Did Jesus say you have to ask Him into your heart to be saved? Do I have to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Do I have to ask Jesus to take control of my life and accept Him as my Saviour? What does that even mean? What does it mean to “commit” myself to the Lord? What are the steps involved to “being saved”? The church says you must first believe that Jesus is Lord. Then you must confess your sins and repent of them. Finally, you must ask Jesus into your heart or life to receive His Holy Spirit. But what did Jesus say?
Jesus said you must first believe in Him (John 3:16). He also said you must repent of your sins (Luke 13:5). The word for repent is metanoeō in Greek, and it means “to change one’s mind or thinking.” But Jesus also said we must repent and believe the gospel as well (Mark 1:15). The word for gospel in Greek is euaggelion, and it means “good news”. What is the good news? That Jesus Christ came into the world to save us (John 3:17). Save us from what? From damnation, which occurs because we have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Damnation without God’s grace extended towards us would be eternal separation from God.
So far, Jesus lists faith in Him that He came to save us and repentance. But what did He say about confession?
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, NKJV).
“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8, NKJV).
No mention of confessing our sins to anyone or confessing our sins to God either. Jesus’ confession seems to be more along the lines of acknowledging before God and man that He is Lord and that we believe He came to save us. What did the apostles preach?
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10, NKJV).
“Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11, NKJV).
It would seem the apostles also taught the same thing as Jesus. So does that mean we don’t have to confess our sins to be saved? Well, one thing we must remember about Jesus and the Apostles is that they were very Jewish. They did not forget nor neglect the importance of confession because confession of sins, is a very Jewish thing. It wasn’t mentioned because it was likely something they had all been practicing since childhood, as part of their obedience to the Law.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged” (Numbers 5:5-7, NKJV).
So we see two different types of confession at play here. One is to confess (acknowledge) publicly that Jesus is Lord and that we believe He died for our sins and rose again on the third day. The other is to confess (acknowledge) our sins. The Apostle James (Jesus’ step-brother) also believed that we needed to confess our sins out loud to each other.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16, NKJV).
The Apostle John agreed:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
Confession that Jesus is Lord (acknowledging Him before others) is central to our salvation. Confessing our sins to God and one another is essential to our spiritual health.
But why do we have to confess our sins to God when He knows them already? What’s the point? Perhaps there is something to the phrase “confession is good for the soul.” For when we acknowledge our sins out loud, either in prayer to God or to someone we have wronged, it creates in us feelings of remorse. Sure, you can silently tell God you are sorry for this or that, but what feeling does that kind of confession stir up in you? Regret? Slight guilt with a promise to never do it again (until you do)? Silent confession does not bring about real repentance. But saying it out loud forces you to examine your motives and acknowledge with true repentance how wrong your actions were. Did you sin against God? Then acknowledge those sins out loud to Him. He is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins (1 John 1:9). Did you sin against someone else? Don’t write them an email or call them on the phone asking for forgiveness. Meet them in person, so you can look them in the eyes and acknowledge your sins to them. But don’t expect to get off scot-free. As Numbers 5:5-7 tells us, you must make restitution for your sins. Why? Isn’t that the reason Jesus died for us? So we wouldn’t have to pay the price for our sins? Nice try. But you can’t expect Jesus to take the hit for you every time you deliberately hurt someone. That’s tantamount to throwing His sacrifice for you, back in His face. We don’t make restitution just because the Bible commands us, but because restitution brings about true repentance to ensure we will never sin in that way again. Those to whom you have sinned against will see your remorse and forgive you and if they don’t, God will because He is faithful and just (1 John 1:9).
Couldn’t I just confess to my priest? Again, nice try. You didn’t sin against your priest. You sinned against God and someone else. And for the record, when we sin against another we are sinning against God too because we are violating God’s moral law and hurting someone He created. And we know when we are wrong. Without question, if you are a child of God and you sin, you know it! So confession to the person you hurt, as well as to God, is essential for your spiritual growth. Saying ten “Hail Mary’s” is not true repentance. It’s just an easy out. You will still be dealing with regret and remorse until you right your wrong.
Jesus teaches faith in Him and repentance. But what did He say about asking Him into our hearts? What did He say about repeating the standard “sinner’s prayer” or “accepting Him as Lord and Saviour of our lives?” Truthfully? He said absolutely nothing! In fact, you may be surprised to learn that these concepts aren’t even in the Bible.
Biblically, only two things are required for you to be saved – repentance and belief in the good news that Jesus died to save you. That’s it. Repentance, as I have already stated, is changing your mind about Christ (who He is and what He did). Up to that point, you have been living in opposition to Him, but with repentance comes faith. In fact, Jesus preached that very thing – repentance and faith (Mark 1:15).
Do you want assurance of your salvation? Salvation is obtained through belief in two facts God promised about Jesus:
Believe those two things, and you will be saved.
That’s how I become a “Christian”? No. That is how you are saved from damnation. Becoming a Christian is what you do after you are saved. You see one extraordinary thing will happen to you once you make your confession of faith (acknowledge that Jesus is Lord). You will be sealed with the Holy Spirit, who will lead you and help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and your knowledge of God. Will you change? Your personality will not change. Why would it? God created you to be unique. What will change is your awareness of Him, your understanding of the Scriptures and your awareness of sin in your life. This is the Holy Spirit teaching you how to live like Jesus and for God.
For example, how will you live now in light of the gift you have been given? Will you continue to use God’s name as a swear word? Will you abuse your body with drugs or alcohol or food? Will you continue to be sexually promiscuous? Honouring God with your body will be just one way the Holy Spirit will affect you because you are not your own when you commit yourself to Christ. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:13) and your life will change because your outlook will change. You will not want to dishonour God. You will want to obey Him and please Him. That’s what will change.
“Becoming a Christian” or “being a good Christian” does not involve politics. It does not involve singling out certain sectors of society and browbeating them into the ground about their sin either. Jesus ate with and associated with sinners of all kinds, all while gently showing them the way to eternal life. The only time Jesus concerned Himself with sin, in particular, was the sin of hypocrisy and it centred on those who considered themselves “righteous” or the religiously inclined. In His day, it was the leaders of the Jewish ruling authority – the Sanhedrin. He became so angry with them for allowing merchants to sell their products in the Temple that He fashioned a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. Today, I’m of the belief His anger would be directed at those same types of people within His church.
We spend so much time yelling about the darkness in the world that we have failed miserably at being the light we were called to be to that world.
Do you want to be a “good Christian”? Stop attacking the gay community. Stop attacking institutions and people outside the church. Stop labeling all Muslims and refugees as terrorists! Stop protesting outside abortion clinics. You think those women don't already feel confused and horrified by what they are about to do? Outside the church be a light. Feed the poor, help the homeless, care for the sick, the refugee, the widow, the orphan and those in prison. Be Jesus to them! Our mission isn’t with the world at large and the darkness that encompasses it. Our mission, our mandate is to offer hope to a dark world one soul at a time. Yes, the darkness is horrible. Governments everywhere are leading their countries further and further away from God. So things are getting darker. And they are getting darker because no one is listening to the church anymore. And why aren't they listening? Because Jesus’ church stopped being that beacon of hope to the world the moment they started attacking it! Now the world ignores the One they so desperately need. Instead, we have become the “moral authority” that everyone hates. The church is making the world hate Jesus!
So, you want to be a good Christian?