the CHRISTIAN LIFE 101

How do I become a Christian?

First of all you need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Would you consider yourself to be a good person?   __Yes    __No

Do you think that you have kept the 10 Commandments?  __Yes   __No

Have you ever told a lie?   __Yes    __No    And what do you call someone who tells lies? A  _ _ _ _.
      (Jesus said that anything beyond your "yes" being yes and your "no" being no is evil.)

Have you ever stolen anything?  __Yes    __No
What do you call someone who steals? A   _ _ _ _ _.

Have you ever hated anyone?   __Yes    __No
      (Jesus said that hating someone else is the spiritual equivalent to murder in the eyes of God.)

Have you ever looked at someone with sexual desire?   __Yes    __No
      (Jesus said that lustfully desiring someone is adultery of the heart.)

Have you ever misused the holy Name of God?   __Yes    __No
      (God says that He will hold accountable everyone who misuses His Name.)

These are just five out of the 10 Commandments, and if you're being honest with yourself, you have broken all of them. You have just admitted to yourself that in the eyes of God you are a lying, thieving, murdering, adulterous blasphemer at heart.

So if you die this very night and you stand before God your rightful Judge, would you be found innocent or guilty?   __Innocent    __Guilty

So would you go to heaven or to hell?   __heaven    __hell

Does this concern you?   __Yes

The Good News of Jesus Christ begins with the bad news.
The bad news is that every single one of us is wicked in the eyes of God and there is nothing we can offer to Him --no good deed-- to make Him receive us or to earn salvation. We have broken His holy Law and we have thumbed our noses at Him with disobedient and rebellious lives. Each of us has personally and directly offended God our Creator and we all deserve His punishment, which is death. When we die, it is not as though God weighs our good deeds in this life against our bad deeds and then makes His decision accordingly. Just one sin on our record is enough to be judged "Guilty!".

Throughout the Bible, God was laying the groundwork for sending the Messiah. He showed His people, the children of Israel, how holy and perfect and just He is, and He gave them the ceremony of sacrifice, where a lamb or a goat could die in the sinner's place. Then God sent His Son into the world.

Jesus of Nazareth lived a pure and innocent life before God, keeping His Law perfectly. But you and I nailed this innocent One to a criminal's cross; through our sinfulness you and I killed the Lord of Glory. But He conquered death on the 3rd day when God raised Him from the dead, vindicating Him as truly the Son of God and demonstrating that He is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for sin. Therefore, everyone who puts their faith and trust in the Name of Jesus Christ alone to cleanse them of sin and guilt and wickedness will be saved from the wrath of God on the Day of Judgment.

I've prayed a little prayer... now what?!

You may have heard of "the Sinner's Prayer"... you may have even prayed it before. It usually is a brief prayer to God/Jesus that says you're sorry for your sin and you are inviting Jesus into your life.

Can such a prayer be sign of genuine faith? Yes, it can.
Can such a prayer be a sign of insincere and false faith? Yes, it can.

Reciting a little prayer does not make you a Christian. Real repentance with genuine sorrow for sin combined with a bold declaration of faith in Jesus Christ where you receive Him as Saviour of your soul and Master over your life, demonstrated by an obvious commitment to God's Word, God's character (holiness), and God's people (the Church)... that's what makes you a Christian. (And the more you grow as a Christian, you'll learn that this was all God's work--not yours-- from beginning to end).

Genuine conversion is a passing from spiritual death unto spiritual life. Can that happen through saying "the Sinner's Prayer"? Sure it can, if you actually understand what you're doing. Otherwise, such a prayer amounts to nothing much more than a magical incantation.
"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)

The ABCs of becoming a Christian

A - admit
I admit that I am a sinner, wicked in God's sight, deserving of His just punishment and in need of His mercy, and I repent of my sinful rebellion towards Him and my willful disobedience of His holy Law.

