How Do You Become a Christian?

How Do You Become A Christian?

Chapter Three

How Do You Become A Christian?
Steps In Coming To Know God 30 Half Conversion Or Whole Conversion? 38
Making The Decision To Follow Christ! 31 Importance Of Repentance 39
Implementing The Decision To Follow Christ 32 Relationship Between Faith And Repentance 40
How To Become a Christian 33 What Is Saving Faith? 41
"Collision With God" 34 How Is Man Saved? 42
A Moral U-Turn 35 Discussion Questions 43
What Is Repentance? 36 Discussion Questions (continued) 44
Obstacles To Repentance 37    

Joel 3:14-16, Jeremiah 29:11-13

Steps In Coming To Know God

Notes E. Stanley Jones, "Setting up a saving relationship with Christ is not essentially different from setting up a warm human friendship. (1) The stage of drawing near. This is the tentative, explorative stage. You are not certain whether you want to give yourself inwardly to the other person. It is the stage of yes and no. (2) The stage when there is the inward decision to give yourself to the other person–the stage of decision. (3) You implement the decision–you actually make the inward surrender to the other person. (4) Having given to the other person, you are now free to take from that person. There is an exchange of selves–you belong to that person, and that person belongs to you. You are one.

There is the stage of drawing near. This is the explorative stage. This is the stage in which one has not decided to say Yes or No to God. Up until this time the person has been relatively unconcerned about God and the Church, but suddenly (or sometimes gradually) a new interest in religion and God is awakened within the person. He finds himself in the 'valley of decision'. It is not uncommon for a sense of loneliness or guilt to grip a person at this time.

A university student once called me and said something like this: "I am such-and-such. I was wondering what your church was like. I used to go to church, but I sort of drifted away. I guess I would call myself a cynic. I can't believe in the literalism of the Bible. For instance, the Tower of Babel. To think that all the languages of the world came from that! I just wondered if your church permits debate". In the very tone of this student' s voice was the accent of questing and searching and hunger for Reality, and yet the student wanted to give the impression of courage, sophistication, and intellectualism.

Another came frightenly into my office to blurt out his guilt. He confessed that he was afraid he was responsible for causing his girl friend to become pregnant. Because he came from a good background he could not bear to face his parents. I turned to the Bible and prayed with him, and he found real peace with God. He later went to a Christian college, after marrying the girl. Today, he and his wife are happily married with several children.

A short time after my father's mother passed away, my father's brother and I were digging a pipe line. My uncle is a good-hearted man, but without religious knowledge or Christian experience. 'Out of the blue' he asked me, "What… what is the soul, and where does it go after a person dies?". My uncle was in this first stage–the stage of exploration and searching.

"You have promised that if I draw near to You, You will draw near to me. May my search end in glorious discovery!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God has been seeking me long before I began seeking Him. If I take one step toward Him, He will take a thousand steps toward me!

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Joshua 24:11-15

Making The Decision To Follow Christ!

A woman called a pastor and said without preliminaries: "I'm a lost person and I've run smack into God. I want to talk with you". (E.S. Jones, Conversion, p. 207)

Once I spoke at 1ength to a man who had shown considerable interest in spiritual matters. After I talked to him, I asked him if he understood. He replied, "I understand quite well". Then I asked him if he was ready to make his decision to follow Christ. He replied, "I want to give it some more thought". He was still at the first stage–the stage of drawing near. He was still counting the cost of following Christ. He was still weighing the various factors in the moral scales of decision. He wanted time to consider whether or not it was worth his effort and sacrifice to serve Christ.

The questions people ask today reveal their spiritual search: "What is man?" "What is the purpose of  life?" "Where did I come from and where am I going?" "Is there a God, and if so, how can a person know God?" "What happens when I die?" "What is truth?"

Hopefully, these Questions will lead many to pass from the first stage of drawing near to the second stage of decision-making. The second stage in the formation of a relationship is the stage of inward decision to give yourself to another person, in this case, to God. In the human-divine relationship there is no decision on God's part whether or not He is willing to receive you as His friend. God's arms are open, ready to receive all as His personal friends! God is actively seeking the friendship of man! It is "Whosoever will" with God! However, on man' part there must be an inner decision to give oneself to God. For many months a person may be debating whether or not to become a Christian. There may be a battle of the will that, on one hand, seeks to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and on the other hand, seeks to care for the eternal soul. The point at which that battle of the will is over and the will has decided to follow God, is the point at which the first stage has passed to the second stage in the process of coming to know God. The second stage is the stage of inward decision. The person at this stage has resolved deep within himself to follow God, even if no other person knows of this decision at this time.

There may be a gradual progress to this point of decision, but when the decision is reached there is no doubt as to its reality. "The ugly larva in its cocoon spends months in almost unnoticeable growth and change; but no matter how great that growth may be, there comes a moment when it passes through a crisis and emerges a butterfly. The weeks of silent growth are important, but they cannot take the place of that experience when the old and the ugly are left behind and the new and the beautiful come into being." (World Aflame, Billy Graham, p. 157)

"I see now that emotion is the feeling that accompanies the great decision, but the decision itself to follow Christ is an exercise of my will. Help me to choose once and for all to follow you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I only have one freedom–the freedom to choose my master. I will choose to follow Christ as my Master!

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Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 10:32-39

Implementing The Decision To Follow Christ

The third stage in forming a relationship with a person is the stage of implementing the inward decision. That is, one actually makes the surrender of himself to another person. One who inwardly decides to follow God takes the necessary steps to make that decision real and visible. One who decides to give himself to God makes the giant turn of his life. He turns his back on his past and turns his present and his future over to God. This act of turning is the act of faith–faith that God forgives the past and faith that God will provide in the present and in the future. Someone said that the letters in the word 'Faith' stand for 'Forsaking All I Take Him'. Indeed so! Notes Alan Richardson on faith, "It is the act by which he lays hold on God's proffered resources, becomes obedient to what God prescribes, and abandoning all self-interest and self-reliance, trusts God completely".

