity that awaits God’s children in the afterlife instead of the evil fallen world we live in.
I should also tell you that committing your life to Christ is only the first step. When you are first adopted in to the family of God you are only an infant in Christ. To grow you need to be fed by studying the directions that God left for you. (The Bible) Also as in any relationship you need to learn to communicate often. This is done through prayer and we need to learn to listen as well. As with all children sometimes we fall down and get hurt. That is OK get back up and keep following Jesus.
Also after being adopted into the family you are not an orphan. Being part of the family has blessings and responsibilities. So a good start would be to start meeting some of the rest of the family. As with any family we are to support and help each other. We have dysfunctional members of the family as well. You will end up having brothers and sisters that you would rather hang out with than other family members and that is OK. Just remember we are all still family.
For more information see ReasonableAnswers.org
Robert Kiser is the author of 4 books and the ReasonableAnswers.org website.
His website explains and defends the Christian Faith. It also includes a section on Cults including Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses.
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