Introduction: Becoming a ChristianIntroduction
In this study we will look at God's wonderful kindness, freely ours in Jesus. We will answer the simple question, How does a person become Jesus' friend?
God's offer to broken humanity
1. A new friendship
Unbelievable as it may sound, we can know God intimately. God may feel distant from us. We may believe he is there somewhere, but he is about as real to us as Father Christmas. Yet, it is possible to develop a relationship with God deeper than anything we have ever known. A friendship for eternity. Why should Jesus should bother to take human form, to suffer and die? The Bible tells us that he did this to bridge the gap between lost humanity and the Creator God. He did it to make it possible for us to know God and live for him forever. Jesus said "I am the way to the Father." To his disciples, who wanted to see God, Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.
Right now, through Jesus, we can come to know God intimately; He promises to be our friend forever.
2. A new life-style
We all of us tend to live for ourselves. Yet, that is not the way it is meant to be. We think happiness comes by pleasing ourselves, but the truth is that happiness comes by pleasing God.
Jesus taught his disciples how they should live for God. For someone living in the first century, as for today, it amounted to a radical new life-style, a simplicity of life orientated toward others instead of self. It is true that many people have tried to live this way and have either failed or found it drudgery, but Jesus promises success because he is totally involved in the living of it.
Right now we can become a new person in Jesus, a new creation by God. Right now we can find a new life-style.
3. A new freedom
Jesus offers us freedom from guilt. Mark Twain once said, "Mankind is the only animal who blushes and the only animal that needs to." We have all asserted ourselves before God, we know it and feel it deeply. Who can take away the pain?
Jesus died that we might live: He took upon himself the accumulated evil of the human race and let it crush him. He did this so that the offer of forgiveness might be made to us - the least to deserve it.
Jesus offers freedom from self. "That dark little dungeon of self", as Malcolm Muggeridge calls it. We hope that people don't see us the way we are. We hide the fact that we are like an ingrown toe-nail curled in on ourselves. Who will set us free?
Jesus rose from the dead. Because he lives, so may we - live free to serve God. It is in living for him that we find our true self. Jesus also offers freedom from fear. The occult, sickness, death, the pressures of life... they all push in on us. Who can draw us from the quagmire of fear?
Jesus now reigns as Lord of all. Our life can be lived with purpose, with the knowledge that he is bringing all things into subjection to himself.
Right now we can find freedom.
4. A new community
Many young people have experimented with communal living, but for most it is a failure. The more radical claim Marxist philosophy is the answer, but the only trouble is we can see the actual results in Communist countries and we're not persuaded. It just doesn't work.
Jesus announced the formation of a new community - the church. Not a human institution with its worldly failings and certainly not a building. The church is a group of people dedicated to meeting with Jesus and each other. To these small groups, scattered throughout the world, Jesus made a number of promises.
i] When two or three meet together in his name he promised to stand with them. Jesus is present when God's people meet.
ii] He promised a new understanding. An understanding of God, ourselves, our work, our world and our future.
iii] He promised unity. A deep friendship and commitment to each other and God.
iv] He promised power. A group of people commissioned, trained and empowered to filter into our decaying world, bringing healing and new life.
Right now we can become a member of a new community. A community of peace and love.
5. A new world
I guess we all have a utopian dream of some sort or other. If it's not for this world then it's for the next. When Jesus spoke of the new heavens and the new earth, he spoke of a glory that outshines any dream. He spoke of a day that will soon appear. He promised to return to a world in turmoil and gather to himself his followers. The world, as we know it, will be consumed in fire and recreated in perfection, made part of a new dimension. The members of his new community, both past and present, will be clothed in a new body - an ultimate release to freedom. In that day every tear will be wiped away.
The mind boggles when we think of eternity with Jesus. I remember at college, I was raving on about what heaven would be like. "Sure to have vintage cars up there." I said. In the group we had an African minister over for theological training. He never said much, but to this day I can remember his comment. "In heaven there will just be you and Jesus." What a profound thought. Sure, there's more to it. We will meet our fellow Christians there and spend eternity working with our Lord. Yet meeting him in the eternal realm is what it's all about.
