The word "Christian" comes from a Greek word that means "little Christ." So a Christian is a person who models his or her life after Jesus. Jesus' followers were first called Christians by people who were trying to describe the radical lifestyle changes evident in His disciples. Because the disciples were acting so much like Jesus, they were called "little Christs" (Acts 11:26).
But becoming a Christian is not about cleaning up our act or trying to be nicer. It begins with the recognition that we are sinful and cannot—even on our best day—be good enough to impress a holy God. Isaiah 64:6 says that our best deeds are like filthy rags to God. Our good can never outweigh our bad, because God is perfect and we are born sinners (Romans 5:12). Even one sin destroys perfection. When God created Adam and Eve, they were sinless. But when they chose to disobey God (Genesis 3:6), sin entered the world and corrupted everything.
Because of our sinful state, we are forever separated from the God who created us (Isaiah 59:2). Although He loves us, He is also perfectly just. Perfect justice cannot allow evil to go unpunished. The only righteous punishment for our rebellion against a holy God is eternal separation from Him in hell (Romans 6:23).
However, because He loves us so much, He came to earth to take that punishment upon Himself. He came in the form of a baby named Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11). He lived the life we live—but without sin (Hebrews 4:15; John 8:29). He then offered Himself in our place (John 10:18). He took the punishment we deserve by being nailed to a cross. For the first time, He was separated from God and took upon His perfect body the sins of the whole world (Mark 15:34; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Because Jesus is holy, God accepted His sacrifice and raised Jesus from the dead after three days (John 20).
Jesus said that whoever believes in Him and the sacrifice He made on our behalf can be forgiven (John 3:15-18). But believing is more than mentally acknowledging the truth of what He did. Saving faith means we place our whole weight upon it.
For example, imagine that you are standing on the bank of the Grand Canyon. Spanning the canyon is a narrow suspension bridge. It dips low as it sways in the breeze and a few planks are missing. With you on the bank is the architect of that bridge. He holds the plans in his hands and assures you that this bridge is safe. You may agree wholeheartedly as you stand on the bank. You've heard of his reputation as an excellent architect and may truly believe that you trust him. But that is not faith. Faith is leaving the bank and stepping onto the bridge. You go from intellectual agreement to lifestyle faith. The moment you leave the bank, you have placed your whole life in his hands. And that is the difference between true Christians and those who profess to know Jesus because they believe all this about Him, go to church, or agree that the Bible is true.
Jesus paid our debt in full when He died and rose again. There is nothing we can do to add to it. However, He gives us free will to choose Him or reject His offer (John 1:10-12). He also warned us that it would not be easy to embrace the life of a follower (Matthew 7:14). We often prefer to remain on the bank and pretend we trust Him, but that is not the kind of believing He requires.
A heart transformation must take place to make us Christians. Jesus called it being "born again" (John 3:3). He used the illustration of birth because we understand that when a baby is born, a new creature emerges that did not previously exist. Every live birth results in growth. In one year or five years, that baby will not look or act as it does the moment it is born. When we allow the Holy Spirit to "birth" us into God's family, we become new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus changes us from the inside out so that our desires, passions, and actions start to reflect His. We don't try to change to become acceptable to God; our lives change because our hearts have been born anew. He has adopted us and desires that we become more like Him (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). Because we love Him and have placed our lives in His hands, we want to do what pleases Him.
Jesus warned that many would desire to come to Him, but would want to do so on their own terms (Luke 9:59-62, 13:23-24). Jesus' requirements are clear. In Luke 9:23 He said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (see also Matthew 16:24). Jesus also said, "Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38).
That cross means something must die or we won't be able to accept the offer of eternal life. We must be willing to die to our old ways of doing things, our sin, and our right to be our own boss. To embrace the new life He offers, we must be willing to let go of the old one we have clung to. To accept Jesus as Savior means we also accept Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). When we do, He forgives our sin, makes us holy before God, and promises us eternal life with Him. We will still mess up, but the power sin once had over us is broken. We can ask His forgiveness because we are His children. When we do, He removes that sin, cleanses our hearts, and helps us walk in fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9).
Are you ready to place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and be born again? If so, follow through with the decision right now. There is no special prayer you must pray to do so. However, the following prayer is an example of one you can use to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord:
"Dear God, I realize I am a sinner and am separated from you with no hope of bridging the gap on my own. Right now I place my faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son who lived a perfect life, died for my sins, and rose from the dead to give me eternal life. Please forgive me of my sins and help me to live for you. Thank you for accepting me and giving me eternal life."
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