This was posted at the Blog Cerulean Sanctum and felt it worthwhile to post here as a seperate page. Original location of following material can be found here:
How to Become a Christian
July 13, 2009
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These are exciting times, but also frightening to many people. It’s hard to ignore the craziness around us. Frustration and a general feeling that all is not right in the world plague many people.
If you sense that something is not right in your life and in the lives of people you know, I want you to know that you can find a peace that triumphs over the greatest storms, a love that never lets go, and a cleansing that wipes away even the foulest past.
All of this is found in one source, Jesus Christ. Because He is the source of all things, all the answers to life’s questions are found in Him alone.
As more and more people search for what is real and what truly matters in life, the question of how to become a Christian looms large. You can search and find many explanations of how to become a Christian, but many of those explanations only lead people into following a set of rules, something that failed long ago and will fail today. Life is not a set of rules but a relationship with Jesus.
A quick glance around is all it takes for most people to realize that something is very wrong with our world. Disease, poverty, anger, jealousy, murder, sexual perversion, war, and death hold this world in their lethal embrace. Corruption defines the human condition.
It wasn’t always this way, though.
The Most Unnatural Thing in the World
God created a beautiful, unmarred world. As the source of life itself, He made Man, both male and female, in His own image and breathed His own life into them. He blessed Adam and Eve with perfect bodies, souls, and spirits. God placed that couple in His paradise, charging them to mold it as they saw fit, all under His guidance and love. God and Mankind lived in perfect communion, a deep, intimate relationship filled with life.
But Man was not satisfied with what God had given, and when Evil presented itself, Man chose Evil. Mankind wanted to be like God and rebelled against Him, partaking of the very fruits of Evil that God had warned against.
In the moment that Man sinned, the most unnatural thing entered Creation: Death.
Death took two terrible forms, physical and spiritual. In the physical, Man’s bodies began to decay. In the spiritual, the flame that was the spirit of Man, the very connection of Man to the life-giving Spirit of God, was snuffed out. The intimacy that Man had with God was utterly destroyed, and Man went deaf to the voice of God.
The Bible puts it bluntly:
For the wages of sin is death…
Sin is a death penalty.
There is no death in God, though, only life. God cannot abide death nor the sin that causes it because they are antithetical to His nature. To God, death is a terrible, foreign thing.
Just as it is a law within Creation that an apple dislodged from a tree will fall to the ground, so it is a law that only life can pay for death. God Himself had earlier clothed Adam and Eve with an animal skin, that creature giving up its life to pay for the death wrought by sin. Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, born after the advent of death, understood this and sacrificed part of his flock of sheep to God.
For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.
The counter to sin and death is blood, which is life.
Striving But Not Attaining
Though Man’s spirit had died and Man no longer had a connection to God, the unnaturalness of death drove men to search for God and call out to Him. God chose to reveal Himself to Man and selected an unworthy tribe of people called the Hebrews. They wanted to know God, so He gave them a set of rules to show what He was like. God said that the rules, called the Law, could show people the way to Him. By keeping the Law, Man could hear a whisper of God and see the shadow of His presence. God instituted ways for the Hebrews to atone for their sins so they could continue to hear that whisper and see the shadow of His presence.
But no one could keep God’s rules. The rule of death in Man was stronger than anyone’s ability to keep every one of God’s laws perfectly. The Law was a plumb line that only showed how crooked Mankind truly was. It succeeded only in proving what was obvious:
“None is righteous, no, not one….”
Though the Hebrews sacrificed the lives of animals to try to reconcile themselves to the living God for the death that reigned in their bodies, God revealed the genuine truth behind their efforts:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
The life of an animal cannot fully atone for the death brought by sin that dwells in a man. It’s an imperfect system that can never fully appease.
God’s Perfect Answer: Jesus
But God is perfect. He is life. And He had an answer to all this death. A man would have to die—a man who could fully keep all the rules of God, who fulfilled all the Law that sinful, death-filled men could never keep. That perfect man would have to spill his blood to fully satisfy the universal law of life for death.
God could not ask anyone but Himself to be that man, though. Only God Himself could keep His own Law perfectly, could shed life-giving blood as the source of life itself, and could restore the perfect communion Man once had with Him. God Himself would have to become a man.
God exists as three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—joined together in perfect unity. God the Father sent God the Son to earth to live as one of us.
The Bible tells us about that God-Man:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
In that man was genuine God-life. There was no death in him at all because he was without sin. Because of this, he alone can bring salvation from death. This man is Jesus, whose name means: “The Lord is my salvation.”
This is what Jesus, the God-Man, says about Himself:
“I and the Father are one.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me….”
Jesus made exclusive claims about Himself as the answer to the problem of sin and death. He said that He was God and contained all the fullness of God’s life.
But before we could taste that life, the universal law that a life must be given to atone for death and sin had to be fulfilled. Because many hated Jesus for what He said and for who He claimed to be, they had Him put to death on a cross, the worst form of capital punishment known in that day. In the actions of those people who hated Jesus and wanted Him to die, we can see ourselves.
So in His crucifixion, Jesus, who was life, voluntarily gave up His life. And in doing so, a most wonderful thing happened:
For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
—2 Corinthians 5:21
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Sinless Jesus paid our penalty of sin and death, reconciling once-dead Man to God. By His blood sacrifice, He gives His life to those who believe Him. And that payment for sin and death is for all time:
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Because Jesus kept the Law perfectly, took our place on the cross, and shed His own blood as the perfect sacrifice, the penalty of death has been fully paid for and all sins forgiven for those who believe. And because Death cannot hold Life, Jesus triumphed over Death by His resurrection, which is our promise of resurrection of our souls to new life one day.
