Becoming a Christian is not:
So how does it happen? The Bible talks about it using phrases like "new birth", "crossing from death to life", "becoming a new creation". These sound quite radical; they are!
There are normally three parties involved when someone becomes a Christian: the person, God and the church. Rarely, the church is not involved at first and God intervenes directly; this sometimes seems to happen in situations where the church is strongly suppressed and becoming a Christian is quite dangerous for the individual. The actions of the three parties are set out below, in the order in which they often occur. However, things don't always pan out quite as neatly as this. Many Christians can look back to a specific point in time when the change happened - it was an event; for others it seems to be more like a process. The important thing is that it has happened.
The typical sequence goes as follows:
What is the message of the gospel? Gospel is simple an old word which means 'good news'. The bad news is that our rebellion against God has caused God to condemn us to death. Our rebellion is evidenced by our refusal to accept God's standards of morality and behaviour, and our lack of desire to worship him and willingly submit to him. The good news is that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth as a perfect human so that he could receive the punishment due to us. He accepted our death; he now offers us his life. The resurrection demonstrates that death has been defeated; there are a number of eye-witness accounts of this so the evidence for it is as good as for any historical event from that era.
It may be helpful to make clear that repentance is not the same as remorse or feeling sorry, although it includes these feelings. True repentance involves a turning away from sin. Similarly, Christian faith is not a generalised belief in God or even an intellectual acceptance of the resurrection, but requires trust in God and reliance on his promises and character - in particular the promise that our sin was dealt with when Jesus died on the cross.
Most of the above is generally accepted by bible-believing Christians. However, there are two issues which remain controversial: water baptism and receiving the Spirit.
created 2 July 2007, modified 3 March 2008