What does it take for one to be "saved?" According to John all it takes is your believing that Christ came and died on the cross and spilled his holy blood to redeem mankind from his debt of sin. The reason that we are in need of salvation is revealed throughout the scriptures both in the old and the new testament.
5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6
10As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one;11there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.12All have turned away,they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,not even one.” Romans 10-12
According to the scriptures man after the fall became inherently evil. This explains to the rest of the world why Jews, Christians, and Muslims all view anyone who does not accept their beliefs as evil and immoral. The moment you are born into this world you too have incurred a debt of sin that must be made payable to the unforgiving monster that is God. The only problem is that you cannot pay off this debt on your own because it is beyond your ability to do so.
One of the requirements of the old testament was that all sacrifices made to God must be pure and unblemished. You were required to use only the choicest animals for the required sacrifices conducted by the priests for the people. The priest was a type of Christ and served as an intercessor between the people and God. The book of Hebrews explains this best:
22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:22-28
It's interesting to note that in verse 26 the words "culmination of the ages" is used descriptively as the time of Gods redemptive actions for man through Christ. A search for the definition of the word culminate on Bing yields this result:
transitive and intransitive verb finish spectacularly: to come or bring something to an end, especially a climactic one.
As you can see this also proves that the early church believed that theirs would be the end of the ages. They expected Jesus to return during their respective lifetime and not as modern day believers have interpreted it to mean some unknown time in the future. So the phrase the "culmination of the ages" can be restated as the end of the ages.
Now that I have gotten all of that background stuff out of the way let's get back to the purpose of this post. What does it take to be saved? John said that all you have to do is believe. But the scriptures differ on this matter depending on which gospel or epistle your read.
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
The author of Ephesians like the author of John states that you are saved by faith and that through grace. Works are not relevant to your salvation so that you cannot claim that you are saved based on your good works. At the same time we have the epistle of James chapter 2:14,22,24,26
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 22You see that his (Abraham) faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 24You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
This is why when someone tries to throw Pascals wager at me by stating that I lose nothing by believing I tend to refute them. If you claim to be a true Christian then you lose a lot because simply believing is not enough. First you must recognize that you are a sinner and then you must repent for your sins. Then you must believe and if you profess belief in God you must demonstrate that belief by complete obedience to God.
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." John 14:21
That is why the scriptures say that many are called but few are chosen. There are many today making claims to being Christians even though they never attend church services, pray, or even live a life in accordance to Christian principles. There are drug dealers in my neighborhood who wear rosaries and crucifixes on their necks and sell drugs at the same time! Hell, they have no problem killing someone to protect their turf etc.
But that last example is the most extreme. There are many who do attend church services regularly, pray often, read and study their bibles, yet in public they present one face and in private they are nothing like their public projection of themselves. That is why I once wrote an article entitled 'Christianity breeds hypocrisy' because it forces you to try and behave beyond your natural instincts.
According to the scriptures in order to be saved it is not enough to talk the talk you must also be determined to walk the walk. That is the hardest aspect of any religion that requires your complete submission to an invisible deity. Not only must you believe he exist, but you must also try to live up to his standards as revealed in the various scriptures such as The Torah, Bible, and The Koran.
American Christians are in my opinion the least committed to their beliefs. Unlike Muslims in the middle east or Orthodox Jews who do put a lot of themselves into their beliefs Christians like to cherry pick their way through the scriptures and take what agrees with them to be gods word and dismiss and ignore anything that condemns their way of life. Think about how many people in Christian churches all over the U.S. who are living together and are not married (fornication). Or have remarried (adultery). It's actually a sin to judge other but Christians do it all day long!
With God obedience is the main ingredient to your salvation. It is not enough to profess that you believe in the words of the bible or even that Christ died for your sins. If that were the case then anyone could claim to be saved and thus be a Christian and continue his/her lifestyle without having to change a thing. This is the only way that Pascals wager would be correct. But since living the words of scripture and putting them into practice in your life is so difficult and requires so much sacrifice on your part then you actually have a lot to lose if God did not exist and Christianity was not true.