I have received a number of comments surrounding what it means to be a Christian today. Not only is there a wide range of theological implications to this question, there are eternal implications as well.
- Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
- Luke 13:23-25 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Perhaps a few open-ended questions make the point.
When we are “saved”, are we expected to be perfect (without sin) as Christ is perfect?
- Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
But, how can we be perfect if there is no limit to our sin nature, even after Salvation? Paul, expresses his frustration in his personal continuing sin nature in Romans 7:7-25.
- Romans 7:22-23 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Clearly, there is not a person on earth who has not sinned (other than Christ) and the secular world certainly will not let Christians forget their continuing sin nature after “coming to Christ”.
- Galatians 5:19–21a Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
Are there any Christians who think they have not been jealous, angry, a dissenter, been envious, had impure thoughts, created strife, and set up idols that kept them from a closer relationship with God, in the last hour, much less the last week, month or year?
And, if we continue in what would seem to be “born-again” sin, how can we be accepted by God?
- Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
- 1 John 3:6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
So, if we all continue in sin after salvation, and through sanctification till death, (no matter how faithful or religious, or committed, or loving, or devoted, or… whatever we are), how do we know we will be members of the small group that make it through the “narrow gate”? How can we have the assurance of our eternity with God in Heaven as the Bible so clearly calls us to experience?
- Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our faith does not rest on “earning” a good slot in the afterlife like so many other “works-based” religions do. Our salvation comes from faith alone, through God’s grace, and Christ’s redeeming work on the cross.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 
So, as Christians, we are told we should be confident in our Salvation since it is not dependent on our effort. It is based on God’s solution to sin through the sacrifice of His Son.
- 2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,
- 1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
Any sign of insecurity in our eternal security is a sure sign we are headed in the wrong direction, right? But, at the same time, there remains this nagging feeling about “narrow gates” and the “wages of sin is death” and we are to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” while, at the same time, we continue to sin like Paul, somehow trying to understand Scripture when it says “no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him”. Mashing it all together like that (conveniently with no context to the individual verses) can keep us up at night rather than resting in God’s peace as we are called to do.
- Philippians 4:5-7 The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Sunday School Answer
Of course, the Sunday School answer to all this is that our salvation makes us perfect or sinless before God. Simple, simple. We get saved and the work of Christ, by dying for our sins (past, present and future) is fully paid.
- Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
However, there seems to be a Catch-22
If we are saved, our sins are forgiven. If we are not saved, WE have to pay for our sins. How do we know if we are saved? To the title of this article, are we “Christians” (born-again, forgiven, personal relationship with Jesus, etc.) or are we “christians”, believing God and Jesus exist, believing that our salvation is assured for various reasons ranging from loving others to a prayer made years ago, by going to church and reading a Bible once in a while, etc.
The deep question few theologians, pastors, or Sunday School teachers ever want to discuss is where is the line between saved and unsaved?
What behaviors or lack of behaviors get us through the narrow door rather than walking the wide path with the rest of humanity (Matt. 7:13)? How can we be confident in our ultimate fate when the line between good and evil on this earth is often so blurred (1 Cor. 13:12).
- There are many who are deeply spiritual and find this conversation ridiculous. They “know that they know that they know” and nothing more needs to be said. Some are Biblical Christians who live out their faith, humbly and submissively to God as both their Savior and their Lord. There are others in this group who seem to be just as adamant they are “saved”, not because of any personal attraction to God or the Bible, but because they profess to love people and, in their minds, that’s enough.
- Next there are those who consider all religious stuff a waste of time, except when investing the time to respond viscerally to posts like this one.
- Finally, there are those to whom I am writing this post… those who wonder if they are truly on the narrow path to Heaven or the wide road to Hell (there are only two paths on the other side of the grave – Matt. 25:46). Those who honestly worry if their sins are forgiven by God. Those who don’t have that “peace that transcends all understanding”.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a short, concise answer to the question of, “saved vs. lost”, “Heaven vs. Hell”. There are Christian fiction books written that offer a picture of haloes circling the heads of those who are sealed until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). That would be so easy if it were only true for all of us to see in real life. However, God chose not to make things so clear cut. He chooses to insert “faith” into the equation which complicates everything.
Resisting expanding on Scripture (like the Romans Road or again, Eph. 2:8-9), the assurance of Salvation is a change that can be felt by the believer and can be seen by the outside world. It comes through faith from the heart, not logic from the mind. The behavior it exhibits is not limited to “loving others”. It also involves loving God, worshiping Him, both privately and collectively. Finally, it includes an acceptance of His principles and truths, even when they run counter to our own.
Pastors and Bible teachers want to make Salvation a hard line in the sand. You’re either saved or lost. You have either “asked God, through Christ, to come into your life, and He has filled you with the Holy Spirit and and saved you from your sins”, or not. For God, it truly is that simple. For man, the reality that no one wants to talk about is that true Salvation is much more nuanced and harder to pin down.
Where do you see yourself along the spectrum of Christian vs. christian? For those interested in the question, it is probably the most important one that can be asked on this side of the grave.