Exercising faith in Christ as a result of inward decision to follow Christ, means' giving one's self to Christ. "The one thing you won and the only thing you won is just yourself. It is the one and only thing you will take out of this world with you–you cannot take your money, your home or your loved ones, nothing but yourself. It is the only thing you own. Then you can decide to whom that self shall belong–to yourself? In which case you become a self-centered person, hence disrupted. To the herd? In which case you become an echo not a voice, a thing not a person, a nonentity. To money? In which case you become an insecure person with the insecurity of your money–you go up and down with it. To sex? In which case you become a sex-dominated person–a person of lust, hence disgust. Don't think that if you don't belong to Christ you are free. Nobody is free. We are free only to choose our own masters. It is Christ or something else, that will rule us. When you say deep down, 'I belong to Him', then you do." (Conversion, E.S. Jones, p. 191)

The fourth stage in a relationship is the stage of receiving from the other person. Having given oneself to Christ, now one has a right to receive all that Christ offers. Christ offers Himself as the Gift of gifts and when one has Christ, that person has all else that belongs to Christ, such as the gift of forgiveness (1 John 1:9). To many people, forgiveness is the most beautiful word in the English language. Christ gives the gift of reconciliation in place of one's alienation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Christ gives the gift of regeneration or new life in place of one's old life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ gives the gift of adoption into the family of God (John 1:12), and also the gift of assurance of eternal life. (1 John 5:11-12)

"Master of men, attune my inner ears to hear your call and give me faith to make an inner commitment to You. Let my inner commitment be outwardly expressed in my decisive following of You!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Whoever acknowledges Christ openly before men, will be openly acknowledged before the Father in heaven! I will not be a secret disciple!

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Revelation 22:12-17

How To Become a Christian

Notes C.S. Lewis, "The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start". (Mere Christianity, p. 57) By this, it is not meant that Christ's death automatically makes us right with God. That would be to exclude the subjective aspect of human appropriation of God's salvation. Preoccupation with the objective aspect of salvation–that is, Christ's work on the Cross–is to the exclusion of the subjective aspect of salvation–that is, man's appropriation of Christ's work–results in a form of universalism. The doctrine of universalism asserts that because Christ died for all men, therefore all men will ultimately be saved. But man must appropriate God's salvation.

In speaking of man's appropriation of God's salvation, it is important to distinguish between meeting conditions and earning salvation. As Stanley Walters says, "The conditions which lead into Christian conversion are necessary, but not meritorious. On one hand, you can do nothing to merit God's gift of salvation; on the other hand, God does not give it indiscriminately to everyone, but to those who want it and are willing to receive it".

For instance, a gift such as an inheritance may belong to you, but certain conditions must be met before you receive it. You did not earn the inheritance, but you must meet certain conditions to receive the inheritance. Man does not earn salvation or deserve salvation, but he must meet certain conditions to receive that salvation. It is not his automatically.

There are three conditions for salvation. There must be an awakening, which leads to genuine repentance and saving faith.

Stanley Walters notes that an awakening is a proper attitude toward yourself, repentance is a proper attitude toward your sin, and saving faith is a proper attitude toward your Redeemer. Notes Dr. Walters, "These conditions must coincide. When you meet them fully, you may be sure that God will act to justify you and make you a new creation. Confidence in God assures you of salvation (1 John 1:9, 'he is faithful…'), although the Holy Spirit also gives assurance." (Romans 8:16)

We must carefully look at each of these three conditions for salvation. First , there must be an awakening. Before a person can be saved from sin he must acknowledge that he needs to be saved. Awakening is a collision with God, a recognition of personal, spiritual need. What causes a person who is preoccupied with worldly pursuits and pleasures to stop in his tracks and suddenly realize that he is traveling the wrong road of 1ife? That is the awakening work of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8)

"I cannot earn, purchase or deserve your salvation, O God, for your salvation is a gift to be received with gratitude. Help me to humble myself before you, as a little child before his father, in order that I might receive your gift."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Pride pays for a possession; humility accepts a free gift. God offers a gift! I will humble myself before the Giver!

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Acts 24:10-27

"Collision With God"

Before a person can be saved, he must experience a spiritual awakening. He must confront God and recognize his own personal, spiritual need. This 'Collision with God' or inner awakening to personal need is the work of the Holy Spirit. "And when he has come he will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God's goodness, and of deliverance from judgement." (John 16:8, Living Bible)

Notes Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Though men decide not to believe in God and to put Him and His ways out of their lives, though they ignore all consequences and in a spirit of bravado decide to follow the other life, they do not therefore finish with God and truth at that point. The truth continues to remind them of its existence and to worry them. It does so most definitely, of course, in and through the conscience. It warns, it condemns, and it prohibits. The Truth is not static and lifeless. It is actually within us–there is 'the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world'… The truth follows us and worries us". (The Plight of Man and The Power of God, p. 51)

It is said that one of the thousands of listeners at a Billy Graham Crusade suddenly arose from his seat and became rather indignant, because he thought Billy Graham was preaching right at him specifically. He thought the evangelist was describing his own specific sins in the presence of the large crowd, and he was embarrassed and embittered. This man felt singled out because he was convicted and enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Coleridge said that he believed the Bible to be inspired because, as he put it, "It finds me". Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand".

It was the Holy Spirit who pricked the hearts of Peter's listeners on the Day of Pentecost. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37) It was the Holy Spirit who awakened Felix to his spiritual need: "And as he (Felix) reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come, Felix trembled". (Acts 24:25 a)

God uses the Holy Scriptures to produce a spiritual awakening: "For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword; it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being; it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart. No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to do". (Hebrews 4:12-13, Phillips)

"I am naked and exposed before the eyes of Him with whom I have to do! But, God, you only reveal my sins in order to release me from my sins. You only expose my spiritual nakedness in order to clothe me with your righteousness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am not a sinner in general; I am a sinner in specific. Christ is not a Saviour in general; He is my Saviour in specific!

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Luke 15:11-32

A Moral U-Turn

After God awakens a person to his true spiritual condition, he must repent of his sins. What is repentance? To understand the meaning of repentance, we must first note some of the misconceptions regarding repentance.

Repentance does not mean self-improvement. Reformation is human endeavor; transformation is divine renewal. A person may attempt to reform a pig by cleaning him up and dressing him in clean clothes. However, until the nature of the pig is changed, the pig will go back into the mud puddle. Man's nature must be changed by God. Self-improvement is not sufficient. Man must be divinely transformed.

Repentance is not merely regret or remorse. Simply to feel sorrow about events in the past is not to change things in the present or the future. Regret and remorse are both involved in repentance, but repentance is more than regret and remorse. The mourner's bench is good, but one must do more than mourn at a mourner's bench. Combined with mourning must be a genuine change of the will and of the mind.

Repentance is "a moral u-turn. A change of mind toward sin, from one of embracing to one of separation". (Stanley Walters) Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death". (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 RSV) Notes John Murray, "The change of heart and mind and will principally respect four things; it is a change of mind respecting God, respecting ourselves, respecting sin, and respecting righteousness". (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 114)

The prodigal son is an example of true repentance. He changed his mind about sin. He saw the results of sin and came to despise his sinful way of life. He turned his back on his former way of life–he made a moral u-turn and went to his father. His repentance began with regret and remorse, but it ended up in action. Repentance is basically an action of the will–"I will go to my Father".

