HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

From John Ankerberg's site

I’m glad you have come to read this answer.  God wants you to become a Christian.  He wants you to be saved from the consequences of your sins, no matter who you are, or what you have done.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

       If you want to know God personally, if you want God’s forgiveness of your sins, if you want God to give you His gift of eternal life, He’s willing to save you no matter how many sins you have committed, no matter what you have done, no matter how long you have done it.

      God’s way of salvation is called the Gospel – or the good news.  There are some things in the Gospel you must know about and believe.

 1.   You must believe Jesus is God the Son.  Jesus said: 

“For unless you believe that I am He [God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

       The Apostle Paul said about Jesus:

 “Who, being in very nature God [Greek word is huparchon, which indicates before Jesus came to earth and after His birth, He was always and continuously existing in the form of God], did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6).

      Jesus said, 

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
   

“Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am [God]” (John 8:58). 

      Here, Jesus was referring back to Exodus 3:10-15 where Moses was standing before God at the burning bush.  Moses asked God for His name, “And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I Am has sent me to you.... This is my name forever and this is my memorial name to all generations.’” In John 8:58 Jesus was claiming to be the “I Am,” the very God who brought Moses and Israel out of Egypt. 

      In Matthew 25, Jesus claimed that He alone will come back at the end of the world and be the Judge of ALL men:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him; He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

       For a man to be excluded from Heaven on the last day, all that will be needed is for Jesus to say, “I never knew you.” 

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23).

       In John 10:30-33, Jesus said,

 “I and the Father are One [In Greek, “one” is neuter–not one person, or one in thinking, but one in essence or nature].’ The Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father, for which of these are you stoning me?’  The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy; and because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God.”

       John 1:1-3; 14 says:

 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

       John 1:18:

 “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only [Jesus], who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.”

       Mark 14:61,62:

 “Again, the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are you the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the Blessed One [the Son of God]?’  And Jesus said, ‘I Am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”

       Matthew 20:28:

 “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”

       Mark 2:5,10,11:

 “And Jesus...said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’... But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, “Rise, take up your pallet and go home.”’”

       That’s why the Apostle Paul could say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

 2.   We must understand and be willing to admit that sin has separated us from God and keeps us from knowing and experiencing Him.

 Romans 3:23:  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

 Romans 3:10:  “As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one.”

 Isaiah 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”

 Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death” [spiritual separation from God now and eternally].

       The Bible says no matter who we are, none of us have measured up to God’s standard, none of us will make it–that is, be accepted by God and allowed into Heaven on the basis of our good lives.

       Here is how far we have failed to measure up to what God requires.  Picture three people coming to the Grand Canyon being chased by an enraged mountain lion.  One person says, “We’ll have to jump.  We have no choice.”  The problem is, the other side is a mile away.  The first person runs as fast as he can and jumps 10 feet and falls all the way to the bottom and dies.  The second person tries even harder and jumps 15 feet, but still is a long way from reaching the other side of the canyon.  He, too, falls and dies.  The third person is an Olympic broad jumper.  He runs and jumps farther than all the rest, but still doesn’t come close to reaching the other side.  Of the three people, even though two were better than the first, none came close to actually making it.  The Bible says all of us “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

3.   How good do I have to be to get into Heaven?

       Jesus said,

 “I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

       The Jewish people knew that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law tried to keep over 500 laws in trying to please God.  The lay people believed they would never be able to keep all of those laws.  In actuality, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law didn’t either.  But Jesus told everyone that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

      A few verses later, Jesus went further and said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  In other words, if you’re not as perfect as God, do not even think that you’ll be admitted into Heaven. (If you wonder if you have lived perfectly, ask your husband, wife, or family members!)  Do you think you have lived a perfect life?  None of us have.

4.   When you die, the Bible says you will be judged by God.

“It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh the judgment [not reincarnation or extinction]” (Hebrews 9:27).

      When you stand before God, what will He be looking for?

“For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13).

       Maybe you are a person who has gone to church all your life and heard the Bible read and preached.  But notice, the Bible doesn’t say those who have heard the Law will be just before God; but rather, those who have obeyed it.  Have you always obeyed God’s laws?

 5.   If we’re going to be judged according to how we have obeyed God’s Law, how are you doing?

       When God gave the Ten Commandments, He said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).  You may say, “I’m not an idolater!”  But whatever you put before God, becomes your God.  You may have put fame, sports, drugs, money, prestige, or your job before God.  If so, you have broken this Law. 

