"Are You Saved?"
by Lorraine Ezell
“How does a person become saved?” Nicodemus asked this question- “How can a man be born again?”. The rich young ruler asked this question- “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The jailer asked Paul what to do to be saved. If you stood on the street and stopped everyone you saw and asked them the question, “How do you get saved? How do you become a Christian?”, you would be surprised at the “variety” of answers. I have heard everything from “my mother was a Christian, my grandfather was a preacher, I was born a Baptist, I’m a Christian because I was born in America, I don’t cheat on my taxes, I’m a good person”, and the list goes on. Sadly, not only do you hear a wide variety of answers from the person on the street, but you hear some of the same reasons in the church. Most people in the church believe that they are a Christian and are saved because they joined the church, they shook the preacher’s hand, they pay the preacher, they teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, they repeated a prayer after the preacher, etc. Do these things truly make you saved? Can you shake a man’s hand and be saved? Does just putting your name on a church roll somewhere really save you? Will these things give you access into heaven and eternal life?
There is a popular belief in the world.. “Many roads (ways) lead to God”. This belief has seemed to be adopted by many churches as well. Are there many roads to God? The answer is.. NO! “Jesus saith unto him, I am THE WAY, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.“ (John 14:6) “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) There is only one way; there is only one door.. Jesus is it.
So what about all that we have been taught about how to be saved? What about joining the church, being baptized, giving offerings, doing good works? They may be good things to do, but they don’t get you to heaven- this is not the criteria for salvation. It’s not about works- even good works. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:8,9,5) “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” (Titus 3:5a) It’s about putting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the work that He did at the cross to pay the price for our sins that gives us eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:30,31) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16,17) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.“ (Romans 10:9) You can't earn your way to heaven, it is a gift given by grace, purchased by the blood of Jesus, and has to be accepted by faith.
Well, what about praying the sinner’s prayer? Many altar calls are given and those who respond are asked to “repeat a prayer”. Does the fact that you repeat it means that you are saved? Many (multitudes) are putting their hope and trust in the power of that prayer to keep them from going to hell so it’s important to find out if this indeed gives us salvation and eternal life. Let’s go to the Bible for our answer. (Let me interject something in here. The Bible is our source of truth, not a man, not a denomination, not necessarily a doctrine that we are taught; you must find out what the Bible says on a subject and take that as the truth even if it contradicts what you were taught or grew up believing.. because the Bible will ALWAYS be the one that is right.) “That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (Acts 17:10,11- New Living Translation) We must be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to find the truth for ourselves.
About the “sinner’s prayer”- will just repeating this save me? “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.“ (Luke 13:5) Jesus preached the message of “repentance”. Matthew 4 was Jesus’ first public sermon and the very first thing He said was, “Repent”. The dictionary defines repentance: to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent; contrite. Contrite means: caused by or showing sincere remorse; filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement. In the New Testament it means: to change one’s mind; to change one’s mind for better; heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins. Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
Many times people will be “sorry” for what they did and pray for forgiveness, but they didn’t repeat. They were sorry only because they got caught and don’t want to have to face the consequences. Sometimes people will have a feeling of guilt about what they did and pray for forgiveness but they aren’t repentant- they just want the “bad” feeling to go away. Judas was an example of this. “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That's your responsibility.’" (Matt. 27:3,4- NIV) Judas was remorse but not repentant. There is a difference. Remorse deals with feelings while repentance is more a matter of the will. Let me give you a couple of other Biblical examples- David and King Saul. When King Saul disobeyed the Lord, the prophet Samuel confronted him with a message from the Lord. “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23b) To this King Saul responded, “Saul said, I have sinned; yet honor me now, I pray you, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” (verse 30- Amplified Bible) Saul was sorry because he got caught and didn’t want to look bad in the eyes of the people, but he was not repentant. David also sinned and was confronted by another prophet, but his response was different than Saul’s. “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13) David was repentant because he had sinned against the Lord. The prodigal son is another example of true repentance. Listen to what he said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.“ (Luke 15:18,19) He wasn’t going with a “cocky” attitude, or trying to get back in his father’s good graces. He knew he had “messed up”. He knew he was a sinner. He knew he didn’t deserve for the father to take him back but he humbled himself and was willing to be a servant and take the lowest place in the house. He was more than just remorse, more than making a show, he meant it from his heart. Remorse is not necessarily repentance although it can bring you to repentance. “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Cor. 7:10- NLT) The answer to the question of whether you are saved by repeating the sinner’s prayer is... only if when you are repeating it you truly mean it from the heart and are willing to repent and turn from your wicked ways. Otherwise, you are wasting your breath; you still aren’t saved.