Death & Life
But don’t our bodies still die?
In truth, you and I were born dying. From our first breath, our physical bodies began the long process of wearing out and dying. This world still suffers the marks of sin until that day when Jesus returns in triumph to make all things new. At that time, those who have tasted physical death will be given new bodies that never wear out and never suffer the effects of sin and death.
On the spiritual side, though, putting our faith in Jesus immediately lights that quenched wick that was our dead spirit:
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
—1 Corinthians 6:17
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God….
We regain our spiritual hearing and can once again enjoy communion with God.
What About Other Religions?
Many of the world’s religions claim a path to God. Jesus speaks to that claim:
“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
When you look at the world’s religions, it becomes perfectly clear that they are nothing more than rules made by men. They have some appearance of right living, but as we have seen, following a set of rules—even rules sent by God Himself—could not save Man from spiritual death. The problem of sin and death in Man means that no one can follow the rules, no matter who makes them. And if the rules cannot be followed perfectly, how can anyone ever get to the perfect God?
For the letter [of the Law] kills, but the Spirit gives life.
—2 Corinthians 3:6b
Jesus alone fulfilled all the rules. It is why He said that He is the only way to God. His gift of the kept Law and His sacrificed life means freedom from spiritual death. When we place our faith in Him, He puts His Spirit in us, which is our seal of salvation and the promise of our name being added to His Book of Life.
But what about those who do not put their faith in Jesus?
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
In short, those who believe in Jesus take on His life. Rather than following a set of rules, they gain a relationship with God Himself, the very source of life. However, those who do not believe in Jesus remain in spiritual death. Such a condition, sadly, has been the natural state of Man since our rebellion so long ago. Without belief in Jesus, we persist in a state of spiritual death. Nothing apart from taking on Jesus’ Spirit of Life will change that condition. Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Many have heard the term “born again” before. This is what Jesus means. He gives those who believe in Him a new life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
—2 Corinthians 5:17
New creations in Jesus have nothing to fear of spiritual death. Their old, dead, spiritual life has passed away, and they have been born again into new life.
Many people are familiar with the first part of this passage of the Bible:
“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.”
Not as many know the rest:
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
To those who reject Jesus, the very source of life, the natural end of their physical life brings a chilling spiritual reality, the due consequence of their continuing to abide in death:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This second death doesn’t have to be your end. Jesus offers you life:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
How to Become a Christian
How to become a Christian? It’s not an elaborate set of rules, because as we know, rules cannot bring real life. It’s very simple.
Here is what I would recommend:
1. Get a copy of an NIV or ESV Bible and read through the New Testament or at least the Gospel of John, which is the fourth book of the New Testament. You can find John’s 21 chapters (and the rest of the Bible) online here.
2. God speaks to us through the words He gave in the Bible. Ask Him to convict you of the truth of what you read in the Bible. This may be something that happens as you read or it may take some time as you ponder the words. No matter which, God promises that His words will change you.
3. At the right time in your reading and thinking about God’s words, acknowledge the truth to God about your state of decay in sin and death. As Jesus so succinctly said:
“…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
You will know when the right time will be because God will be with you by His Holy Spirit. Again, that’s His promise.
4. I included a verse earlier spoken by Jesus, but left off the last part:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Every one of us must answer Jesus’ question. Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you talk with God about Jesus and your need for Him and His life. Don’t worry about saying the right words. If you stumble, just ask Him for help. He is faithful!
5. When you put your faith in Jesus, please write me and let me know. (My email address is at the top of the blog’s sidebar). I will try to help you with your next steps of finding a church and developing a devotional life that will grow you deep in Jesus.
A Divine Secret
Lastly, I want to tell you a secret that many Christians fail to understand.
Some well-meaning people will try to turn your new belief in Jesus into a set of rules. You will hear plenty of talk about all the things you must now do or not do. I suspect that much of that advice will be wise on the face of it, but just as we are powerless to save ourselves by keeping a set of rules, growing to be more like Jesus is something He must do in you by His means, not yours.
I know of only one way to do this. Jesus said it:
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
If you want more of the eternal life of God in your own life, draw close to Jesus. Grow to know Him. The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will begin to live as He did.
One of life’s most genuine truths: Whatever we are most devoted to is what we will become most like. If we devote most of our time to ourselves, we grow more into self-serving forms of our worst habits and mistakes. But if we devote our time to Jesus, we become more like Him.
When we become more like Jesus, it’s funny how all those bad habits, sins, and problems that plague us take care of themselves. If we look more like Jesus, we look less like our old selves. That’s Jesus Himself changing us. And it’s the only real way to change.
If you would like to know more on how to become a Christian, I would recommend checking out this site: Two Ways to Live.
If you have put your faith in Jesus, I would recommend the following two resources:
This is a fine Bible for most people and includes a host of helps for those who have never read through the Bible before. I would also recommend this Bible-reading plan.
The Fight by John White is one of the best primers on how to begin the journey with Jesus. It’s a simple book that covers many of the important practices of the Faith.
In closing, let me pray for you:
Father God, I pray in Jesus’ name for all who read this. May you reveal yourself to them in your perfect fullness and write their names in your Book of Life. Grant them the grace to grow in knowledge of you so that you will find them faithful when you come again in glory. Thank you. Amen.