Is it possible to be a committed and regular church attender and not be a Christian? The short answer is “yes.” Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church says…
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? –2 Corinthians 13:5
So, how do we know if we are “saved”? Consider the following step-by-step summary of how salvation occurs and unfolds in and through our lives:
- Election, or God’s choice of us. Ephesians 1:4 “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”
- Then a Gospel Call occurs – we hear the gospel message and God calls us to Himself in such a way that we respond in saving faith. Acts 15:17 – “we are called by name…”
- This is followed by Regeneration, where God imparts new life to us so we have the spiritual ability to respond. Titus 3:5 – “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
- This results in Conversion (which is repentance + faith). We repent of sin and trust in Christ for salvation. We surrender to the gospel call. We see Paul’s dramatic conversion detailed in Acts 9.
- Upon conversion there is Justification, a one-time event which forever changes our legal standing before God. God declares us not guilty but righteous because of the finished and complete work of Christ (see Romans 5:9-11).
- We then experience Adoption – Not only has our legal status changed but our family status is also changed as God makes us members of His family – with all the privileges of adoption (Ephesians 1:5).
- From here we engage in Sanctification – a progressive work of God IN us that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actions. The “work” of the Christian is to believe – “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). ‘Believing’ is a continuous action, not a one-time event.
If you determine that you have not sincerely prayed the prayer of salvation here are the components…
- We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God; that He came to earth as a man in order to live the sinless life that we cannot live; that He died in our place, so that we would not have to pay the penalty we deserve.
- We confess our past life of sin — living for ourselves and not seeking God.
- We admit we are ready to trust Jesus Christ as both our Savior and our Lord.
- We ask Jesus to come into our heart, take up residence there, and begin to work His grace in and through our lives for His glory and our (highest) good.
The specific words don’t matter as much as the sincerity of our hearts.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit –Ephesians 1:13