By Woodrow Kroll
God’s plan is very simple: If you want to live forever, believe in Jesus. That’s it. Getting to heaven is not about going to church, following a list of rules and regulations or weighing your good deeds against your bad. Believe it or not, if you want to live forever, God only requires one thing from you—faith in His Son, Jesus.
OK. You’ve become a Christian. You’ve told Jesus that you want to receive Him into your life and have everything you’ve ever done wrong forgiven. But you might be wondering, So, what am I supposed to do now? Before he believed in Jesus, Saul tried to please God by being a religious person. He tried to “follow all the rules,” live a moral life, do whatever he could so that the “good” things he had done would outweigh the bad.
That’s a great question. And there are some specific steps you can follow that will help you find purpose and fulfillment in your life. As you put these steps into action, your life will change, and your new relationship with God will begin to grow. But one day, while traveling from Jerusalem to the city of Damascus, Saul heard Jesus’ voice. That’s when God showed him the truth—no matter how good and “religious” Saul had been, he had still broken God’s law, as we all have. That’s what the Bible calls sin, and sin is what separates us from God. The consequences of sin is eternal death, but the gift of God through His Son, Jesus, is eternal life (Romans 6:23).
Deciding to follow Jesus is a very big and important step. But keep walking. Your exciting journey as a Christian is just beginning.
Know What You Believe
Before you go on much further, it’s important to understand what it means to be a Christian.
For some reason, though, a lot of people throughout history have tried to complicate the issue.
Take Saul, for example—a guy whose story you can find in the New Testament.
When Saul put his faith in Jesus instead of religion to save him from his sin, his life was changed. Being religious was not his goal anymore—knowing Jesus was. Saul dedicated his life to following Christ and telling others about Him. Eventually God changed Saul’s name to Paul, and Paul went on to write much of what we now know as the New Testament. Like him, all you need to do is trust Jesus in order to be with Him for eternity.
After Paul believed in Jesus, he studied God’s Word, thought about his own personal experience and reached the conclusion that a man can only get right with God by faith alone, not by following a list of rules or doing good things (Romans 3:28).
Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Notice the use of the personal pronouns— you and yourselves. Faith is personal. Believing in Jesus is the only thing that will get us into heaven. No matter how we’ve lived, it’s what we do with Jesus before we die that makes all the difference. Once you have taken this step of faith, you are a part of God’s “family.” You’re His, and nobody can change that.
While Jesus was hanging on the cross, a thief hung beside Him on another cross. This man turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). No one could have spoken those words without real faith. Jesus responded, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43). Here is Jesus’ promise to you: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:27–29). That thief had no opportunity to be baptized. There was no time to join a church, no chance to repay those he’d stolen from. He was dying. All he had time to do was trust what Jesus Christ was doing at the cross to pay for his sin. When he did, his faith saved him—not his religion, his deeds or any ritual. Faith was the key.
Have you ever told God you’re sorry for sinning against Him? Have you ever told Him you believe that what Jesus did at the cross is all God demands to pay the penalty for your sin? If you have, you’ve done the right thing, the only thing, that allows you to be forgiven and to have a relationship with God. You couldn’t be in a better position. You are a Christian, and you have taken the first step to knowing God. But this faith must be yours alone. It must be personal. You don’t get to heaven because your parents believe in Jesus. Going to heaven isn’t gained through your priest, your pastor or your rabbi. In the end, where you’ll spend eternity is a matter that’s settled between you and God.
So, now what? What should you do next as a new Christian? Here’s what the Bible says.