Question = If we live our life as “to live is Christ + something else,” are we unbelievers?
When God saves a person, the Scripture says that He draws them to Himself, makes a dead heart alive (Eph 2:1-3) and gives them “saving faith.” What is “saving faith”? Saving faith is that “gift of God” which brings a person into intimate relationship with Christ (Rom 10:9-10). It is based on God’s grace alone rather than a person’s efforts to “make themselves right” with God or “earn favor” with God (2 Tim 2:25).
So, based on the finished work of Christ, every true believer is brought into a personal relationship with God (aka saving faith) by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for God’s glory alone!
So how does that answer your question? Well, oftentimes a person who has been granted the gift of saving faith may display a Christ+ something else life. That does not mean that they are not saved. For example, frequently after we’ve been saved, we become acutely aware of our utter depravity and sinfulness. As such, we have a deep passion for personal holiness — “to them that are forgiven much, love much” (Luke 7:47).
It is quite natural to deeply desire to please God for His mercy. When we are truly aware of the sacrifice that was made for us, we will deeply desire to work hard for Christ. That is good and perfectly normal, but over time can lead to a misplaced emphasis in our lives; it can lead us toward what is commonly referred to as the “performance trap.” In our zeal to please God and pursue obedience to Him, we work hard to please God by our efforts. This performance trap can often be manifest as Christ + ministry, or Christ + parenting, or Christ + missions. We need to be reminded that it’s a “person” — Jesus Christ — whom we are to preeminently love and worship! Not a ministry or our families or even our church!
Because we are saved by grace, the quality and continuance of my relationship with Christ is not based on what I do for Him. On the contrary, because of who He is and what He’s done, we are freed from the performance trap! The just shall live by faith (Rom 1:17) Amen!
Nothing else pleases God more than that our pursuit of a fervent, grace-based, love-relationship with Him (Rev 2:1-3). So we need to always check to see if that is true of us. If we drift into Christ+ anything, we need loving encouragement, by means of the Word and shepherding, to continually embrace the power and purpose of God’s grace alone.
Now…if you mean Christ+ idols, then we are dealing with a heart issue of a different order and impact. If , with my lips, I say I love Him but my heart is far from Him, then I will struggle with letting that idol go! It will become increasingly obvious to me as I’m confronted by the Word and led by His Spirit that something is competing with my love for Christ!! It may be Christ+money or +sex, or +possessions or +prestige or +anything. Believers can struggle with idols! That’s why John wrote, “my little children guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
True believers (those indwelt by the Spirit and the gift of saving faith) will recognize and turn from idols (ie, 1Thess 1:9-10). Those without God’s Spirit and saving faith will not, no matter what they may profess. The only way out for you or I or anyone who worships themselves and the things of this life is to hear the gospel of the “good news of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone!