What does it take to be a Christian? The answer to that question sounds very simple at first. We need to believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son, that He died for our sins and was raised back to life and then just ask Him to forgive us. Right? Well technically that is right, but in this article I want to look deeper and see if that is really all there is to it.
The reason I say that description is technically correct is because it is. That is all you have to do to have your sins forgiven and obtain eternal life, however, that technical answer assumes some things that many people seem to misunderstand.
First I want to address what separates most of the cults from true Christianity. In our definition of what it takes to be a Christian we said we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God. But what does that mean? It means that we must believe that Jesus is God, one of the Trinity. If we don't then we do not know the real Jesus. The Jehovah's Witness deny that Jesus is God. They believe He is Michael the archangel, the first of God's created beings. Mormons believe that Jesus is a created being, the spirit brother of Lucifer. There are many more, but those should be enough to make the point. These groups are cults because they don't preach the biblical Jesus.
Although members of these groups might say that they believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for their sins, they are not truly saved. Remember only the biblical Jesus can save a sinner. So you see, just knowing the words does not make a person a Christian. But you don't have to be a member of a cult to misunderstand who the true Jesus is.
Jesus told us that the gate that leads to eternal life is narrow and few find it, but that the gate to destruction is wide and many will go through it (Matthew 7:13-14), so it should not surprise us that there are so many false gospels and false christs out there.
Even if you understand who the biblical Jesus is, do you understand what He did for you? Again that sounds easy, He died for our sins, but is it that easy? Here we go again, technically yes, but that is not the entire story.
I won't go so far as to call them cults, although many people do, but there are many 'denominations' out there which don't understand what Christ did for them.
We need to understand exactly what biblical Christianity says Jesus did on the cross. Orthodox Christianity believes that Jesus took the full wrath and punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. That when He said "It is finished," our redemption was finished. The full price had been paid for our sins. Now I want to explain some of the heretical teachings that are out there.
There is one group who teaches that our salvation was not complete on the cross, but instead that Jesus spent three days and nights in hell being tormented by the devil and his demons. They are dead wrong, the price of our salvation was not paid to the devil it was paid to God the Father. To believe that Jesus had to suffer torment at the hands of Satan and the demons, is to show you don't understand what salvation is or for that matter who Jesus is and what He did to redeem us.
There are other groups which claim you have to be a member of their church to obtain salvation. Did their church die on the cross to forgive us of our sins? No and their church can't save us, only Jesus Christ can. By adding membership in their church to what Jesus did on the cross, they are saying that what He did was not enough. If they think it was not enough, then they don't understand Him, God the Father or salvation.
Another group says that you must be baptized before you are saved. Again they say that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough in God the Father's sight; you must add to it by being baptized. Don't miss my point here, I believe that we are commanded to be baptized as a sign of our dying with Christ and our faith that He will raise us from the dead, but it is not what saves us. If you add to what Jesus did in order to obtain salvation, you don't understand exactly what He did in the first place.
Another group says that you must keep the Sabbath in order to be saved. Now I have no problem with someone who wants to keep the Sabbath, but if they link it to salvation, I have a major problem with it. If you add the work of keeping the Sabbath to what Jesus did on the cross then you are saying what He did was not enough. If what Jesus did was not enough we are all lost in our sins.
One group says that you can't eat meat and be saved. You can't find that in the Bible and again it is adding the work of vegetarianism to what Jesus did on the cross in order to obtain salvation.
I have even had people tell me that they question my salvation because I don't use only the King James Bible. They claim if you are saved using any other Bible version you are not really saved. You know, I never read that the King James Bible hung on a cross to save me from my sins. Nor have I ever read in any version, including the King James version, of the Bible that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough unless I use one specific translation of God's word. If it takes the King James Bible being added to what Jesus did then again you are saying that what Jesus did was not enough. I repeat if what Jesus did on the cross was not enough, then we are all lost in our sins.
You may be wondering, what difference does it make if people add to the gospel, after all they believe the basics. That is the point I have been trying to make, they don't truly believe the basics, if they believe you have to add anything to what Jesus did. Either Jesus paid the full price of our redemption on the cross, or Jesus and something we have to do paid the price. They are mutually exclusive. I am not trying to say that a person who has believed that there has to be something added to what Jesus did on the cross cannot have true salvation. The Holy Spirit can convict someone of their sin and bring them to saving grace through Jesus Christ even if they don't totally understand all the finer points of what Jesus did for them. I do believe, however, that once the person is saved the Holy Spirit will continue to work in their hearts and lead them in all truth. I don't believe they would remain for very long under these false teachings. What I am saying is that if the person understands the two different ideas of salvation and then rejects the idea that Jesus' death on the cross was all that was needed, then I believe they have denied the only One who can save them. Let me try to explain why I say that.