      God said, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).  You say, “I haven’t done that.”  But Jesus said, if you hate someone in your heart, you’ve broken that Law.  When was the last time you told someone, “I hate you!” 

      God said, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16).  Everything we say is either true or false–there is no such thing as a “white” lie.  Have you lied today?  How many lies have you told in the last week, the last month, over your lifetime? 

      God said, “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17).  Coveting is an intense desire to have what someone else has just because they have it and you don’t.  Does it bother you when someone else receives a promotion, praise, a better grade, a nicer house, a better car?  Then you have broken this law.

      Or how about this: “Jesus said, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.’” Have you broken this commandment?  None of us have loved God with all of our heart, soul, and mind every moment that we have lived.  If so, then according to Jesus, you’ve broken the greatest commandment of them all.

      That’s why the Apostle Paul concluded:

“Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law” (Romans 3:20).

 6.   Wrong ways of thinking: “Okay, I have committed a lot of sins, but here is how I will make it up to God.”

       Ray Pritchard, in his book, An Anchor for the Soul, tells a humorous story which depicts our situation before God. 

      Picture a rich, well-dressed man coming up to Saint Peter at the entrance gate to Heaven.  He rings the bell and Peter says, “Yes. Can I help you?”

      The man says, “I would like entrance into Heaven.”

      Peter said, “Excellent, we always want more people in Heaven.  All you need to enter is to earn 1,000 points.”

      The man says, “That shouldn’t be any problem.  I’ve been a good person all my life.  I’ve been involved in civic things; always given money to charitable causes, and for 25 years I was chairman of the YMCA.”

      Peter writes it all down and says, “That’s a marvelous record.  Let me see, that will be one point.”

      With a look of fear on his face, the man says, “Wait a minute! There’s more.  I was married to my wife for 45 years and I was always faithful.  We had five children–three boys and two girls.  I always loved them and I made sure they got a good education.  I took care of them and they all turned out all right.  I was a very good family man.”

      Saint Peter says, “I am very impressed with your life.  We don’t get many people like you up here.  That will be another point.”

      The man is really sweating now and starts to shake with fear.  He says, “Peter, you don’t seem to understand.  I was a member in my church.  I went every Sunday.  Further, I gave money every time they passed the plate.  I was a deacon, sang in the choir, and I even taught Sunday School class.”

      Saint Peter said, “Your record is certainly admirable.  That’ll be another point.  Now let me add this up: That’s one, two, three points.  I believe we only need 997 more.”

      Astonished and trembling, the man falls to his knees and in desperation says, “But for the grace of God, nobody could get in there!!”

      Peter looks at him, smiles and says, “Congratulations!  The grace of God is worth 1,000 points.”

       A lot of people think that the way they are going to have their sins forgiven and get into Heaven is to believe in Jesus and do something!  They think by believing in Jesus and being baptized, or becoming a church member, or doing good deeds, or by the taking of the sacraments that their belief in Jesus plus their good works will get them into Heaven.   The Bible utterly condemns such thinking:

 “It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy Christ saved us” (Titus 3:5).

 “By the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20).

        7.  If we have not lived a perfect life, if we have broken many of the Ten Commandments, then how will we ever be accepted before God?  On what basis will He allow us into Heaven?

      What if we could stand before God and use the record of Jesus’ life as the record of how we lived?  Jesus lived a perfect life.  He never sinned once.  He said He always obeyed the will of His Father.  Certainly, if we could stand before God and use Jesus’ track record, God would accept us.  As unbelievable as it sounds, God has provided Jesus’ righteous life as a gift to be legally credited to us, and has also paid the total penalty for our sins.  The Apostle Paul says:

“But now a righteousness from God [a righteousness we need and don’t have] apart from law [apart from our keeping the Law], has been made known,...this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21,22).

       Did you get that?  How can you or I become as perfect as God in order to get into Heaven?  The good news is that God Himself made the way. 

      He did so by doing two things.  He provided a Substitute to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and in addition, provides the righteousness we need as a gift, the moment we believe in Christ.

      The Substitute God provided to pay for our sins was Jesus.

