Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Relationship, not deeds
In understanding what makes one a Christian, it is critically important to know that it is the relationship which counts for everything; it is the means by which we “are born again” into a son/daughter relationship with God the Father through the power of he Holy Spirit, (Who is God present with us today.)
God's salvation is not earned by our merits, good deeds, attendance at church, personal morality or anything of human origin. These are all important fruits of the new creation in Christ by God's initiative valid only as relationship.
The question then is that if Christianity is about having a personal relationship with God, how then do we enter into that relationship? The answer there can be found our personal response to the good news of Jesus Christ as encapsulated in the Gospel, but what is the Gospel anyway? Translated from the original language it means 'good news'. Good news? Good news about what?
It is the good news of God's love manifested in Jesus Christ.
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
It is about Jesus Christ and His deity and humanity.
I and the Father are one. John 10:30
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-3
It is about God's act of reconciling the world to Himself through Christ's life, death and resurrection.
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.
For 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. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16
Why is this important?
First is the fundamental truth that we are all sinners and that sin separates the human race from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Sin is our deeply rooted tendency to selfishness which taints even our best intentions and implicates us all in the web of human evil.
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Romans 3:10-12
In sin we turn our backs to God and find ourselves on the well frequented highway that leads us ever further from God. In our consciousness of sin we know that God the absolute God must oppose and condemn our evil. As sinners we are the godless – in the real sense of that word: alienated from God.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23 a
Finally there is death. Death may be seen as the end to which our culpable failure in life must lead. Death may also be seen as the final surd which threatens everything else in life with meaninglessness.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. Hebrews 9:27
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14
But the Bible says that it doesn't end in death, being sinners we are therefore accountable to answer back to God for our sins. The passage speaks about a postmortem judgment that will determine our eternal destiny. This is the ultimate human predicament we all face.
God's grace in Christ reestablishes the broken relationship: Retelling the story of Jesus
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. Romans 3:22-25
Christianity deals with human sin and how to get rid of it. Only those who admit that they share in the problem of all humanity are eligible for God's redemptive love in Jesus Christ. Sin is the problem; God's grace in Christ is the answer.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5: 19
God sought to do this through the work of Christ in the Gospel. The depth of our alienation is such that God is not to be found by us, (Romans 3:10-12) unless God enters that alienation and finds us there. This God did in Jesus Christ
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17
Jesus lived a life of loving identification with others, in all sorts of conditions of human life. In other words, He practiced the kind of love which is not mere benevolence, wishing people well from a distance, that that love which enters people's situations and makes their plight sympathetically its own, this was done so in the Incarnation.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known John 1:1-3,14,18
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8
But it did not end in mere identification with us, in full understanding of our situation Christ took up God's judgment on our behalf.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
He died the kind of death which symbolized God's verdict on sinful humanity: condemned to death. He did so in consequence of the loving choice of identifying with others which He made in His life and sustained in His death. He died our death, sharing our failure, condemnation, despair and godforsakeness.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But 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, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:4-11
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
For the crucified Jesus was not just one more godless, godforsaken human being, dying as all of us must He was the man who chose to identify Himself in love with the godless and godforsaken. It was His mission from God to do this. As the one who came from God, the Incarnate Son of God, it was God's love He expressed and enacted in His identification with humanity by entering human history. Therefore the crucified Jesus brings the love of God into the depths. God's work of reconciling the world to Himself, the good news of salvation from the power of sin and death accomplished and made known in His word.
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:11
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies John 11:25
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:11
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 1 Corinthians 6:14
Only because He died can His resurrection also be ours. Because Jesus died our death, identified with us in death, God's love reaches even the dead and raises them to new life. Because Jesus died our death, death need not be the fate it otherwise is. The light of Jesus' resurrection dispels the shadow death casts over life.
Jesus answered, "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
All this available to us in Christ alone.
From His Story to Our Story
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:4-5;8-9
The importance of all this is encapsulated in the word 'grace'. It means God's unmerited favor for us, regardless of who we are ad what we have done. God by actualizing His love for us in Christ therefore invites us to partake of this grace by responding to the Gospel on the basis of what God has done in Christ.
So to answer the question how does one become a Christian can be answered by thoroughly understanding and committing to three action words: Repent-Believe-Accept
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Corinthians 7:10
If our human dilemma is sin, we need to be sure we understand what sin is. A modern definition of sin is: “anything which we think, believe or do that is less than God's best intention for us.” Thus, sin can be right things left unthought or undone; sin can be bad things thought or done. Sin is our mismatch with God's perfect expectation for His human children. Sin can involve attitude as well as action, hear as well as hand.
The first step towards becoming a Christian is to face the fact that each one of us is a sinner in the eyes of God, needing His redemption, correction and salvation. God has taken the initiative through His love in sending His Son Jesus to take upon Himself all the penalty due us for our sin.
For the broken relationship between God and humankind to be reknit, God has taken the first step. Our first step is admitting that we have erred, sinned, failed, fallen short of His expectation or glory.
Such an admission requires repentance. To repent in Greek means “to change one's mind” or “to alter one's direction” or “to turn around and go another way”.
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:15
Repenting from our sin is the first step in entering into right relationship with God. But in a sense repentance is a negative; it is doing something about the obstacle between God and us.
The second essential step in becoming a Christian is a positive, believing that God has already a provided a bridge between humankind and God in the Cross of Jesus Christ! We are called to believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.
There is something weak in our usage of the English word believe, while the Greek word translated believe is always much stronger. In English believe may indicate simple “an inclination to agree,” “to acknowledge that something may be true.” It sometimes is a “cheap word.” Not so in Greek, for in Greek the verb believe always takes a different preposition than we use in English. In English we say “I believe in”; in Greek the language says “I believe into.” There is commitment; indeed, often a commitment of life!
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
To accept means to personally appropriate Him as our own personal Savior and Lord and not just the theoretical Savior and Lord of “the world” or of “somebody else.” There are 3 things that a person must do to “appropriate” God's gift: (1) take it, accept it, “accept” as it, really meant for me; (2) thanks God for it; and (3) open the gift and put my personal acceptance mark on it.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Another way at looking at it is basically to sum it up in a single word: faith which is basically the only apt response. To respond in faith means to identify ourselves with Christ who identified Himself with us. In faith, we respond to the God who has already grasped us, and we discover that the reality of God is the meaning of our lives. Faith occurs as my whole self responds to the reality of God. Faith is thus the total transformation of my existence. God addresses me; God confronts me; God calls me; God summons me into fellowship. God becomes more real to me than I am to myself, so that my whole existence is placed in a new context – in the context of God!
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13
Have you already “repented, believed into, and accepted” God's way of salvation? Are you now ready, perhaps for the first time, to “repented, believed into, and accept” God at his word?
Simply said a Christian is a person whose life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and in common with other Christians in the church seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught.