Acts 2:38 'Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'
On the road to becoming a Christian
The most important thing in the world is for you to know God in a personal way. In
other words, you need to be a Christian.
But how do you become a Christian? Let's see what the Bible—which is our authority
for everything—has to say about it.
The gap problem
The problem is, there's a gap between God and people. It's a twofold gap. First,
God is infinitely great, while we're so small. And, second, God is totally pure,
while we're sinful. So there's both a size gap and a sin gap between you and him.
How can that gap be bridged, so that you can become a Christian?
Not just by being born in a so-called 'Christian' country. You may be born in a garage,
but it doesn't make you a car! The only 'country' we are born into, spiritually speaking,
is Satan's kingdom, the 'dominion of darkness' (Colossians 1:13).
Not by having Christian parents, helpful though that may be. Spiritual life is 'not
of natural descent' (John 1:13).
Not by doing your best and living a good life, commendable though that is. God says
that salvation is 'not by works' (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Not by being christened or baptised as a baby. The Bible knows nothing of this traditional
practice, and the Bible is our guide.
Not by going through any ritual or partaking of any sacrament.
Bridging the gap
How then do you bridge the gap? By being born into the family of God!
This is a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ which puts us into a right relationship
with God as his children. People sometimes refer to it as 'being saved', 'getting
converted' or being 'born again'. To have had such an experience is the most vital
thing in the world for you as an individual.
It begins with two closely-related steps:
Acts 20:21 'Turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.'
1. How to repent
By nature and practice you are a sinner in God's eyes. That doesn't mean you have
necessarily committed gross crimes, just that you fall far short of God's standard,
which is the perfection expressed in the life of Jesus. To repent is to admit your
sin and determine, with God's help, to turn your back on it. It involves your mind,
your emotions and your actions.
Your mind. Repentance is primarily a change of mind. It means agreeing with God about
your shortcomings. No longer will you makes excuses like, 'It's the way I was brought
up' or 'I inherited my foul temper from my dad.' Instead, you'll say, 'It's my responsibility
alone, and I've been wrong to act that way.'
2 Samuel 12:13 'David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord."'
Your emotions. There will be genuine sorrow for your sins as you realise it was these
that sent Jesus to the cross at Calvary.
Acts 2:37 'When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said& , 'Brothers,
what shall we do?"'
Your actions. You'll actually stop doing what the Holy Spirit has shown you to be
wrong. This will mean, for example, breaking off an immoral relationship, no longer
stealing stationery from your office, or asking a relative to forgive you for your
Acts 26:20 'I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance
by their deeds.'
2. How to put your faith in Jesus
Once you've repented, you'll quickly find that you're incapable of living a life
that pleases God. He has set standards that you must reach if you are to be close
to him. Being a sinner, both by birth and by practice, you can never reach that standard,
no matter how hard you try. Yet you were made for God and feel inside of you the
need to be his friend.
Here's where Jesus comes into the picture. He is the Son of God, himself divine.
He left the Father's side and became a human being like you, though without sin.
During his earthly life he did meet God's standards. He offered himself on the cross
as a sacrifice, taking the punishment that your sins deserved. He was raised from
the dead and ascended back to the Father.
Now God offers salvation to you (a relationship with God) as a free gift, purchased
by the blood of Jesus. 'The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal
life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 6:23). Will you accept it?
A gift doesn't actually become yours until you reach out and take it from the person
who's offering it to you. The wonderful gift of knowing God isn't, of course, a physical
thing to be taken with your two hands. It is a spiritual thing and must be taken
Receiving God's gift
You receive this gift when, having repented:
You acknowledge the futility of your own efforts to win God's favour.
You realise that, if God is going to accept you, it can only be on the basis of what
Jesus did on the cross.
You come to God with empty hands and pray to him, asking him to accept you for Jesus'
You tell God that you're now submitting your life totally to Jesus as your Lord (Boss).
Have you personally repented and put your faith in Jesus?
There's really no such thing as a secret Christian. God intends you to tell others
openly about what you've done in believing in Jesus. We call this confessing our
faith. Saying it out loud brings it out in the open for all to see, and this will
strengthen you enormously in your Christian life.
Here are some Bible verses about this:
Romans 10:9-10 'If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your
heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart
that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and
Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus said, 'Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge
him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown
him before my Father in heaven.'
Have you shared your faith in this way? It's best to start with those closest to
you-husband, wife, parents, workmates, neighbours or close friends.
Can you be sure God has accepted you?
Yes! The apostle John said, 'I write these things to you who believe in the name
of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life' (1 John 5:13).
You can't relax your full weight into a chair if you're not confident it is strong
enough to bear your weight. Neither can you relax fully into your relationship with
God if you're not certain that he has accepted you.
God has given three main means of assurance. They are:
The clear teaching of the Word of God, the Bible, which you should take at face value
by faith. For example, Jesus said, 'Whoever comes to me I will never drive away'
(John 6:37). Believe it. You came to him, so rest assured he will hold on to you
and never reject you.
The inner witness of the Holy Spirit that you have become God's child. More of this
in the lesson on the Holy Spirit, but for now notice this passage:
Romans 8:15-16 'You received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.'
The discovery that, as you obey his will, you feel God working with you:
Philippians 2:12-13 'Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.'
The Bible is vital in showing us how to know God personally and how to live the Christian
life. For that reason it's a good idea to start memorising some key verses from it.
Here's one to begin with.
Commit to memory not just the words but also the Bible reference—that is, the exact
place where it can be found in the Bible. In this case Acts is the book of the Bible;
the 3 is the chapter; and the 19 is the verse. So it's Acts chapter 3 verse 19.
Learn by heart
Acts 3:19'Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.'