 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

       Jesus was the “righteous” One.  When He died, He paid for the sins of the unrighteous–that’s you and me–to bring us to God.  Every lustful thought, every harsh word, every greedy deed, all of your sins and mine were picked up and legally put to Christ’s account.  Then He was punished in full for what we had done.

 “God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

       Notice, there is a transfer, a crediting of our sins to Christ legally.  Jesus knew no sin–that is, He never committed any sin of His own.  Also, He died so that we might be credited the righteousness of God “in Him.”  Here, Paul says, God made it possible that Jesus’ perfect track record of His life might be credited to us, even though we are sinners.

 “For he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, and each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5,6)

8. Question: On what basis will God credit Christ’s righteousness to sinners?

   Answer: The perfect righteousness provided by God Himself will be given to you the moment you place your faith in Christ.

 “But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned [credited, counted] as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

   Notice, God justifies ungodly or wicked people who place their faith in Christ.

 “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, there is no difference,...” (Romans 3:22).

9.  Question:  This sounds too good to be true.  Do you mean to say that I don’t have to do anything?  I just have to put my trust in Christ and believe that He will save me, forgive me, and give me eternal life?

     Answer:  Yes.  According to Ephesians 2:8,9:

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

     Grace is God’s unmerited favor given to sinners who don’t deserve it. 

10. Question: Why would God provide such a gift for me?

      Answer: The Bible says that even before you were born, God loved you and desired to have a personal relationship with you.  Therefore, He went ahead and made it possible for you to know Him.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
 

“For the wages of sin is death [spiritual separation from God] but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
 

“For He [God] chose us in Him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

      God wants to give you His gift of salvation.  You can’t earn that gift, you can only accept it or reject it. 

      For example, if a girl has a boyfriend and he comes to her door with a box of candy, what if he said, “I’d like to give you this box of candy as a gift if you’ll go out and wash my car.”  We all know that if the girl washed his car, then the candy wouldn’t be a gift–she would have earned it.  A gift is something someone gives without you doing anything.  God says He is giving away the gift of eternal life to those who will receive His gift–what Christ has already done for you.

11. God has provided only one way of salvation, not many ways.

      There is only one way to receive the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life.

 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
 

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ).
 

“For Christ died for your sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
 

“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you, otherwise you have believed in vain.  What I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,...whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believe” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).
 

“As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!” (Galatians 1:9).

12. Question:  How can I receive Christ into my life?

      Answer:  We receive Christ into our life by personal invitation.

[Jesus is speaking]: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:10).
 

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

      Notice, the Bible says Jesus is knocking on your heart’s door.  He is powerful enough to beat it down–but He doesn’t.  He won’t force His way into your life.  If you want Him, you must open your life to Him.  You can open your life by praying [calling] to Him and telling Him you are receiving Him and what He did for you by faith.

13. We must believe in Christ.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
 

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).
 

“Then Jesus said, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent’” (John 6:29).
 

“Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

14. Question:  Do I need a lot of faith to receive Christ?  What if I don’t feel that I have enough faith?

      Answer:  Realize that in one sense, it is not the amount of faith that saves you–it is in whom you put your faith.  The question you should ask: “Is the Savior strong enough and dependable enough to save me when I ask?

      Picture a two-story building that’s on fire.  You happen to be on the top floor.  The fire is coming up from the bottom and there is no escape.  You run to the roof and see a fire truck pull up to the front.  Five big firemen get out and unfold a great big net.  They look up at you and say, “Jump!” 

      Your first thought is, “You’ve got to be kidding!  I’m two stories up.  I can’t jump.” 

      But the firemen say, “Don’t you have faith?  We’ll catch you.” 

      Now, you don’t have a lot of faith, but with fear and trembling, you jump off the roof.  As a result, the firemen catch you.  It’s not your faith that saved you, it was the firemen.  But they couldn’t save you until you jumped.

      Now, let’s change the story a little bit.  Picture another person on the roof with the fire coming toward them.  This man sees the firemen.  And unlike you, he has a lot of faith.  He confidently jumps off the roof, only to discover halfway down that the firemen have no net; they are just standing around holding hands.  How much will the man’s faith save him then?  You better have real firemen holding a real net, or your faith won’t save you.

      In salvation, it’s not how much faith you have or how sincere you are; rather, everything depends on the object of your faith.  Have you placed your faith in a real Savior?  It’s not your faith that saves you, it’s Jesus who saves you.  You just need to step off and place yourself in His hands.

