Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Q – Just exactly HOW “Christian” do I have to be, to go to heaven (to be saved)?
A – The short answer is, ALL THE WAY, ENTIRELY Christian. We either are FOR God or AGAINST Him. There is no partway. Being partway (having some Christian-like beliefs, values, or behaviors) can be a step in our journey towards salvation, but it is never an endpoint. It is not-quite-there-yet.
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.
Salvation (going to heaven) is a heart matter of being aware of one’s sinfulness and turning AWAY from it and TOWARDS Jesus. Having the attitude of wanting as little to do with obeying Jesus as possible likely means the person is not genuinely interested in a relationship with Jesus. “Christian” is a follower of Christ. If you don’t follow Christ, you don’t go to heaven.
When I first came back to the Bible, I started reading the gospels. I was startled to be heavily convicted by Jesus’ many sayings which seemed to indicate a total and complete surrender to him was necessary. He not only did not seem interested in casual followers, but actively repelled them. Examples such as this:
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:53-56,60,66
People who had been casually following him, he repelled, by making an “eat my flesh and drink my blood” speech that must have baffled everyone. Remember, he hadn’t died yet and so they had no point of reference for this.
And another example:
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)
Hating one’s family to follow him? Hating one’s own life? And carrying a cross, no less? We are familiar with the cross as an ultimate symbol of triumph, through which Jesus obtained victory over death and redeemed us from eternal separation from God. In the first century, when Jesus was preaching, the cross did not have these connotations. It was a brutal, humiliating torture device for the worst of criminals. To follow him is to take up a cross? There was probably no more unappealing statement he could have made (other than perhaps eating his flesh and drinking his blood).
With those passages in mind, I took inventory of my life, found it fell far short of God’s standard, and was horrified to think that I may not be saved (and perhaps many whom I loved might not be either).
It is by grace alone, through faith alone that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, we can’t have Jesus be our Savior (go to heaven someday) but reject him as our Lord (yield to Him throughout what remains of our life). “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13
So we see that faith, given as a gift by God, is what saves us. But the next verse tells of the results of that salvation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Rather than being saved by some easy act of our own wills, we are saved by the hand of God Almighty, by His will and for His use. We are His servants, and from the moment of salvation by faith, we embark on a journey of pre-ordained good works that are the evidence of that salvation. If there is no evidence of growth and good works, we have reason to doubt that salvation ever truly took place. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), and a dead faith is not a saving faith. Source
Here is a chart that helped me out. Note that discipleship follows salvation, but both are marks of true Christians.
|Salvation is free and “without price” (Rom. 6:23; Isa. 55:1), although salvation is certainly not cheap (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 Cor. 6:20).||Discipleship is costly and the cost must be counted (Luke 14:25-33).|
|Salvation takes place in an instant of time (Acts 2:47).||Discipleship is a life-long process (John 8:31; Matthew 28:19-20).|
|Salvation is believing on Christ (Acts 16:30-31).||Discipleship is following Christ (Matt. 4:18-22) and learning from Him (Matt. 11:29).|
|Salvation is coming to Christ and finding rest from the burden of sin (Matthew 11:28).||Discipleship is taking Christ’s yoke and learning from Him (Matthew 11:29).|
|Salvation involves Christ loving me (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20; John 3:16).||Discipleship involves me loving Christ (Matthew 10:37).|
|A truly saved person is one who believes the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 6:17).||A true disciple is one who continues in Christ’s Word (John 8:31).|
|To be saved a person must fall before the feet of Christ crucified and claim the mercy of God (Luke 18:13).||To be a disciple a person must sit at the feet of Christ and hear His Word with a meek and teachable heart (Luke 10:39).|
|A saved person is a believer (1 John 5:1).||A disciple is a learner [the word “disciple” means “a learner, student, pupil, adherent”].|
|A saved person confesses Christ (Rom. 10:9-10).||A disciple denies self (Luke 9:23).|
|A saved person possesses Christ (1 John 5:12).||A true disciple forsakes possessions (Luke 14:33).|
|Being saved involves trusting (Eph. 1:13).||Being a disciple involves training (Matt. 28:19-20).|
|Salvation involves receiving God’s gift (John 1:12; Eph. 2:8-9).||Discipleship involves receiving God’s instruction (Acts 2:42).|
|Every believer measures up to the full demands of God’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).||Believers often do not measure up to the full demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33).|
|Salvation involves one’s standing in Christ (one’s perfect position in Him).||Discipleship involves one’s state (one’s actual practice or condition).|
|With salvation the emphasis is upon what God has done (1 Cor. 15:3-4).||With discipleship the emphasis is upon what man must do (Luke 14:25-33).|
|The focus of salvation is upon the work of Christ (1 Cor. 1:18).||The focus of discipleship is upon the Word of Christ, His teaching (John 8:31).|
|Salvation is God’s commitment to His Word based on the work of His Son (Rom. 3:24).||Discipleship is the believer’s commitment to Christ’s Word based on his relationship to Christ (John 6:68).|
|The saved person is a saint (1 Cor. 1:2), perfectly set apart and holy in Christ (a position shared equally by all believers).||The disciple is a student (Matt. 11:29). Some believers are better students than others.|
|The invitation to salvation is “Come unto Me” (John 6:37; Matthew 11:28).||The invitation to discipleship us “Come after Me” (Luke 9:23).|
|Salvation requires obedience to the command to believe (1 John 3:23a; John 3:36).||Discipleship requires obedience to all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20).|
|Salvation is the sinner hearing His Word and believing on Him (John 5:24).||Discipleship is the saint sitting at His feet and hearing His Word (Luke 10:39).|
|The SINNER must not try to fulfill the demands of discipleship in order to be saved. This would be salvation by works.||The SAINT seeks to fulfill all the demands of discipleship because he is saved. This is being saved “unto good works” (Eph. 2:10).|
|Salvation involves a faith response to the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:1-4).||Discipleship involves bearing one’s cross daily (Luke 9:53).|
|God’s salvation is perfect, lacking nothing (Col. 2:10; 1 Cor. 1:30).||My measuring up to the full demands of discipleship is less than perfect, but “I follow after” (Phil. 3:12-13).|
|To be saved a person must believe on Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). The requirement for salvation is simple faith and trust in the all-sufficient Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.||To be a true disciple a person must continue in Christ’s Word, love Christ supremely, deny self, forsake all that he possesses, bear his cross daily, etc. The requirements of discipleship are many and they are difficult.|
|Discipleship (and all that it involves) is not a requirement for salvation.||Discipleship is the obligation of every saved person.|
|Every saved person is saved by faith and faith alone (not by obedience or by surrender or by submission or by love for Christ or by giving up possessions, etc.).||Every saved person is a follower of Christ because Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow Me” (John 10:27). In this sense every saved person is a disciple (follower of Christ), and yet some sheep follow the Shepherd more closely than others.|
|Salvation relates primarily to JUSTIFICATION.||Discipleship relates primarily to SANCTIFICATION.|
Justification and sanctification are related but they must not be confused.
|Salvation puts a person into a right relationship with Christ the Teacher.||Discipleship is an ongoing relationship and interaction between Teacher and student (a lifelong process).|
If you are struggling on the precipice of decision, don’t let it go. Choose today whom you will serve – yourself, or Jesus.
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2