Repentance involves open confession of sin. Says Weatherhead, "Suppressed sin, like suppressed steam, is dangerous. Confession is the safety-valve". Said one psychiatrist who dealt with the disrupted of Hollywood at high fees, "All these patients of mine need is a mourner's bench".

"O God, allow my remorse over sin's consequences to turn to repentance over sin's commission. Help me to make a moral u-turn, to turn from my old life to Your new life! Through Jesus' power. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will no longer embrace sin, but I will embrace my Saviour! The Father is waiting for the prodigal to return home!

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Luke 24:44-49

What Is Repentance?

What is repentance? "Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor–is what Christians call repentance." (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 59)

The Scriptures teach that repentance must be preached. Said Jesus, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem". (Luke 24:46-47)

Repentance is always the condition for healing and life. Repentance assumes that there is an honest recognition of sin in one's life. Sin is not simply breaking God's laws (10 Commandments), but sin is a breaking of God's heart! Sin is not only a violation of a law, but it is also the breaking of a relationship. To break laws is to break the heart of the lawgiver!

There can be no repentance without first recognizing the fact of sin and the seriousness of sin. There can be no treatment of a disease without diagnosis of the disease. There can be no healing without acknowledgment of the hurt. There is no conversion without conviction of sin. No treating of sin as a plaything, but as a serious problem.

Repentance is not only recognizing the fact of sin and the seriousness of sin, but repentance is also recognizing one's inability to save himself from the consequences of sin, in terms of both spiritual death and eternal death. The Bible talks about being "dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked". (Ephesians 2:1-2) Sin causes one to be dead to life's purpose and plan. Sin blinds one to the meaning of life. The consequences of sin is not only spiritual death, but also eternal death, which is separation from God forever.

To have a true spirit of repentance is to acknowledge ones personal helplessness, before one is ready to receive God's help, he must declare moral bankruptcy!

Next, repentance involves confession of sin to God. Confession means "agree with". One must agree with God's evaluation of sin and God's provision for sin. Repentance means rejecting man-made solutions for salvation, and acceptance of God's sole solution for salvation.

Repentance further involves a change of mind, from an attitude of embracing sin to an attitude of forsaking sin. Repentance also involves a change in actions, from a life of practicing sin to a life of practicing righteousness. Repentance does not mean, however, perfection in performance, but rather a new direction in life.

"O God, I turn my back upon my old way of life, and I turn my face towards Your beautiful face of love and mercy. I see Your outstretched arms, waiting for me. I accept Your wonderful forgiveness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I disagree with my former prideful attitudes of self-sufficiency, and I henceforth agree with God's grace-estimate of my moral condition.

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Acts 3:17-26

Obstacles To Repentance

The Biblical message is the message of repentance. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19) Jesus said, "Unless you repent, ye shall all likewise perish". (Luke 13:3-5)

If repentance is so important according to Jesus, then why is it so hard for so many people to repent? One reason is that people have a wrong attitude toward sin.

There are many who will not repent because they deny the very existence of sin. Many call sinful actions or attitudes mere human weaknesses. Says Dr. Karl Menninger, "The word (sin) went away. It has almost disappeared– the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn't anyone sin anymore? Doesn't anyone believe in sin? Congress voted some years ago to require the President to proclaim each year a national day of prayer, and Truman began it in 1952. The following year (1953) President Eisenhower made his first proclamation and in it he made a reference to SIN. He borrowed the words for his proclamation from a call issued in 1863, by Abraham Lincoln, the country's first Republican and most theological President:

"It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in human sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon."

An article in Theology Today has this to say about Eisenhower's use of the word 'sin':

"None of Eisenhower's subsequent calls to prayer mentioned sin again. The word was not compatible with the Commander-in-Chief's vision of a proud and confident people…  Since 1953, no President has mentioned sin as a national failing." (Whatever Became of Sin, p. 14-15)

Another wrong attitude toward sin which makes it impossible to repent is that attitude expressed in these words: "I feel stupid asking God to forgive me for what I have done, for I know I will turn around and do it again". Those were the words of a young lady with whom I talked on the phone when taking a religious survey. She felt that sin was unavoidable and necessary, and to ask God to forgive her would be hypocritical! In her conversation she revealed to me three wrong attitudes toward sin which made repentance impossible for her. (1) She talked of her pleasures while sinning, failing to realize that there is only pleasure in sin 'for a season'. (2) She had no deep regret over the consequences of her sins, failing to see that whatever a person sows, that he shall morally reap. (3) She failed to see the terribleness of sin, that it was sin which crucified the most beautiful life in the universe to a cross.

"Help me, Saviour, to deny neither the reality nor the seriousness of sin! Help me decisively to forsake sin in all forms and at all times! Save me from my sins, not in my sins!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In my life, the serpent-hissing word 'Sin' must confront the irresistibly powerful word 'Saviour'. When sin abounds, the Saviour super-abounds in my life! Glory!

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Luke 9:57-62

Half Conversion Or Whole Conversion?

There are, what might be called, half-conversions. That is, there are persons who are partly or temporarily changed in their behavior, but who have never really experienced a divinely-wrought transformation. Some people save face by substituting religious activities for genuine repentance. "It is doing religious acts in order to avoid an authentic return to God. It is not outright hypocrisy; it is not a deliberate outward show to convince others of religiosity. It is primarily an effort to convince oneself that he is right with God." (The Psychology of Christian Experience, Mavis, p, 13) Some substitute membership in a church or baptism or participation in the Lord's Supper or congregational confession for personal repentance. Writes E. Stanley Jones, "Many today are converted to phenomena surrounding Christianity, the music, the architecture, the ritual, the eloquence of the preacher, the standing it gives one in a community to be a member of the church, the keeping up of mores from generation to generation–it's the thing to do–and other such phenomena surrounding the Christian movement. But there is no vital saving contact with this saving Person. It's all secondhand and marginal. It lacks luster and vitality. It's an echo instead of a voice. They have not given themselves, so no transformed self emerges… Half the church members are converted to phenomena and not to Christ–arrested conversions". (How To Be A Transformed Person, p. 79)

Some are half-hearted in their repentance because of the pain of facing themselves honestly. Because repentance involves honest reflection upon one's sinful nature, repentance usually is discomforting to ones self image. It is easy to concentrate on ones good, but difficult to face the fact of ones sinful nature and sinful practices.

