Becoming a Christian

“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)

John 3:16 is probably the best-known Bible verse in the world. It contains the Christian Gospel in a nutshell; God’s saving work for sinners. Its message is clear: some people are perishing, but God saves from death the people of the world who trust His Son for life. Here, indeed is the way to heaven made plain for sinners. Let’s take a closer look.

Some People Are Perishing

The Bible views us in terms of our relationship with God. Human beings have “life” only through God, and they enjoy it only when they live in the presence of God. Therefore, they perish when they are separated from God. This is because:

God alone sustains us and keeps body and soul together. In Adam, we were created true persons, self-conscious, free, responsible before God, and answerable to Him.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.”

And he is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…”

(Genesis 1:27; Acts 17:25, 28)

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Adam and Eve thought that they could get along without God. As the “parents” of humankind, they rejected the Creator and plunged themselves and all the rest of us into a sinful condition of prideful rebellion against God. True to His Word, God punished sin by separating Adam and us from Himself. Thus, our lives are spoiled. We sons and daughters of Adam no longer really live. We merely exist in what could be called a kind of living death. We have forfeited and lost life with God that is “eternal life” referred to in John 3:16.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die…'”

“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…”

(Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12)

We are totally unable to help ourselves-that is, to get ourselves back into fellowship with God—because sin and death pervade every aspect of our beings. We are not even true men and women, whole and free, as God intended us to be. We are alienated from ourselves, from other men and women, and, most importantly, from God. Every relationship is perverted. All our faculties are deadened, rendered useless as instruments by which we might please God and be restored to His favor and fellowship. We arelawbreakers, condemned to perish in our sins, incapable in our own strength of fulfilling the law. We areslaves, helpless mired in the muck of our sin.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”

(Romans 1:21-22)

Salvation From Perishing Is By Way Of Faith

John 3:16 clearly teaches that those who are saved from perishing are those who “believe on” the Son of God. The Bible is very, very clear on this point: we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We cannot be saved by keeping the Law, for the Law demands perfection, and we cannot be perfect. The Law, therefore, condemns us—it reveals all our deadly imperfections and pronounces God’s curse upon them. As a mirror reveals our blemishes but cannot heal them, so the Law exposes our sins but does not alone for them.

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

“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 boost.”

(Romans 3:28; Ephesians 2:8-9)

Faith Lays Hold Of The Son Of God

Who Jesus Is.

Jesus, the Son of God, is God. But, in order to save His people, He became a man. He was a real man, everything that Adam was and more. This astounding fact is at the heart of Christianity, and is one of the keys to understanding the Good News of salvation—”God so loved…that He gave his only begotten Son.” The person we must look to for our salvation is the God-man, fully God and fully man at the same time. As God, His life was of such great value that He could pay the penalty for the sins of a great multitude of sinners. As a man, He could receive in Himself God’s wrath due to men. He humbly identified Himself with us sinners and experienced our weaknesses and infirmities, but, and this is important, without any sin of His own.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… . 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.”

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.”

“Such a high priest meets our needs—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”

(John 1:1, 14; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 7:26)

What Jesus Did.

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life.

God requires anyone who would have fellowship with Him to be perfect, just like Him. But sin makes this impossible for us! So Jesus Christ came as a man and perfectly obeyed the Law for His people. His perfection was substituted for theirs.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…”

(1 Peter 3:18)

Jesus Christ died a perfect death.

He not only lived for His people, but died for them too, giving Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy God’s justice. And since His life is so precious, His sacrifice was accepted by the Father as of sufficient value to pay the penalty for the sins of every one of those for whom He died.

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous…”

“So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many…”

(Romans 5:19; Hebrews 9:28)

Jesus Christ conquered death.

Though He died and was buried, He arose! Later, He returned to Heaven as the great King of the universe. One day, according to His promise, He will return and gather all believers to Himself. Thus, everyone who receives eternal life now will enjoy it forever in Heaven with the Son of God.

“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 rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven…”

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

(1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Acts 1:11; John 14:3)

Jesus Christ Offers Salvation as a Gift to be Received by Faith

Faith

Now, how may one receive this wonderful eternal life of which John 3:16 speaks? The answer is really quite simple: by faith. Not by works. By faith. But, what is faith? Maybe we should first consider what faith is by thinking about what it is not:

Faith is not facts alone.

Faith is not mere intellectual assent to a group of facts. It does indeed accept as true what the Bible says about God, and sin, and Christ, but it is more than just agreement with these facts. After all, the Bible says that “even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Intellectual asset alone is not all that is meant by “saving faith.”

Faith is not favors alone.

Faith is not mere trusting God for favors. Some people think that because they look to God for health, or safety, or financial solvency, or guidance, and because they do indeed enjoy some of these things in measure, they therefore possess saving faith, and God must truly love them as His children. Again, this is not so. God is so good that He does love all men with a common love. Just because one receives temporal favors from a goof God does not mean he has been given eternal life.

Faith is not feeling alone.

Saving faith is not to be identified with religious feelings. There are people who get all mushy and teary when they hear “Silent Night” or “The Old Rugged Cross.” Other really “get into”” religious services and almost explode with enthusiasm for “the cause.” But such emotional experiences are not necessarily evidences for a true conversion. Faith certainly touches our emotions, but feelings alone do not prove it genuine.

Faith is Trusting Christ alone.

So what is saving faith? It is trusting, receiving and resting on Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel. It is transferring your trust for eternal life from yourself—your own goodness—to Christ. It is believing that you are truly guilty and justly condemned for your sin, and calling upon Jesus Christ for salvation knowing all the while that it is in His righteousness alone that you are made acceptable to God.

Faith includes Repentance.

Saving Faith is always accompanied by repentance. When you turn to Jesus, you turn away from yourself. You grieve over your sin and the pollution in your soul. You hate what you are without Christ. You discover a new, holy desire to love and serve your Creator and Redeemer with your whole heart and life.

And when you do this—when you turn to Christ by faith—the Savior accepts you and gives you eternal life!

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved—you and your household…”

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
(Acts 16:31; John 6:37)

Now, how might YOU receive this wonderful gift? Ask for it. Pray. Tell God that you recognize how sinful you are, and how you are totally unable to please Him in yourself or your works. Ask Him to enable you by His Spirit to believe—to embrace Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for your eternal salvation. Then thankHim for keeping His promise. Now go. Live for Him. Study and obey His Word. Pray often. Worship with His people in a Bible-believing church. Share your new faith and life with other Christians. Serve Him in the church and in the world. Talk about Him to unbelievers. It won’t be easy; the cost of following Christ is great. But it is the only way. It is eternal life.