      The more deeply we believe that Christ did all that is necessary in providing our salvation, the greater our assurance will be when we place our trust in Him.  We might begin with a small faith (Christ said that faith the size of a mustard seed is all that is required), but know that in time our faith will grow.  But whether our faith is little or much, it must be directed to Christ alone, for God accepts only those who accept His Son.

15. What is saving faith?

      Jesus said:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
 

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

      R. T. Kendall describe what saving faith is:

“We are saved because we are persuaded that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the God-Man, and that He paid our debt by His shed blood on the cross.... If we are not persuaded that Christ has paid our debt, there can be no assurance of saving faith, hence no assurance of salvation.”

16. What is not saving faith?

      Believing on Jesus is not just accepting facts about Him: that He is God, that He loves you, that He died on the cross and paid for your sins, and is willing to forgive you.  True belief is when you transfer all of your trust to Jesus to save you personally.  Knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for us is not enough.  I can believe two plus two equals four and have no personal commitment or dependence on anyone in believing those facts. 

      Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night (described in John chapter 3).  He believed Jesus was a teacher come from God–but this was not enough for Nicodemus to have saving faith.  He still had to put his trust in Christ for salvation.  He had to believe in Him.

      In Acts 26, the Apostle Paul was on trial before King Agrippa.  King Agrippa also apparently believed many facts about Jesus’ life, but he was still not saved.  Paul said, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know that you believe” (Acts 26:27).  Yet Agrippa did not have saving faith, for later he said to Paul, “In a short time you think to make me a Christian” (Acts 26:28). 

      Belief in the biblical sense encompasses trust.  Trust in Christ is not just belief in facts about Christ, but personally entrusting oneself to Christ. 

      For example, I’ve spoken at conferences at Niagara Falls many times. I’ve learned that in the past, a famous tightrope walker strung a wire across Niagara Falls from the Canadian to the American side.  In front of a stunned audience, he got up on the wire and walked across the Falls.  He then put a wheelbarrow on the wire, filled it with about 225 pounds of sandbags and took the wheelbarrow across the Falls.  When he came back, he said to the many bystanders, “How many of you think that I could take a person, put them in the wheelbarrow and safely take them across the Falls and back?”

      Everybody in the crowd said, “Yes!  We believe you can do that.”

      But then he said, “All right, who will be the first to get in?”

      You see, it’s one thing to say you believe, it’s another thing to entrust yourself personally to Christ.  Saving faith takes place when you are willing to put yourself in Christ’s hands and totally trust Him with your sins and your eternal destiny.

17. You can receive Christ now by faith through prayer (prayer is talking with God).

      God knows our heart and is not so concerned with our words as He is with the attitude of our heart.  The following is just a suggested prayer.  You can pray your own prayer.  It’s not the prayer, putting up your hand, or walking an aisle in a church that saves you.  It is the attitude of your heart and of trusting in Christ that saves you.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit to you that I have sinned.  I know that I cannot save myself.  Thank you for dying on the cross and being my sin-bearer.  I believe that your death was for me and I receive your sacrifice on my behalf.  As best I can, I now transfer all of my trust from myself and anything that I would do, to you.  I open the door of my life to you and by faith receive you as my Savior and Lord.  Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.  Amen.”

18. How do you know that Christ is in your life?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20).

      According to this verse, Christ said that if anyone will invite Him into their life, He will come in to him.  The Apostle John wrote:

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (John 5:13). 

      If you have entrusted yourself to Christ and have believed in Him, the Scripture says God wants you to know – not guess – that you have eternal life. 

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

      He promises to save when you call and trust in Christ. 

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).

      If Christ is in your life, know that He will never leave you.  In Hebrews 13:5, we read:

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”

      In reading these words, maybe God has spoken to you and urged you to place your trust in Christ.  If so, go to God right now.  Accept Christ as the One who died for you and will save you.  Call to the Lord and receive from Him what you cannot provide for yourself.  God sent His Son to die for you so you could be forgiven and know Him personally.  He is serious about this, so with confidence, talk to Him.  Admit you are a sinner, tell Him you believe Christ died for you and is willing to save you now.  Tell Him you’re entrusting yourself to Him from this moment on. 

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and thou shalt be saved.”
(Acts 16:31)