How to Become a Christian
You can have a relationship with God that is full & meaningful
There is one God who expresses Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has an unchanging character which includes the qualities of holiness, mercy, justice, hating sin, and loving people. He possesses all power and knowledge - and it is He who created from nothing the world and everything which exists.
Mankind is created by God in His image; that is, we are spiritual beings capable of making moral and rational choices. It means that our lives have value and purpose. It also means that we are capable of a relationship with God that is real and meaningful. This stands in contrast to the view that says that everything real is material, that there is no God nor meaning to life - we are nothing but accidental by-products of evolution.
However, sin entered the world and mankind was corrupted. This corruption has had an effect on us as persons, hindering our relationships with others and with God. We are still able to know right from wrong, but not always. We have a conscience, but it produces feelings of guilt. We are unable to discipline ourselves to do many of the things we know to be right. Our "want to" is broken - we have trouble even wanting to be what we know we ought to be. We are born into the world estranged from God.
Still, God in His love, has sought us out. He has revealed Himself to us through creation and through the Bible. We have his commandments to show us His perfect righteous standard. In spite of all this, we have continued to think, speak, and act in the ways we wanted instead of in the ways God wanted. Thus, the Bible exposes us as sinners.
God's holiness and our sinfulness present a dilemma: God's perfect standard requires that we make a 100 on God's test; a 99 will not do. The perfection of God requires perfection from us. James 2:10 tells us, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it" (Revised Standard Version). Some of us have done worse than others, but "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Therefore, we cannot know God or enter heaven through our own goodness.
Not only is God holy, He is also a God of justice. He can not simply overlook our sins and pretend they didn't happen. He must punish sin. Now, before we say that a God of love wouldn't do that, we have to consider things like unsolved murders. What about these horrible crimes that were never brought to justice on earth? Are we prepared to accept injustice as a permanent state? Do we really want God not to be a God of justice? Regardless of our preferences, God is absolutely just and will punish every sin. The Lord "will not at all acquit the wicked" (Nahum 1:3).
What now? We are in a situation from which we can not deliver ourselves.
How did God resolve this dilemma? He Himself came to our rescue. God loves people and desires for people to have a clear relationship with Him. When their time on earth is completed, He wants people to be with Him in Heaven. Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth personally and was born a real human being.
Jesus was tempted, but did not sin. He taught us, though He did not come primarily to teach. He healed, but He did not come primarily to heal. These things served to reveal His identity. Jesus came to die on the cross as our substitute. God Himself paid the penalty that we could not pay. Like a judge finding his own daughter guilty and then paying her traffic ticket himself, Jesus personally accepted our punishment and "bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1st Peter 2:24).
This means that a total and complete forgiveness is available and that a relationship with God is possible. It is available, but it is not automatic.
The gap between God and man has been bridged. What sin did to separate, the cross worked to bring together. The cross is like a bridge to God. However, this bridge must still be crossed. One could stand on one end of a long bridge and admire its construction, yet, still not use it to walk to the other side. So God yet has a work to do in us. He has provided for our forgiveness and offers it as a free gift. He has done a work for us; He now works in us.
One way you may sense this work is in what the Bible calls conviction of sin. It is a good kind of guilt which makes us face our sin and our need. It drives us to God. It can be powerful and painful, but it offers hope and not despair. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would "convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment" (John 16:8).
Another way God works in us is to call us to Himself. "He called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2nd Thessalonians 2:14). In this call we sense ourselves being attracted to Him. We sense an inward pull toward "Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1st Peter 2:9).
This convicting and calling by God awakens certain responses within us. These responses are repentance and faith.
Repentance - Repentance is an attitude adjustment which changes the direction of our lives. It is turning to God from self -- that is, from our self-centeredness and sin. "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out and that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
Faith - Faith is trusting Jesus Christ to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. You cannot get your own sins forgiven, you cannot get yourself to heaven, you cannot make yourself right with God. But because of the cross, Jesus can. Faith is trusting Him to do it for us. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is more than just believing things about God; it is trusting Christ. We must trust Jesus apart from anything we ourselves might do.
We are talking about more than a new lifestyle or signing on to a new list of beliefs. It is not about self-improvement (in fact, self is the problem). It is about God giving new life to the spiritually dead. Spiritual death means that we are are disinterested in God (at least, the true God) - that we are separated and alienated from God, unable to respond. God's act of making us alive to Him is called being born again (John 3:3) - and sometimes, "regeneration" (Titus 3:5). Just as being born the first time gives physical life, so the new birth makes us alive to God: "And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked..." (Ephesians 2:1, Revised Standard Version).
This new birth has a transforming effect within us. It changes our hearts from apathy and hostility regarding God toward one of desiring a close relationship with Him. It begins the process of repairing our want to. "So that if any one is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old state of things has passed away; a new state of things has come into existence" (2nd Corinthians 5:17, Weymouth).
This new life is a permanent condition. One may sometimes fall in it or resist it or grieve God, but he may not escape what he now is. Jesus said, "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" (John 10:28).
The new life is a free gift. The Bible refers to salvation as "the free gift" (Romans 5:15), telling us that "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We do not deserve it. We cannot achieve it. We can only receive it.
Suppose a person is interested in receiving this free gift. Perhaps you yourself sense God's calling in your heart. How exactly should you respond?
First, you must face up to the fact that you can't stand on your record. Compared to God's perfect righteous standard, your own righteousness amounts to a zero. If we got what we deserved, we would all go to hell. You must recognize that your sinful condition is very serious.
Receiving this gift also means that you need to own up to God to what you have done, to admit that you are a sinner. The Bible promises, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1st John 1:9).
To receive salvation you must look up to Christ - and Christ alone - to save you and make you what He wants you to be. This means one's faith and repentance are directed toward Jesus Christ. The Bible says that, "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God..." (John 1:12).
Finally, receiving the gift of eternal life means that you will stand up and be identified with Christ. There are no secret Christians. The Bible says that, "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved" (Romans 10:9-10, Revised Standard Version).