The Bible uses the word “saved” for this, sometimes. There are other words, too, such as redeemed and believer. What word is used doesn’t matter. Being sorry for what we’ve done wrong, asking forgiveness, and believing that Christ’s death paid the price for our misdeeds does matter.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; 25a whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood
That passage says a lot:
1) I am a sinner by nature.
2) I cannot fix this problem.
3) The problem can be fixed, through receiving, by faith, Christ’s sacrifice. Receiving includes being sorry for the bad things I have done, admitting that I am a sinner, and need help. Part of what I should have faith in is Christ’s resurrection, which proved that His sacrifice for sin was acceptable.
There is nothing I can do to earn salvation. It is provided freely, but I must desire it, and believe that Christ’s sacrifice pays the penalty for my sin (which penalty is eternal death, according to Romans 6:23)
Salvation doesn’t come because I have cleaned up my life. I don’t need to clean up my life to be saved. We can’t clean it up as it really should be, without supernatural help, which mostly comes after salvation. I don’t need to join a church, although doing so is usually a good idea. Joining a church, of itself, will not take care of the problem of sin, unless it’s accompanied by belief in the effectiveness of Christ’s sacrifice. No human action will fix my sin problem. I need to believe in Christ’s payment, already made, for my sin.
Salvation may or may not be accompanied by feelings. But we must not demand or expect that we feel some special way -- some people don’t. And we must not rely on feelings. We can fool ourselves into believing all sorts of things about our feelings. Feelings are temporary. I love my wife, and often I feel that strongly. But sometimes I don’t feel it so strongly. I must still act as if I love her, and believe that I do, regardless of the feeling of the moment. The same is true of salvation.
There are some things that God will help me to do, once I have been saved. These include:
1) Confession of my belief to others. Joining a church, and being baptized, are important forms of confession, but, they won’t save us. In most cases, we also need to tell other people about our choice.
Romans 10:9 that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
2) Taking Jesus as Lord. This is referred to in the quotation immediately above. It means following Christ’s teachings, as we understand them, and trying to understand them better, by studying the Bible, and being around experienced, victorious Christians. It means not doing what I want, when I know that it would conflict with what Christ wants.
3) Being baptized. Jesus instructed his disciples, in his last words to them, as recorded in Matthew, to baptize new believers, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are a number of occasions in Acts where new Christians were baptized soon after receiving Christ as savior, and we need to continue with that pattern.
4) Associate with other believers. (Hebrews 10:25) In most cases, this means joining a church, attending that church’s services, and otherwise participating in the life of the church. Unfortunately, there are some organizations that call themselves churches that do not follow the teachings of Christ, in important ways. For example, they may not speak of the need to be sorry for sin, or of the necessity of following Jesus as Lord. If in doubt, ask God to guide you to a church that honors Him. This is not an excuse for church-shopping. All churches, being made up of humans, have some problems. So it is pointless to look for a perfect church. Look for one that honors Christ and His teachings, and helps you to learn more about His teachings, by what the church teaches, and what it shows in actions.
5) As opportunity allows, try to gently and lovingly persuade other people of their need for salvation.
6) Remind yourself of what you believe, and learn more of what Christians believe, on a regular basis, by personal prayer, Bible reading and study, as well as church participation. (Here’s a post on “What Christians Believe.”) Personal prayer, devotional reading, and study should take place at least daily, in most cases. You should find other books, beside the Bible, to be helpful, but don’t leave the Bible out.
New Christians should use a Bible version which has language easy to understand.
What happens if we fail, knowing that we have not done what Christ wants us to do? We ask forgiveness, and help in doing better, or not doing badly, and go on in our Christian life.
To summarize: Ask Christ to forgive your sins, and make you a new person, with a relationship with God. Believe that He can do this, as evidenced by what the Bible says about Him, and by changes you may have seen in the lives of others. Confess this belief, and your intention, with God’s help, to lead a new life.
Become Discipled -- start, and continue, good habits of prayer, Bible reading, learning how Christians are supposed to act, and telling others of your experience.
Thanks for reading. Much more could, and has, been said on this topic, by others. This is a re-do of a previous post.
For more information, see this post on the evidence that one is a Christian.