Writing -- Home -- Part 1
Implications .. Becoming a Christian
A New Status
A Christian is someone who has been adopted by God. Jesus was God’s only son, but now he has extended his family to include us too. And we are treated the same way as Jesus: we can “approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12) and know we will never be turned away.
Christians are also referred to as being “in Christ” – what happened to Jesus happened to us too. He died on the cross; so did we: “our old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6:6). Jesus conquered death with his irrepressible life, and “we are united with him in his resurrection” (Romans 6:5): we share his new life. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6): we even share his authority.
Another aspect of being in Christ is that we are completely accepted. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Being righteous means we are right with God – not because of our own actions, but as a free gift. We do not lose our righteousness when we stumble and sin; God will never take back his gift! We can always “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Belonging to God
Becoming a Christian means giving yourself to God. There are two motivations for doing that: because he is our creator and Saviour and is worthy of being in charge of our lives, and because we love him and want to belong to him.
Jesus is often called Lord in the Bible. The word Lord has a range of meanings – from a polite “sir,” through to “master” or even “supreme or divine ruler,” as in the Roman expression “Caesar is Lord.” “The Lord” is also a common Biblical way of referring to God (see this page for more information).
Paul said, “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” (Romans 10:9). In this context saying “Jesus is Lord” means that he is above everything else to you; he is your God. It is declaring that he knows what is best for you and has the right to tell you what to do.
To some this might not sound like such a good thing. But there is no one in the universe more devoted to your good than Jesus. The one who is your rightful Lord is also the one who died for you. There is nothing God would not do for you: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). He wants the very best for you: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). His plan for your life is a good one: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Another aspect of giving yourself to God is that you naturally want to give your heart to the one you love, just as in romantic love between humans: “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). The church is called the Bride of Christ, referring to the closest of human relationships. Surrendering yourself to God is similar to marriage; it is saying, “I choose you and I am yours forever.” Though he is really the one who “chose us before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
A Christian is a follower of Jesus. When he walked on earth, this was quite literal: the twelve disciples left their jobs and followed him around as he taught and healed people.
For us, following Jesus is about imitating him: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
The love Jesus demonstrated is astounding. Although he was higher than the highest of kings, he chose to be a servant. Shortly before his crucifixion he had supper with his disciples, and none of them wanted to do the lowly job of foot washing – that was a servant’s job. So he decided to do it himself.
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:12-15).
Following Jesus also means that people will have the same kinds of reactions to us as they did to him: sometimes acceptance, sometimes the very opposite. “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). But Jesus is very much with us when we encounter opposition, and he defends and protects his own. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) – and “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The Christian life is certainly not all suffering! It is actually characterised by joy, peace and freedom, and closeness with God. But the hardship that does come is more than outweighed by the rewards, both here and in eternity.
Closer Than Your Breath
The disciples were distressed when Jesus told them he was about to leave. He said, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). He was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be just as good as having Jesus physically with them: in fact, he would live inside them.
God doesn’t leave us on our own to figure out what to do next after we become Christians. It is a cooperative thing: Jesus lives in us and through us by the Spirit. We still have complete freedom, but we live in union with him.
The Holy Spirit is God, just as Jesus and the Father are God. He does all kinds of things – he brings us to life when we become Christians; he teaches and guides us, especially through the Bible; he gives us gifts; and he produces “good fruit” in us: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
He also lets us know how much we are loved as God’s precious sons and daughters: “You received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-16).
The Holy Spirit is the one who satisfies our inner thirst: “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7:37-39).
Lastly, the Holy Spirit gives us power. Although Jesus was God, he didn’t “act as God” when he was on earth, but instead he lived as a man empowered by the Spirit. This was so that we could follow his example and do the same. Before he ascended Jesus told his followers, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:29). Once the apostles were “filled with the Spirit,” they found a new boldness and saw many miraculous things happen in answer to their prayers.
A New Family
The moment you become a Christian you gain millions of new brothers and sisters worldwide. Although the word “church” is sometimes used to refer to a group or building, there is really just one church, called the “body of Christ” or “the people of God.” There are different denominations with various emphases, but Jesus prayed for his people “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you ... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me” (John 17:21, 23).
As Christians we need each other: to give and receive love, to build each other up, to pray for and support one other, to grow and learn from each other, to worship God together, and to encourage one other so that our hearts do not grow cold. Living as a Christian in isolation is very difficult, and is not the way it was intended to be.
