If someone asked you what being a Christian meant and how you become a Christian, you might give one of several responses. Maybe you would talk about religious rituals such as going to church or keeping a list of "dos and don'ts." Or maybe you would talk about the belief that God exists or about faith in Jesus Christ.
In our world today, the variety of ideas about Christianity has led many to either confusion or having a completely false Christian identity.
We might hear becoming a Christian phrased in a few different (albeit inadequate) ways, such as:
- Being saved (which is not immediately clear without scriptural context).
- Asking Jesus into your heart (which is a slightly misleading phrase, but possibly easier to visualize than other phrases).
- Accepting Jesus as your Savior (which some might argue is too softly worded).
- Turning to Christ (which might be too pragmatic or action-oriented for some theologians).
I personally prefer the phrase "surrendering to Christ" (based on Jesus' instruction to "deny..." or "following Christ" (based on Jesus' invitation to his first disciples to follow him).
But becoming a Christian also involves our own faithful, heartfelt confession that Jesus Christ is our Lord in response to God's grace (Romans 10:9).
The ratio of God's grace versus mankind's activity needed in our salvation has been argued by theologians for centuries. But whatever the exact mix is, there is clearly at least some overlap explained in Scripture.
When we do become Christians, our lives are spiritually and eternally changed, and we become "new creations" (2 Corinthians 5:17) as we enter into a new relationship with our Creator.
We could consider countless examples of the transformative effect of salvation on people’s lives. In their "three circles" presentation, The North American Mission Board calls this effect "recovering and pursuing God's original design" for our lives.
How Do You Become a Christian?
First, we must understand that this event is nothing short of a miracle performed by God himself as he takes a spiritually dead person and "resurrects" them to new life.
If anyone could redeem themselves from their own sin, then Jesus' earthly mission to die for the sins of the world would have been unnecessary.
Becoming a Christian is a "gift" (Romans 6:23) that can only be given by God and can never be achieved so that "no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:9). We are not just sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil (John 3:18-19).
Recognizing and admitting this sinful and depraved condition of our soul is an important first "step" in becoming a Christian.
Secondly, while salvation cannot be earned, it can (and must) be received or accepted. In Mark 4, Jesus compared the opportunity of truly believing and receiving the good news of the gospel to fertile ground that deeply "receives" seeds sown by a farmer.
Jesus states that "…those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20, ESV).
Jesus also preached in John 1:12 that anyone who receives him and believes in his name he gives "...the right to become children of God."
And again, Jesus declares in John 12:48 that anyone who "rejects" him and "does not receive [his] words" will find themselves eventually judged by God according to that truth.
Paul echoes this idea of our necessary reception of salvation in several places in his letters, including in Romans 5:17 when he wrote, "...those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness [will] reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" (ESV).
I have heard it said that Jesus is a "gentleman" and will never force his salvation on anyone, although he offers it to everyone. As Jesus told Nicodemus in his famous evening conversation in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
Thirdly, when we recognize and confess our sinfulness and need for God to graciously save us, we humbly and faithfully receive his gift of salvation (whether that is through praying the "sinners prayer" or just a decision in our own heart), we become a Christian.
Then with God in our life, we will never have to face spiritual death in hell. This salvation is for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord" as Paul explains in Romans 10:13.
What Happens When You Become a Christian
Becoming a Christian is the only thing that fills the void in our life. It is the only answer to our soul's question, the only medication for our disease of sin, the only hope for our desperation, and the only peace for our trouble.
And we can only become Christians through Jesus Christ because he alone is the "mediator" between us and God.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles (1 Timothy 2:5-7).
If you desire to become a Christian, then you can pray something like this prayer offered on my church's website:
"Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the grave so that I might have eternal life in heaven with You. I willingly turn away from my sins and ask You to become Lord of my life. I place all of my trust in You alone. Take control of my words, thoughts, and actions. Amen."
When you become a Christian, make sure to share your new faith with anyone you can, especially the pastor of a local church where you can get plugged in.
Then you can publicly demonstrate your salvation through believers' baptism! Becoming a Christian is the most wonderful step you can take in life. Let me know if I can help you take that step.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kotangens
Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, church planter, and now Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Cheraw First Baptist Church in South Carolina. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking, and his YouTube channel. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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