Are You Really A Christian?
By David J. Stewart | May 2003 | Updated July 2015
Since I have started my online ministry in 2002, I have learned so much about salvation from e-mails from faithful web visitors, reading books by godly men and listening to fundamental Baptist preachers. I used to lead people in a sinner's prayer to be saved, but I don't do that anymore, because salvation does not require prayer. It's acceptable for a sinner's prayer to accompany one's faith when receiving Christ, but God does not require a prayer to be saved. The reason why I don't lead people in a sinner's prayer anymore is because I've heard too many people say they were saved by praying a prayer. We are saved by God's imputed righteousness through faith in Christ.
We are saved by acknowledging our sinful condition (Romans 3:19) and believing the Gospel (Mark 1:15). We are saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31; Galatians 3:26), believing that He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and that He raised up bodily from the dead three days later according to 1st Corinthians 15:1-4. No human effort is required nor allowed in salvation. Either God does all of the saving or else you are not saved.
I also used to tell people to invite Jesus into their heart, but then I realized that you can invite Jesus into your heart all you want and never be saved at all. In fact, you can make a full surrender to Christ, forsake the world, give your life to Christ, join a church, tithe, pray, tell others about Christ, live an upright life, and yet never be saved at all. We see this evidenced in Acts 10:1-2 in the story of Cornelius, who was a devout religious man without Christ. Thankfully, Cornelius was saved later in the chapter, after hearing the apostle Peter preach the gospel. We are saved by acknowledging our sinful condition in the eyes of a holy God and receiving the gospel as payment for our sins.
Dr. M.R. DeHaan gives the following excellent explanation between salvation verses discipleship . . .
"There is a vast difference between coming to Jesus for salvation and coming after Jesus for service. Coming to Christ makes one a believer, while coming after Christ makes one a disciple. All believers are not disciples. To become a believer one accepts the invitation of the Gospel, to be a disciple one obeys the challenge to a life of dedicated service and separation. Salvation comes through the sacrifice of Christ; discipleship comes only by sacrifice of self and surrender to His call for devoted service. Salvation is free, but discipleship involves paying the price of a separated walk. Salvation can't be lost because it depends upon God's faithfulness, but discipleship can be lost because it depends upon our faithfulness." DeHaan, M. R. Hebrews. Zondervan Publishing House, 1959 (p. 117).
Pastor Hal Lindsey provides the following helpful and doctrinally correct words . . .
"There are those who, in their zeal to get people to turn from their sinful ways and receive the Lord, almost put repentance on a par with believing... Repentance, as it relates to Christ, means to change our minds about Him, who He is and what He's done to provide forgiveness and deliverance from our sins. When we place faith in Jesus as having taken our place personally on the cross and borne the penalty due our sins, then we're automatically repenting, because we couldn't accept Him in this way without having had to change our minds in some way concerning Him." Lindsey, Hal. The Liberation of Planet Earth. Zondervan Publishing House, 1974 (p. 136, 137).
Here are two more excellent quotes by Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges, correctly differentiating between salvation verses discipleship . . .
"It is an inexcusable error to confront sinners with problems that concern the Christian life and call upon them to make promises regarding them. An unsaved person is never called upon to surrender himself to God. The saving act is in no instance represented as our 'giving ourselves to God'; it is, on the contrary, taking His Son as our Savior." Ryrie, Charles. Balancing the Christian Life. Moody Press, Inc., 1969 (p. 170).
"Eternal life is free. Discipleship is immeasurably hard. The former is attained by faith alone, the latter by a faith that works... the former brings with it the righteousness of God so that a man is 'justified freely by his grace' (Romans 3:24). The latter develops a personal righteousness, based on good deeds, so that a man was also 'justified by works' (James 2:24). The former constituted the believer God's workmanship, the latter fulfilled the wonderful purpose for which he had been created. The former cost man nothing, the latter could cost him everything, including life itself." Hodges, Zane C. The Hungry Inherit. Moody Press, Inc., 1972 (p. 114, 115).
