Dear Andy, What does it mean, according to Protestantism or Evangelical, to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior? Today I received Christ in my heart as my savior and I accept it…today I was saved…salvation only by this? What about to have good actions, and to be good? According to what I understand only to repeat the famous prayer that each evangelical says to repent his or her sins and accept Christ and he or she is saved…how is that? What about James when he says faith without deeds is dead?
Hi, first, congratulations on accepting Jesus!
Accepting Jesus as Savior means to accept His invitation and free gift of salvation, thus renouncing your sins and sinful life; to accept Him as Lord is to accept Jesus as God and your new owner. Also with that, though, you’re entering into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
When James said that faith without works is dead, he was addressing Christians who would often figure that since they’d accepted Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, they’re set, and didn’t move forward in their faith. But you can’t lay idle. It’s not like accepting a trip to the Bahamas, and now you can just lay out all day and never do anything. Now you have to get to know Jesus, study the Bible, serve others, tell them about Him so that they too may accept and enter into a relationship with Christ, demonstrate Jesus in your actions, let the Holy Spirit transform you from within, and make disciples. You have to actually live for Him.
As for being saved, yeah, salvation comes only by believing, repenting, and asking Jesus in. That’s it. Paul mentioned in Romans 4 that just as Abraham was saved by faith when he believed, so are we also when we believe in Christ. He didn’t have the Law, for it hadn’t been given yet. Similarly, as Gentiles, anyway, we don’t have the Law, either, and so are saved through faith in Christ.
In terms of performing good actions and being good, Romans 8 is another good place to better understand this. But in a nutshell, if you belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit living in you, then the good works come because you want to do them. They won’t save you, though, for only faith in Jesus Christ can save you (and you say you’ve done this).
If you don’t have a Bible, then you need to get one, for as you begin to read it, not only will it tell you about God’s work in the lives of humans since the beginning, but it also gives a place for Jesus to come and fellowship with you. You may even notice Him talking to you as you get into it (read my post on how to read the Bible). Prayer is also very important, for it’s God’s means of communication with you, and you with Him (read my post on how to pray). Church is needed, for it’s a gathering with other Christians, as well as a means to get involved with service and the Christian community (read my post on church). And if you haven’t yet been baptized, you need to do so, for it’s what unites you with the Body of Christ – the family of God – the Church (read my post on baptism and on the Body of Christ).
Finally, when it comes to “repeating the famous prayer that each evangelical says to repent his or her sins and accept Christ and he or she is saved”, just for the record, there aren’t any particular words that one has to say in order to be saved, for God knows your heart. The main thing one needs to do is have faith in Jesus, acknowledge your sin and repent of them (sincerely ask for forgiveness, as one who knows the severity of sin), accept Jesus as Lord, and ask Him into your heart. When I finally accepted Jesus, I explained everything that I’d done, what I’d previously believed, why I hadn’t come to Him sooner, and why I finally am. I wasn’t sure completely of who Jesus is, but I knew I needed to go through Him to get to God (I didn’t know at the time that He and God are One). I said, “I’m giving you a chance.” Everything after that was probably similar to what you said, that “famous prayer that each evangelical says”, which I’d learned as a kid when some other Christian friends bombarded me with the severe need of being saved. But it didn’t stop there. You have to understand, I’d just handed my life over to Jesus, so I dedicated my life to knowing Him and about Him. I soon met a Pastor who stressed the need to read and study the Bible, and he mentored me in it. He told me to start in the New Testament with Matthew, and read only 1 chapter a day. Pray for understanding first, then pray and ponder on it throughout the day, but only read one chapter each day. Write notes in the margins, take down notes on paper, write down questions to ask next time we meet, highlight verses that stand out or that I want to remember for another time, and pray often. I got so much into it that I began drawing charts of the genealogies as I read them (versus skipping them, as I used to do), drawing pictures with the notes, and sharing them with people, just out of pure excitement of what I was learning. Once I finished the New Testament, I realized that there was a lot of reference to the Old Testament, and figured that if I’m going to understand the New Testament better, I should probably now read the Old Testament, and I was right. Because reading the Old Testament after reading the New is like watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith after watching episodes 4-6…it all suddenly makes better sense!
I’m excited for you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send me an email or comment below. This goes also for anybody reading this.