How to become Saved?
Eternal life begins when you ask Jesus into your heart. You would think that there would be agreement among Calvinists and Arminians regarding the most fundamental matter of the Gospel: salvation. But no. Calvinists typically reject the Gospel invitation. Calvinists term this, “Decisional Regeneration,” and poke fun at the concept of asking Jesus to come into your heart. Calvinists believe that you are saved by an Irresistible Grace, with the result that by the gift of faith, the elect ones will certainly believe in the Gospel. Asking Jesus to come into your heart simply reverses the order, according to Calvinists: You have to already be in Christ, preemptively, in order to have the irresistible desire for Christ. However, Scripture is very plain about how to become saved, and what salvation does for you, and what is the very picture of salvation. There are three things that I want to show you.
Jesus says, “Come to Me,” and yes, you come to Jesus when you call upon Him in faith, and which is by prayer. Faith is how you communicate with God. That’s the HOW of salvation.
Romans 10:8-13: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
Call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. That’s how to become saved. It’s a matter of your spirit connecting with His Spirit, and He promises to save you. Note that you are not saved by WHAT you know, but by WHO you know. Jesus saves. You are not saved by right-theology, though the Holy Spirit will impart right-theology. Now what salvation does for you is purification. 1st John 1:7 states: “...the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1st John 1:9 adds: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Mac Brunson states: “Aren’t you glad that you can come to Jesus and get grace? Amen? If you need grace tonight, let me tell you something. You don’t have to go through me. I’ve got to come to the cross just like you. And if you go to the cross, He gives you all the grace you’ll ever need.” (Church History: The Dark Ages)
Now for the picture of salvation: In your soul, there is formed a holy habitation of God. If God is not dwelling there, as He had designed for you, then you are surely lost, and instead, figuratively have a bright flashing neon sign for the demons stating, “Vacancy.” You don’t want a vacancy. Instead, 1st Corinthians 3:16 states: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Jesus explained: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23) Jesus states: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) Do you see what is going on here? When you call upon the Lord Jesus Christ and confess your sins before Him, He forgives and washes away your sins, and then comes to live inside of you. If this doesn’t happen, and if God is not dwelling within you as His abode, then there is something horrible that can happen to you. Salvation is more than just loathing your sin and sitting around pretending to be one of the “Calvinisticly elect.” A connection must be made between the sinner and the Savior, and when that connection is made, salvation is transmitted from the hand of God, to the soul of the sinner, and he is washed clean of all of his sins in the blood of Christ. But Calvinists say that that’s all just hocus pocus, that is, such calling upon the Lord:
Calvinist, Jeff Noblit, states: “The work of praying a ‘sinner’s prayer’ is not salvation. It can become a silly superstition and nothing more than a sacrament in Baptist clothes.” (A Southern Baptist Dialogue: Calvinism, p.98, emphasis mine)
At least one Calvinist agrees that calling upon the Lord in a sinner’s prayer is not a silly superstition:
Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes: “Our faith and our repentance are the work of God’s grace in our hearts. Our contribution is simply the sin for which Jesus Christ suffered and died. Would you be born anew? There has never been a person who sought for that who did not find it. Even the seeking is created by the Spirit of God. Would you know that new life? Are you tired of the emptiness and purposelessness of your life? Are you tired of the filthy rags of your own righteousness? Would you trust in someone else other than yourself? Then look to the cross of Christ. Place your trust in him. Ask him to come in and be born in you today. For Jesus came into the world from glory to give us second birth because we must--we MUST--be born again.” (Why I Believe, p.140, emphasis mine)
Indeed, Jesus paid for your sins on the cross of Calvary. Here is what Jesus has to say about the matter: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24) You must believe in Jesus in order to go from “judged already” to “has eternal life.”
Now I would like to make a comment about demon possession. Demons can inhabit people, and Jesus cast out many demons, among his many other miracles of healing. Jesus described exactly what goes on in the spiritual realm, concerning demonic possession.