Those are some excellent quotes, doing a good job of showing why Lordship Salvation is a heresy. Any one who teaches that salvation is not easy; but also that say—you must forsake all, cease from sinful bad habits, commit your life to follow Jesus and confess Him before men—They have corrupted the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4). They are teaching a false plan of salvation, which does not produce the new birth. We are saved by faith alone in Christ's death on the cross for our sins, His burial and bodily resurrection (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
I am not saved by any human effort or self-righteousness of my own; but rather, I am saved by completely resting in Christ because of what He did to pay for my sins on the cross. Jesus promises to save anyone who comes to Him for forgiveness (John 6.37). Believe and the work is done! Acts 20:21 speaks of “repentance TOWARD GOD.” The Word of God NEVER teaches repentance FROM sin to be saved; BUT, rather, repentance TOWARD GOD. Repentance is a change of mind, a change of mind from what you want to do to get to Heaven to what God says you must do to get to Heaven—concerning sin and the Savior. Childlike faith is all that is required for salvation. If a person knows they are a guilty sinner, bound for Hellfire, and turns in faith to Jesus Christ to forgive their sins and save them—that person has repented.
The Saved, Crucified, Risen and Ascended Life
I recently heard a precious MP3 sermon by Dr. Jack Hyles, titled “STEPS TO SANCTIFICATION (or the root of all heresy).” In the sermon Brother Hyles explains that we are saved solely by trusting Jesus as our Savior (Ephesians 2:8-9). And then as a new believer, God wants us to be crucified with Christ, crucified to the lusts and desires of the flesh (Galatians 2:20). But that's not all, God wants us to raise up with Christ to live for others (Philippians 2:4-5). But that's not all, then God wants us to ascend with Jesus into Heaven by walking with Him in sweet fellowship (Colossians 3:1-2). Dr. Hyles explains how heresy happens when preachers confuse and mix the crucified life with the saved life, or the risen life with the saved life, et cetera. Please listen to this edifying sermon by Dr. Jack Hyles in its entirety.
So we have two popular doctrinal extremes in our churches today concerning salvation, which are both heresy:
On the one hand you've got preachers who are sick and tired of shallow Christianity, barely outside the gate, so yet saved as by fire, so they corrupt the gospel by adding the requirement to crucify the sinful desires and old life. Biblically, we don't have to give up anything to be saved, because Jesus gave His life and died on the cross for our sins. Eternal life is a free gift that is free for the taking, no strings or obligations attached. Our part in salvation is simply to completely rest in the finished work of Christ. Adding any human effort to God's plan of salvation is heresy!
On the other hand there are preachers who are tired of heretics adding human effort (works) to the gospel, so they merely tell people to “trust Jesus” to be saved, and leave off the sin question all together. This also is heresy. Ladies and gentlemen, NO ONE ever got saved who didn't know that he is a sinner! You've got to know that you are a sinner. You've got to know what you're being saved from.
So we see two extreme positions here, and BOTH are wrong. In the preceding sermon link, Dr. Hyles graciously admits that he has been wrong at times by holding both positions, as nearly every preacher has done, and so have I at times. It is tempting while preaching to say that those who are living in deliberate sin are not saved. This is simply not accurate and I am against all forms of Lordship Salvation. The truth is that if a homosexual has placed his or her trust in Christ alone for eternal life, acknowledging their sinnership, they are very much saved. Brother Hyles rightly concludes that the correct position is somewhere between these two extremes; that is, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner in order to be saved. It is not optional.
Again, here is the life-changing MP3 sermon, STEPS TO SANCTIFICATION, or as I like to title it . . .
The Saved, Crucified, Resurrected And Ascended Life
(awesome MP3 sermon by Dr. Hyles!)
