One becomes a Christian by believing in Jesus and seeking to follow him. A study of conversions in the New Testament finds that they are usually accompanied by a common set of experiences as a person moves from being disconnected from God into a personal and loving relationship with him. The Bible often uses the word “lost” to describe the time when we are disconnected from God, and “saved” to refer to living in relationship with God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus coined the term “born again” to describe the beginning of his relationship with us. We explored the experiences associated with becoming a Christian in a sermon series called Saved.
Salvation in The Old Testament
The idea of being ‘saved” began in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament salvation was a state of human flourishing that resulted from walking with God. It was usually portrayed as national experience rather than an individual experience. Being saved usually referred to things like the following:
- Being rescued from something that was threatening
- Escaping the world’s brokenness
- Being delivered from bondage
- Finding refuge in God
The Old Testament is God’s contract with the nation of Israel and salvation occured when the nation of Israel walked with God. Throughout the Old Testament there are hints and prophecies about God replacing this arrangement with something far better, something not only for Israel, but for all people regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
Salvation in the New Testament
The New Testament reveals God’s new plan for restoring people to spiritual wholeness through Jesus. New Testament salvation is accomplished by Jesus (Acts 4:11-12), it is based on God’s grace (Titus 3:4-7; Eph 2:8-9), and it is received by faith in Jesus (Romans 3:22; Romans 5:1). When people are saved, their lives begin to reflect the teachings of Jesus, particularly his call to love our neighbors. (James 2:14-26)
A first step in becoming saved is the realization that we are lost. Lostness is the state of being disconnected from God and often being caught in a downward spiral leading toward destruction. The word “lost” in the New Testament means that a person is away from something, or that someone is headed toward something dangerous. The good news is that Jesus loves lost people. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said that he came to earth to seek and to save lost people. The first step in becoming a Christian is an awareness of our own brokenness and of a desire to develop a closer relationship with God.
“New Testament conversions are seldom if ever based on a fear of Hell or a desire to go to Heaven when we die. True conversion should be centered on an attraction to Jesus and his Kingdom, upon the realization our sin disrupts our union with God, and that only Jesus can repair the things inside of us and in our world that are most broken. Avoiding Hell and living in Heaven are benefits of faith in Jesus but the New Testament doesn’t emphasize them as reasons for coming to Jesus.”
Conversion is the process by which a person moves from being lost to being saved. In the New Testament this process is called being born again (John 3:1-16), or entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). To convert means to change or turn around, conversion is turning from disbelief to faith in Jesus. A study of conversions in the New Testament show that they are accompanied by:
- Hearing the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).
- Faith/Belief (Hebrews 11:6)
- Repentance (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47)
- Baptism (Acts 2:38)
- Confession (Romans 10:9-10)
- Calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13)
- Conforming to the teachings of Jesus/Doing good works (James 2:14-17)
- Connecting to a group of Christians (Acts 2:40-47)
Conversion is a work that the Holy Spirit does in our lives accompanying an attraction to Jesus. It should be based on a desire to follow Jesus rather than just a process to avoid hell and end up in heaven.
Hearing the Gospel
Hearing something about Jesus is the first step in becoming a Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote that faith comes from hearing the message about Christ. (Romans 10:14-17). In another place he wrote that most important parts of the message had to do with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).
We are saved by having faith, or believing in Jesus (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9) . Faith is not merely an intellectual agreement with a few facts about Jesus, it is a belief so strong that it produces allegiance to Jesus and causes us to do good deeds (James 2:14-26). Faith is the persuasion that we need Jesus and that if we come to him he will welcome and forgive us. This kind of faith is a gift from God, it isn’t something that we choose to do, it is something that we experience as a result of God working in our lives.
Jesus himself spoke of the important role that repentance plays in entering his Kingdom (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 13:3). Like faith, the Bible teaches that repentance is actually a gift that God gives us when he begins to work in our heart (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Repentance has an emotional aspect, a strong sense of regret over the wrong we have done (Matthew 27:3). It also involves a choice to turn away from sin and to Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:9). There are two things that lead us to repent, sorrow for our sin (2 Corinthians 7:8-10), and an awareness of God’s kindness (Romans 2:4)
Confession involves declaring or acknowledging our faults and sins. One aspect of confession is declaring that Jesus is our Lord and that he rose again (Romans 10:8-13). Acknowledging the reality of the resurrection is a necessary part of being a Christian. Second we need to acknowledge our own sin. When we do God cleans us up spiritually and removes the penalty for our sin (1 John 1:8-10).
Calling on the name of the Lord
Paul said that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Calling on the name of the Lord is simply expressing our desire for God’s deliverance and asking Jesus to forgive and heal us.
Baptism marks the beginning of a person’s commitment to Jesus and their identification with others who are committed to following Jesus. Baptism signifies our decision to repent (Acts 2:37-4), to identify as a follower of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4), and to get connected with a local church (Acts 2:40-41). At Central we baptize people after they have made a commitment to Jesus.
Connecting with a Local Church
The final thing that we see in New Testament conversions is a connection with a local church, often referred to as being “added to their numbers.” Church is where a new Christian receives teaching, experiences fellowship with other Christians, takes communion, prays with others, and cares for the needs of one another (Acts 2:42-47).
If you would like to talk with Pastor Carl about starting a relationship with Christ Click Here (Link to a form where people can connect with me via email) to make an appointment.