ALL MY LIFE I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING. I have searched everywhere I know and have done a lot of things, but I have never found it. Yet I MUST have it. I must find something to bring me lasting peace, happiness and purpose in life. Someone has told me the answer to my longing is to become a Christian. I am frankly skeptical and doubtful. If I am to be honest, however, I must examine this way also to see if this is the answer. The big question is . . .
HOW DO I BECOME A CHRISTIAN?
I am going to be honest with myself and God. I believe in God. I know the Bible is His Word and is true. As I search it for the way to become a child of His, a Christian, it says that first, there must come the honest and sincere conviction that . . . I. I AM A SINNER, LOST, AND NEED TO BE SAVED. The Bible says that sin is the failure to be what God wants me to be and to fail to do what He wants me to do. Then it points out that I was born a sinner. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5 NKJ) I have a sinful heart and soul. I have chosen and practiced sin. I have rebelled against God and neglected what He wants me to do. (Isaiah 53:6, Jeremiah 17:9) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I am lost away from God. One result of going on as a sinner lost away from God is misery as long as I live. I am not really happy, contented or peaceful. Instead I have a deepseated misery. I am afraid of dying, because I know that when I die, God will judge my sin. And the Bible tells me that if I continue in my sins, I will be condemned to Hell. (Matthew 5:22 & 27-30; 7:13-14; 10:28; 13:37-43 & 47-50; 18:3-11; 25:31-46. The number before the “:” is the chapter. The numbers after the “:” are verses.) I need to be saved FROM this misery, this fear of death, and this Hell. Further, I need to be saved FOR happiness and inner peace in this life, contentedness and comfort at death, and heaven in eternity. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) My immediate reaction is to say that it’s not so! But when I closely examine my life and the Bible, I know it is. Then my reaction is that I’ll start doing something about it. I’ll start being good; I’ll try to live by the Ten Commandments; I’ll turn over a new leaf and try to do better. I’ll be baptized and join the church. But the Bible says I must realize that . . . II. I CANNOT SAVE MYSELF I find that striving to keep the Law (the Ten Commandments), trying to deserve God’s mercy and good pleasure with good works, hoping to earn salvation or part of salvation through being a good person, a good neighbor, treating everybody right, being about as good as the next person, or going through the steps to membership in the church, all are useless as far as becoming a saved child of God. Good works, moral living, church affiliation, Christian service, etc., cannot save us; but they will come as an outgrowth of salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10. See also Proverbs 14:12, Romans 3:28, James 2:10, Isaiah 64:6, and Titus 3:5.) It seems that the ground is sinking beneath me. All I have counted important and necessary, everything I have depended on now does me no good. In this most crucial time, I’m alone, helpless, and without hope–until I see that . . .
III. GOD IN HIS LOVE HAS ALREADY PROVIDED THE WAY FOR MY SALVATION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. The Bible says that it is not hopeless. Even when I was a sinner deserving God’s wrath, He loved me. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) There are two truths here for me. (1) Sin’s penalty had to be paid (look back at Rom. 6:23). (2) I am a sinner, but God loves me, so God provided a way, the only way, for me to be saved (see John 14:6, Acts 4:12). In order to pay the penalty for my sin and make me a saved child of God, Jesus came into the world, born without sin, born of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. In living, He was tempted like I am tempted, yet He never sinned. Finally, the main reason for which He came, He was crucified on the cross. As He went through the suffering of the cross, death, and descending into Hell, HE TOOK MY SIN UPON HIMSELF AND SUFFERED ITS PENALTY FOR ME. He got what I deserved. If I will receive Him, it was to pay for my sin that He suffered all this (I Peter 2:24). And, then He arose from the dead the third day proving He was who He said–the Son of God–and that He had done what He said–defeat Satan and sin, his power and its penalty. This He did for me! (John 3:16-18; I Peter 3:19) Today He is in Heaven talking to the Father in my behalf. One day soon He will return for me. (John 14:1-3) Oh, what love to me! Oh, what power for me! All this for me! But no, not yet. I find that honestly and sincerely IV. I MUST BELIEVE ON HIM “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10; see also Acts 16:30-31.) The Bible says it is not enough to “believe in God,” because the devils also believe and tremble (James 2:19). As I look further, I find then that my mental assent–accepting that the facts are true–is not enough. The Bible uses believing or having faith in or trusting Christ as the same act. This is a decision of my will enabled by the Holy Spirit. For me to believe in Him (have faith in, trust), first there must be a true . . .
REPENTANCE FROM SIN
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Realizing that as I live without Christ I am disobedient, miserable, afraid and condemned, I repent–or turn away from–my present way, by faith, to Christ. I hate my sin and what it has done to Christ, to others, and to me. I am grieved over the fact that I have sinned against God and other people. I turn away to follow sin and Satan no more. As I turn away from my sins by faith, I . . .