To be saved, as Dr. Hyles rightly teaches, you MUST address the SIN QUESTION and the SON QUESTION. It's not enough to admit you're a sinner and turn over a new leaf. That's mere reformation. You must trust upon the Lord Who died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and believe that He raised up from the dead three days later. Likewise, it's not enough to trust in the Lord. You must come for salvation upon the basis that you are a condemned sinner in God's eyes (Romans 3:19). Romans 4:5 teaches that Christ saves THE UNGODLY, and that's the only type of people which God saves. Those who are still holding onto their self-righteousness cannot be saved, because they first need to repent of their DEAD WORKS (Hebrews 6:1). We are saved by completely resting in Christ, Who is our Sabbath today (Hebrews 4:10-11).
Christian author Michael Patrick Bowen correctly explains Biblical repentance...
“Repent, as Christ meant it to be in terms of salvation, means to change your mind from trusting in what you can do for God to trusting only in what He can do for you.”
SOURCE: Michael Patrick Bowen, a quote from the awesome book, “I NEVER NEW YOU” (Page 114)
Ray Comfort and John MacArthur frequently lift Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon's words out of context, attempting to bolster up their straw-man of Lordship Salvation; but if you read the entire sermon, titled “REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE,” you'll find the following quote (which you'll never hear from Mr. Comfort or Mr. MacArthur because it totally contradicts their teachings) . . .
“'Repentance' is a grace. Some people preach it as a condition of salvation. Condition of nonsense! There are no conditions of salvation.” —Charles Spurgeon
SOURCE: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0044.htm (Charles Spurgeon, from a sermon titled, REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE, preached at the New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, on Sept. 23, 1855)
Spurgeon is not saying that repentance (metanoeo, that is, a change of mind) is not necessary for salvation; but rather, metamellomai, which means “to care afterwards, that is, regret, a changed life” is not required for salvation. The change of mind is whatever was previously keeping you from coming to Christ, which the Bible says is sin in John 3:20. When a man repents, he now sees himself as a guilty sinner and therefore comes to Christ to be forgiven and cleansed of his sins (Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 2:24-26). We are saved immediately by trusting Christ, but sanctification is a lifetime process. We are saved immediately by trusting Christ, but it takes a lifetime to become Christlike.
The question is, are you really a Christian? The question is not if you are a church member. The question is not if you've been water baptized. The question is not if you've committed your life to serving God. The question is not if you are religious. I ask you, are you really a Christian? Have you been born-again by the Spirit of God? Are you saved? Has there been a time in your life when you were convicted by the Holy Spirit of God about your sins, realizing that you are a sinner? God's plan of salvation is very simple. YOU ARE A SINNER! Unless you receive Christ's payment for your sins, you will spend eternity burning in the fires of Hell. No human effort is required nor allowed for salvation. You are a Christian if you have received Christ's payment for your sins by faith in the gospel, that is, by faith in Christ's death on the cross, His burial and His bodily resurrection from the dead three days later. This is the gospel (good news) according to 1st Corinthians 15:1-4. Believe and the work is done!!!
Am I Going To Heaven?
Fortunately, a person who is living in such gross sin (and all sin is gross to God) can become saved... “Whosoever will” may come! “...and him that cometh to me I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT” (John 6:37). What a wonderful promise from Jesus Christ, our God and Savior! Anyone, no matter how deep they’ve gone into sin, can come to Christ for salvation. We read in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your SINS BE AS SCARLET, they shall be AS WHITE AS SNOW; though they be RED LIKE CRIMSON, they shall be AS WOOL.” It’s interesting that the word “crimson” in Hebrew means “worm.” It was a worm used in the making of dyes for clothing. Stains are hard to get out! Perhaps you feel that your life has been permanently stained with sin and there is no hope for you. Oh, yes there is! The blood of Jesus can wash away the toughest stains which sin may leave on your soul! “...Unto Him that loved us, and WASHED US FROM OUR SINS IN HIS OWN BLOOD” (Revelation 1:5). Jesus saves!
