Is merely believing on Jesus as Lord and Savior sufficient to receive eternal life?
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23; compare Luke 9:23).
Although the acceptance and honor of Christ's role in our salvation is essential, Jesus said merely believing on His name does not fulfill all of God's requirements regarding the way we should live. We must also do the will of the Father.
Jesus explained that He expects much more from His followers than simply believing that He is the Christ—the Messiah—and calling Him Lord. He also requires that we change the way we live.
How did Christ describe the way we should live?
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14; compare Luke 13:23-25; emphasis added throughout).
George Barna, an American pollster who specializes in observing and cataloging religious trends and behavior, says modern Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep. But mile-wide Christianity is not the path to God's Kingdom. Rather, according to Jesus, it is the highway to destruction.
The way leading to eternal life is the way of living within the boundaries defined in God's law. It is not the broad and popular way that approves of any behavioral preference and practice.
What is the source of most people's views on the way they should serve and worship God?
"These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9).
"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings" (Jeremiah 23:21-22; compare 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
As it was in the days of Jesus and the biblical prophets, so is it today! Most people put their faith in the words and opinions of the religious teachers they like the most. Few look first to God's words in the Scriptures as the primary basis of their beliefs.
What should be the source of our beliefs and the guide for our behavior?
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17; compare Romans 10:15-16).
"To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).
If we really want to follow God according to His instructions, we must honestly evaluate the origins of our present worship habits and way of life. We need to ask ourselves whether they are derived from the Scriptures. Are our teachers faithful to God's Word? Or are they merely disseminating the ideas and teachings of men? The answer to these questions make an enormous difference in whether God will work with us as His servants or whether He will reject us.
Is worshiping God in vain a recent trend?
"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9).
"My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice" (Ezekiel 33:31-32, New International Version).
More than 2,500 years ago the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel described the self-serving and ultimately worthless approach to worship the Israelites had taken. The people heard the words of God's messengers, but they did not practice what they heard. Later, in New Testament times, Jesus said this approach amounted to worship of God in vain—ultimately fruitless and worthless. Little has changed. Our age is the age of disbelief.
How do the Scriptures describe the beliefs and conduct of the earliest Christians?
"... When Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos], they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately" (Acts 18:26, New Revised Standard Version).
"And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way" (Acts 19:23).
"But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, 'When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case'" (Acts 24:22; compare Acts 9:1-2; Acts 19:1-10).
Members of the early Church often referred to themselves as those who followed the Way. Paul refers to their way of life as "the way of the Lord" and "the way of God" (Acts 18:25-26). In other words, the early Christians, directly taught by Christ's apostles, were recognized by their deeds and actions. Their godly way of life distinguished them from the society around them.
The way of life of the early Christians was called the Way because they lived the way Christ lived. They followed His example. They obeyed His instructions. The "Way" was then, and still is, a way of living and thinking that is profoundly different from that followed by the vast majority of humanity.