The point is that it is better to have God making His abode with you vs. something else, and God will do this for you, and in fact, it is the very thing that God desires of you. Yes, by all means, ask Jesus to come inside your heart and dwell within you. The vacancy sign needs to come down. Your Sunday School teacher was right. You can and should ask Jesus to come inside your heart and live within you.
The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died for you (1st Corinthians 15:3), and that He was buried and has risen from the dead, so that by believing in Him, you may be saved and have eternal life.
Adrian Rogers states: “There are people like this who come to Church and they listen to a preacher preach, and they find themselves running from God, and fearing God, and afraid of God. God is love, and God loves you, and God has made with His Son, the Lord Jesus, a blood covenant on your behalf.”
Calvinists, however, insist that the good news does not apply to everyone.
John Calvin writes: “…only the elect have their eyes opened by God to seek him by faith.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.77, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “...the secret counsel of God whereby He chooses some to salvation and destines others for eternal destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.53, emphasis mine)
Calvinism teaches that not everyone can be saved, but only certain “elect” people, and Calvinists insist that this is the true Gospel:
Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, states: “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” (A Defense of Calvinism, emphasis mine) Spurgeon adds: “I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, ‘You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself.’ My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will.” (Spurgeon’s Sermons, emphasis mine)
John Calvin states: “If we are not ashamed of the gospel, we must confess what is there plainly declared. God, by His eternal goodwill, which has no cause outside itself, destined those whom He pleased to salvation, rejecting the rest; those whom He dignified by gratuitous adoption He illumined by His Spirit, so that they receive the life offered in Christ, while others voluntarily disbelieve, so that they remain in darkness destitute of the light of faith.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.58, emphasis mine)
Additionally, to a Calvinist, in order to be saved, one must have an understanding of their total inability, and their desperate need for a grace that is so powerful, that it saves monergistically, that is, without the need of man to accept it or reject it. However, when Jesus gave His Invitation of “come to Me” at Matthew 11:28-30, all that you need to know is that you are a sinner in need of the forgiveness that only God can provide.
There are two things, however, to keep in mind:
The second one seems very easy, especially in America, and even more so for those living in the South, which is known as “The Bible Belt.” For someone living in a country where Christianity is forbidden, I can see this being much more challenging. Nevertheless, it’s the first one that is more subtle, and equally dangerous, because it is so easy to hold a grudge without realizing it, only for it to have disastrous consequences: It is a matter reaping what you sow. You cannot sow unforgiveness toward others and reap forgiveness from God. So the simple solution is to ask God to bring to your awareness anyone that you may not have forgiven, and forgive them, and as much as it is up to you, seek reconciliation. (Matthew 5:24) Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. But if imperfect Christians are forgiven, then the imperfect Christians must forgive other imperfect people, and not merely because it would otherwise make a mockery of the whole principle of forgiveness, but because, believe it or not, a Christian’s own forgiveness will otherwise be revoked if they don’t forgive from their heart. The parable of Matthew 18:23-35 specifically deals with someone that came to the forgiven person and was turned away, even to the point of being sent to prison. So the parable details a very explicit case of unforgiveness.
As far as I can tell, the three main issues are:
- Asking God to forgive you for your trespasses. (1st John 1:7-9)
- Forgiving those who have trespassed against you. (Matthew 6:12)
- Confessing Jesus before men. (Matthew 10:32)
Forgiveness grounds malice. If you forgive others, then you will ground any malice that you might have against them. Forgive yourself, and you will also ground your own regret. Forgiveness is an example that God has given us, and God says that you need to ask Him for forgiveness for your own sins, just as you also forgive others of their sins against you. You get what you give. If you give forgiveness, you get forgiveness. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Without forgiveness, malice will seek a ground, but never find it. The only way for wrath to dissipate is through forgiveness. When Jesus was on the cross, He said these words to His Father regarding the cruficiers: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Also, Stephen, when he was being stoned to death, said these words in his final prayer to God: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60)
Acts 8:35-40: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ [And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.”