On becoming a Christian......
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:1-8, NIV
This is the prayer, not of a Christian, but of one that lived hundreds of years before Christ came, but he was looking for that day and he believed, because of his faith, that his place with God and God’s kingdom was secure. He lived a life in anticipation of God’s provision and the Savior—and God considered him righteous because of that.
I share that because I think that sometimes we confuse God’s plan for mankind or we misunderstand just what is required for salvation. To be sure, salvation and eternal life is a gift from God, but He does expect certain things from us in order to receive that gift!
I am assuming that most of us here have experienced salvation, but of course some have not. I would like to talk about something that we all know, but sometimes forget or get confused: How is a person saved? How are they born again? What is absolutely essential and how can we be certain that we’re going to heaven?
Would you know how to lead a person to eternal salvation if they asked you and were going to die in a few minutes? Do you believe what you talk about when it comes to eternal life, Jesus Christ, the resurrection?
Here are those essential elements for being reborn:
Sorrow and repentance
A determination to live a new life—reborn to be righteous.
Let me begin by saying something that might annoy you, but the Bible is not essential for salvation. Many people come to Christ that never read a word of the Bible. The Bible does not save us—-Jesus Christ, spoken of in the Bible, saves us.
The thief on the cross never read the Bible. When the early church began, there was no New Testament. For the first 100 years of the church there was no New Testament and yet the church exploded in numbers of saved souls.
Let me make the point quite personal:
1. I believe in the resurrection——now. But I did not really believe when I chose (to) be baptized and prayed the sinners prayer. I just did not want to go to hell! I was not sure what I believed.
2. I believe in the sonship of Jesus now, and the virgin birth and the miracles and the Jesus purpose for coming here—-now. But again, I did not “get it” for many years and the older I got the more I doubted these things.
3. I believe that the Bible is the infallible, accurate, Spirit-inspired and Holy Word of God—now. But for many years I had my doubts—particularly in college and graduate school because my professors and teachers instilled doubt, not faith.
4. I accepted Jesus into my heart sincerely and authentically, just as the preacher told me to pray, but I did not have all the facts right for many, many years.
As followers of Jesus we read the Bible to understand God’s love and His plan for/redemption of mankind, but it’s not meant to be a step 1, step 2, step 3 for becoming a Christian. The new birth that Jesus taught is perhaps different from what we hear today. His followers led people to Jesus Christ by their love and devotion to Him and by teaching and discipling them! Jesus never told them to throw out scripture (which means nothing to a non-believer) and expect them to understand it, let alone believe it! And remember, the greatest evangelist, Paul, had a mission was to the Gentiles—-not the Jews. The Gentiles did not hold even the Old Testament