Not all Christians Will Go to Heaven
I posted a while back about a lady who asked her pastor why she should become a disciple because she was already a Christian.
My pastor preached recently on the growing body of people in our society who call themselves Christians but do not attend church.
My children have spoken to me of teachers in school speaking about religions and listing Christianity among other religions.
With these statements in mind, I have come to the conclusion that not all Christians will go to heaven.
You can call yourself a Christian, and while this should express faith in Jesus Christ, it evidently means that you subscribe to a system of beliefs I would call "the religious practices of Christianity." Among them is the belief in Jesus Christ, which amounts to believing that he existed, walked this planet, did good, performed miracles, died, and was resurrected, ascended to heaven, left behind some disciples (who became apostles) who carried on in belief and spread the message of Jesus to others so they could believe in these things too.
I have met many, many people who subscribe to such a position. Among them are people who have attended church most of their lives. But they lack something: an authentic encounter with the living Christ. They do not have the marks of one who has met him, who know him personally, and who have the knowledge that He knows them deeply too. This goes beyond conversion, but to true discipleship. Paul tells us in Romans that if we do not have the Holy Spirit within us, we do not belong to Jesus Christ. I want to belong to Jesus. I do know I have the Holy Spirit. I do not always follow Him the best I can.
I heard someone say this week, "There are still two types of Christians: good ones, and bad ones, but they are both still Christians." I agree. There are bad Christians who will go to heaven.
I do not want to be Christian, nor to be A Christian, but rather a follower of Jesus Christ which I would call A disciple.
What if I flipped what the woman said to her pastor and made it sound like this, "Why become a Christian when I am already a disciple?" This actually makes more sense to me than the inverse. To me, however, and in actuality, the two are synonymous and I find that true in most of my conversations.
Now, my point about going to heaven is rather tongue in cheek in some ways. Christianity, or rather being a disciple, should never have been about going to heaven. This emphasis has clouded the true meaning of following Jesus today. It has lifted our eyes too high and set them on the afterlife. This has done a great disservice. The best I can construct is that this emphasis is highly regarded by revivalism, to which circles I had belonged. I do believe in reviving, in revivals as an approach to evangelizing, but I do not subscribe to many of the statutes revivalism is built on. Gordon Smith writes a good deal on this in a couple of his books on conversion. Conversion is about Jesus, not heaven.
Smith rebuts revivalism by looking at Romans 12:1-2, that the living sacrifice we are to be is to be "laid on the altar," but the mind of a believer is also to be renewed. Revivalism is only built on the first part, which leaves the whole incomplete. Add to revivalism's emphasis on the individual (I can be saved by my own decision to accept Jesus) the move toward private and personal makes it more problematic for people seeing a need for the corporate body--the church. Could it be that revivalism has actually had the counter effect of making people believe Christianity is such a personal and private affair that a convert does not need to go to church to be/stay one? While conversion is a subjective experience and a personal encounter with God, it was never intended to be a sort of stillborn event but one where the church was seen as the midwife to God bringing the new "born again" child into the family. It is a both-and moment, individual and communal, private and corporate. The family of God is made up of all who have the same experience of being born again.
Whatever we need to do to create a common language to communicate a common understanding of what a believer is, a disciple is, a Christian is, and hopefully unite all of these understandings, I want to be a part of that. Conversion is just the beginning--and it can be a very good beginning if we start it off well. Hopefully, we will find all is well that begins well.