To understand how to become a Christian and be “saved,” a person first needs to understand why he needs to be saved and what he needs to be saved from. The Bible teaches that all people have rebelled against God and deserve punishment for their sins. The reason why we need to be saved is because we all have sinned against God, a God who is good, holy and a God that loves us.
We need to be saved from the justified wrath of God against sinners. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 states that:
“Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath but the Bible is clear – God is not only a God of love but He is also a God of justice. Deuteronomy 32:4 says:
“He is the rock. His work is perfect for all His ways are justice. A God of truth and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.”
His justice demands that He punish sinners. Think of it this way: Let’s suppose that a man committed the crime of rape. He came before the judge and said to the judge, “Your Honor, I admit I did rape that woman, but I’m sorry. There are many other women that I treated with respect. Surely, since I have treated all those other women well you could let me go. I know that you are a good judge and loving judge. Therefore, I ask that you dismiss my case since you are so good and loving.”
If that judge were to let that man go unpunished, we would rightly be outraged. We would cry out for that judge to be fired. But because the judge is a loving and good judge, he must punish that rapist. And it’s the same way with God. Proverbs 17:15 states that:
“He who justifies the wicked… is an abomination to the Lord.”
That’s a very important idea about God that even the ancient philosophers like Socrates knew quite well. They knew that a perfect God would also mean He had perfect justice, which means that He cannot simply let sin – any sin – go unpunished if He was in fact a perfect judge.
God must punish sinners because He is loving and just. If you love something, you must hate that which hurts it. If you love people, for example, you must hate murder. If you love children, you hate pedophilia. In fact, the more that you love them, the more you will hate that which harms them. God is rightly angry at sinners. Psalms 7:11 says:
“God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”
God’s just wrath against sinners is taught all throughout the Scripture. God’s word says in John 3:36:
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
In Ephesians 2:3, Paul states that the unsaved are “children of wrath.” Romans 1:18 states:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
And Romans 2:2-5 says:
We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
These are only a few of the scriptures that indicate that the unsaved will face God’s holy wrath on the Day of Judgment. How can we as sinners who deserve God’s wrath be forgiven our sins if it would be evil for God to justify the wicked? The only way is that the wrath of God for our sins needs to be satisfied. This is called propitiation.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
So God sent His Son, Jesus, to be born a human, live a sinless life and perfectly fulfill the will of the Father. That means that Jesus was the only person in history that deserved to go to heaven. He could have demanded that they open up the gates of heaven for Him because He had earned the right to enter.
When He was on the cross, it was not the nails or the beatings or the crown of thorns that saved us. It was that when He was on the cross, the full weight of all your sin was put on him; God poured out His just and righteous wrath on Him for our sake.
For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
What that means is that Christ traded places with us. He took on all of the punishment for sins that we have committed – past, present and future. And the second part of that verse says that He did it so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. So in exchange, He gives us His perfect record with which we are seen by God, to wear like a robe. So on judgment day we will not point to the good or bad that we have done to try to justify ourselves, but instead we will point to His perfect life with no sin. It is His righteousness that we will boast in. The Bible says that Christians are hidden in Christ; we trust in His righteousness, not our own.
All sin must be punished. Either your sin will be punished in the future on judgment day, where you will be utterly crushed by it, or it will have been punished 2,000 years ago in the past, on a cross, where someone else even now offers to take that wrath that you deserve for you: The choice is yours.
In the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, written hundreds of years before Christ, it prophesied of a Savior that would come to take away the sins of the world in this way. It says
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all…He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. – Isa 53:6, 11
So how does a person get this forgiveness of sin that is offered freely to all? Acts 16:31 says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Does this mean that all you have to do is believe in what the Bible says about Jesus and you’ll be forgiven for your sin and will be saved from God’s wrath? To answer this question let’s examine another verse in the Scripture that talks about belief.
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shutter. – James 2:19
Yes, even the demons believe, but they are most certainly not on their way to heaven. Obviously, the word “believe” is used in two different senses in both of those verses. In James 2:19, the demons believe the facts about God, but they’ve never laid down their rebellion towards Him. In fact, if you look up the word for “believe” in the Greek (see picture) it has the connotation of faith and trust as well as intellectual belief.
Belief that saves not only involves believing the facts about Jesus as revealed in Scripture, but it also involves something called repentance. The Scripture is clear on this: repentance and faith are both necessary for salvation.
Jesus said in Luke 13:3 and 5:
“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.
Mark 1:14 through 15 says:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus said in Luke 24:46 through 47:
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
In Acts 3:19 Peter, preaching to a crowd of people says:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”
In Acts 20:20-21, Paul speaking about the focus of his entire ministry says that he:
“…did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
These are only a few of the many passages of Scripture in which repentance is mentioned as being necessary for salvation. You may notice that in some cases only repentance is mentioned in relation to salvation. In other cases in the Scripture, such as Acts 16:31, only belief or faith is mentioned in relation to salvation. Sometimes the author’s intent was to emphasize the faith component of salvation. Sometimes the author’s intent was to emphasize the repentance component of salvation. Other times he wanted to emphasize that both repentance and faith are necessary. But Scripture is clear that repentance and belief are both necessary for salvation.
So what is repentance and how do we do it? Repentance comes from a word in the Greek language called “metanoia” and it means to change one’s mind. That’s what it literally means. “Meta” means change and “noia” means mind in Greek. So you need to change your mind.
