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Sunday, November 20, 2016 am                                        Christian Index

 

What It Means to Be a Christian (2)
BECOMING A CHRISTIAN

 

We have begun a study dealing with what it means to be a Christian.  Our goal in this study is to encourage us to become Christians and to be the Christian God wants us to be.  In our last lesson, we talked about what is a Christian.  Simply stated, a Christian is a Christ-adherent – one who has obeyed the gospel and is striving to live as a true follower of Jesus.  With this understand, today we want to address becoming a Christian.

Many in this audience are already Christians.   If so, let this lesson remind you of why you became a Christian and to examine yourself as to what that means to you now?

 I.                     Becoming a Christian - Obeying the Gospel

a.       This means one does what is necessary to become a Christian, at least that is where it begins. 

b.       What must I do to be saved? 

                                                   i.      Hear the word – Romans 10:17. This is where becoming a Christians begins.  Through knowledge we learn that we are sinners and in need of salvation.  We learn that the answer to this problem is found in scripture.  And we learn HOW to obey the gospel.

                                                 ii.      Believe – we must have faith.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  John 8:24, “If you do not believe that I am He you will die in your sins.”
Romans 10:9-10 shows that we must believe in our hearts. 
Understand that this belief is more than merely believing IN God.  It is about believing God - what He says and doing it (cf. John 3:36 – “does not believe” literally means, “does not obey”.  1 Peter 3:21 points this out as baptism is described as, “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That means we are doing what we are told to do because we believe Him.

                                                iii.      Repentance – Acts 2:38 – on the day of Pentecost, they were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. 
Acts 3:19 – repent and be converted.
Luke 13:3 & 5, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 
It is vital that we understand it BEFORE obeying the gospel.  Yet explain this is often a neglected.  The word for repentance (μετανοέω, metanoeō)  literally means “to perceive afterwards” (Bullinger).  It is a change of conduct resulting from a changed mind.  In other words, to become a Christian you MUST understand you are putting to death the old man of sin (as noted in our last lesson).  Your mindset is that as a disciple, you will “observe all things commanded.” (Matthew 28:20).
How many fail to remain faithful because this is not emphasized when studying with someone about becoming a Christian?   Don’t tell someone, “You’re a good person, you won’t have to change much” to become a Christian. 

                                                iv.      Confessing – Jesus as the Son of God and as Lord – Acts 8:37, Rom. 10:9-10

                                                  v.      Being baptized (immersed) to be saved – Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, etc.  We must understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.   It is baptism that puts you into Christ – Galatians 3:27.   Romans 6:3-4 ties this to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (where your sins are forgiven – Ephesians 1:7). 

c.        Live faithfully.  Becoming a Christian is just the beginning. 
Revelation 2:10 calls for us to be faithful until death.  Hebrews 10:38 says, “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. 
Paul even applied this to himself this in 1 Corinthians 9:27.
We use the expression “obeying the Gospel” to describe what one does to be saved (as does the Bible), but isn’t it also true that when we are following the gospel AS Christians we are obeying the gospel?
Thought: Do you wonder why MOST of the New Testament is written TO Christians about how to BE Christians.  Why so much emphasis if it is not necessary?

 II.                   Why become a Christian?

a.       It is the only way you will be saved – there is no other name under heaven - Acts 4:12.
John 14:6, Jesus noted that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  
And that what all of this is about.

b.       To enjoy the privileges that come with being a Christian.

                                                   i.      I have access to God – prayers are intended for Christians to communicate to God. 
Prov. 15:29, The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
When you study the Bible you learn prayer is a privilege intended for the godly -
1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”
1 John 3:21-22 also notes that whatever we ask we receive, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

                                                 ii.      I have a spiritual family with likeminded goals -
Typically, our physical family loves us and cares about us.  But if they are not Christians, their focus is upon material success and comforts.  While such can good within its realm, when it comes to our eternity and spiritual wellbeing, we need more.  We need those who care about our souls as much as our physical wellbeing.  That is where being a Christian is a privilege.
In scripture, we learn that we are the family of God – 1 Timothy 3:15, we learn how to conduct ourselves in “the house of God” or family of God. 
The Bible has so much to say about Christians being a family and being the body of Christ.  In fact, many letters of the New Testament are written to instruct us how to behave as that family.  It is a genuine blessing to know that we have brethren who are there for us, who are interested not only in our wellbeing in this life, but in the next as well.   I am convinced that is at least part of what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 19:29 where He spoke of those who left houses, brothers & sisters, father & mother, etc. for His name’s sake and would receive it a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.
We will address this more as we deal with the church.

                                                iii.      I have meaningful answers to the questions of life
Where did I come from? What is my purpose for being here?  Where am I going? What does God want me to do?  Etc.
These questions have caused considerable confusion in this world, because the world doesn’t really want to consider the one true God of the Bible.   
- Incidentally, is it not interesting that in a study of evolution without intelligent design cannot explain why we even think about this?
But as Christians, we have a source with answers to these questions.  Cf. Hebrews 11:3.
Do we need to accept the answers by faith?  Yes!  But not a blind faith (Romans 1:20, Psalm 8:1-4, 19:1, etc.)
And EVERYONE seeking answers to these questions will need faith in the answers they receive.   The question lies in how much they are willing to investigate. 

