I accepted Jesus Christ as savior at 5 years old. I remember the moment so well. I came running down the sidewalk toward my father as he picked me up from school that day, shouting, “Daddy, I’m saved! I asked Jesus into my heart today!” I was so full of joy at knowing that no matter how dark or lonely my life became, Jesus would always be near to comfort me.
But my joyful assurance wasn’t to last.
See, I would go to church and hear ministers ask me if I was really saved. Because there was a chance I might not have been completely sincere in my confession of faith the first time around. I might have prayed the sinner’s prayer without really knowing what I was doing. I might have done it simply to impress someone or to obtain my “get out of hell free” card. I might have unknowingly “back-slidden” since then or left some sin unconfessed during that first prayer. At any rate, I had to question, question, question. Were my motives for following Christ pure? Was my life completely without sin? Was I doing everything possible to be holy? Would God find me worthy of heaven at The Judgement? I had to be sure! My eternal soul depended on it.
I probably rededicated my life to God 20 times during my teenage years alone. Often, I’d walk away from the altar feeling more depressed and anxious than before I went down there. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who feel this way today. They’ve invited Christ to be the Lord of their lives–even receiving the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit–but still aren’t sure if they’ll see the Pearly Gates.
Fortunately, I can now say with that old joyous assurance that I am saved. Really and truly. I was saved all along, even when others caused me to doubt it. God revealed to me in the Bible exactly what it means to be saved, and it is so straightforward and simple that I wonder how I was made to question my salvation in the first place. So for those of you who may still be doubting, here is my checklist straight from the Word of God:
1. Believe in Jesus: his redemption, his gospel, and his resurrection.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:9-11).
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).
2. Confess your sins.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
3. Keep his commands.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (John 14:21).
What were Christ’s commands, again?
* Do not worry (Matthew 6:34).
* Do not judge (Luke 6:37).
* Do not commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).
In fact, Jesus is constantly telling his disciples how they can escape his judgment in the gospels. Want a guarantee of God’s forgiveness? Forgive those who have wronged you. Want to ensure you aren’t judged by Christ? Don’t judge others. Want to live in God’s will? Believe in Jesus for eternal life. Want to keep all of God’s commands? Just love. Want to go to heaven? Show compassion to the least in society. It’s not rocket science.
So what about sins committed after accepting Christ? Honestly, scripture isn’t entirely clear on this point. But here’s what I believe. I think when a Christian accepts Christ as savior, he or she takes on Christ’s redemptive power for their entire lives–that an occasional slip-up doesn’t automatically condemn someone as long as it’s acknowledged and repented of. It’s when a person decides to live in sin and stops following Christ that salvation is forfeited. You can’t lose it by accident.
And here’s what I’ve discovered: when you commit to live in love as Christ commanded, it’s really hard to sin. Seriously. You don’t cuss out people you’ve determined to love. You don’t hold grudges against people you’ve determined to love. You don’t ask yourself, “How far can I go before I’m sinning?” when you’ve determined to love Christ with your whole heart.
4. There is no #4.
This is it, folks. If you can check off boxes 1 – 3, you’re saved. You don’t have to worry about it anymore. And it’s a detriment to your faith if you do. When I constantly worried about my salvation, I couldn’t grow as a Christian. I struggled to hear the voice of God. I struggled to get free of sin and temptation. I struggled to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. My focus was on having a Christ-like appearance rather than a Christ-like heart. But now that I’m secure in my salvation, I feel like I’m already in heaven.