Becoming a Christian

by Tim Isbell

If we believe on Jesus’ death as payment for our sin, and if we trust our future to his lordship, then God adopts us into his family and his Spirit comes to live inside our personality.


A teaching on salvation

At the core of the Christian faith is our belief is that we are designed by a Creator, who loves us. He designed us so that we could choose to love him in return. He could have created us to be like puppets on strings and manipulate us to do whatever he wants. But that is not how it is. Because God is a loving Creator, who wants us to return his love freely, he gives us the freedom to choose how we respond to his love. Otherwise, it really would not be love. Also to returning his love, God also created us to manage his universe under his guidance.

That was God's plan.

God knew that we would use our freedom to reject his authority and ignore his love. And every one of us does. From the first humans to today, we all decide that we can manage our lives better than God can. We also decide that other relationships and things are more important than a relationship with our Creator.

This choice of rejecting the God of life inherently cuts us off from the source of life. That’s why the price of our sinful choices is death: physical and spiritual. Fortunately, God anticipated this and from the beginning offered a salvation plan -- to reconcile humans to himself. Eventually, this plan unfolded to the point where God himself came to earth as Jesus, who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago. The world rejected him again: killed him by hanging on a cross and then placed him in a tomb. In this way, God made the choice to offer his perfect son as the only suitable sacrifice for all humans' sinful choices. There is nothing we can do to earn forgiveness, but God promises that if we trust that Jesus’ death is acceptable payment for our sin, then God will forgive us for rejecting him. So our salvation is available only by Jesus death, and not through our good behavior.

Forgiveness is only half of the story. Three days after the crucifixion, God raised Jesus to new life, and for the next several weeks Jesus met with his followers before returning to heaven. This convinces Christians that Jesus was real “God in human form,” because only God has power over death - which was the price of sin in the first place. The resurrection of Jesus also tells us that God can help us resist temptation. We cannot live a perfect enough life to earn God's approval, but if we live as apprentices to Jesus, then God will help us live a life that brings him joy. To receive this power to live, Christians not only trust in the death of Jesus for our forgiveness but we also trust all of our future to Jesus as our personal Lord.

When we trust Jesus as our Savior and become his apprentice, then God gives us the Spirit of Jesus to live inside our personality. God's Spirit gives us the strength to live an increasingly Christ-like life so that over time we grow to where we instinctively respond to the events in our lives as Jesus would respond if he were in our place. God’s Spirit also assures us that we are adopted into God’s family and that the guilt due to our individual sin is gone. Regardless of our circumstances, God offers us soul-satisfaction through his Holy Spirit. And he promises that when our physical body dies, he will resurrect us to live with him forever.


A biblical story about salvation: John 3.1-21

This is the story about a well educated, very religious leader who came to visit Jesus. Nicodemus lived a good life. He regularly attended public worship. He even taught others about God. But none of his good living impressed Jesus very much. Instead, Jesus tells Nicodemus that if he believes, with his whole heart and life, on Jesus then he will be born anew into the Kingdom of God.

Rebellion: the problem of sin

Questions:

  1. How does a person who has never heard about Christ or God’s Law know what is right and what is wrong?  (Rom 1.19-20; 2.14-15)
  2. What is the purpose of the ‘Law?’  (Rom 3.20)
  3. Who has rebelled, or sinned against God?  (Rom 3.23)
  4. What does the Bible say is the result of sin?  (Rom 6.23)
  5. Reflection question:  What do you do with your guilt?

Forgiveness: the first half of the solution

LaGuardia story

During the Great Depression, police hauled an old man before the magistrate in a New York City night court. He was starving and had stolen a loaf of bread. That evening the mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, was presiding over the court, which he sometimes did to keep close to his citizens. He fined the old man $10. “The law is the law, and cannot be broken,” the mayor said. At the same time, he took a $10 bill out of his wallet and paid the fine for the man. Then LaGuardia “cited” each person in the courtroom for living in a city that did not help its poor and elderly, unduly tempting them to steal. The mayor fined everyone in the audience 50 cents and turned it over to the amazed defendant. He received almost $50. Justice was served, yet love was seen as LaGuardia paid the penalty and more for the old man.

Questions:

  1. What life did God prescribe to cover the sins of the Israelites?  (Lev 4.1-4, 13-15, 22-24, 27-29)
  2. What life did God provide to cover the price for our sins?  (Rom 5.8-9)
  3. Can you earn your salvation? If you can’t, then who can?  (Eph 2.8-9)
  4. How can we become righteous enough to please God?  (Rom 3.21-22)
  5. Reflection question: God offers forgiveness by providing the life to sacrifice, how can you make the sacrifice of this life apply to yourself?

Lordship: the second half of the solution.

Blondin story

Blondin, the famous 19th-century French tightrope walker, successfully crossed Niagara Falls (a 1,100-foot span, 160 feet above the raging waters) several times. On one occasion, he pushed a wheelbarrow across. He then asked how many in the crowd believed he could push the wheelbarrow across with someone in it. The crowd cheered to express their belief in Blondin. He then asked, “Does anyone trust me enough to get in the wheelbarrow and let me take you across the falls?” No one volunteered! Finally, Blondin’s manager climbed on Blondin's back, and they crossed the great falls together. The crowd’s belief was purely intellectual, but the man who got on Blondin’s back went beyond belief to trust. That’s the kind of confidence the Bible says we must put in Christ.

Questions

  1. What position does Paul say Jesus must have in a Christian’s life? (Rom 10.9).
  2. What is required for us to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven? (Matt 7.21, Luke 6.46, Luke 17.20).
  3. What kind of life are we to live? (Eph 4.1, Matt 22.37-40).
  4. What is our ‘spiritual act of service?’ (Rom 12.1-2).
  5. Personal reflection: In your own life, what have been or now are the one or two most challenging areas to give over to the lordship of Christ?


Benefits of salvation

Questions

  1. What happens when we confess our sins? (1 John 1.9, Ps 103.11-12.
  2. When we receive Christ by personal invitation, we become a _________ of God. (John 1.12, Eph 1.5-6)
  3. What does God promise us if we believe in Jesus Christ? (John 3.16 and Eph 2.4-7)
  4. Once we hear the truth, and believe, what does God mark us with? (Eph 1.13-14, Acts 2.37-38)
  5. Beyond intellectual assurance in scripture, does God ever help us to ‘feel’ his acceptance? (John 15.26, 1 John 5.13 & 19, 1 Cor 2.12, Rom 8.15-16)
  6. When Jesus Christ returns, what happens to our physical bodies? (1 Cor 15.51-57, Rev 21.3-4)
  7. Reflection question: How does salvation benefit you in your daily life?

A prayer you to start a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

God,

I acknowledge that the Bible is right. I have sinned by not giving you the central place in my life, but I understand that you offer forgiveness to all who put their trust in Jesus Christ.

So I will trust that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and that he rose again three days later.

And I will live as an apprentice to Jesus Christ.

Thank you for giving me New Life.

Amen.


Memory verse

John 3.16


Optional reading

Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity. NY: MackMillan, 1952.
Wright, N.T., Simply Christian. San Francisco, HarperCollins, 2006



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