Hello there, dear Dan in Columbus. You bring up important things. God indeed accepts us as we are - but loves us so much that he will not leave us as we are.
Why should we not want to be changed for the better? The alternative is to be overcome by sin, again and again. To hurt ourselves and others, too. Is life not complicated enough?
OK. If a person came to me for advice and confessed: "I have lost the joy of my salvation. Not not sure if I'm really saved.” My first instinct would be to go straight to the promises of God. Based upon his forgiveness, eternal grace, and holy word. That approach might be helpful.
Look at 1 John, however. To this writer, assurance can also come by passing certain tests! Certain behavioural tests. Not perfectly, of course, but in principle.
Carefully notice all the IF’s in this short letter, with regard to one passing from death unto life.
1. 1 John 1:5-7 (Walking in the Light)
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
2. 1 John 1:8-10 (Confession of Sin)
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
3. 1 John 2:3-4 (Obedience)
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
4. 1 John 2:9-11 (Love for the Brethren)
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
5. 1 John 2:15-17 (Hatred for the World)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever
6. 1 John 2:24-25 (Perseverance in Doctrine)
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us--eternal life.
7. 1 John 3:10 (Righteousness)
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,
8. 1 John 4:13 (Spirit's Testimony)
13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
9. Hebrews 12:5-8 (Discipline)
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons
All these if’s are in the context of free and unmerited GRACE, of course. That said, The Almighty One, desires to change us more and more into the image of his Son. And to be our Lord - not just our Saviour.