One who is half-hearted in his repentance is one who "seeks to make a compromised settlement of his life with God in which the Almighty receives certain areas for control while he himself retains others… He becomes Christian partially on the basis of a conditioned commitment. 'I will follow thee; but let me first go… '(Luke 9:61)… The man with a divided heart loves God and he also resents Him. He esteems the eternal principles of righteousness, but he also has a practical regard for 'realism'. He seeks to belong to both the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world". (The Psychology of Christian Experience, Mavis, p. 16-17)

"The fear of the herd is the greatest single thing producing arrested conversions and a dead Christianity. Said a herd-bound soul to a released soul, 'Catherine, I admire your convictions, but why don't you have convictions like the rest of us?'. In other words, 'Why don't you be herd-centered instead of Christ-centered?'." (How To Be A Transformed Person, E.S. Jones, p. 81)

"Lord, don't allow me to substitute religious ritual for real repentance! Deliver me from my tendency to rationalize my sinful behavior. Help me to confess honestly and whole-heartedly!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'Realism' demands that I realistically face my sins, radically forsake my sins, and readily turn to my Saviour!

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Ezekiel 33:7-16

Importance Of Repentance

"It is upon the rock of halfwayness that most conversions go to pieces when they fail. We don't repudiate our faith; we reduce it to conformity with the crowd. The salt loses its savor, its distinctiveness, and for that reason is cast out and trodden under the feet of men. Men despise the people who are half-and-half, and God can't tolerate them either… if there is no outer difference between you and the world, depend on it, there is no inner difference." (How To Be A Transformed Person, E.S. Jones, p. 82)

God's call to His people in the Old Testament was repentance: "Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?". (Ezekiel 33:11)

The purpose for which Christ came (Luke 5:32), and the central message of the Gospel (Acts 3:19) is that men must repent and turn to God if they are to live. God's absolute requirement for salvation is repentance: "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent". (Acts 17:30 b)

"The word (repent) originally meant an 'afterthought', a second thought. Often a second thought shows that the first thought was wrong; and so the word came to mean 'a change of mind', but if a man is an honest man, a change of mind demands 'a change of action'. Repentance must involve both change of mind and change of action. A man may change his mind and come to see that his actions were wrong, but he may be so much in love with his old ways that he does not change his ways. A man may change his ways, but his mind may remain exactly the same. He may only change because of fear or because of prudential motives; his heart still loves the old ways and, if the chance comes, he will relapse into them. True repentance involves a change of mind and a change of action." (The Daily Study Bible, Acts, William Barclay, p. 24)

Remorse is mere sorrow because of the consequences of sin. Repentance is a godly sorrow over the sin itself, with a sincere desire to change ones life. "A Negro went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and when asked, 'So you want to get rid of drink!' replied, 'Not necessarily, I want to get rid of the thing it do'. He wanted a half-conversion with a whole result." (How To Be A Transformed Person, E.S. Jones, p, 79) True repentance means hating sin, accepting full moral responsibility for one's sinful actions, and turning completely to Christ for forgiveness and new life.

Repentance and faith must work together if true conversion is to result. Repentance is the proper attitude toward your sin, and faith is the proper attitude toward your Redeemer. Faith is putting yourself in the care of Christ who is able to change your life. Faith is a transfer of trust for salvation from yourself to Christ, who alone can save you!

"I change my mind about sin. I see now that the pleasures of sin last only for 'one season'. I change my direction in life. I see now that there is a way that seems right to men, but the end of that way is death!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Honesty demands that I must repent fully if I expect to be changed totally!

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Matthew 3:1-12

Relationship Between Faith And Repentance

To become a Christian, one must be awakened to his true spiritual condition without Christ. Further, one must repent of his sins and exercise true saving faith.

Repentance and faith are two sides of one coin or two halves of one whole. Repentance should always be inseparably coupled with faith. Repentance is forsaking sin, and faith is turning to the Saviour. The moment one forsakes sin, he must turn to the Saviour, for sin can only loose its grip on one's life when one surrenders himself to the stronger hold of the Saviour!

One is saved by faith. Faith is a transfer of trust from one's self to one's Saviour. Saving faith is always accompanied by genuine repentance. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin. Faith is a change of attitude toward the Saviour, from one of rejection to one of acceptance and surrender.

Says Wesley, concerning the relationship between repentance and the fruits of repentance: "God does undoubtedly command us both to repent, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance; which if we willingly neglect, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all; therefore both repentance, and fruits meet for repentance, are in some sense, necessary to justification. But they are not necessary in the same sense with faith, nor in the same degree. Not in the same degree; for those fruits are only necessary conditionally; if there be time and opportunity for them. Otherwise a man may be justified without them, as was the thief upon the cross". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 387)

If repentance is turning from sin, then faith is turning to God. Saving faith is "putting yourself in the care of One who can do something. It is a transfer of trust for salvation from self to Christ". (Stanley Walters)

Saving faith is more than a mere intellectual assent to the existence of God. James wrote, "You say that you believe that there is one God. Excellent! The demons also believe the same thing–and shudder in terror", (James 2:19, Barclay) The devil knows that Jesus is the Son of God, and even trembles on account of this belief, but the devil is still the devil!

Faith is the total commitment of one's total self to Christ. Faith is "not merely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head; but also a disposition of the heart". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 14)

Faith is throwing yourself upon God, like a drowning man throws himself upon the strength of the lifeguard. Only when one ceases to struggle and abandons himself to the Divine Lifeguard, is he saved.

"Help me to prove to You, O God, and to myself, and to others, that I have truly repented of my sins, by doing good deeds that befit repentance!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Turning from sin, I turn to the Saviour who, in turn, leads me to service. Conviction will lead me to conversion, sadness will lead me to gladness!

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Romans 10:1-7

What Is Saving Faith?

Everyone has faith. One cannot live one day without exercising faith–faith that the driver you meet on the highway will stay on his side, faith that your employer will pay your salary at the end of the pay period, faith that your wife will not sprinkle poison on your food, faith that the sun will 'rise' in the morning, etc. Everyone has faith in someone or something. But the object of one's faith determines the value of one's faith.

The object of the sinner's faith must be Jesus Christ. Christ is perfectly trustworthy. "How did you like the airplane ride?" was asked of a nervous man who went up for the first time. "Very well," he replied, "but I never did put my whole weight down!" Faith means putting your whole weight down on God!

Says John Murray, "Faith is not the act of God; it is not God who believes in Christ for salvation; it is the sinner. It is by God's grace that a person is able to believe, but faith is an activity on the part of the person and of him alone. In faith we receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation… Faith is a whole-souled movement of self-commitment to Christ for salvation from sin and its consequences". (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 106-107)

Some say that it makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you are sincere. But one can be sincerely wrong! To place faith in an unreliable object (regardless of your sincerity) will result in a tragic outcome!

