The single most important question in the whole world is, "Where am I going when I die?" Most of the people in the world never give it any serious thought. Those who do are given a smorgasbord of options. If we forget about all the non-Christian religions and focus only on "Christian" religions we still have a wide variety to choose from. These can be divided into two categories, salvation by some type of works or salvation by grace through faith without works. The Bible is very clear that we are not saved by any kind of good works on our part. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost"(Titus 3:5). And, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, if you are depending on your good works, your church membership, your giving, or your religious acts to somehow get you into heaven, you can forget it. It isn't going to happen. A Pharisee went into the temple one day to pray (Luke 18:10-14). His prayer revealed a lot about the man:
1. He was very religious.
2. He was a good man.
3. He prayed.
4. He didn'
t cheat people out of their money.
5. He was not an adulterer.
6. He fasted twice a week.
7. He gave tithes of everything he owned.
If good works could get you into heaven it looks like this man was on his way. But, Jesus said he was not going.
The Bible tells us that we can know or understand that we have at the present time life that will last forever. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:13). If you were saved by your works you could never be certain that you were saved because no one knows how many or what kind of good works it would take. How can a person know that he has eternal life? Well, there are some things you need to understand.
First, religion and salvation are not the same thing. It has been said that religion is what a man does for his God and salvation is what God does for a man. Salvation is not about being religious or doing religious things.
Second, God is holy, absolutely righteous, and being holy He cannot tolerate sin. Sin is simply defined as disobedience to God. God is the standard and anything short of that is sin.
Third, you are a sinner. Not just you but all of us. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of god" (Romans 3:23). None are righteous. We are sinners by nature and by practice. Did you know that there is a sin worse sin than murder?
Fourth, Jesus came into the world, lived a sinless life, took your sins upon Himself and made a payment for them that would satisfy God. "For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Your sins have been paid for by Jesus on the cross. The wrath of God has been appeased.
Fifth, God offers you the forgiveness of sins and eternal life as a gift. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). You do not earn a gift, you do not work for a gift and you do not pay for a gift. Your eternal life has already been paid for--at a price so great you could never afford it.
Sixth, you get the gift of eternal life by receiving it by faith. You trust Jesus to save you, just like He said he would. It is not believing about Jesus, it is trusting in Jesus. It is not religion, it is a relationship. To illustrate, you might have a terminal disease but you know of a doctor that can cure your disease. You might know all about the doctor, his background, where he went to school, his experience, etc., but still die of the disease. It is not until you go to the doctor and place yourself in his hands that he can heal you. You can know all about Jesus and still die lost. It is not until you place yourself in His hands that he can save you. When a paratrooper goes up in an airplane and jumps out, all of his trust is in his parachute. He cannot fly. It is the parachute or death. In a similar way we must jump off on Jesus and trust Him alone to save us. It is faith alone in Jesus alone. It is Jesus or hell.
Seventh, salvation does not come by praying, it comes by trusting. It is not a matter of the head, it is a matter of the heart. I am afraid that a lot of people have prayed a little prayer with their mouth but have never cast themselves on the grace of God. They look back to a time they said a prayer and are counting on that as a means of their salvation. We sometime have a person repeat the "Sinner's Prayer" and then pronounce them saved.
Eighth, you need to repent. Repentance simply means to change your mind, turn around and go in a different direction. Just what do you need to repent of? I mentioned that there is a sin worse than murder. After all God has done to save us, after all that Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, after His loving offer to freely give us eternal life, to refuse such an offer is a sin far beyond any other. To reject such an offer is an insult to God. If you spent every last dollar you had to buy someone a very expensive gift and they refused it, how would you feel? How would you feel if you offered someone the very expensive gift and they wanted to pay you a dollar for it? Can you understand why God is offended? This is the only sin that will send you to hell. A person must realize how much he has offended God by his rejection and turn to God by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance in this case is turning from rejection to acceptance.
Ninth, with salvation comes a changed life. The Bible says when we are saved we are a new creature. The Spirit of God has moved into our heart and our outlook is different. We no longer desire the things we once did and we desire things we did not desire before. A lost man has no interest in praying or studying the Bible or fellowshipping with Christians but a saved man does. I am not saying that a saved person will live a sinless life. Being saved will not keep you from sinning but it sure takes the fun out of sin. If you made a profession of faith but there was no change of direction in your life, you have no desire to pray, no desire for the Word of God, no desire to be around other Christians, if I were you I would give some serious consideration to whether you just said a prayer or you actually trusted Jesus to be your Savior.