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Becoming a Christian: Beginning Concepts

From: CORE Discipleship Ministry: Chrysalis: Believer's Guidebook

What is a Christian?

The word Christian first appears in Acts 11:26 where the believers were called Christians (“Christ-ones”), because all they had in common was Christ – not race, culture, or even language. It is Christ living in man and man living in Christ. To be a Christian is to be in relationship with Jesus Christ (John 3:15; 8:12; 1:12; 14:15; 15:15; Luke 9:23; 12:48). It literally means, “to be a follower of Christ.” A person becomes a Christian when he or she believes in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31). It is a new birth (John 3:3; Titus 3:5) and a new life providing these incredible truths:

What is a disciple?

This may surprise you, but the word “Christian” appears only three times in the New Testament. The word “disciple” in all its forms appears more than 300 times. Simply put, a disciple is a student of Jesus enrolled in His lifelong process of discipleship growing as a child of God as he or she learns to become a spiritually mature son or daughter through the understanding and application of God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit.

How does spiritual growth take place?

To understand how spiritual growth takes place, we must first understand why it takes place. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Sanctification has to do with what I am, not what I do. The word sanctification comes from the same root word from which we get our word holy. We are to grow in holiness. What makes something or someone holy? It is that it or they belong to God. It is God’s desire that we become entirely His property. “This is the will of God, your sanctification; that you become God’s property.” So, we must first understand that we now are God’s property and our lives and attitude should reflect this new standard.

Spiritual maturity is not determined by your birth date. Rather, spiritual maturity is determined by the degree in which we walk in love and unity. Therefore, our growth as disciples of Jesus could be determined using this simple equation:

“May the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

The indwelling presence of God in our entire being is the will of God for us, but it is something we must choose moment-by-moment. Love never compels, and God is love. Therefore, God’s desire is that we voluntarily allow Him to occupy our threefold being – spirit, soul and body. It is God’s will for us that He dwell in us and that we be Holy Spirit controlled. However, we must agree to it. He will never force the process of your becoming holy or as some call it “set apart” or “sanctified”.

So what is absolutely essential before a life is pleasing to God? “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Please note, it does not say it will be difficult – it says it is impossible. Therefore, the life that pleases God is the life that is lived by faith and we must recognize the distinction between belief and faith; you can believe in Christ, but you must move out in faith to demonstrate the sincerity of your belief. We must live a life of faith to be pleasing to God. In fact, the Bible says, “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

We must believe that God’s view of everything is true regardless of popular opinion. If God says something is good, and we say it is bad, we can never experience freedom. If God says something is bad, and we say it is good, we are deceived.

When you are united with Christ by trusting Him, you experience the power that raised Him from the dead. That same mighty power will help you live a morally renewed and regenerated life; it is the power of the Holy Spirit. But before we can walk in newness of life, we must also die to sin. Just as the resurrection gives you Christ’s power to live for Him, His crucifixion marks the death of your old sinful nature. We can’t know the victory of the resurrection without personally applying the crucifixion – we must die to ourselves daily, which means we’re no longer fulfilling our old sinful desires of the flesh.

In the future we will become fully like Christ, but until then we must overcome three very powerful forces: 1) This world’s temptations; 2) Satan’s deceptions; and 3) Our selfish desires. This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow. We rejoice in suffering not because we enjoy pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and circumstances, Satan’s attacks, and our own sinful nature to build our character. The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance, which in turn, will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future!

Spiritual growth is personal (Philippians 2:13), progressive (Deuteronomy 7:22), joyful (1 Peter 1:8-9), painful (John 15:2; 16:8; Hebrews 12:5; James 1:2-4), and productive (John 15:2, 8, 16).

To become spiritually mature we must:

What essentials do Christians believe? (11 Key Biblical Teachings)

The basic teachings or “doctrine” of the Christian faith are pretty much summed up in something called the Apostles’ Creed, written around AD 750.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

Concerning the Bible

The original writings of both the Old and New Testaments were breathed out by God to prophets, apostles, and others through the Holy Spirit, who chose the words used according to the personality and background of the human authors. The writings are without error and are of supreme and final authority in the lives of believers in any age.

Concerning God

There is but one God, who eternally exists as three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who exclusively share in the work of creation, maintenance of the universe, redemption and judgment.

Concerning Man and His Need

Man was created in the image of God, but because of Adam’s sin that image was damaged. All human beings are born with a sinful nature, are unable to function in moral responsibility before God, and need a spiritual renewal or “regeneration” before they can become what they were meant to be.

Concerning the Son

The Eternal Son entered the human race as the virgin-born son of Mary, was named Jesus, fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, was rejected by Jewish leaders, condemned by Pontius Pilate, crucified by the Romans, buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day arose bodily from the dead in accordance with the predictions of the Old Testament scriptures. Jesus Christ - fully God, fully man.

Concerning Redemption

Jesus died upon the Cross as a sinless substitute for sinners of all ages and times, and that the Father was thus, by means of the Holy Spirit, reconciling the world to Himself. All who receive the risen Jesus as Lord, by faith, are spiritually born into permanent membership in the family of God (Romans 1:16; Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 2:8,9).

Concerning the Holy Spirit

The resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven and on the day of Pentecost He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, guide, teach and empower all who believe by imparting to them the life of Jesus so that they may live godly lives and engage in loving service to any who are in need (John 20:21, 22; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

Concerning the Church

The Church consists of all who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and finds expression as local churches, operating under the direction of Jesus, as Lord and Head of His body, through gifts that Christ gave for the nurture and equipping of His church, as described in the scriptures (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:14, 15; 19, 20; 4:11-13; Matthew 24:14).

Concerning Ordinances

Salvation is a gift of God to all that place their faith in His Son Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus directed new believers to follow that step of faith with water baptism as an outward symbol of their spiritual identification with His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus also directed His followers to participate together in the memorial supper to remember His death until He comes again in glory.

Concerning the Christian’s Responsibility

All believers have been made new persons in Christ, through spiritual rebirth. We are still capable of acting on the urges of the sinful nature (the flesh) with which we once were identified. When we do so, we can produce only works that are not pleasing to God. We can choose, rather, to rely upon the Holy Spirit and His love living within us. The choice leads to a fruitful life that glorifies and pleases the Father. A believer can choose to walk blamelessly and with a clear conscience before God and man.

Concerning the Future

We look for the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to earth. This hope calls us to holy living, genuine witness and encouragement of heart. The return of Christ will bring His kingdom to completion, judge the world in righteousness and fulfill His promises to His people (Israel and the Church). His future work on earth will conclude with the destruction of all evil and the creation of a new heaven and earth.

Concerning Eternal Life

All who have died will be brought back from beyond - believers to everlasting communion with God and unbelievers to everlasting separation from God.