Welcome to Belief News with Lydia Hoverson. Today we will discuss the question, “What does it take to be a Christian?” I asked some different Christian friends this question.
Most of them started out by saying things like, “Love others”, or “Follow the Bible’s instructions.” However, when I rephrased the question to, “What does it take to be saved,” for most of them it clicked. “Oh, only the grace of God through faith in Jesus.” That’s the right answer.
Don’t get this question confused with what it takes to be Christ like. Being like Christ is something we will never accomplish here on earth, but we strive for it. We are only able to be any tiny bit like Christ by his strength. It is a result of salvation and becoming a Christian. To be a Christian is to be saved, someone who confessed with their mouth and believed in their heart that Jesus is Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9). Our loving good works are simply what God put into those he willed. Psalm 16:2 and Ephesians 2:8-10.
People who believe works are a part of salvation love to use James chapter two as a reason why we are saved by works. They zoom in on verse 24, “A person is justified by works and not faith alone”, which seems clear, until you look at the context. The point James was making is that faith is dead without works, but he didn’t say it was not good enough.
The belief that works save us is like two walls holding up a roof. One wall is faith, the other is works and the roof is salvation. As if they both are the reason we’re saved. They both hold it up. The belief that faith alone saves us is like a branch from a vine. The vine is Jesus and the branches are us. The “attachment” of us to Jesus, is faith, and the fruit we bear are our works. This is biblical cause of John 15:1-10, where Jesus says those who abide in him will bear much fruit, for apart from him you can do NOTHING. It makes sense, then, why James would say our faith is dead without works. Works don’t make our faith alive, they are proof that our faith is alive. Romans 11:11-24.
What then happens to the person who has faith but no works? I would say they probably don’t exist. Hebrews says if we go on sinning deliberately it basically leads to death and 1 John says that there is sin that leads to death. Notice the word “lead”. Sin leads us away from Jesus. God would never kick us out for any reason cause he forgives all sin including unrepentant ones. The more you sin, though, without repenting, the more likely you are to leave the faith.
The next time, then, that you wonder if you’re truly a Christian or not, don’t ask, “What have I done?” or “Have I truly repented?”. Ask, “What did Jesus do?” “Did he die for my sins?” If your answer is yes, then that’s what it takes to be a Christian.