It is absolutely amazing how many wrong ideas there are concerning what it means to be a Christian. It would absolutely astound you, I hope, to hear what many people think makes them a Christian. Let’s look at a few things that some wrongly believe.
I am not a Christian because I was born in America. You might call this salvation by geography. Some believe that because they were born in the right place, that is enough. Although some believe that since they were born in a “Christian” nation they therefore must be a Christian, it is simply not true. Of course, an excellent argument can be made that America is not a Christian nation at all. Even so, Christianity has been the dominant religion in America. But that does not make you a Christian. Salvation by geography doesn’t work.
I am not a Christian because I had Christian parents. You might call this salvation by heredity. Some believe that Christianity is like the family business–– passed down from one generation to another. That is not true. Each person must make that decision individually. Unfortunately, parents cannot make that decision for their children. I wish they could, but they can’t. Salvation by heredity doesn’t work.
I am not a Christian because I don’t do really bad things. You might call this salvation by subtraction. Some believe that if you just stay away from the really big sins that you are all right. They think that because they have not committed murder or adultery or grand theft auto that God will have to let them in. I’m sure it is better to have not done those things, but not doing him will not get you into heaven. Salvation by subtraction doesn’t work.
I am not a Christian because I try to live a good life. You might call this salvation by morality. Some believe that trying to do your best is enough. They believe that if you are sincere and that if your intentions are good you will meet whatever standard God has. The problem with morality is that it is always relative. You may be more moral than someone else but then again there is always someone more moral than you. The problem is that your morality must be perfect. You must be without sin. Salvation by morality doesn’t work.
I am not a Christian because I do good works. You might call this salvation by addition. Some people believe that doing more good things than bad things is what makes the difference. Again, you run into that gnarly little problem of perfection. We are all sinners and those sins cannot be overlooked. The penalty for those sins must be paid either by you or by someone without sin. It is not enough to do a few good things to try to offset the bad. Salvation by addition doesn’t work.
I am not a Christian because I go to church. You might call this salvation by osmosis. Some believe that by sitting in a church service enough Christianity will penetrate their lives somehow. But sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a garage makes you a car. Standing in the rain will make you wet but it won’t turn you into water. Salvation by osmosis doesn’t work.
I am not a Christian because I join a church. You might call this salvation by association. Some believe that making a commitment to the organization of Christianity is enough. Now I believe that true Christians ought to join a local church. But I do not believe, on the other hand, that joining a local church makes you a Christian. It’s similar to marriage. I believe in marriage. I believe that people who love one another and want to live together in an intimate relationship ought to get married. It is the expression of their commitment to one another. But the ceremony of marriage does not itself cause them to be committed and faithful.
I am not a Christian because I believe God exists. This is a tricky one. You might call this salvation by intellectual agreement or knowledge. You see, we are not talking about faith here. You can believe in the existence of God without making any life commitment to him. The demons believe in God in this way.