More than half of all Americans claim they are "Christian". However --- ask them what it means, and they will say, "I believe in Jesus!"
It that what it takes to be a Christian? James says, "You believe in one God, you do well; but even demons believe and shudder".
So --- you there, reading this --- is it possible to THINK oneself a "Christian", but be wrong? Consider:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'
Here are some who cast out demons, prophesied, and did mighty works. But JESUS DIDN'T KNOW THEM! How is that possible? Prophesy?
"Why, I sang in the choir! I counseled people! I was a DEACON!!! Jesus, how could you not know me???"
Exactly how could that be? Read further:
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' " Revelation3:14-22.
How can one be poor, or blind, or wretched, or miserable, or naked and NOT KNOW it? But there it is, fully possible. These are those who thought themselves saved. They have their "golden ticket", and do not need to worry.
...but should they have? Yes!
What separates you, or me, from them? How do we know which we are?
What is salvation? That is the question. To believe in Jesus --- yes, that is the beginning; but there's so much more. Is it works that we do? Yes --- if you hold to one of the world's religions, but not in Christianity! Then what is the difference between "saved-belief", and "unsaved belief"?
James labors to say in chapter 2, saved belief is the kind of belief which produces good works. We still have not come to an understanding of what it is yet, have we?
In John3, Jesus said "you must be born again". So it salvation "born-again AND belief"? Yes, and no. It all depends on what "born-again", means.
Perhaps Paul can help us. The idea of "Born-Again", is explained beautifully in Romans6; before we can be born spiritually, we have to DIE. Paul uses five words interchangeably, "crucified/buried/immersed/died/UNITED" --- both in Jesus' death (our old selves must truly die to sin), and united in Jesus' resurrection (we are now new creations). Born-again, is in-Christ, and Christ in you. What does that mean?
"I have been CRUCIFIED with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the One who loved me and delivered Himself up for me." Gal2:20
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away (is passing away!), behold all has become new (new things have come!)."
The problem with Romans chapter 6, is that chapter 7 follows; the old self may be DEAD, but it is not GONE --- and we find ourselves with a war inside, the old sinful self battling with the new spiritual self! It is in despair that Paul cries, "Oh wretched man that I am, who will FREE me from this war within my members?"
...and the solution to that war, is in chapter 8. What weak flesh could not do, God did, sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to condemn sin in the flesh.
Focus on verses 12-14 --- if we walk after the lusts of the flesh, WE MUST DIE; but if by the Spirit we put to death the flesh, we will live. So then it's our decision to walk, but it's the Spirit's POWER.
I like what James says in chapter 4:
"Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
This then is the secret to Christianity; we do not fight to become "good enough for God", but we surrender to Him that HE becomes our goodness in and through us. It is the kind of faith that receives the Spirit and receives Jesus, indwelling our hearts and souls --- so that our deeds are HIM working THROUGH us.
Part-n-parcel of that, is COMMUNION --- do you commune with Him? Do you have conversations with your Best Friend? Can you hear His conversation back? Does your soul long for His presence?
Do you talk to Him? Is He the first thing on your mind when you arise, and the last thing before you sleep? Or is He just the "last thing on your mind"?
What are your priorities? Does He indwell you, does your soul know righteousness? Is every moment you breathe, a prayer to Him?
Is He real to you? Or are you one of those who will gleefully run up to meet Jesus when He returns, only to be crestfallen when He frowns and says, "I don't know you"?
Scary thought, isn't it? But it doesn't have to be scary; there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 1Jn4!
He's already demonstrated His infinite love for you; as He hung there, dying on the Cross, YOUR NAME WAS ON HIS LIPS! He's already paid the price, done the work; all He asks is that you accept His love --- and accept it completely, that it becomes a heart-changing soul-washing eternity-triumph! Let HIM be your song and your joy. Let HIM be your salvation and your love.
The greatest commandment is "you shall LOVE GOD with all that you are." (Matt22:37)