What do we need to change our minds about? The basic idea, as Paul puts it in Acts 20:20-21, is that we need “repentance towards God;” we need to change our minds about Him. We need to go from a state of rebelling against God to a state of submission to Him; to be willing to do things His way instead of our way, whatever the consequences. This is something you can do inwardly, but if you truly change your mind about God, and truly stop rebelling, it will result in your actions changing as well.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-31:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You can truly rest in Him and in His forgiveness – it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Literally, anything you can think of, He wants to forgive. But also notice that even though His yoke is easy (a yoke is what they used to put on an ox when they would drag a plow) and even though it’s light, it’s still a yoke. He is still the boss and you are not. If you follow Jesus, you must be willing to dethrone yourself and let Him be the King.
The other thing that Paul says he preached besides “repentance towards God” was “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“I did not shrink from declaring to you…testifying both to the Jews and to the Greeks of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Acts 20:20-21
“Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” is the faith (other times called belief) that is necessary for salvation. But what is this faith about? What specifically do we need to have faith in?
We need faith in the Gospel of Jesus.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes… – Rom 1:16a
“Gospel” is a Greek word that means good news.
The good news of Jesus is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in His image to know Him, but we sinned and cut ourselves off from Him. In His great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law Himself and taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in Him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been satisfied. He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.
This gospel is important to believe because it explains that there is nothing that we did or ever can do to deserve salvation other than faith. In other words, being saved has nothing to do with being a good person. God saved us because He wanted to. He did it all on His own. He lived the perfect life, not us; He suffered wrath so we wouldn’t have to. He gets all the credit for our salvation. That is good news because if it was all up to me or you, we could never do enough good works to earn salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Eph 2:8-9
Romans 10:9-10 says:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
I urge you to get in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and lay down your rebellion. Change your mind about God, submit to Him, and trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ who has made a way for you to be reconciled to God that doesn’t rely on your good works. God is the author of salvation, so if you want to be saved, earnestly cry out to Him and ask Him to save you.
If you repent and believe the Gospel that God has sent His Son to take the punishment for your sins, you will be saved. Your eternal destiny is secured and you will be with Christ in heaven when you die and the fear of death and the freedom from the bondage of sin and the peace of the Lord will be yours.
Evidence of salvation
Biblical Christianity is the only religion in the world that requires a genuine miracle in order to truly be a part of it. It is a supernatural thing that God does to a person if they truly repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus calls this miracle being “born again.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3
If a person has had this happen to them, they will be changed by the experience; it will cause them to see the world differently and cause them to live in a new way
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. – 2Co 5:17
In the book of Ezekiel it describes the act of being born again as having one’s heart changed from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. – Eze 36:25-26
The reason that such a drastic change happens to a person that is saved is because being saved means that God Himself has begun to literally dwell in their heart. Or, as Ezekiel said, He would put a new spirit within you, and His Holy Spirit changes everything in your life for the good.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. – Rom 8:11
In Christianity it is very possible to claim you are a Christian and not really be one. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 7:22 that on Judgment Day many people who thought they were Christians will find out that they really weren’t. Quite simply, if you haven’t received the Spirit of God, then you aren’t a Christian.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. – Rom 8:9
The Spirit is received when you become a Christian. It may not be noticeable when it happens; in other words, you may not see any immediate evidence that this has happened to you, but it will become obvious that it has happened afterwards.
The Bible tells every person who claims to be a Christian to examine themselves to see if the Spirit of God really is in them.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test! – 2Co 13:5
So how can we tell that our repentance and belief was genuine and that we have truly been saved? The Bible gives us several ways to test ourselves. For example, it says that if you have been saved you will begin to develop “fruits” called the “fruits of the spirit.”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. – Gal 5:22-23
This doesn’t mean that Christians will always be joyful, kind or gentle, but these fruits will begin to develop in your life. The Bible also says that your relationship to sin will begin to be different if you are truly saved.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. – 1Jn 1:6
This does not mean that you will never sin. In fact just a few verses later it makes this point clear:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1Jn 1:8
“Walking in darkness” is referring to a consistent sinful life, a life characterized by sin. This is especially important for people who say that they have been a Christian for years, yet they are still just as much of a slave to sin as they always have been. To that person the Bible says, “Are you sure that you were actually saved?”
My personal story is proof of this point. For many years I said I was a Christian. I said the “sinner’s prayer” many times, but my life was never any different afterwards. I was still an alcoholic, drug addict, totally selfish person who didn’t really care about God at all. I believed the Gospel, but I had never repented, I had never decided to really commit to follow Jesus instead of my own ways.
After I began to really understand what the Bible was saying, I really did repent and I really did become saved. I know this happened because my life began to change. I really felt like I was a new person. I had different desires. Some sins I quit right away, because I wanted to. Other sins I kept trying to do for a while, until I finally had to stop because it no longer felt right. I later learned this was called a “conviction” of sins which is something that the Holy Spirit does which helps you want to quit sinning. There are certainly still sins that I commit many years later, but the things I call “sins” these days aren’t even close to what I called sins back then. I can see the evidence or “fruit” of the Spirit in my life just because of my relationship to sin, but the Bible also tells us that there is a simple feeling that also lets Christians know that they are Christians.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. – Rom 8:15-16
So there is a feeling of an assurance of salvation given to Christians as well. If you don’t feel assured of your salvation, you should strive to figure out why. If you are still in a consistent and habitual state of sin, then you should be concerned. And if you do not show any of the fruits of the Spirit, you should realize that there is a very good chance that you have never been saved and that if you died today you would go to hell. The remedy for you is true salvation. Go to God in prayer and let Him know that you want to follow Him regardless of the cost, you want to do things His way and not your way, and know that He has offered you salvation through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus in your place.