Attending the main meeting at church each week is very helpful, but the place where people grow and flourish the most is probably in small group meetings of about 5-10 people or so, where they can open up to others and have their questions answered directly, try out their gifts and receive prayer in a safe setting.
Christians are still people and can be ungracious, uncaring, insensitive jerks. But potentially church can also be a place with the most loving relationships on earth – in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 above. It says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32) and “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). There will be plenty to forgive in church, but the love of God can help us get past that.
From Darkness To Light
When Adam and Eve originally sinned, they unwittingly handed over the world to Satan. Since that time, every person in history (except Jesus) was born under “the dominion of darkness.” But when Jesus came, he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and took back authority over this world. Whenever someone becomes a Christian, they change sides: they are no longer in darkness and are made part of the kingdom of light.
It is important for Christians to renounce and reject everything to do with the enemy, including astrology and horoscopes, witchcraft and other occult activity. Involvment in these things allows the enemy access to people’s lives (an “open door” that needs to be closed). It says about the early church, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly” (Acts 19:19).
Jesus completely defeated Satan when he died on the cross. But even though the enemy is defeated, he is still active in the world. He tempts people, accuses Christians and destroys what he can. (Though it is not Satan that we encounter directly, but demons. Satan or Lucifer was originally an angel who wanted to be worshipped and was cast out of heaven, and demons are the fallen angels who followed him).
But there is no need to be afraid; as Christians we have authority over him. Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:19).
Walking With Jesus
Becoming a Christian awakens new hungers in people. There is a craving for spiritual things that will help them grow: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2). This includes things like reading the Bible, spending time with God, praying, fellowship (being with other Christians), singing to God, being thankful, meditating on Bible verses and reading or listening to Christian teaching.
The most important thing, though, is something that can be strangely easy to lose sight of: simply being loved by God. Paul wrote, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the full measure of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). It takes time for your roots to go deeply into God’s love, and it is absolutely necessary so that you can weather the storms without being shaken.
Jesus said the most important command in the Bible, the highest priority, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). How do you actually do that? Some take it to mean that we need to just go and do stuff. But loving God works a different way: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). More than anything else, receiving God’s love is what stirs love back to him in our hearts.
The result of being loved by God is action – people who are filled with God’s love are strongly motivated! God certainly has things for us to do: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). But Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus before anything else, then whatever we do for him is a joy and not a burden.
(For more on the topic of a foundation in God’s love, see the A Healthy Upward Journey section of a talk by Ken Blue, and the first talk in his Foundations In Love audio series, particularly from around 34:27).
That was quite a lot of information, but becoming a Christian is really very simple: it is just about receiving a gift. Jesus used a little child as an example of how we receive it. Children just trust and happily accept what they are given!
There is one more thing that is important to understand though. The Christian message is called the gospel, literally the “good news.” There is an aspect of the gospel that might might not seem so good at first, but turns out to be something wonderful and liberating: repenting of our sins.
It is possible to head off in completely the wrong direction at this point. There is no need to clean up our act before becoming a Christian, or promise to never sin again, or try our hardest to be good. All of those things are in the area of “self righteousness,” making ourselves good enough to be accepted by God – which is the opposite of Christianity.
Repentance involves acknowledging that we have sinned against God, and there is nothing we can do to fix that. No amount of “good works” can balance the scales. Instead, we trust in Jesus’ death alone to make us right with God. Paul puts it this way: “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Jesus did all the work already, so there is nothing left for us to do! We just accept it as a gift.
It is important to be specific about the sins we are repenting of, and it can also be helpful (though not required) to confess them to another Christian. The effect of repenting of our sins is that God washes us clean and removes every vestige of shame. In fact, he forgets them: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
To become a Christian, pray to God and tell him that you want to be his. Prayer is just talking to God, so use whatever words come naturally, but here is an example:
Jesus said “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). If you have taken that step then there is a party in heaven! I would love to hear about it.
As your new brother I love you and want you to grow and know God better. There are lots of ways to do that; finding a church to go to, reading the Bible and spending time with God in prayer and worship are some important ones. There is a page on this website with notes on the grace of God and another one with related talks that have helped me personally, and I recommend them highly.
Questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing -- Home -- Part 1