When I was younger, I remember people asking me if I had been saved. The funny thing is, I knew I had not. I also did not know what exactly needed to happen in order to be saved. People told me to believe in Jesus, which of course I did already. Then they talked about lots of other things that did not make sense to me at all: asking Jesus into your heart, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, giving your life to Jesus, etc.
It was not until much later that I began to understand the biblical process that is present in one who repents and believes to salvation. And even a bit longer from that, I saw that process clearly depicted in one Bible story.
Luke 23:39-43 – 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
If you remember, when Jesus was crucified, both criminals who were crucified next to him mocked him. But later in the day, we see the exchange above. In that exchange, we see a criminal saved by Jesus, believing in Jesus for life. And in that encounter, we can see four things that we all should do if we are saved.
First, the criminal understands that he is a guilty sinner. His words show that he knows that he is receiving a proper penalty for his crimes. All who are saved must recognize that we are sinners before the Lord and deserving of his judgment.
Second, the criminal turns from sin, he repents. How? The criminal started off mocking Jesus. But in the encounter above, the criminal defends Jesus and calls the other man to stop mocking Jesus. There is a turning away from sin and toward what is right. Now, the man does not earn his salvation by that turn. But, any person who is saved must be willing to turn toward following God rather than following our own sinful desires.
Third, the criminal believes. Jesus is dying on the center cross. Yet the criminal asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into his kingdom. The criminal has faith that Jesus is the promised king from God. The criminal understands that Jesus is not meeting an end on the cross. The criminal also believes that Jesus is able to grant him entrance to the kingdom of God. All who are saved must believe in Jesus.
Finally, the criminal asks for grace. The criminal, in the phrase “remember me,” is asking Jesus for mercy. He is asking Jesus to forgive him. All who are saved should ask God for the salvation that only comes by God’s grace through the vehicle of faith in Christ apart from any works of our own.
Does this help you to know what is required for salvation? Have you been saved? Have you believed you are guilty? Have you expressed a willingness to turn from sin and follow Christ? Have you believed in Jesus? Have you asked him for mercy and salvation?