Many preachers falsely say that repentance is required for eternal salvation. In their definition of repentance, just as the English definition that most understand implies, is a "turning from sin". Many say that you must first turn from sin in order to be saved, or that if you are saved then you WILL turn from your sins and stop doing them.
These ideas have NOTHING to do with receiving eternal life. Repentance is NEVER listed as a requirement for salvation. The Greek word that is most always translated into the English word repentance actually means a change of mind. When this is used in talking about salvation, it means that you have a change of mind in what you think about Jesus. You go from not believing that Jesus is the son of God who died on the cross to pay for your sins and rose again, to believing it. Simply changing your mind from not believing to believing. It is sad that the poor translation of the Greek to the English language has created such a big misunderstanding and has led to many teaching a false gospel.
The ONLY requirement for eternal salvation (aka justification, righteousness, or going to heaven) is simply believing that Jesus is the son of God who died on the cross to pay for your sins and rose again. Faith alone in Christ alone. Adding anything to this as an additional requirement for salvation, such as prayer, baptism, good behavior or turning from sin is adding works to salvation, which is a false gospel that is not from God at all. Anything that we do, such as the things I just listed, are works done by human beings. The scripture is clear that works have nothing to do with salvation. Sure, those are all good things to do once one has believed, and are often the logical next step for most to take, but they have nothing to do with salvation, which is by simply believing.
Many say that you must say a prayer to God asking him for forgiveness or tell him that you believe in him in order to be saved, but that also is not true. As I said, those are the logical next steps for many, and are often done at the same time, but it is important to understand that those are not what saves us. We believe in our minds/ hearts, that is what is required, belief, taking God at his word. That takes place before we ever say, pray or do anything. I don't see why someone wouldn't say anything or pray anything after believing, but again, those things have nothing to do with salvation.
Part of the thing about repentance, as falsely understood as turning from sin, is that many people, preachers, and theologians say that if you are "truly" or "really" saved then you WILL live your life as the bible says a Christian should. And if you aren't living your life in that way then you were never "truly" or "really" saved. There are so many things wrong with this statement.
First of all, nowhere in scripture does it talk about "really" or "truly" being saved. Those adjectives indicate that there are varying degrees of believing. The Bible is clear that there are only 2 options: believe or not believe.
Second, as I said previously, all those things that the bible says we should do are good things, and we should do them. The key word here is SHOULD, in contrast with WILL. If you say that someone will do something, then it is a given, they will do it. (Example: if you jump in a lake you will get wet. And if you don't get wet, then you never jumped in a lake). But when you say that someone should do something, that is a suggestion. The Bible strongly suggests and strongly encourages us to do those things once we are saved. We should do these things as a service to God and to help others to come to know Him. This is part of being sanctified, or being made holy or more like Christ. By saying that Believers WILL do those things indicates that if they don't do these things, then they weren't saved. That is looking at works to prove salvation. Works can be deceiving. A nonbeliever can act better and do better things than a believer, and a believer can do worse things than a nonbeliever. We are all sinners and we not not stop sinning until the day we die. Looking at someone's works to prove salvation and judging their eternal position in Christ on that is wrong. Sure, believers should do those things, but it's not required to be saved and those aren't proof that they are saved or not.
There is a line of thinking that I've heard go along with the afore mentioned beliefs, that is that if you are "living in sin" then you were never saved and aren't going to heaven. This sounds catchy, I'll give it that, but let's look at that phrase "living in sin". What does that mean? It seems to indicate that we are willingly and openly sinning while living our lives. I've heard some people that hold to that line of thinking use examples like living a homosexual lifestyle, or living with and having sex with someone outside of marriage, or doing drugs. They claim that those things are "living in sin" and that that proves that they were never saved. Two things come to my mind in response to this.
First, look at yourself. Or rather, look in at yourself. Do you sin? You're human and not Jesus, so the answer is yes, you sin. Do you look at someone of the opposite sex that is not your spouse with sexual thoughts? Do you eat when you are full or not hungry? Do you cuss frequently? Do you get drunk often? Do you or did you talk back to and disrespect your parents? Did you ever envy something that someone else had? If your answer to any of those was yes, then you are living in sin. Sure these sins might not seem as bad as the others I mentioned before and they might not have as severe of consequences, but they are sins nonetheless. Yes, all sins are not equal, lying isn't as bad as murdering, nor does it have as bad of consequences, but they are both still sins. Although all sins are not equal in that sense, they are equal in two ways. They are equal in the sense that breaking any of them separates you from God. Murdering and lying both equally break the law and make us sinners. They are also all equal in the sense that Christ paid for all of them on the cross and has forgiven you for all of them.
Second, look at the famous bible heroes. Jacob had 2 wives and 2 mistresses and he had a dozen or more children with them. That is adultery, a sin. Jacob lived in sin. David, the man after God's own heart was a murderer and an adulterer among many other things, he lived in sin. The church in Corinth to which Paul writes to to reprimand and correct them on the awful sinful lifestyles they lived, they were living in sin. All of these that I just mentioned "lived in sin", yet the Bible says they were believers.
Saying that one must "turn from sin" in order to be saved, "living in sin" means you aren't saved, or looking at our good works to judge our salvation, clearly throws salvation back on something we do instead of what Christ did.
The whole point is, what we do cannot have any impact on whether we go to heaven or not, because Christ already DID EVERYTHING when he lived a perfect life and died an innocent death for all of us. By saying that you have to do something in addition to believe is saying that what Christ did was not enough.
The Gospel of John is the only book written to unbelievers. John mentions towards the end that the sole purpose of writing that book was to make someone believe. The Greek word for believe (also translated as faith or trust) is used in reference to salvation over 75 times in that book. Not once does it mention anything in addition to simply believing in Christ to get to heaven. If there were additional steps to take in order to be saved, don't you think that the one book written with the specific purpose of bringing a lost person to salvation would mention them in there?
The clearest responses to the question of how to be saved are in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." and Acts 16:30-31: "...he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..."
Plain and simple. Believe in Christ and you will go to heaven. Believing means placing one's trust in the fact that Jesus is who he claimed to be and that his death accomplished what he claimed it accomplished.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." -Ephesians 2:8-9