I want to use God's word, because what I think does not matter, but what God says does. There are a couple passages I want to quote, but this is only a small portion of the many passages in Scripture that testify to the same thing:
(Acts 10:43 NIV) All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
(John 11:25-26 NIV)  Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jesus said He was the resurrection and the life and that anyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. He did not say that anyone who believes on Him "and" anything. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that after we believe we no longer have to follow Christ, I think we do have to continue in the faith. I am trying to show that there is nothing needed for salvation other than to believe in the biblical Jesus. We are saved by faith through God's grace. Period! If there was anything that Jesus was not able to pay on the cross, then He cannot be our Savior. There can be no "and" in the salvation message and still be the salvation message.
(John 3:36 NIV) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. What does it take to reject the Son? I say it means to deny that He paid the price for our redemption in full. To say that when He said "it is finished" it wasn't somehow.
What I am trying to show is how seriously God takes this subject. Either you have salvation through His Son or you don't have salvation. If you deny that Jesus' death was the full payment for your sins, then you don't have salvation. Again assuming that you are denying and not just ignorant of the Scriptures. But remember, we remain ignorant of the Scriptures at our own peril.
We have talked about those who do not understand who Jesus is, or who think that what He did on the cross was not sufficient, but what about people who just don't seem to know God and who He is? I want to show you a letter I received a few days ago.
I read your response that you gave to the person on suicide and on God. I am writing to you because it said to feel free to reply to you. Well, I am. I too am confused about the "love" "GOD" has too offer. I am really tired of living and tired of praying to a God that does not hear. I think he already has people chosen for that. Now, I would like to discuss some of your answers with you regarding this so called GOD. He has not been there for me and my children. I AM a Christian and Jesus Christ is my savior and I don't understand how he can not hear me thank him for my family and my sight and so on. My children and I have been living in HELL for years and I have tried everything possible to change the problems, but it seems like I was born to live in hell!!!. My children ask me all the time MOM, why doesn't GOD love us kids and reach out to us just once? The truth is I just started giving up and told the children how life really is. You had stated many things on how to get God to hear you, I have done all that all my life and he hates me. But why my children? what in God's name did they do to have him turn on them. Not only my children but what about the thousands of children and adults that pray, believe, and trust in him only to be turned away; like when they are being raped? beaten? hungry? Did they ask for this also??? oh maybe it is because ( as you stated) they have not let him into their hearts!!! but guess what, I know they have just like me. I know because I have listened and cared for these people and they truly lived a life for the lord!!!!! How can you believe GOD is good when he is so bad???
Notice how emphatic this person is; "I AM a Christian." Yet when you read what the person has to say about God you have to wonder how she can consider herself a Christian. She claims God has turned on her children and is the reason their lives are so bad. She claims God does not love her children. How can a person believe that God loved the whole world enough to send His only Son to die for our sins if they don't even believe that God loves their children? How can a person believe that Christ died to save them from eternity in hell when they don't even believe that He cares enough to listen to their cries? She even states that God hates her! How can a person who believes that God hates them truly have salvation? That might still sound strong to you, but if we are saved by faith and that faith is the belief that God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, then how can someone who claims God hates them have that faith? I say they can't.
What a tragedy, this woman is blaming God because He does not help her, but she does not even know who He is. She claims to be His child, but how can she be if she does not know Him?
The sad part is I am afraid if this woman were to go to most churches and tell them what she told me, she would be counseled, but it would be on how she needs to love herself so that she can understand the love God has for her. Folks, that is not what she needs and that is not what she got from me. She needs to know the God of the Bible and His Christ! She needs to know where she and all of humanity stand in relationship with God and that although He loves her He demands that she come humbly to Him in repentance and place her faith in Jesus. Faith that proclaims a belief that God does love us and that He paid the full price through the death of Christ to free us from our sins.
We have preached a fluffy salvation for the past 50 or so years and it is sending people to hell. We have preached a gospel that tells people that all they have to do is "accept" Jesus Christ as their savior and all their problems will be over. Many people preach this out of compassion but it is misplaced compassion. You don't have to read the Bible long before you will see that God does not promise us a wonderful physical life. In fact He promises us hardships and trials and tribulations. Just read Foxes Book of Martyrs if you don't believe me. It might surprise you to know that there are more Christians today being martyred for their faith then in all of the churches history up until now. There are many passages which speak about our suffering for the cause of Christ; like James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:3-7. Look at what Jesus said Himself: (Matthew 10:34-39 NIV)  "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'  a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'  "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Along with those troubles Jesus promises us that He will never leave us and that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The problem is that we don't tell people that there will be hardships at all, so when troubles come the people are left with a dilemma. Does God truly love them or is Christianity all just a sham? It never crosses their minds to lean on God and to be strengthened by Him.
Jesus told us about such people too: (Matthew 13:20-21 NIV)  The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. Are we responsible for their having no root? We are if we don't preach the real gospel in the first place. It is not our job to sell the gospel, our job is to truthfully proclaim it. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict and draw people. He is faithful and will do His job, but we must also be faithful and do ours. We owe it to a dying world, some of whom call themselves Christians.
These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.
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