B - believe
I place all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to be saved from God's wrath on the Day of Judgment, believing that He is the Son of God and that His death on the cross is the sacrifice for my sin, where Christ took the punishment that I deserved upon Himself, paying the debt that I owed, and believing that on the third day God raised Him from the dead to prove that He was who He said He was and that His death on the cross has the power to pay for my sin.

C - commit
I commit myself and my life to Jesus Christ as my Master, King and Saviour, committed to God's Word, committed to growing in my faith, committed to growing spiritually as I pursue holiness for the glory of God, committed to the Bride of Christ, the Church, by serving in a local church family. Getting baptized is the true and natural expression of genuine commitment to Christ.

Christian Disciplines: Growing in Christ

BAPTISM & the LORD's SUPPER
i. Baptism : When a person turns to the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, he or she is called to confirm their faith in baptism as a public testimony and confession of their trust in the Name of Jesus for salvation. Baptism symbolizes a person's death to the old life of the sinful flesh and their resurrection with Christ to new Life in Him. Baptism signifies a believer's entry into the family of God and his or her adoption as God's child.

ii. the Lord's Supper: As a baptized believer in Christ Jesus, the new disciple maintains their faith through participation in the Lord's Supper, known also as Communion or Eucharist. The Lord's Supper is what the Lord Jesus Himself commanded His followers to observe in memory of His sacrificial death on the cross while looking forward to His return. It is a time of spiritual refreshment, of self-examination and confession, of worship, as the Lord communes with and among His people in a special and mysterious way.

HOLINESS
The process by which the Holy Spirit works in a believer's life to make him or her more like the Lord Jesus in purity and righteousness is called "sanctification". Holiness means being "set apart" to God as His special and chosen people. God is holy, therefore His people are called to be holy and to pursue holiness. This pursuit begins with the heartfelt desire to be like Christ and to battle sin, putting it to death in our lives, growing in "the fruit of the Spirit" which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. This means taking off the old self of the flesh, along with sexual immorality of every kind, anger, hatred, wicked speech, jealousy, gossip, lies, theft, idolatry, and pride, and putting on the new self, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian life will be a continual struggle against sin, but the believer is called to fight, and a hunger and thirst for holiness is one of the primary evidences of genuine faith.

PRAYER
i. What is prayer? - Prayer is the gift from God to the believer of being able to communicate with Him. God communicates with us through His Word the Scriptures, and we communicate with Him through prayer, presenting our requests before Him, adoring Him in worship, confessing sin to Him, and giving Him thanks for all of His blessings and providence and protection.

ii. Daily prayer - Prayer should become a daily part of our life, and we should set aside time as a priority given to God each day to spend time in His presence in prayer. This builds constant dependence upon God as heavenly Father along with constant spiritual refreshment.
"Pray without ceasing..." (1Thessalonians 5:17)

iii. Praying with Fellow-believers - "Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there I am with them", Jesus said in Matthew 18:20. Here our Lord is commending and encouraging corporate prayer, that something special happens when believers come together to unite their voices and hearts in prayer before God through their Lord Jesus Christ. While continual personal prayer is necessary, corporate prayer cannot be neglected.

STUDYING GOD's WORD
i. Reading - Like daily prayer, daily reading of God's Word is necessary for spiritual growth. We ought to read God's Word devotionally, which means that we don't read it merely to gain knowledge but that we continually apply what the Word says to our lives, always asking ourselves this question first and foremost: what does this passage teach me about who God is? For the Scriptures are not a self-help guide but the revelation of the living God.
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the strong man boast of his strength, nor let the rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast in this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who does loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth, for in these I take delight, says the LORD Almighty." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

ii. Study - While we read God's Word, we must also study it by digging in deeply, in order to increase our knowledge and understanding of God's Word. For study, a more literal translation is preferable, such as ESV or NASB, since these get us closer to what the original languages said. In study we read slowly and thoughtfully, asking questions and examining the ideas being presented. We try to read in context so as not to make poor interpretations. We take note of word repetition and flow of the argument and contrasts and parallels in order to get at what the author's intent was to the original audience.

