Being saved is not accomplished by reciting a few special words. We do not say a magic phrase and become saved. We do not merely say, "Jesus please forgive me" and suddenly all of our sins are automatically wiped away simply because we uttered a special sentence. It isn't a formula for salvation or an incantation that somehow cleanses us and then permits us to go out and sin. The Bible says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:1-2).1 Unfortunately, there are those who accuse Christians of having a license to sin. To this, the Bible says, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come?' Their condemnation is just," (Rom. 3:8). Notice that Paul says that those who accuse the Christians of doing evil are being slanderous.
On the contrary, salvation is an appeal to God for cleansing from sin, forgiveness, and repentance so that we might not sin. This appeal is a heartfelt confession of our hopelessness before God and an acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. It is simultaneous with sincere repentance which is a turning from sin, not to it.
To receive Jesus in our hearts means we have first acknowledged that we are sinners and that we are incapable of saving ourselves or of appeasing God in any way. We acknowledge before God that we are helpless and worthy of damnation. But with this, we also acknowledge that Jesus is the one who paid the penalty for our sins. We realize that there is no possible way that we can make things right with God by our own works. When we accept Jesus as our Savior we are accepting the call to repentance from sin. God then calls us His children: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," (John 1:12).
Furthermore, when we receive Christ, we are regenerated; we are changed; we are born again. This means that there is something different about us. Something has happened to us. This is why Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," (John 3:3). To be born again means that something new has happened in us. This "something" is the change in us that is the result of regeneration. "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come," (2 Cor. 5:17). The old things were the sinful passions and desires. Our enslavement to them is broken when we are born again. Furthermore, once we are born again, we are no longer our own and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sins, "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment," (John 16:8). This conviction of sins occurs in the believer and is a method that the Lord uses to help us stop sinning. We are not saved so that we are free to go out and do that which is wrong. We are saved so that we might bring glory to God and demonstrate the work of regeneration in us as we turned from our sinful ways. This is why it says in Rom. 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" And also, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" (Rom. 6:15). And again, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God," (1 Cor. 10:31). How can we bring glory to God by going out and sinning? We cannot. In fact, anyone who says that he is a Christian and then continues in his sins without seeking repentance and without conviction is a liar. The Bible clearly states, "The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked," (1 John 2:4-6).
The Bible says that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and that salvation is a free gift we receive by faith (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9). When we accept Jesus, we are accepting the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, by faith. We are trusting Jesus alone for salvation. When we do this, the Holy Spirit lives in us. Since the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8) we then seek to please God and avoid sin. It is a natural result of being saved.
No, accepting Jesus does not mean that we can then go out and sin. It means we have turned from sin and we are new creatures who desire to bring glory to God and not use the grace of God to sin.
- "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:1-2).
- "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death," (2 Cor. 7:10).
- "With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth," (2 Tim. 2:25).
- "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," (John 1:12).
- "And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." (1 Pet. 2:24).
- "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Rom. 6:23).
- "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast," (Eph. 2:8-9).
- "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment," (John 16:8).
- 1. All scriptures quotations are from the NASB.