The Scriptures make it clear that one is saved by faith, not by his own works. Notes Wesley, "Indeed, strictly speaking, the covenant of grace doth not require us to do anything at all, as absolutely and indispensably necessary, in order to our justification; but only to believe in Him, who, for the sake of his Son, and the propitiation which he hath made, 'justifieth the ungodly, that worketh not', and imputes his faith to him for righteousness". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 55)

Faith is self-abandonment to God and rejection of all attempts at works of self-righteousness. There are some who feel they must improve themselves or their actions before coming to God. Some say, "I must first do this; I must first conquer every sin; break off every evil word and work, and do all good to all men; or I must first go to church, receive the Lord's supper, hear more sermons and say more prayers". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 59)

"Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not waste God's gift of faith to me. I will exercise it responsibly, and as a result be saved decisively! Because the object of my faith is Christ, the value of my faith is incalculable!

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Isaiah 64:6, Ephesians 2:1-10

How Is Man Saved?

How is man saved? "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB)

Says Wesley, "If thou couldest now do all things well, if from this very hour, till thy soul should return to God, thou couldest perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, even this would not atone for what is past … But suppose perfect obedience, for the time to come, could atone for the sins that are past, this would profit thee nothing; for thou art not able to perform it; no, not in anyone point". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 66)

The one who attempts to bargain with God and who feels that he can keep his side of the contract, soon learns how weak and corrupted he really is. He who attempts to practice the Christian virtues on his own strength, will end the experiment in despair. True faith involves a recognition of man's weak and sinful creatureship, and a resulting total dependence upon the all-together Holy Creator. "If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and saying, 'Daddy, give me six-pence to buy you a birthday present'. Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction." (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 125) Faith means that man cannot earn God's favor by giving God a gift. Faith is rather total abandonment to God in love, realizing that God is the total owner of all and that man is the grateful recipient of all.

John Murray says that faith is three things–knowledge, conviction, and trust. Before one puts faith in anything, he must have confidence in the character of the thing. "We must know who Christ is, what he has done, and what he is able to do. Otherwise, faith would be blind conjecture at the best and foolist mockery at the worst." (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 110) We must not only know the facts about Christ, but we must truly believe the facts to be true. We must not only intellectually know the facts about the Cross, but we must volitionally commit ourselves to those facts. If we have a strong conviction that the facts are true, then we will commit our total being to Christ. It is only when this last step is taken–the step of full commitment–that we have exercised the kind of faith that saves from sin and saves for heaven! We have come to rely upon Christ alone for salvation!

"O Christ, you are together trustworthy in your character, and faithful to your promises. Abandoning all hope for salvation in myself, I cast myself helplessly and hopefully into your mighty arms!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I make a 'leap of faith', I am not leaping into the dark, but into the light of God's everlasting love!

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Discussion Questions On 'How Do You Become a Christian?'

  1. What are four stages that one must take in order to establish a warm human relationship, and how are each of these four stages like the stages that one takes in establishing a meaningful relationship with God?

  2. Relating to one's quest for God, what is meant by the phrase "valley of decision"? What are some of the characteristics of persons who are in the "valley of decision"?

  3. What does it mean "to count the cost" to determine if one wishes to follow Christ?

  4. In your own personal life, what are some of the factors that influenced you (or that are now influencing you) to make a decision to follow Christ?

  5. What is your definition of "Saving Faith"? How is one's inner decision to follow Christ outwardly manifested and demonstrated?

  6. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Don't think that if you don't belong to Christ you are free. Nobody is free. We are free only to choose our own masters. It is Christ or something else, that will rule us".

  7. When one gives himself to Christ in total surrender, what are some of the gifts and benefits that one receives from Christ?

  8. What does the doctrine of universalism teach regarding salvation? What is the proper relationship between the 'subjective' and the 'objective' aspects in salvation?

  9. List the three conditions that a sinner must meet in order to be converted.

  10. How would you describe 'awakening' in a sinner's life, and who is the Agent of  'awakening'?

  11. What are some of the misconceptions regarding repentance? What are the characteristics of true repentance? According to John Murray, repentance involves a change of mind in what four areas? Why is the Prodigal Son (as seen in Jesus' parable) such a good example of true repentance?

  12. What is the relationship between repentance and confession of sin?

  13. List and describe some of the various obstacles to true repentance.

  14. Cite examples of people whom you have known or have observed who have denied the very existence of sin. What rationalizations have these people engaged in, to explain away sin?

  15. What is generally the motivation of people who substitute religious activities for genuine repentance?

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    Discussion Questions On 'How Do You Become a Christian?'(continued)

  16. Name some of the 'phenomena' to which people are converted as substitutes for being converted to Christ.

  17. What are some other reasons why some people have stopped short of experiencing genuine repentance?

  18. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'Realism' demands that I realistically face my sins, radically forsake my sins, and readily turn to my Saviour!"

  19. What are the outward evidences of an inward work of God's grace in a person's life, as a result of genuine repentance?

  20. Cite Scriptural references to support the assertion that there can be no conversion without the exercise of genuine repentance.

  21. Does true repentance involve both a change of mind and a change of actions? Why or why not?

  22. What is the difference between repentance and remorse?

  23. What is the relationship between faith and repentance?

  24. Is "Saving Faith" more than an intellectual assent to the basic truths of Christianity (James 2:19)?

  25. Explain what is meant by the statement: "The object of one's faith determines the value of one's faith".

  26. Describe some of the indispensable characteristics of  "Saving Faith".

  27. Do you believe that the following is an adequate definition of "Saving Faith": "Faith is a whole-souled movement of self-commitment to Christ for salvation from sin and its consequences".

  28. What is the relationship between faith and good works as these relate to conditions for salvation and evidence of salvation?

  29. Is there anything that man can do to earn, purchase or deserve God's salvation? Why or why not?

  30. What three things, according to John Murray, are involved in experiencing true saving faith? Show the interrelationships between these three things.

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What Happens When I Become a Christian?

What Happens When I Become A Christian?

Chapter Four

What Happens When I Become A Christian?
Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!' 45 Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings 53
God Can Declare Man Righteous! 46 Chosen To Be Holy And Blameless! 54
"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!" 47 Destined To Be Sons! 55
Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness 48 Enlightened And Enlivened People 56
The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life! 49 Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit! 57
"I Felf Clean Inside" 50 Discussion Questions 58
"I Am Easier To Live With" 51 Discussion Questions (continued) 59
"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"   52    

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!'

What happens when I become a Christian? This is the question we must try to answer. Among the words that described God's salvation of man, two words are prominent: Justification and Regeneration. These are the gifts of God given to the sinner who exercises saving faith in Christ. Each is given simultaneously, but each describes a definite aspect of Christ's saving work. We must spend a few days looking at these two great words.