Some, you know, will not experience that reality. If we ignore him now we certainly won't know him then. Right now our place can be assured in God's new world.
So what is a Christian?
A Christian is a person who:
1. Believes that there is a moral, loving, personal all powerful Being who has created the whole universe and cares for humanity.
2. Recognizes that they have ignored God, either intentionally or unintentionally, and so has turned away from him. They are a rebel.
3. Believes that Jesus, God's Son, by his death on the cross, has bridged the separation between God and mankind. He has taken the punishment our rebellion deserves. Also, Jesus, by his resurrection, has guaranteed our new life, now and in the age to come.
4. Has responded to God's call to repent and so has turned from rebelling against God and submitted to his Son.
5. Has asked Jesus to be accepted as God's friend forever.
6. Has put their complete trust in Jesus for forgiveness, direction in life and fulfillment of all God promises and now rests wholly in Jesus.
It will be clear from this that a person does not become a Christian merely by living a good life as such, or being a good father or mother, an honest person in the community, or even making great sacrifices for others. It is possible to do all these things without knowing God. In fact, it is often true that the better a person is, the more difficult it is to realize they are against God. Humanity has distanced itself from God. We have done this through our independent stance. We have placed ourselves in a position opposed to God and so we often fail to realize that we need to be forgiven. We tend to think we are good enough. A Christian is not just a good person. A good person, no matter how good, needs to be forgiven and brought into an intimate friendship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. A Christian will try to be good and obey Jesus, not because they want to be forgiven, but because they are forgiven.
Neither should we fall into the snare of thinking that a regular church-goer is necessarily a Christian. There's nothing wrong with going to church, in fact, there's every reason why a person should go regularly, but this is not the thing which causes a person to be a Christian. It is possible to be baptized, confirmed and receive Holy Communion regularly and still not submit to Jesus. However, when a person repents and hands the control of their life over to Christ, they will want to attend church, not so they will become a Christian, but because they have become one. They will want to meet with other Christians to pray, to be taught and to praise God.
There is nothing wrong with being good or going to church. They are just not the ways a person becomes a Christian.
How does a person become a Christian?
The whole process of becoming a Child of God is completely a work of God. Being born again (becoming a new person centered on Jesus and no longer self) is a miraculous creation of God, something we cannot do by ourselves.
Our part in the process is simple:
1. We must be willing to turn from our self-centered ways and accept Jesus' right to control our live's (repent).
2. We must be willing to trust Jesus completely - a) for our forgiveness and thus our acceptance in God's sight, b) for his control over our life even if his way seems foolish or hard, and c) for his faithfulness in keeping his promises as recorded in the Bible.
3. We must simply ask him to forgive us for ignoring him and to make us a new person, his friend forever.
How do we ask?
Here is a simple way of asking God to accept us as his friend forever. "Sorry Jesus for being against you and ignoring you for so long, but now I want to be your friend and live with you forever."
How can a person be sure?
First, God keeps his promises. He can be trusted. Jesus says, "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find." Have you asked? Then that settles it. Check out these verses in the Bible. John.3:16, 1John.5:12-13, John.10:27-29, Ephesians.1:7, John.5:24, Romans.8:38,39. You can be sure because God says it.
Second, from the moment you give your life to Jesus you start to change. You slowly become more like Jesus. You begin to hate evil and love good. You reach out to God, you just want to live for him. You may fail, in fact, you will fail, but he forgives you and you know it, so you will pick yourself up and press on regardless.
As the years go by, you will see the evidence of a changed life.
God's offer of his friendship in Jesus is something we have to respond to. God's love is not automatically given to everyone in his creation; we have to accept the offer, or as the Bible puts it, we have to "repent and believe." Consider where you stand in all this.