Becoming a Christian
A Christian isn’t someone who follows a set of rules or guidelines. A Christian isn’t even someone who lives by a set of Christian values, such as kindness or generosity. A Christian is someone who has decided to follow Jesus Christ and because of that decision now has a relationship and connection with God himself.
Every human being on the planet is made in the image of God. We are all his children in a way. However because of the sin problem—everyone has made mistakes and done wrong things—because of sin, we couldn’t get close to God. Sin separates us from God; so people and God were strangers, even enemies. However, God loves, really loves, each person so much that 2000 years ago he sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to solve the sin problem.
When Jesus, who was both the perfect Son of God and the perfect human being, died willingly on the cross, he paid the penalty for all of our sins, for all time, so that our sins could be completely forgiven. He paid for our sins with his sinless lifeblood which he spilled when he died on the cross. The price of our salvation has been paid in full!
Jesus solved the sin problem with his sacrificial death on the cross, so that now we can have a close relationship with God. But Jesus didn’t stay dead when he was crucified. He became alive again within days, and he now offers us a new life, an eternal and full life under God’s favour and blessing.
If we turn away from our sin (our selfish wrongdoing), and put our complete trust, faith, in Jesus, we receive enduring forgiveness and are drawn into a close relationship with the wonderful, loving, creator God; and his Holy Spirit comes and lives inside us. Our eternal life starts the moment we accept God’s offer of forgiveness and it continues forever, even when our bodies die.
Are you ready to make that decision to follow Jesus? It is the most important decision you will ever make and the most rewarding. Are you willing to let go of your sin and live a new life for Jesus?
Becoming a Christian simply involves you really believing and really trusting that Jesus is the Saviour, your Saviour. However, many people like to express this faith with a prayer.
Here is a prayer that you could say, or you might want to adapt the words or add some words of your own to make it more personal.
I realise that I have done many things wrong
and that my sin is a barrier between you and me.
I am sorry for the wrongs things that I have thought
and said and done, and I ask for your forgiveness.
I place my trust in Jesus and in his death on the cross
which has solved the problem of my sin.
I now make my decision to follow Jesus
and to live in a way that pleases you.
I thank you for your great love and
your unending mercy towards me,
and that you are always with me.
And I thank you for your Holy Spirit
who now lives with me.
Amen (which means truly.)
What happens when you become a Christian?
Repentance and Forgiveness
An important part of becoming a Christian is turning away from sin and turning to God: repentance. Repentance begins when you realise and admit that you have sinned, that you have thought, said and done countless wrong things.
When you become aware of just how miserable and hopeless your sin really is, you will want to ask God for his forgiveness and salvation. God promises to forgive your sin when you turn to him.
Even though our attempts to stop sinning will be imperfect, God’s forgiveness is total and complete. Your sins can be completely forgiven and forgotten! The Bible says: If we own up to our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Not only does God remove our sins—past, present and future—he actually exchanges, or swaps, our sins for Jesus’ goodness (or righteousness.) This is how much God loves us!
Regeneration and the Holy Spirit
When you put your faith in Jesus and decide to follow him, God comes and lives inside you through his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes and renews (or regenerates) your own spirit. This is often called being “born again”. This is a vitally important first step in the process of salvation. You receive the Holy Spirit and become “born again” simply through faith—by entrusting your life to Jesus.
Some people are very aware of the moment when the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside them, others are not. The Holy Spirit sets a person apart as especially belonging to God.
One of the Holy Spirit’s main roles is to gradually and progressively make a Christian become more and more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit powerfully works inside us to strengthen, counsel, guide and comfort. If we cooperate with his leading he will help us to become strong in our faith and more loving, patient and kind. The Bible tells us that the workings of the Spirit produce: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (or faith), gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
The Holy Spirit will also point out some of our faults from time to time, and help us to overcome them. This can be a difficult, slow and painful process at times. The Christian life involves perseverance and endurance. However, the Christian journey is also exciting and fulfilling as you walk closely with God.