Someone said that when God justifies the sinner, He treats the sinner just as if he had never sinned! Justification is a legal concept, concerned with the legal status of the believer. The great frequency with which the Scriptures discuss justification, show that the Scriptures put great emphasis upon the idea of 'Law'.

'Justify' in the New Testament sense of the word does not mean to prove a person righteous, but rather it means to treat, to account or to reckon a person as righteous. Justification in the New Testament means "to acquit" or "to pronounce just or righteous". There are four things which can be said about Justification.

First, in considering justification, it is important to realize the seriousness and sacredness of God's Law. God requires that man should live in accordance with His Law. "Moreover, it is part of the very nature of law as we know it that it attaches penalties to the breaking of the law, and in this respect the scriptural law is no exception. Again and again we are told that God views the breaking of the law with the gravest displeasure, that His wrath is extended towards the sinner, and that none can expect immunity, for there is no respect of persons with Him." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Mooris, p. 294)

Second, God must honor His holy nature, and therefore cannot automatically and unconditionally pronounce forgiveness to all men. As P.T. Forsyth so well says, "God could not trifle with His own holiness. He could will nothing against His holy nature, and He could not abolish the judgement bound up with it. Nothing in the compass of the divine nature could enable Him to abolish a moral law, the law of holiness. That would be tampering with His own soul. It had to be dealt with. Is the law of God more loose than the law of society? Can it be taken liberties with, played with, and put aside at the impulse even of love? How little we should come to think of God's love if that were possible… God's holy law is His own holy nature. His love is under the condition of eternal respect. It is quite unchangeable". (Ibid, p. 294)

"O God, how can you treat me as a child to be loved when I deserve to be treated as a criminal to be obliterated? How can you save me, a sinner, and at the same time honor Your own holiness? Only one way! If You, O God, take upon yourself the punishment that a criminal and a sinner deserve! Only the perfectly just can justify the totally unjust!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God respected His justice enough to punish sin, in the person of His exalted Son. God loved His mercy enough to forgive sin, in the persons of His fallen sons! I am perfectly accepted in the perfectly acceptable One!

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Romans 3:24-28, Romans 4:5

God Can Declare Man Righteous!

We are trying to understand the meaning of Justification. Third, Jesus suffered for man's sin and in turn gave man a borrowed righteousness. The substitutionary death of Christ must be taken account of, if we are properly to understand the true significance and possibility of justification. God takes into account that Christ suffered for man's sin and thus, God is able to forgive mankind of its own sin. Yet, because of Christ's substitutionary death, God is able to honor His own law of holiness. God's law must be vindicated; sin must be punished. Christ took the punishment of sin and thus the demands of God's law were satisfied. In fact, because Christ has died for man's sins, God must forgive man. God acts righteously or justly in that He honors the substitutionary death of Christ, and dealing righteously, God is therefore Obligated to forgive man. God forgives and yet He maintains the integrity of His character, simply because God, as a righteous Judge, cannot overlook the work of His Son on Calvary. "Even (God's) act of forgiveness which might be thought of as an act of mercy is seen to be also an act of righteousness." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Maoris, p. 273)

At the same time that God, for Christ's sake, forgives man's sins, Christ bestows upon man a borrowed righteousness. The borrowed righteousness which man enjoys is given to man by God, and is the basis of man's justification. The righteousness which man enjoys must be appropriated by faith. It is not the faith itself (the activity of man) which justifies man; it is Christ's borrowed righteousness (the activity and gift of God) that is the basis of man's justification. God looks upon the borrowed righteousness, and acquits man and judges him as righteous. God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy a borrowed righteousness.

Fourth, the work of Christ's atonement enables God to declare man as righteous. God can declare man as righteous because God constitutes man as righteous by giving to man the righteousness of Christ. "God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all… That means that to be justified is to enter into a new relationship with God, a relationship of love and confidence and friendship, instead of a relationship of distance and enmity and fear… He is not in this right relationship because he has meticulously performed the works of the law. He is in it because in utter faith he has cast himself on this amazing mercy and love of God." (The Daily Study Bible, Romans, William Barclay, p. 13-14)

"What a sense of relief to know that I need not prove myself righteous (which I can't because of my sinful life), but that you treat me as righteous (which you can because of Christ's righteous death)! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By placing faith in Christ, I become hid in Christ, and as a result, God no longer looks at my sinful life, but at Christ's perfect life. By becoming hid in Christ, I am found in God!

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Ephesians 1:1-7, 1 John 3:1-3

"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!"

We have said that when God justifies a sinner, He treats him as if he had never sinned! God is able to declare the sinner as righteous, not because the sinner is at all righteous, but because Christ is righteous and the sinner, who puts faith in Christ, is hid in Christ. We are accepted in God's beloved Son.

"At the court of kings there was an official called the prosagogeus, the introducer, the giver of access, and it was his function to decide who should be admitted to the king's presence, and who should be kept out. He, as it were, held the keys of access. That is to say, it is Jesus Christ, through what He did, who brings men into the presence of God, who gives them access to God, who opens the way to God." (The Daily Study Bible, Peter, William Barclay, p. 278)

"A minister was on a train, the only occupant of the coach except a young man who seemed very ill at ease. The young man would sit in one seat and then get up and go to another, take up a book and drop it again. The minister went over to him, sat down beside him, and asked what was the matter. The boy shut up like a clam. But at last the dam broke, and he told his story:  "I've run away from home, and I've been away a long time. I've wanted to go back, and I wrote my father asking if he would take me back. But there has been no reply. So I have written my mother and told her that I am not going to wait for a reply, that I am coming home, and that If they will take me back she must hang a white rag on the crab-apple tree, down near the railroad tracks, so that I can see it when the train goes by. If I do not see the white rag, I shall understand and go on by. We are getting near and I am afraid to look–afraid the white rag won't be there'. The minister told the lad that he needn't look, that he would look for him. The boy sat with his eyes closed, the hand of the minister on his knee. As they drew near to where the tree was, the hand of the minster closed tight on the boy's knee, and he said, 'My boy, there is a white rag on every limb of that tree!'."

The Cross upon which Jesus died is covered, as it were, with white rags–the rags of reconciliation. God accepts us as friends, not as enemies, because of what Christ has done on the Cross. "And you yourselves, who were strangers to God, and in fact, through the evil things you had done, his spiritual enemies, he has now reconciled through the death of his body on the cross, so that he might welcome you to his presence clean and pure, without blame or reproach." (Colossians 1:21-22, Phillips)

"I come to you, most holy God, with no confidence in my own righteousness, but with full confidence in the Christ of the empty cross!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can come boldly into the presence of God for I carry on my heart the blood of the reconciling Saviour!

