The reason for the quotation marks above is because these are not orthodox Christian beliefs, but rather superstitions. Superstition is a more accurate term because it connotes beliefs (usually irrational) based upon either illogical reasoning or upon nothing at all.
Sadly, there are many practicing Christians who subscribe to one or more of these superstitions, though they are not based on the Bible in any way.
1. “God will let me into heaven based upon how I’ve lived my life.”
Someone once explained this perspective to me this way, “God will look at what I’ve done and say something like, ‘You’ve done some pretty bad things and some pretty good things. All in all, I think you did the best you could with what you had, so come on in to heaven.’”
This is the most anti-Christian belief that exists in American churches today because it denies the nature of God and belittles the work of Christ. In this economy, God is not holy or just because He will automatically forgive all but the worst people. What’s worse, this viewpoint says explicitly that Jesus is not necessary for reconciliation. That’s just wrong. Jesus is the reason that God can be both just and merciful, both holy and gracious. Without the person and work of Jesus Christ, there is no heaven for anyone.
2. “I don’t really have to be ‘born again’ like those weirdos who talk about Jesus like he was their best buddy.”
Well, you don’t have to become just like those weirdos, but you do have to be born again. [John 3:3] To focus on how born again believers live their lives is to focus on the wrong target. Everyone who is born again will continue to sin from time to time, but the focus for all believers is on Christ.
Jesus talked about this directly when he told a teacher of the Jews that he essentially had to go back to his mother’s womb and start over if he wanted to see the kingdom of heaven. In other words, he had to unlearn everything that he knew about religion and relearn his beliefs with Jesus as the focus. Jesus isn’t an add-on to an established religion, Jesus is the whole point!
3. “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” (also takes the form of,) “I don’t have to change the way I live to be a Christian.”
This is actually backward. If you truly are a Christian, the way you live WILL change, but it won’t be you that is the cause of the change. Likewise, if you truly are a Christian, you will find a way to worship God with other believers on a regular basis. Unfortunately, what these statements make clear is that the person making them is probably not a Christian.
Christians are linked together in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) and we can no more fail to assemble for worship than our feet can walk away on their own. Similarly, Christians who continue to grow into the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4:15-16) will and must change the way they live; it is inevitable.
4. “There are a lot of ways to heaven; Christianity is just one way.”
The main problem with this is that the world’s religions are in conflict with each other philosophically. In other words, they contradict each other so they can’t all be right. For instance, Jews do not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Christianity depends upon it. Likewise, Islam proclaims that Jesus was not crucified; again, Christianity depends upon it. If one of these religions is correct, the others have to be mistaken.
Man-made religions cannot create a ladder to God, God must create a stairway to heaven himself and He’ll have to tell us about it himself. That is exactly what Jesus is, the only way to the Father. John 14:6
5. “If I believe in God and lead a good life, He will bless me in this lifetime with good things.
Many nominal Christians use Jesus like a good luck charm. They’ll go to church, read the bible, pray and all the other things that Christians do, but they’re different. They’re in it for the here and now; they want the respectability and social acceptance that doing these things gets them in certain circles. Their version of Christianity is like a polio vaccination – it contains just enough Christianity to keep them from catching the real thing.
Additionally, many want more and better things in this life and God is seen as a tool they can use to do so. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” says Joel Osteen. This is typical of the Word-Faith movement that has captivated many nominal Christians. So much for not serving both God and money.
Now, let’s close in prayer,
“Dear God. Thank you that I am not like other people who believe such silly things. Amen.”
Whoa! Wait just a minute there, Dave. I see what you did and it’s not very nice. (Luke 18:9-14)
You got me. If you made it through the five-bladed gauntlet above without a scratch, you must be better than all those ‘Christians’ who believe so wrongly. Right?
Let go of your inner Pharisee and fall upon the mercy of Christ Jesus. You and I are no better than the misguided Christians who believe these and other superstitions. We’ve just been saved from them by the grace of God. Thank God that though we are exactly like the people who believe these fallacies, God in His mercy saved us from them not because we are better, or because we deserve it, but because that is what He does. He saves sinners one at a time.