Some of the people reading this will not be going to Heaven.
Did I get your attention?
Does that make you upset?
“But… But I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. That makes me a Christian. Right?”
Well, internet article reader, the fact is that not everyone who claims to believe in Jesus is an actual follower of Jesus.
Still don’t believe me?
Maybe we should see what Jesus says about this:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 7:21 / New International Version)
You’re saying that my confession of faith does not guarantee me an eternity in Heaven?
“But… my pastor said that all we have to do is accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and were good to go. That’s it… a quick prayer and all my sins are forgiven.”
Sorry internet article reader! One of two things happened there:
You misinterpreted your Pastor’s words or you want to believe that is all he said
Your pastor has decided to water down God’s Word… most likely in an attempt to keep people coming to his church.
Either way, if that is your understanding of salvation (praying to Jesus and asking Him to forgive your sins), you are doing it wrong.
Now, let me be clear here… confession of sins is essential to our salvation:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1:9 / English Standard Version)
So you would be correct in your assertion that confession of your sins is required to enter Heaven’s gate when we pass from this life to the next. The problem a lot of Christians have is that they believe that is ALL that is required, or they have a grave misunderstanding of what it means.
“Well, no Mr. Internet article writer man… that doesn’t sound like anything my squishy motivational speaker… I mean Pastor says. He tells us that God is love and that He loves us exactly the way we are and that I don’t need to change anything about myself because I’m a special little snowflake!”
In response to your motivational speaker, I would say that he got one thing right.
God IS love.
The problem is, we, as modern day Christians, have changed the definition of love. God being love does not mean that He is, in any way, okay with you staying where you are once you say the “sinner’s prayer”. God being love means that He loves you so much that He doesn’t want you doing those same things you were doing before you came to know Him.
Now, you may have heard the story of Christ dying on the cross and said something like “Yea, I believe He did that, I want in on that action!”
So you asked Jesus to “come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior”. But after that nothing really changed. You went right back to the old vices you were doing before that moment… looking at porn, lying, and doing a bunch of other sinful things…
Remember that verse I showed you from Matthew? The one about not everyone calling Jesus “lord, Lord” going to Heaven?
Yea… about that…
That’s probably you if your life looks no different than it did before you made your “proclamation of faith”.
You might have even gone so far as to have your pastor baptize you.
“Yea! I mean c’mon internet article writer man… even Jesus was baptized!”
Well… to you, I will say this…
You know OF Jesus.
You don’t actually KNOW Jesus.
Don’t believe me??
Well, let’s take a look at what Paul has to say about this:
“ 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 / ESV)
Lets look at that for a second.
To truly be in Christ, your life has to change!
If you are sitting here, ready to hit the “x” button and close this article or thinking up a snarky comment to put in the comments section because you are so upset that someone writing an internet article would call out your salvation…
You are one those “Fans” of Jesus that Kyle Idleman talks about in his book “Not a Fan”.
Im going to put it to you this way:
It is possible to know OF Jesus and not have your life changed.
That is absolutely possible.
You might read your bible everyday.
You might even pray on occasion and even go to church (yay!)
But the fact is Jesus’ free gift of salvation…the beating that He took at the hands of the Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns, the lashes that literally ripped chucks of His flesh off His back, the absolutely gruesome death on the Cross… you might believe those things happened to Him and still be destined to the fiery pits of eternal damnation
Here is the key point…
His actions to buy your freedom have not changed you.
That makes you a fan of Jesus.
And being a fan of Jesus is no different than choosing not to truly believe in Him.
Now, earlier I was talking about how confessing your sins to Jesus is not enough to be given the free gift of salvation.
And that may very well seem to go against everything you have been taught.
But truly believing in Jesus requires so much more than a quick 2 minute prayer telling God that you believe His Son died for your sins.
That’s just the starting point.
To truly believe in Jesus means that after confessing your sins to Him, you should have a convicting spirit of wanting to walk away from your sinfulness.
That, boys and girls, is called having a spirit of repentance.
“Many understand the term repentance (from the Greek word metanoia) to mean ‘turning from sin.’ This is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means ‘to change one’s mind.’ The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, ‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.’ The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.”
The important sentence there was “The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions”
“Well, okay internet article writer man… that is what one man says about it… My pastor says that we are all welcome into God’s family, exactly how we are and we don’t have to change… and he is a pastor… so why should I believe that you and that guy are right and my pastor is wrong?
I mean, he went to bible school. You are just some regular guy!”
Good question internet article reader!
Lets go back to Luke’s Gospel and see what Jesus has to say (seeing as His definition is really the only one that matters, right?):
“Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’ And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’ Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’’’
(Luke 3:8-14 / ESV)
So basically, Jesus is telling us here that we should feel led to stop doing all the bad things we were doing before.
Now, some will call me a heretic or say that Im way too serious about this…
To those people, I will reply with two things.
First, look at what the Bible says about repentence in the Book of Acts:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out”
(Acts 3:19 / ESV)
Here, we find Luke putting it clearly to us…
To truly be saved, so “that your sins may be blotted out”, we have to turn away from our sinful ways.
We have to want to give them up and trust that through the prompting of the Spirit that God will remove our want to do those things again.
Now this doesn’t mean that we won’t occasionally slip and temporarily fall back into those sinful ways.
The evil one will fight us tooth and nail when we are trying to make a change like this in our lives.
Remember, the evil one doesn’t have to do much to keep the person who has made a Golden Calf out of their sinful addiction or actions. But when that person puts God back in His rightful place (at the center of absolutely everything in their life), that pisses the evil one off and he will throw EVERYTHING he has at you, in an attempt to get you to put that golden calf back at the center of your life.
Secondly, I will say this…
It is impossible to know Jesus and not be different.
If you truly know Jesus, that relationship should make you yearn to be more like Him.
There should be a radical change in your life.
It might involve you leaving behind some old friends who aren’t good for you. It might involve you walking away from a very good paying job to take a less paying job that gives you more margin in your life to spend more time with your family and do the works that God has planned for you. It might involve taking that step of faith and going into the ministry and lead the flock that God has ordained you to lead.
It might involve you writing articles on the internet about messages that people don’t want to hear and will most likely try to call you out for using a single curse word twice in an attempt to discredit something that hit too close to home.
But, mostly, it should give you a conviction to do something to do your part to spread God’s Kingdom here on earth.
If you’ve made it this far, first off… that means you have been touched by something I’ve said here.
If you feel like you are the person I have been writing about…
Hit your knees… Beg Jesus to send the Spirit to show you how to stop being a fan of Jesus and start being a follower.
Secondly… thank you!
It is incredibly humbling that people take time out of their busy lives to read what I write.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Lastly…and most importantly…
We are quickly coming up on Easter.
As the pastor at my church puts it… this is the Super Bowl of Christianity!
This is the time of year that we should take some time and really think about what, exactly, Christ did so that we have the opportunity to go to Heaven. How He willingly took on the punishment we deserve just so that we could be His.
I know that we hear the story all the time and after a while we get somewhat numb to it.
But let’s not forget how that single moment in history, the very second that He died on the cross and then three days later when Mary found the tomb to be empty, how that moment in history changed the game for all humanity.
No longer are we weighed down by the shackles of our sin.
No longer do we need to be fearful of death.
No longer are we slaves to sin…
But like Paul says in Romans, we are slaves to Christ:
“I, Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ on assignment, authorized as an apostle to proclaim God’s words and acts. I write this letter to all the believers in Rome, God’s friends.”