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Romans 8:8-17

Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness

What is the difference between justification and regeneration? Justification refers to a Christian's changed status with God. Regeneration refers to a Christian's changed nature. "Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgement of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does–he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly." (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, p. 121)

When a person receives Christ into his life, he is made a new person. Regeneration means a sense of newness, and while the actual word is seldom used in the New Testament to denote personal salvation, the concept is implied by a variety of terms and metaphors in the New Testament. Let us look at some of those metaphors, all of which denote newness of life or regeneration.

Becoming a Christian is like passing from darkness to light. Paul received a commission from God to turn men "from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins". (Acts 26:18 RSV) One college girl expressed her experience of Christ in these words: "I felt that I had swallowed sunshine!".

Becoming a Christian is like freedom from slavery. Wrote Paul, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship". (Romans 8:15) Wrote one man after he found Christ, "He lifted me out of the dungeon… I was truly free".

Becoming a Christian is like passing from death to life or like experiencing a resurrection unto life. Wrote Paul, "But God is so rich in mercy; He loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, He gave us back our lives again when He raised Christ from the dead–only by His undeserved favor have we ever been saved–and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with Him in the heavenly realms–all because of what Christ Jesus did". (Ephesians 2:4-6) "You see how your old, evil nature died with Him and was buried with Him; and then you came up out of death with Him into a new life because you trusted the Word of the mighty God who raised Christ from the dead." (Colossians 2:12, Living Bible)

Justification establishes a person in a right relationship with God and regeneration gives an inward newness of life to the sinner. Both are the gifts of God and are simultaneously given when man exercises saving faith in Christ. Have you exercised saving faith in Christ? Are you enjoying these wonderful gifts of God? If not, why not?

"O God, give me light for my darkness, freedom for my slavery, hope for my despair, life for my death! Make me a new creation in Christ Jesus!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is not calling me to be a better person; He is calling me to be a new person! God's grace alone can make me new!

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2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:21-24

The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life!

We are looking at those metaphors which describe God's gift of regeneration.

Becoming a Christian is called a New Birth. "Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we men have been born again in a life full of hope, through Christ's rising again from the dead!" (1 Peter 1:3, Phillips) "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 RSV) Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". (John 3:5) 'Water' refers to the purification from sinful pollution, and 'Spirit' refers to inner newness of life brought about by the activity of the Holy Spirit. New Testament teaching has its counterpart in the Old Testament: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh". (Ezekiel 36:25-26)

Becoming a Christian is called a New Creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17 RSV) (See Ephesians 4:21-24 in the Living Bible.)

Becoming a Christian means becoming qualitatively different–becoming a real person. Says Maurice Bernett, "The basic concept is that the Christian life is a completely new life. It is as different from anything that went before as is the 1ife of man from the 1ife of a sponge. Our modern tendency has been to stress the fact that when a man becomes a Christian it need not make so very much difference, especially in our 'decent society'. We have presumed that because a fellow lives in a society that is flavoured with certain Christian ideals he is therefore a Christian, for after all he exhibits certain Christian tendencies. How utterly absurd. As though my liking for Chinese food makes me into a Chinaman… It is vitally important to announce this for… there are those who do not think there is much difference in these days between the decent, likeable pagan and the Christian. They should mark the difference as the New Testament writers saw it. The easiest thing to do is to dismiss the New Testament metaphors as exaggerations. The fact of the matter is we have never really discovered what is being offered. We have been content with a sham, a farce, a fake, watering down our Christianity and being content with an anemic substitute. Thus we know about Christianity, we sing about it, but plod along with religious burden often unchanged and uninfluenced, miserable because of the unreality of our dreams".

"God, give me the 'vision which transforms'–the vision of your holiness in contrast to my sinfulness, and the vision of your transforming power in contrast to my moral impotence."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow my potential to be determined by the possibilities of divine Grace, not by the limitations of human sinfulness!

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Titus 3:3-8

"I Felt Clean Inside"

Out of large numbers of converts who were saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, about 2000 of these converts were asked to tell what happened when they became a Christian. The following five statements were more often given as answers to what happened when they were converted than any other answers:

First, "I felt clean inside". Sin blackens the soul morally, but Christ comes to the soul of the repentant one to cleanse from the guilt and pollution of sin. "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Paul wrote to Titus, "Then He saved us–not because we were good enough to be saved, but because of His kindness and pity–by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit", (Living Bible)

"A woman who had gone through the mazes of psychiatrical analysis and had been left rather picked to pieces without a synthesis, experienced this change and described it this way: 'I feel all clean within. All the old hymns about cleansing which I had laid aside as outworn superstition have come back. I find myself singing them again'." (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35)

Second, "I found peace of mind". Sin causes man to be at enmity with God. Christ has come to speak peace to the restless soul of man. Augustine talked about "our hearts being restless till they rest in Thee". Baron von Hugel has put it this way: "the passion and hunger for God come from God, and God answers it with Christ".

One lonely man in a hotel who was getting ready to pull the trigger of a gun to blow his brains out, reached for a radio dial and the speaker said, "Put down that gun! That is no solution for your problems". The man was shocked into reality and fell on his knees before God and found peace for his troubled soul.

One tragic result of sin is that it drives man from God into hiding. Christ has come to reconcile man to himself–to make peace with man. In one of his books, Barclay recalls the story of an architect who came to Plato and offered for a certain sum of money to build him a house into which none of the rooms would it be possible to see. Plato said, "I will give you double the money to build a house into every room of which everyone can see". (The Daily Study Bible, John, William Barclay, Vol. 1, p. 131) The peaceful mind is the transparent and integrated mind–transparent to all because it is cleansed by Christ's blood!

Paul's favorite title for God is the God of Peace. Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good!

"God of peace, impart peace to my troubled mind. God of holiness, impart cleansing to my polluted soul. God of love, shed abroad your love in my loveless heart! God of the New, make me a new creation! Thank you. A thousand times, thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY:  My passion for God is created by God and is satisfied with God!

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Acts 26:1-20

"I Am Easier To Live With"

Third, "I was able to overcome vicious habits". One of the tragic characteristics of sin is that one sin leads to more sins. A practice which may appear relatively harmless can lead to a vicious habit. Sin makes a man a slave to its harsh tyranny. Christ has come to break the power of sin and to set the captive free! Christ enables a man to overcome a vicious habit!

