First of all, a Christian is not someone who claims to be something only because of a family tradition. Though I see this primarily in those who are 18 years of age and younger, adults are not immune. The Bible is very clear that nobody will enter heaven because of anyone else. Becoming a Christian is a very personal thing. 1 Corinthians 6:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him…” You are responsible for your own personal faith. In other words, Christianity cannot be passed down like your grandfather’s pocket watch.
Secondly, nobody can be a true Christian if they believe they can or must earn their way to Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly state: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Let me ask you a question. Can you earn a gift? Of course not. If you work hard for someone, how would you feel if they called the money they handed you a gift? That would be insulting! It is the same with salvation. There is nothing you can do to deserve God’s free gift of salvation.
Thirdly, nobody can become a true Christian simply by saying something that their heart does not mean. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he.” Talk is cheap! The heart is very important and in the proverbial sense just mentioned it is referring to the will. (* see note at bottom) A true Christian knows this and acts on it. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” It is very important to know that there are no magic chants or secret passwords that will get you into heaven.
Fourthly, nobody can truly be called a Christian if faith is just one of the masks they wear. Some people can look very convincing on the outside. They may have a Christian t-shirt from snow camp, they may have a Bible, they may even go to church, but none of those things are what a Christian is. 1 Samuel 16: 7b says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The heart is that part of us deep down inside where all of the things we really believe are kept. Those core beliefs are like roots, they feed all our actions and words. There are many people who hide what they really believe. They fake that they believe something to impress others and it fools some people sometimes, but mostly we just fool ourselves. And, honestly, trying to “fake” God out with words we don’t mean or actions that hide what we really think is ridiculous. God looks right past all that stuff to see what’s really written on our hearts.
Next time I'll share the last two misconceptions I intend to cover, and I believe they are the most important.*Note: The writer of Proverbs was not scientifically ignorant of the function of the brain in thinking processes. He combines the mind and the heart to illustrate that thought and action must be interlaced. Generally speaking, our actions betray what we really believe. See misconception #4.