What's a Christian?

(Or, How can I become a Christian? Or, What is the Gospel?)

A Christian is someone who has humbled themselves before God, admitted the bad news that they have sinned against God and many people and deserve condemnation, but they've turned to God and trusted in His solution to pay for their sin and grant them forgiveness and new life.

The Good News, or Gospel, is the news about how God has solved our problem of sin and deserved judgment, so that we can enjoy victory over sin and eternity in His universe.  There are basically three parts to any explanation of the Gospel:  Our Problem, God's Solution and Our Response.  They are presented below with simple illustrations.

Bad News: Our Problem

Bad News: Our Problem
In this picture we see man is separated from God. Originally, man and God had fellowship with each other. God and Adam walked together in the Garden of Eden. Then Adam and Eve both sinned and were separated from God's presence. The Bible teaches in the first three chapters of Romans that all men, whether born in a non-Christian family or Christian family, have sinned. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Man desperately tries to build his own bridges across to heaven. The most common way that man tries to get to heaven is through his own good works. But our good deeds are as filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God (Isaiah 64:6).

Other men try through ethics or good morals to reach God. But generally man does not live up to his own standard of values, much less God's standard of righteousness. Man is not able to keep the "Ten Commandments" which are only the elementary laws of God. The problem lies in man's deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9).

Nor is education the answer. Knowledge increases our feelings of guilt. God does not excuse our sin merely because we have been taught the truth. "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13).

"But surely religion will save us," some will say. No, not even religion will bring us back into fellowship with the Living God. Religion is good; it offers good advice. Religion tells us what we should do and should not do. But religion whether Buddhism, Daoism, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Catholic or Protestant cannot forgive our sins and save our souls. Only God can do that. Sinful man does not need more religion. He needs a Savior.

Not only have all men sinned, but the result of sin is death. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Man was not created to die but to live in fellowship with God. Yet because of Adam's sin, man inherits death.

And that is not all. The Bible tells us "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Judgment is certain...it is inevitable. Every person is judged by the Almighty God, and those whose sins are not forgiven are sent to Hell, a place that was originally prepared for Satan and his demons (Matthew 25:41).

It is a terrible picture. Man cannot bridge the gap to heaven. Left to his own devices, man is helpless. Man is cut off from God and condemned by his own sins. Sin... death... judgment... hell.  Man's condition is hopeless (Ephesians 2:12).

Good News: God's Solution

Good News: God's Solution
In this picture, however, we see that God in His great love provided a way of deliverance. God had a wonderful plan designed before the world began to bring sons and daughters back to live with Him forever. Only one man could bridge the gap that separated man from God. That man must belong both to man and to God. If he is not man he cannot represent us; if he is not God, he cannot save us.

So God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be born as a man. Jesus is the Son of Man born of Mary, and the Son of God conceived through the Holy Spirit. He is not part man and part God, but 100% man and 100% God. In theology He is called "Very God" and "Very Man." There is but one qualified to become our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This man Jesus did many wonderful miracles, but we are not saved by the miracles of Jesus. He taught many beautiful lessons, but we are not saved by following the ethical teachings of Jesus. He healed many people from their sickness, but the healing of the body does not guarantee the healing of the soul. The fact is that we are not saved through all those marvelous things that Jesus did in His life. The life of Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God; but more is necessary for my salvation.

Jesus Christ had to die on the cross for my sins. Oh, the wonder of it all! Jesus died for me, and for you. The cross of Christ is the bridge from death to eternal life.

Yet Christ not only died to pay for my sins, He arose from the grave that I might be made righteous (Romans 4:25) and might live forever as a child of God. This is the Good News, the historic gospel, "...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1Corinthians 15:3,4).

Conclusion: Our Response

Conclusion: Our Response
Jesus died to save all men, yet all men are not saved. Why? Because God will not force you to believe. You have a choice, and that choice will determine your eternal destiny. How can you be saved?

Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words 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 NIV). Since you have already heard Jesus’ words, you must only believe in order to possess eternal life.

Believe what? Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried and rose again from the dead. Believe He is truly the Son of God, and accept Him as your personal Savior. When you do so, you have everlasting life. You will not be judged by God in the future or sent to hell, because all your past, present and future sins have been forgiven by God and covered by the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross. You have indeed already passed from death to life.

Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20 NIV). Jesus knocks at the door of your heart. To believe is to "open the door" and invite Jesus in.

Now that you have heard the Gospel, you need to answer several specific questions:

  1. Do you understand this?
    If you don't understand the basic facts of the Gospel, you have no basis for faith. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).
    If you do understand this explanation, then...
  2. Are you willing to believe right now?
    Through faith alone you are saved; it is a personal decision of the will—your will.
    If you are willing to believe now, then...
  3. Will you pray aloud and ask Christ to come into your heart?
    "For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). To be saved:
     - the mind must be enlightened,
     - the emotions must be stirred,
     - the will must be changed.

Pray in your own words something like this: Dear Father in heaven, I acknowledge that I am a guilty sinner and deserve Your judgment. But I believe that You loved me and sent Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins. I pray that Jesus will come into my heart, forgive my sins, and give me eternal life. Amen.

Congratulations!  If you have trusted in Jesus' death and resurrection to cleanse you from sin, you are ensured a place in God's kingdom for eternity.  He has also sent His Spirit to live in you and help you grow in your understanding of His ways.

If you've prayed this prayer, pleaseso we can help you further.

Next Steps

There are a couple of next steps you need to get going on as soon as possible.

If you don't already have a Bible, now would be a good time to get one.  You can download a Bible app for your phone, if you'd like.  We encourage you to begin reading the Bible.  Start reading the Gospel of John; it's the fourth book of the New Testament, the second part of the Bible.  Try to read at least one chapter a day.  See what it says about Jesus and how Jesus wants His people to live.  You'll be learning a new way of life.

Second, if you don't already have a church home, start attending a Bible-teaching church.  You need the fellowship of other, more mature Christians and sound teaching from the Bible. (Listening to sermons online will not be enough.) If you go to a fellowship meeting or worship service and they don't open the Bible to teach from it, go find a different church.  We'd love to have you join us at Lafayette Salem Evangelical Church.