iii. Memorization - Memorizing Bible verses means hiding God's Word away in your heart. These verses can be a comfort, a guide, even protection from temptation. When we internalize God's Word within our hearts, our character is transformed to be more like God's character.
"I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11)

FELLOWSHIP with BELIEVERS
i. Involvement in a church - Many people think they can be believers in Jesus Christ without going to church. This is disobedience to the Lord who founded the church. Genuine faith in Christ displays a love for His people. Sometimes the church may disappoint us or discourage us or even hurt us deeply. But we don't come to church for the people, we come out of reverent love for Christ in order to serve His people. Many people go to church to be entertained, not to participate and serve, and when they are not entertained or they are convicted of sin, they stop going or go elsewhere. The church is for serving others and growing in your spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ.

ii. Commitment to a local church - Fellowshipping with God's people means committing yourself to a local church. This doesn't mean going to the next church down the street as soon as they do something you don't like or agree with. It means sticking it out, hanging in there, striving with it, bearing up one another in love.

iii. Tithing - The believer is free to give 10% of his or her income to support the ministry as an act of worship to God, acknowledging that He is the Master over every aspect of the believer's life, including especially his or her finances. This spiritual discipline ought to be a cheerful act of worship that is an important part of serving the church.

iv. Membership - Membership fulfills the Scriptural principle of coming under the authority of the elders of a local church. It is a healthy step of spiritual growth to make a visible commitment of joining a church for accountability, mutual edification, and discipline.

How do I know that I am a real Christian?

There are many people out there claiming to be Christians when according to the Bible they are not. There have always been false Christians in the Church, mixed up with genuine believers.
"Relative-Christians": Some think they are a Christian because their parents were Christians, or their grandma, or their favourite uncle...
"Cultural-Christians": others think they're a Christian because they live in a "Christian" society or culture and everyone around them is "Christian"...
"Twice-a-year-Christians": still others think because they attend church at Christmas and Easter and believe in "God" that they are Christians.
"Once-upon-a-time-Christians": some think that they are Christians because they made a profession of faith as a child and yet have never lived as a Christian ever since, have little to no interest in the things of God and His Son, and display no fruit of God working in their life...
"Sunday-morning-Christians": others attend church every week and play a good "Christian" game in front of their church friends, but the rest of the week they live any way they want...
"Airy-fairy-Christians": still others say they believe in God but aren't too interested in Jesus, or they say they believe in Jesus but they also believe that many paths lead to God, that the Bible is not that trustworthy, that the message of Jesus was love and peace, unattached to the Scriptural doctrines of sin and death, punishment and wrath, atonement and salvation.

If any of these descriptions applies to you, then you are NOT a Christian.

A real believer in Jesus Christ demonstrates 3 things:
1. authentic repentance: being horrified of sin and feeling the burden of guilt before a holy and perfect God, a true believer confesses sin and falls upon the grace of God for salvation.
2. genuine faith in Christ: "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)
3. evidence of the Holy Spirit's work: the Holy Spirit indwells a believer upon genuine conversion and begins to work in the heart to conform the believer to the image of Christ.
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are of the faith; test yourselves. Do you not know that the Holy Spirit lives within you... unless of course you fail the test?" (2Corinthians 13:5)
            Evidence of the Spirit working in a believer's life:
                  * a hunger for holiness
                  * a thirst for God's Word
                  * a desire to know Christ and grow in Him
                  * a desire to be with and serve God's people
                  * a desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others

Have you heard the Good News about Jesus Christ?

1. God created you for fellowship with Him, but sin has destroyed and continues to destroy that fellowship.
2. Your sin brings the just judgment of God: eternal death.
3. All of God's good-pleasure and love resides in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
4. Christ died as the sacrifice for sin and rose again so that we may have eternal life in Him.
5. Through what Christ has accomplished, God will forgive your sin through repentance and humble faith in Christ. Salvation does not come from attending church or trying to live a good life, since it can never be good enough.
6. You can have loving fellowship with God through belief in Jesus Christ, submitting to Him as King, and growing into His likeness through the Holy Spirit.