RECEIVE CHRIST “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born…of God.” (John 1:11-13) By faith in Him and His promises, I ask Him to come into my life. I ask Him to pardon and forgive me of my sins, to cleanse me of sin. I ask Him to take over my life and transform it by His power into what He would have it to be. As I sincerely ask Him, I know that the Bible says He will answer. Having received Him, I want Him to be my Lord as well as Savior, so in faith I willingly . . .
SURRENDER MY LIFE TO HIM “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2) The Bible says that for my life with Christ to be complete, I must take hands off of it and give Him complete control. I must be willing for Him to do to me, for me, and with me, anything He desires. His glorious and wonderful will must be my will. My mind, heart, soul, body, possessions, influence, energy and goals I must consciously submit by faith to Him. As I sincerely surrender myself to Him, I know that the Bible promises me that He will receive me as His child. What now? I believe each of these things are true and that Christ is the answer to my greatest need. Now I must decide. Will I sincerely repent of my sin, ask Christ to come into my life and receive Him, and surrender myself completely to Him? It will do no good for me to delay. Delay only increases my misery and danger of eternal lostness. I NEED TO DECIDE RIGHT NOW. The Bible says that today, now, at this moment, I should decide. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2. See Genesis 6:3; Joshua 24:15; Psalm 95:7-9; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 1:18, 55:6.) Yes, I will decide right now! Though I don’t understand everything about it, I am going to take Him at His word. I will in faith repent of my sin. I will in faith ask Jesus Christ to come into my life and receive Him. Right now I am going to bow my head and talk to Jesus Christ to tell Him of the decision and ask Him to come in and do His work in my life. When this has been done, I know that I have been born of His Spirit and I am a saved child of God. The Bible says I am a ‘babe in Christ’. Now I want to grow and serve. “What can I do to make sure I will move forward and not flounder?” The Bible points out Five Guides to help new Christians grow: Bible study, prayer, witnessing for Christ, dependance on the Holy Spirit for power, and zealous support of the work of the Lord through my church. These I will begin to do that I may grow!
GUIDES IN GROWTH
My coming to Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life. I want Him not only to be my Savior from sin and its consequences, but also Lord of every part of my life and possessions. For this to be, I must grow in Christ. The Bible tells me now I am like a baby in Christ and my goal is to grow into spiritual adulthood. It points me to certain guides to help me grow.
The foundation guides are . . .
I Peter 2:2
II Timothy 2:15
II Timothy 3:15-17
I Thessalonians 5:17
Bible study and prayer, along with meditation on the things of the Lord, make up what is called THE QUIET TIME with God. Every Christian who really wants to grow must understand that this is the food and drink of the spiritual life. I want a QUIET TIME every day. I’ll get alone with God for about thirty minutes a day. I will obtain a Bible, notebook and pencil. I will begin to study the Bible in the book of John. I will meditate on it, make note of its truths, underline special verses, ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand and to help me put what I understand into practice. After John, I can move back to Matthew and straight through the New Testament, and later the entire Bible. After a time of Bible study, I will have a time of prayer. Prayer is just talking with God who does live and will hear and will answer, and then listening so He can speak to me in the quiet of my mind and heart. I will bring, my thanksgiving, my praise, and my petitions to Him. In my notebook I will begin a Prayer List. This will help me to keep up with the people and things I am praying about, and to see how God is answering my prayers. When my list grows too long for one day, I can divide it into two or more days. Everybody tells me the same thing that the Bible indicates, that the QUIET TIME is the basic step in my spiritual growth.
For my third guide to growth I will begin . . .
II Timothy 2:2
Witnessing is telling others of what Christ means to me and urging them to receive Him, too. I witness in three ways: (1) By my Christian life that glorifies Him before others. (2) By the words I speak to guide others to Him. To do this effectively I need to learn the Plan of Salvation. (3) By ardent, travailing prayer on behalf of those I seek to win to the Lord. I discover that witnessing is the prime reason I am left on earth as a Christian. Since it is that important, I want to get involved in doing it immediately.
Another guide I find is to learn to . . . DEPEND, AS A CHRISTIAN, ON THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO LIVES IN ME
- For power over temptation. (I Corinthians 10:13) Oh, that promise is wonderful! I could never handle those temptations by myself. But He is able, and I will depend on Him for the strength.
- For power in Christian service. (Zechariah 4:6, II Timothy 1:7) When I discovered that I was expected to tell others about Him and serve Him, I was afraid. But now I see it’s not that I’m doing the work; but rather it’s that He is working through me, and sometimes in spite of me.
- For guidance in decisions. (Romans 8:14) Every little decision as well as major decisions I will bring to the Lord, and depend on Him to give me the right answer. I do not have to be nervous or worry.
