Beware False Conversion

Is it possible to worship Christ and do it in vain?

Millions of churchgoers claim to “know” Jesus Christ, but fully reject the very teachings He proclaimed during His ministry, including the very laws Jesus Himself abided by. They have been deceived by the teachings of false ministers who are hostile to God’s laws and who misapply and distort the plain truth of the Bible.

Consider one popular passage of Scripture in Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” If you believe, you shall be saved—that’s future tense. But what kind of belief is Paul talking about here? Most people do not realize that the Bible speaks of two kinds of belief, or two kinds of faith: 1) living faith that brings salvation; and 2) dead, “no works” faith that leads to death.

It is the first kind of faith—the living faith that is coupled with works (James 2:18)—that so many fail to understand. Why won’t the same preachers who misapply Acts 16:31 also quote what Jesus Himself said when asked about inheriting salvation: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). And when a young man asked Him which commandments He was referring to, Jesus proceeded to list the Ten Commandments.

Jesus said if we are to be saved—there was a condition—if we are to be saved, by God’s grace, then we must keep the commandments!

The Bible also reveals that man cannot earn salvation. God gives it as a free gift. But He gives it to those who repent of sin and turn to God in humble obedience. God will not give eternal life to someone who is living in sin.

Many who claim to know Christ say the commandments have been done away. Yet John says that the only people who truly know Jesus Christ are those who keep His commandments (1 John 2:3-4). John, the same one who said we must believe on the name of Jesus, called those who claimed to know Christ, but refused to keep His commands, liars! There is no contradiction: Instead, we see that the kind of belief required for salvation is far different than many have carelessly assumed.

Human beings would rather do almost anything else than surrender to God. Human nature detests the thought of submitting to God’s law! This is why men have substituted their own laws, customs and traditions in place of God’s commandments, thinking they can still receive salvation by merely believing in Christ as their Savior.

Yet Christ says those who disobey His commandments worship Him in vain (Mark 7:7-9). In other words, it is entirely possible to think you are worshiping Christ and to be doing it in vain.

How can we know we are worshiping Christ the right way? The Apostle Peter answered this question in a sermon he gave to some unbelievers. Acts 2:37-38 say that after hearing Peter preach, these people “were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit].”

The first step in converting to God’s way of life is to repent of sin. And sin, the Bible reveals, is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4).

God’s law is summed up in one word: love! It is further defined in the two great commands Jesus outlined in Matthew 22: to love God and to love neighbor. This same law is further defined and divided into 10 points by the Ten Commandments, the first four detailing how to love God, the last six how to love neighbor.

Jesus also said, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). We must believe not only in Jesus as Savior, but also the gospel He brought and preached—the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom of God.

Here, then, is the Bible’s formula for becoming a true Christian: repentance from sin, belief in Christ and His gospel message, and baptism—an ordinance symbolizing faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Once these conditions are met, God stands bound by His promise to put within the repentant believer His Spirit of love, faith, understanding, gentleness and goodness. It is the down payment of our eternal inheritance. According to the Bible, a Christian is one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells! (Romans 8:9).

The Apostle Paul added, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” It is Christ’s own faith, in other words—which God supplies and places in us by the Holy Spirit—that actually imparts eternal life.

The Holy Spirit dwelling in you is Christ in you (Romans 8:10). God’s Spirit is how Christ dwells in us—it is how Jesus Christ comes again in the flesh (1 John 4:2). God’s Spirit will then “save” us, completing this process of salvation (verse 11).

This passage shows that final salvation means being given eternal life at the time of the resurrection. If the Holy Spirit of God is “dwelling in you” at that time (or at your death, whichever comes first), then your mortal body will be resurrected, or changed, to immortality.