Many Will Seek To Enter into Heaven, But Few Will Be Able
When Jesus was asked by His disciples if there were many people saved, the Lord said that many people are deceived, having a false hope. Luke 13:23-24, “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”
I have spoken with countless religious people throughout my life concerning God, the Bible and salvation. Sadly, ninety-five of them thought they are going to Heaven, but they were bound in their sins for Hell. Religion is a curse upon the world, offering people false hope. I am frustrated at the subtlety of Satan and how he deceives so many people with false beliefs. A man with no hope is far better off than a man with false hope, because the man with no hope is still searching.
One man I used to work with said that he was a saved Christian and I began to rejoice with him in his faith. A few statements later he said, “I go to church every Saturday to get salvation.” Immediately a warning flag went up in my mind and I sincerely doubted the man’s salvation! Why? It's because you don’t obtain salvation every Saturday! This man doesn’t understand the Holy Scriptures. I proceeded to explain to him that “Salvation is not of works, but of faith”! Salvation is not found in any religion, but in a person; namely, the LORD JESUS CHRIST! You get saved only ONE TIME! In John 3:7 Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye MUST be born again,” not born again and again and again. You can only be born ONCE physically; likewise, ONCE spiritually. This is because once you've been born of the Holy Spirit of God, He will never leave nor forsake you. If saved, always saved!
Another gentleman I spoke with said that he had grown up a Catholic, then became a Seventh-Day Adventist and then a Methodist. He spoke of Jesus as “our Lord” so I felt strongly that he might be a Christian. A month later he made the statement, “My problem with all the religions in the world is that they all say something different and cannot agree.” Again, this was a warning flag to me that he may not be a true believer. Why? It's because he is looking to religion, not Jesus. He has “Churchianity” without “Christianity!” Most of the people I speak with concerning salvation have “a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof: from such turn away” (2nd Timothy 3:12). Religion wants to fit us with glasses, but the Lord wants to open our eyes.
Another person I spoke with told me that he was a strict Catholic. He said that he believed in “having faith in Christ,” but he also said he believed “works were necessary” for salvation. He said “I believe in faith and works!” I kindly and quickly pointed out Romans 11:6 to him... “And IF BY GRACE THEN IT IS 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.” Clearly, salvation is either “BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH” in Jesus Christ alone OR you are doing what Cain did—offering your WORKS to God. It CANNOT BE BOTH! God rejected Cain’s offering and he will reject your efforts as well. Abel demonstrated his faith in the coming Savior through a blood sacrifice. God was pleased by his faith. Cain had no faith, but misunderstood and tried to please God in his own SINCERE but foolish efforts, just as countless millions do today! Cain went to Hell, Abel went to Heaven!
Have You Personally Been Born Again?
May I say, if you’re a true Believer, you should KNOW how you became a true believer! If you’re a genuine Christian, then you have the Holy Spirit of God inside (Romans 8:9) and you can KNOW beyond any shadow of any doubt that you are saved (1st John 5:13). You might have some doubts or concerns about your own salvation, which is normal, but you should at least be able to explain to someone what it means to be saved. If you can’t tell someone else how to be saved, you had better examine your own heart and make sure you are really a Christian! If you know how you were saved, then you should be able to tell someone else how to get saved. Now maybe you don’t know all the Scriptures, but at least you should be able to tell someone the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Can you do this? Do you know how you got saved? Do you know why God saved you?
Salvation is so simple! We are saved by believing the Gospel. The Gospel means “Good News.” The Bible defines the “Gospel” as Christ's death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel is the good news that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, Who lived a sinless life and went to the cross to be crucified, Who shed His blood and die for our sins. All you need to do to be saved is to BELIEVE the Gospel, that's it. To “believe” simply means to rely upon. If you will right this moment receive Christ's sacrifice upon the cross as full-payment for your sins, you will immediately be born-again by God's Holy Spirit. Salvation is not rehabilitation, nor is it education, nor is it reformation; but rather, it is regeneration. We are regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, this very moment that we acknowledge our sinnership and believe the Gospel. No man ever got saved who didn't know that he is a sinner. You've got to know what you're being saved from.
