Another great question… and one for which my answer will have me ostracized from many groups. I say that up front to encourage you to do your own seeking rather than rely on me or anyone else for your understanding of God. As I have said many times, finding God is the goal rather than finding out about God.
To answer this question, I must first start with another question. “Are all Christians following the same God?” Jesus answered this question conclusively.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
If that doesn’t make Christians tremble in their boots, I don’t know what will. Notice that these rejected ones had the correct name. They even did mighty works in that name. Yet, Jesus responds, “I never knew you.” Chilling! Having the right name is not enough.
So if we presume there is no other way to God other than Jesus, we are left with one question. “What must be known about God to know God?” Jesus promised that anyone who seeks God will find Him. Paul confirmed that everyone has God revealed to them. What must be known about God is obvious to everyone. All are without excuse. None are automatically included.
Many preachers draw a distinct physical line that must be crossed for salvation – an act of admission, a prayer of invitation, a lifestyle of accommodation, or an experience of inspiration. However, I find exceptions to all those simple rules. David received the spirit without knowing the name of Jesus. Saul received the spirit but had it taken away from him. Nebuchadnezzar knew God without the law. Jesus indicated that the Queen of Sheba and people of Ninevah will rise in the judgment with only the testimonies of Solomon and Jonah. Cornelius received the spirit of God before baptism. The Samaritans received the spirit long after baptism. Judas clearly knew Jesus, but rejected him.
Instead I find all the simple answers can fall short of a sincere heart. I also find that a sincere heart can be known by God in many ways. I find David’s instructions to his son Solomon still adequate for today.
And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.