So many things happen when we become a Christian. By entrusting our lives completely to Jesus we become undeserving recipients of:
forgiveness of sin;
deliverance from darkness;
regeneration as our spirit is reborn and renewed;
adoption as God’s own beloved children;
justification, which effectively exchanges our sins with Jesus Christ’s righteousness;
sanctification as the Holy Spirit sets us apart as especially belonging to God, and begins his work of making us become more and more like Jesus;
and reconciliation which allows us to come near to God in a close relationship, instead of being distant.
Many of these things happen without us even being aware of it because God usually leads us gently.
As we spend time with God in conversation and Bible reading, we can discover more about this wonderful Salvation that God offers through Jesus. I truly hope that you take up his offer.
Growing as a Christian
The Christian life is a journey. It is a journey of discoveries and decisions and determination. Realising that Jesus is truly the Saviour, is just the first of many wonderful discoveries, with many more following, as we keep following Jesus.
Deciding to turn away from sin (repent), to live God’s way, is a momentous decision; but it is only the beginning. Jesus wants us to become spiritually mature, so it is also important that we continue to make decisions that will help us to become more like Jesus and do the things he wants us to do. One of the Holy Spirit’s main tools to help us become spiritually mature is the Bible.
The Spirit of God inspired various authors at different times to write the 66 books that form the collection we know as the Bible. Some of these books are histories, some are poetry, others are letters, etc. While these different books show a diversity of literary styles, subjects and purposes, there is a unifying theme that runs throughout. The Bible unfolds God’s plan of salvation, of the redemption and restoration of mankind and creation. The Bible, the Scriptures, are all about Jesus and salvation, even the Old Testament.
Speaking about the message of Salvation in the Bible, the Apostle Paul once wrote to a young man named Timothy and said:
“From the time you were a toddler you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise leading to salvation which is through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed (inspired). . . 2 Timothy 3:15-16.
For new Christians, it is best to start reading Bible books from the New Testament. The first four books of the New Testament are about what Jesus did and said when he came to earth just over 2000 years ago. These four books are often referred to as the Gospels (or Good News) of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For brand new Christians, the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of John are great books to start reading. (Look in the index of your Bible if you have trouble finding these books.)
Find a Good Bible Translation
The New Testament was originally written in Koine (common or every day) Greek, and the Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, but there are numerous, modern English translations of the Bible now available. It is important to choose a translation that is both accurate and easy for you to read and understand.
The Common Standards Bible (CSB) and the New International Version (NIV) are excellent, popular translations.
Some Bible versions are paraphrases rather than translations. They can be easy to read but they do not translate from the Greek or Hebrew very precisely.
A Bible that has an explanation at the beginning of each book can be very useful to help you understand the context of each Bible book: its setting, background, structure and purpose.
The Bible can also be read online at no cost on the Bible Gateway website here.
The Holy Spirit and Bible Reading
The Bible is full of rich, deep, inexhaustible, spiritual truth. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit and we need the Holy Spirit to help us understand what God is teaching and telling us through the Bible. We also need the Holy Spirit’s help to put Biblical and spiritual principles into practice.
To help you grow as a Christian, try to make a set time every day to spend alone with God. Some people prefer to make this time early in the morning; some people prefer to make this time last thing at night. Some people read the Bible two or three times during the day.
Find a time every day when you are least likely to be disturbed or distracted—a time when you don’t have to rush. This can be easier said than done. God is with us constantly, every moment of the day, however, it is good to spend time alone with him so that we can focus our undivided attention on him and his word, the Bible.
Before you start reading, talk to God. Share your heart and your thoughts with him. Tell him your joys, concerns and needs. He is listening. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring clarity and understanding and “life” to the Bible verses you are going to read. Then read a few verses, or a short passage from the Bible, and really think about what you are reading. Allow the words to sink in.
Don’t think that you have to read the whole book or a whole chapter in one go. Short paragraphs are fine for beginners.
While you are reading, if there is a verse that really sticks out, is particularly interesting to you, or seems to speak to you personally, try and memorise it. Memorised Scripture verses are like a ready arsenal of wisdom, comfort and guidance that can help you live successfully as a Christian.