Repentance is necessary for salvation, but “repentance” does not mean what many people think it means. Biblically, repentance unto life is defined simply as “change of mind,” not a change of lifestyle. If you changed your life as a requirement to be saved, you didn't get saved. Salvation is the free gift of God, paid for in full by Jesus' broken body and shed blood. Jesus died on the cross as our LAMB, and then three days later He miraculously raised up as our HIGH PRIEST. If Christ died on the cross but did not rise, then we have a sacrifice without a Highpriest. Praise God, Jesus is risen, ascended into Heaven and now intercedes for the saints on the Father's right-hand. Romans 8:34, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” What an awesome Savior!!!
Remember, ONLY Jesus paid for your sins on the cross, so ONLY Jesus can forgive those sins and save your soul from Hell. In short, It’s Jesus or Hell! Rich people are filled with sinful pride and refuse to humble themselves to admit before God that they cannot save themselves. It is not easy for wealthy people to humbly admit that they need a Savior. This is why God chose the poor of the world rich in faith. God made salvation in such a way that you must humble yourself to admit you are a wretched sinner who cannot save yourself. You need a Savior! Thank God, we have One, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
My heart desires for you to be saved friend. I want to present as many Biblical truths to help you understand how to be saved. It is so simple. One of my favorite Scripture passages is Hebrews 4:10-11, “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” Just as God ceased from His works after 6-days of creation, and then rested on the 7th day; likewise we are saved by ceasing from our own self-righteous dead works, and completely resting in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Any plan of salvation that demands a change of lifestyle on the part of the sinner is a false Gospel. A changed life is the FRUIT of genuine repentance, and not a part of the ROOT of saving-faith; yet, you cannot mandate that FRUIT for salvation, otherwise you've corrupted the simplicity that is in Christ. We've got a bunch of fruit-inspectors running around in our churches today, deciding who is saved and who is not saved based upon their works. That is a false plan of salvation. Biblical salvation is a free gift which is freely received WITHOUT WORKS. Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” That means there may never be any outward works, but if there is inner faith, there is salvation. To teach otherwise is to place a stipulation upon the free gift of God.
The Devil has many sugar substitutes in the churches today, offering a religious package from the cradle-to-the-casket, but Jesus said “Ye Must Be Born Again!” (John 3:7). Our churches are saturated with cotton-candy religion today, which dissolves into nothing when bitten into. Religion is dead. Only the Holy Spirit of God gives spiritual life to those who acknowledge their sinnership and believe the Gospel. Are you really a Christian? Have you been born-again? Being a church member won't help you get to Heaven. Getting water baptized will get you wet, but it cannot help save you. You've got to be born anew by the Holy Spirit of God.
If you do not have the Holy Spirit living inside your body, convicting you about the sins in your life, then you are not saved. The Holy Spirit is God in us. It was that very truth that compelled me to get saved when I was 13-years-old. When the pastor said that you've got to have the Holy Spirit to be saved, I knew that I didn't. Praise the Lord, I do today, and the blessed Holy Spirit has been with me since the day I was saved. Looking back, it was like a light switch being flipped on. There's no spiritual memory before I was saved, nothing, just darkness; ah, but the presence of the Holy Spirit has been very real to me since the moment I got saved, shining the light of Jesus Christ in my soul, because the Godhead indwells my body in the form of the Holy Spirit. 1st Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Please make sure you're really saved.
Table of Contents
Life-Changing Resources . . .
The Goodness Of God Leadeth To Repentance (MP3, Dr. Hyles; true Biblical repentance defined)
THE PREACHING THAT PRODUCES REPENTANCE (Dr. Ironside; awesome stuff on real repentance!)
REPENTANCE AND FAITH (you don't repent first, and then have faith. They are inseparable!)
Why So Many Preachers Are Being Misled Concerning Repentance Unto Salvation (the purpose of God's law)