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So just what is a Christian?

It is not just about doing good works and helping other people, this is important but not enough.
It is not just going to church each week or being "religious".

Believing in Jesus isn’t enough …..

Its a start, but it is not enough in itself - The Bible shows us that even the devil acknowledges Jesus - why else should he oppose him? See for example Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.

You might say "I lead a good life - surely my sins aren’t that bad?"

    The Bible teaches us that:God cannot stand sin, even the best of us falls miles short of his standards.
    Nobody can earn their way into heaven. (See for example Rom 3:23 NIV "....for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and Rom 6:23 NIV "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." and Romans 8.) If you say that you have never done anything wrong, or done anything contrary to God's will, you are deceiving yourself.
    No one is exempt from God's judgement.

Why doesn’t God just let everyone into heaven? Surely he is a God of love?

Well yes he is and that is why he gave us a way to be reconciled to Him:

So what must we do?

1) Believe in Jesus (e.g. Acts 16:30,31 NIV)

    He [the jailer] then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."

  • Belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is the most obvious requirement for salvation - Eph.2:8. Cf. Mt. 16:15-18.
  • Having this Faith in Jesus is not an "option" it is a necessity for salvation - Jn. 8:24; 14:6.
  • Faith is clearly required in order to be saved in Christ - Mk. 16:16; Jn. 8:24. Cf. Hb. 11:6.

2) Confess what you believe (see  Romans 10:9,10 NIV)

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

  • This passage teaches that our belief in Jesus must be confessed. Cf. Ac. 8:36,37; 1Tim. 6:12,13.
  • A "confession" is a verbal acknowledgement that something is true. Cf. Jn. 12:42.
  • The Bible is clear that this is required - Mt. 10:32,33; Rom. 10:9,10. Cf. 1Tim.6:12,13.
  • Another problem regarding confession is that many are confused about what is to be confessed — it is not our sins, but our faith that is to be confessed - Rom. 10:9.

3) REPENT - in other words be sorry and mean it (see Acts 2:37,38 NIV)

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

  • Jesus Himself had taught that there will be no forgiveness without repentance - Lk. 13:3.
  • Since the beginning, some have thought this part of God’s plan was optional because it did not apply to them, i.e. they did not have any sins to be repented of. Cf. Mt. 3:7-9.
  • It means saying sorry in the truest sense, that is that we really mean to try and give up what we do wrong. We may fail - that will not stop us being a Christian - but we must mean that we will, with God’s help, endeavour to lead a Christian life with Christian standards.

4) Then be baptised

We believe that Baptism is a command from Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) we read:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Baptism is therefore, quite simply, an act of obedience to Jesus by those who have become Christians. Baptism was very much the norm in the early church. We already looked at the passage in Acts, but we could also consider the Ethiopian official baptised by Phillip in Acts 8:26-40, or Paul’s Baptism by Ananias (Acts 10:24-48), or Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) or the Philipian jailer (Acts 16:25-34).

5) Conclusion:

To be a Christian we therefore have to take action:

  • We have to believe in Jesus.
  • We have to verbally acknowledge what we believe.
  • We have to say sorry for what we have done wrong, ask for forgiveness and ask Jesus to come into our lives. It means saying sorry in the truest sense, that is that we really mean to try and give up what we do wrong. We may fail - that will not stop us being a Christian - but we must mean that we will, with God’s help, endeavour to lead a Christian life with Christian standards. This means all the standards that God sets down in the Bible - not just a selected few that we are happy with!
  • Then to be obedient we should be baptised.

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