                                                iv.      My life has real purpose
So many in our society today are living for themselves.  They are living for the now with no thought of a real, lasting purpose for being here.   There is no thought beyond this life.   And much of this (and the problems that come with a selfish attitude) is the product of a society that is increasingly rejecting God and His moral absolutes.   Ephesians 4:17-20 Paul tells us we should no longer (implying we once walked this way) walk as the rest of the Gentiles – being alienated from God.   Ephesians 2:11-12 describes those “once Gentiles” … “having not hope and without God in the world.”
But as a Christian, I have a purpose:

1.       I am here to please God and magnify Him in my life.  I am here to let that light shine so that I can bring others to Him.  Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:15

2.       I am here to live a holy life – 1 Peter 1:15-16, be Holy as He is holy!

3.       I am here to serve others – Philippians 2:3-4.  More on this later.

                                                  v.      I have peace of mind – we all struggle with sin.  Not just overcoming sin, but dealing with its consequences and how this impacts our lives and thinking.   We also struggle with the troubles of this world.   As Christians, we have a peace to help us deal with these things.   Matthew 11:28-30 – Jesus offered the invitation to come to Him for rest
Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you – 1 Peter 5:7
Philippians 4:7 speaks of “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

                                                vi.      I have hope of heaven after this life – Jesus in Matthew 16:26 said, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul, or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 speaks of that crown of righteousness we are seeking in the day of judgment.  More on this in our final lesson of this study.

 III.                 The cost of becoming a Christian

a.       Many obey the gospel with false expectations.  They think that when they become a Christian, suddenly all their problems will dissolve and they will live the rest of their time in paradise.   These expectations are not about being forgive, but how we live our lives. 
NOTE: Could we be at fault because we fail to properly emphasize the needed commitment and cost?  Do we pressure others into becoming a Christian or being baptized without ensuring they know the sacrifice expected?  Yes, we know they MUST obey the gospel to be saved and are in danger.  But if someone doesn’t fully understand what is involved, what have we created?  I have baptized individuals, thinking they were prepared, only to never see them again.  This is the “stony ground” in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:20-21).
This is a concern I have with quick, emotion based “give me one hour of your time” studies that will convince someone to be baptized, but fails to emphasize what is needed after that.  There are some ready to respond after one study, (in fact, many examples in Acts address this) but many are not fully prepared.  We need to ask some questions to help them realize the commitment involved in being a Christian. 

b.       Becoming a Christian will not:

                                                   i.      Instantly change your heart and desires – Many become Christians in an act of desperation (something to be said about that) thinking that their desires will magically change.  While your heart needs to change (Acts 15:9 – the heart is purified by faith), it is not going to be because you become a Christian.
Acts 8:21 – Simon was told his heart was not right in the matter

                                                 ii.       Remove temptations – in some ways your temptations may be even greater as you work to overcome your sinful behavior.  James 1:12 – blessed is the man who endures temptations – weathers them.  We do have the resources to deal with them – 1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Peter 2:9.

                                                iii.      Prevent you from committing sin – again you see Simon who was a Christian (Acts 8:21).  Peter himself played the hypocrite and was to be blamed. 
When John wrote 1 John 1:8-10, he was speaking to Christians.  NOTE: This is NOT saying sin is EVER acceptable!

                                                iv.      Remove all your struggles and difficulties – some think that obeying the gospel will automatically make life easier.  It doesn’t!  Sometimes, it becomes harder as you realize who you are here to please.    

                                                  v.      Remove physical consequences of sins – yes, your sins are forgiven and you are pure in God’s eyes

1.       BUT you cannot keep what you have stolen. 

2.       If you have committed adultery the consequences are still there. 

3.       Health problems from abusing the body are still there. 

4.       Damage from acts of anger and lust are still present.  Consider the example of David with Bathsheba and the many consequences even after he repented.

5.       This includes unscriptural relationships – becoming a Christian will not suddenly make an unlawful into a lawful one. 

                                                vi.      Guarantee your salvation – you must remain faithful.  Revelation 2:10, 2 Peter 2:20-22

c.        What will becoming a Christian cost you? 

                                                   i.      Salvation, while in one sense is free, in another very real sense will cost you everything! 

                                                 ii.      When Jesus called upon people to follow Him, He wanted them to realize the cost involved.  Luke 9:57-62 deals with a series of excuses, answered by the Lord Himself.  The answer, “follow Me!”
Luke 14:26-33 is even more pointed as Jesus says, whoever does not deny Himself cannot be My disciple.

                                                iii.      This tells us that the life of a Christian is not going to be easy.  It comes with a cost where our relationship to the world is concerned.  BUT, if you become a Christian, and you work through these things, you will be a better person because of it.   And understanding that is my goal in this entire series of lessons.

 I am not telling you this to talk you out of obeying the gospel.  You NEED to become a Christian.  Your eternity depends on it.  

Consider this: We read about “obeying the gospel” 3 times in scripture

-          Romans 10:16 – not all have obeyed the gospel,

-          2 Thess. 1:8 – judgment will come on those who have not obeyed the gospel,

-          1 Peter 4:17 – what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel?  ALL of these address the consequences of failing to obey the gospel.

So yes, we need to obey the gospel, but we must make this decision seriously!  But as we shall see later in this study, while the cost here is high, the end result will be worth it. 

What about you, have you obeyed the gospel?  Won’t you become a Christian today?