In our consideration of what the Bible says about the question of once-saved, always-saved we have already considered (096) that salvation is by grace through a faith that does not keep us from sinning. This raises another question: does a person go to heaven because he stops sinning, or because he believes that Jesus died for his sins in order to satisfy the justice of God?
There are those who will tell you that God only lets people into heaven who have lived well enough to deserve it. This is a frontal attack on the Gospel and is a bald faced lie. The Bible says that Jesus will reject everyone who attempts to gain heaven by the things they have done. Hell awaits those who think they have been good enough to go to God's holy heaven.
There are others who will tell you that God only lets people into heaven who have stopped their lives of sin and have become godly in their behavior. This also is an attack on the Gospel, but it is not so frontal. People are so merit-oriented that they tend to believe God saves the good and rejects the bad. But this also is a lie.
The Bible teaches that Jesus came to save the lost who were sinners. He Himself said that He did not come to save the righteous (who are actually only self-righteous). Thus, the only way to qualify for salvation is to be a sinner. Of course, there is another qualification also: the sinner must put his trust in Jesus as the Sin-Bearer who takes away sin. This is the Gospel message: Salvation is through Jesus who died for us.
Therefore, the answer to our original question is that a person gets to heaven by believing in Jesus Christ and the death He died to satisfy the justice of God. There is no context in the Scriptures that teach that salvation is for those who stop sinning. Thus, we get to heaven by trusting, not by being perfect.
What has this to do with once-saved, always-saved? The connection ought to be obvious. If a person is saved by faith, and not by behavior modification, he cannot be lost by faulty behavior. People go to Hell because they sin and refuse to believe that Jesus died for them. People go to heaven because they sin and believe that Jesus died to pay for their sin. Everyone sins. Not everyone believes.
So, does this mean that a person can believe in Christ and then live carelessly and go to heaven when he dies? Let's think about this question a bit. You and I, and everyone you and I know, live less than diligently. You see, a diligent person would be characterized by daily, diligent Bible study (Psalm 1:1-2); daily diligent prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17); continual pursuit of God's wisdom for every decision of life (Proverbs 4:5-7); joyful witnessing to our neighbors and friends (1 Thessalonians 1:8); continuous exercise of our spiritual giftedness for the sake of others (Romans 12:6-21); blessing of our enemies; abstaining from every form of evil; always driving the speed limit; etc., etc., ad infinitum. If we live less than diligently, we are living carelessly. If only the non-careless go to heaven, you and I certainly won't be there will we?