What happens to us at the time of salvation- when we have prayed the prayer of repentance? There are many things that take place in us- Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Our sins are forgiven. We receive eternal life. We have been brought out of darkness into light. We become the children of God (heirs and joint-heirs). We get back our dominion and inheritance in the earth. We are also reconciled to God the Father- we are brought back into right relationship with Him. We get a new nature.
How do I know that I am truly saved? How do I know that I have “repented” of my sins? When you are saved, there is an evidence. This is why I am deeply troubled when I hear people say they are a Christian but there is no evidence. Let’s talk about some of the evidences. One is a new nature. Before we came to Christ we had a sin nature. When we were born, we had the nature of our father Adam- through his disobedience in the Garden of Eden, sin was passed on to all mankind. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.” (Romans 5:12,19a) “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) This sinful nature was the one that ruled and reigned in our lives. It was the one that was in rebellion against God; it did it’s own thing and didn’t want to be subject to anything or anyone. It was leading us down a path of death and destruction and indulged in sinful behavior. Why does a tiger eat meat? It’s because he is a carnivorous animal- a meat eater- that’s it’s nature, it was born with it so it does what comes naturally- eat meat. Why do we practice sin? Because it’s our nature, we were born with it. We don’t have to be taught how to sin, it comes naturally. The characteristics of this sinful nature are: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” (Galatians 5:19-21a) Let me read this out of the New Living Translation so you can better understand these characteristics. “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.”
When we come to Christ, He gives us a new nature- a nature like His. There is a “spiritual metamorphosis” that takes place in us. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Cor. 5:17) We become a new person. What we once did, we do no more. It would be like that tiger who was a meat eater turning into a vegetarian- it’s nature changed, and changed so completely that it is now the opposite of what it once was. When we are saved, our nature changes and we become the opposite of what we once were. We now have God’s nature imparted to us- no longer a sin nature. We no longer practice sin- we may fall into sin when we are tempted but it is not something that we practice or is our lifestyle any longer-- we don’t habitually sin. “Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” (1 John 3:6,8a,9- New Living Translation) “We know [absolutely] that anyone born of God does not [deliberately and knowingly] practice committing sin.” (1 John 5:18a- Amplified Bible)
Repentance is the avenue by which we receive God’s love and forgiveness and come into a personal relationship with Him. We are born of God; we have His nature and life in us; and we have come into a personal relationship. This personal relationship is another evidence. This is the most important one because Jesus told us that there would be those who would come to Him in the day of judgment and He would turn them away because He did not know them. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22,23) He said He never knew them. It meant that He never knew them in a personal, intimate way- they didn’t have a relationship with Him, or Him with them. Having a relationship with the Lord is another evidence of repentance. Jesus brings us into a relationship with Him, but then we have to cultivate that relationship with prayer and Bible study. Just because you do “works” for Him does not mean that you have a relationship with Him. If we had a maid and she washed my husband’s clothes, made up his bed and cooked his meals it would not make her his wife or give her a personal relationship with him. She would only be working for him. Neither do all our good works don’t entitle us to having an intimate personal relationship with Jesus.
The surrender of your will to Him is another evidence. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) Are you doing the will of the Father or your own will? Do you truly desire to see “Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done” in your own life? Are you being a “living sacrifice”? (Rom. 12:1) Denying yourself and following Him? (Matt. 16:24)
Another evidence? Jesus said that you would know people by what is produced in their lives. A person’s lifestyle, actions, attitudes, even words are a dead give away as to whether they really are saved, or just have a “form of godliness”, or are being deceived into thinking they are right with God when they are not. “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:16-20- NLT) You can’t be producing “bad fruit” in your life and still claim to be a Christian. Good fruit is the evidence that you have a relationship with Jesus.
The last major evidence that I want to talk about is, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) How is your love for others- especially for fellow Christians? “If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.” (1 John 4:20,21-NLT) If we don’t love others, if we have hate and prejudice toward them, then we don’t truly love God, or have a relationship with Him. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
Do you profess to be born again, saved, a Christian? Then examine your life and see what kind of evidence that you are producing as proof that you are who you say you are. If the evidence is not there, then go back up to the first step-- repent. Then follow Him.