- For understanding the Bible as I study it. (John 16:13; II Peter 1:20-21) In the past I never liked to read the Bible. But with the enlightenment of the One who inspired it, new understanding will come, if I ask Him and depend on Him.
Just think! The Holy Spirit is God, and HE LIVES IN ME. That means all the power of God at my finger tips of faith. And more, if I depend on Him, He is able to accomplish anything He desires in me and through me.
My fifth guide of growth instructs me to . . .
ZEALOUSLY SUPPORT THE WORK OF THE LORD THROUGH THE CHURCH Acts 2:41-47
I need to become active in a Bible-believing local church immediately. It is through the Church that I can get certain things that are essential for my Christian growth such as opportuniries for worship, Christian fellowship, instruction, and service. I will not only receive, but I will become involved in the Mission of the Church to evangelize the world (Acts 1:8). My work will be more lasting and can count for greater results when I work with other Christians. I want to be a part of this great mission.
In supporting the work of the Lord through the Church I will . . .
- Become a baptized and communing member. I will ask the pastor or one of the officers what steps must be taken. Then it will OUR church, not THEIR church.
- Attend ALL the services at my church unless providentially hindered (Hebrews 10:25). I want the full diet and not just one meal.
- Give my talent and time (Matthew 25:14-30, Ephesians 4:11-12). I may be able to visit, or teach, or sing, or clean up, or provide transportation, or cook, or hand out tracts, or phone, or type. I’m eager to do something for Him who did everything for me.
- Give my tithes that already belong to God and offerings of love beyond tithing (Malachi 3:8-10, Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, I Corinthians 16:2). Since I am giving Him my life, that includes my possessions, and now I will manage them as His servant. No business can move forward without money, and the Lord’s business is the greatest in the world.
- Pray for the other people in the Church (James 5:16a). I will pray a lot for my fellow Christians and not gossip about them. I know this will do far more good. I want them to do the same for me.
- Urge other people to come to my church (John 1:43-46). Since I found something here, I have friends, family, and some people I have not yet met, who need to come and find Christ. I’ll try to bring them in.
I feel so good, I wonder if I will ever sin again. I certainly don’t want to! But I cannot govern my life by feeling, only by the Word and the Spirit. I see in the Bible that even while growing in Christlikeness, I will sin sometimes. The longer I stay in sins, the worse they will get, and the more acutely miserable and guilty I will feel and be. Even while still a child of God, joy, peace, being used by God, and even assurance of salvation may slip away. Even though I have disobeyed Him and defamed His name, He still loves me, and wants me. How could I do this to the One who loves me so! (Romans 7:14-24, I Corinthians 3:1-3).
The Bible says there is an answer at these times. I will have to admit my sins to myself, and that will be hard. I must confess them to God with sincere sorrow. The Holy Spirit will enable me to turn away from them with hatred and grief toward them. As I do this, every area of my life must be submitted to obey Jesus as Lord. Then I will find renewed forgiveness and cleansing. (Psalm 51, Proverbs 28:13, Luke 15:11-32, I John 1:7-2:2) It’s better to do this as soon as I sin than to let it ruin more of my life. He says He will give me victory over these sins as the Holy Spirit fills me more completely with Himself. I wish I would never sin! But it is comforting to know that He makes provision for forgiveness for me. I am more determined than ever to follow these guides and grow. Better to resist than regret.
This is the most exciting thing I have ever done! I’m going to rearrange my schedule and my life, and put Him first! I will not hold anything back. Christ has done so much for me that I will never be able to do too much for Him. I know it is not going to be easy. But when I need help, I can call on the pastor or one of the leaders, and I know they will help me. I am eager to get on with this. I know that the most wonderful part of my life is now out in front. Thank You for saving me, Lord Jesus! Thank You, Father, for making me your child!
[written by Rev. Ben Wilkinson, Dir.
Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship
P.O.Box 1890, Decatur, GA 30031 USA
(404) 244-0740. Call or write for information about having an evangelist/ teacher of personal evangelism to come to your church for special meetings. Mr. Wilkinson is also a professor at and Chancellor of the Atlanta School of Biblical Studies, an evangelical and Reformed seminary emphasizing rigorous scholarship applied in practical field training. Call or write for a catalog and other information: ASBS, P.O.Box 150, Avondale Estates, GA 30002 USA, (404) 284-0037 This material entered into electronic media by Clyde C. Price, Jr., Bible teacher & writer, alumnus of ASBS. You can also contact me about special meetings: P.O.Box 667, Red Oak, GA 30272-0667 USA (404) 761-2327.] Note: when reproducing this material, please include this tag: “Reprinted by permission of P.E.F./P.O.Box 1890, Decatur, GA 30031”, and please send P.E.F. a copy, and a note about how many you are printing. God bless you richly as you seek to get out His Word!