Growing as a Christian – Prayer and Worship
Effective and regular communication is a part of every healthy, personal relationship, including our relationship with God. Prayer is simply communication with God: talking and listening. When you talk to God, you don’t have to use fancy words or say special phrases. Just be yourself and speak from your heart (Matthew 6:7) and be prepared to “listen” quietly in his presence.
Prayer for Forgiveness
Just as conversations between people may serve different purposes, people pray for different reasons. Most people have started their Christian life by asking God to forgive their sin. They have come to the realisation that they are unable to live by God’s standard of moral perfection and so they call on God for his forgiveness and help.
God’s forgiveness is assured! God went to enormous lengths, sending his Son, Jesus, to earth to pay the full penalty for our sins with his death, so when we pray and own up to our sinfulness, and say we are sorry, God promises to forgive us and cleanse our hearts from the stain of sin! (1 John 1:9).
Prayer for Companionship
Because the Holy Spirit lives inside Christians, God is always with us. We can talk to him any time of the day, at any place, in any circumstance. We can share our thoughts, joys, needs and concerns with him. Spending time alone with God, in his presence, is one of the most precious joys of the Christian life.
For many Christians, prayer doesn’t come easily, however, prayer is one of the most powerful resources we have and so must not be neglected. God strengthens us, comforts us and guides us through prayer. Spurgeon, (a famous English preacher of the 19th century) once said, “Practise prayer.” Prayer is spiritual and not an exact science; however as we make prayer a part of our daily Christian life, the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us to pray more effectively (Romans 8:26-27).
Prayer for Guidance and Help
For many people, prayer is a last resort. They only think of prayer when they are in a difficult or unpleasant situation, in some crisis. In fact, most people, when they think of prayer, think that it is asking God for help.
God is a loving father who desires to help his children. As we practise prayer, develop our relationship with him and grow in faith, we learn to pray according to his will which helps us to more effectively receive his blessing and assistance in our lives, as well as in the lives of others we pray for (John 9-17; James 5:16b).
When you pray for help, pray in faith. Believe that God hears you. Believe that God wants to help you. Believe that God will help you. Know that God wants the best for you and will answer your prayers in ways that will benefit you and promote your spiritual growth. (See Matthew 21:22; James 1:6, 5:15)
It is tremendously reassuring to know that we can place our lives, and all its circumstances, into God’s hands through prayer. Because of this, prayer should be our first impulse, not our last resort. The Apostle Paul wrote about this:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Prayer and Worship
God is wonderful! He is supreme, eternal, all-powerful and all-knowing. Despite his transcendence and awesome power, he is also close-by, compassionate and caring. Moreover, God is magnificent, beautiful and glorious! True knowledge and appreciation of who God is, what he has done, and what he continues to do for us, should inspire our sincere, deep, joyful and respectful worship of him.
Worship can be as simple as having an attitude of devotion, gratitude and obedience towards God. It can also involve verbally expressing the greatness of God and your commitment to him. This can be said or sung. The words may be your own and be spontaneous, or they may come from a written text. You can worship alone, with family or a few friends, or in a church meeting of many people.
God wants us to worship him! He wants us to worship him, not for his sake, but for ours. When we worship God we are reminded of his power and love, and this strengthens and revives our faith in him. When we worship and focus on God and his greatness we get a truer perspective on life.
Worship is not just about saying words or thinking wonderful thoughts about God. Like prayer, when we worship God we are connecting with him spiritually. [Worship can also be expressed when we are obedient to God in practical ways.]
The Bible does not stipulate a certain posture for prayer, however, the most common stance seems to be standing with hands raised (1 Kings 8:22; 1 Timothy 2:8). Interestingly, the Bible never says to “close your eyes and fold your hands” when you pray, the most common posture for western evangelical Christians.
You can kneel (Daniel 6:10), bow (Exodus 4:31), lie face down (2 Chronicles 20:18; Matthew 26:39), sit, or walk around while you pray. You can pray as you drive the car, as you wash the dishes, or as you’re falling asleep at the end of the day. Different levels of intensity in prayer may lead you to different physical postures.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually.” So keep the lines of communication open with God, put prayer into practice and see what God will do.
More information on prayer, here.
© 26th of July, 2009, Margaret Mowczko