"In London, England," writes Billy Graham, "an alcoholic was placed under the care of a psychiatrist who soon gave up because the alcoholic was getting no better. During our meetings at the Harringay Arena, the alcoholic was invited to attend. He listened in wonderment to the Gospel messages. 'Maybe there is some hope for me', he thought. One night when the invitation was given, he went forward with several others. He was converted, and new power came into his life. That night before he went to sleep, he reached as usual for the nearby bottle of liquor; but something–or rather, Someone–restrained his hand. Getting out of bed, he took the bottle and emptied it down the drain. When he awakened in the morning, through habit he reached again for his usual morning bracer. It was not there, but there was no sense of disappointment. The man called his psychiatrist and said, 'You have lost a patient. Christ has saved me from drink. I am now a new man'. The psychiatrist said: 'That sounds fine. Maybe I can find help where you found it. I am not an alcoholic, but I have my own needs and problems'. The psychiatrist began, too, to attend the meetings and he, too, accepted Christ as his Saviour." (World Aflame, p. 145-146)

Fourth, "I am easier to 1ive with". One of the tragic results of sin is that sin not only makes the life of the transgressor miserable, but sin also makes the lives of those who are intimately associated with the transgressor miserable. The fruits of sin are hatred, fighting, jealousy, anger, complaints, criticisms, and selfishness which is the "constant effort to get the best for yourself'". (Galatians 5:20, Living Bible) Christ has come to replace these evil traits with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These God-given qualities make a person much easier to live with. Christ has come to make a person winsome and gracious, He has come to build strong and lasting relationships.

"The biggest grouch of a certain city called up a friend over the long distance telephone and said, 'Everybody is changed in _________ after that meeting in the high school with Stanley Jones last night. Everybody is different this morning. Of course, it may be that only I am different, but everybody seems different'." (Abundant Living, E.S. Jones, p. 35)

"O God, because I am powerless to break my unholy habits, I come to you for deliverance from sin's power. Heal my will that I may develop holy habits! In Jesus' powerful name!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The way of the transgressor is hard, for Man is not made to transgress! `I am made for holy living!

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Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Peter 1:8

"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"

Fifth, "I am happy for the first time in my life". Sin brings misery and despair. "The way of transgressors is hard." (Proverbs 13:15 b) Christ has come to give real joy and happiness to man. Jesus said to his disciples, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full". (John 15:11)

Christ has come to the human race to change the long face and to remove the depressed outlook on life. Christ has come to give us Life–Abundant Life! One man called a Negro man to a train window and said, "Uncle, is there anybody in this town enjoying religion?". The old Negro replied, "Them's that's got it is". (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35) Those who genuinely have Christ have genuine joy! "Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20 b)

"In the third century, Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend Donatus: 'It is a bad world, Conatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people Donatus, are Christians… and I am one of them'." (Quoted in World Aflame, Billy Graham, p. 139)

Once when I was travelling to an annual Bible Camp meeting, I visited with a man–a simple and uneducated man–who was all aglow with the joy of God. This man told me of his former and miserable life of drunkenness. His wife had left him and he went through several struggles. But God had transformed him and his testimony rang with certainty and joy. He bubbled over with enthusiasm as we rode together to camp. The joy and happiness that he found in Christ was indescribable. He was experiencing the joy of the Lord–joy that was 'unspeakable and full of glory'!

The joy that Christ gives is not dependent upon one's external circumstances. A young woman who became a Christian, lost her husband in an accident, and yet this did not rob her of her joy. Writing about a spiritually needy friend, she said, "I do wish I could share all the joy in my heart with her. She deserves it, and I have enough for ten people!". (Prayer and Life's Highest, Paul Rees, p. 79)

In the journal of a young convert of thirteen were found these words: "Oh, that I had a voice that would reach all the world. I would tell them how happy I am". (Living In Two Worlds, Mary Alice Tenney, p. 72)

"O God, your holiness is my happiness, your presence is my power, your glory is my goal! When your smile of approval rests upon me, I laugh with a holy joy!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God wills that I be truly happy; therefore, I will "rejoice evermore with joy unspeakeble".

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Ephesians 1:1-14

Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings

Have you ever got so excited about something as you were relating your experience to someone else, that your mind got ahead of your tongue? There was so much to tell and you could not find the words to communicate your excitement!

That is what often happened to the apostle Paul. Paul was so full of Christ and the riches of Christ that he could not contain himself. Paul's letters to the Churches were love letters to dear friends. Paul was so enraptured with the riches of spiritual blessings that, in his attempt to communicate these blessings, he piled descriptive phrase upon descriptive phrase. From verse 3 through verse 14 of Ephesians 1, there is no period in the original Greek language. It is one sentence! Paul's mind races from one spiritual truth to another, as he becomes lost in 'Wonder, love, and praise'. It is not a logical statement, but a lyrical song of praise.

During the next few days I would like for us to imagine that we are aboard a spiritual airplane. There is a mighty range of spiritual mountains, with towering mountain peaks of various heights to look upon as we fly above the range. Just as a plane flies quickly over a number of mountain peaks in a relatively short time, so I would like for us to get an airplane view of some of the great mountain peaks of spiritual blessing which Paul puts before our view in Ephesians, chapter one.

To glance at the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings is to break out into a shout with Paul, and declare: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places". (verse 3)

As we 'fly' above the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings, get all excited about your spiritual heritage as a believer!

During the next few days, we will learn anew how blessed it is to be God's people. How does Ephesians One describe God's people? They are (1) Chosen People, (2) Destined People, (3) Redeemed People, (4) Forgiven People, (5) Enlightened People, (6) Enlivened People, (7) Hopeful People, (8) Empowered People.

As one who has repented of your sins and transferred your faith from yourself to Jesus Christ as your saviour, you have a right to claim your spiritual heritage! Your aspirations toward effective living are fulfilled through the 'working of God's great might'. You are a child of the King, so learn to enjoy your privileges of royalty!

"O God, open my eyes that I may see the unspeakably wonderful blessings which you wish to share with me! I am rich in Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The bitter experience of repentance leads me to the blessed experience of enjoying heavenly blessings!

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Ephesians 1:3-4

Chosen To be Holy And Blameless!

Writes Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him". (Ephesians 1:3-4) Wonder of it all is that God would choose sinful man! The Infinite choosing of the finite; the all-powerful choosing the very weak! The righteous choosing the sinful! God took the initiative to choose to save humanity. Said Jesus, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you". (John 15:16)

It has been said, "Many are called but few are chosen, because few are choice". That is, God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group.

We are chosen to be 'holy'. Chosen for the purpose of separation from the world's values and standards. Believers are to stand out as different –with values of God controlling their behavior. This means that, as believers, we are never to look at people as means to our own selfish ends. We are never to look at people as things to be used, but instead as eternal beings to be served. The 'thingification' of persons is always the tragic result in a society that considers gadgets more important than God! Christians are chosen by God to restore compassion to relationships and value to persons! As God's chosen people, we are not chosen to be separated from sinners, but instead, separated from sin.

A chosen people must be a 'select' people, that is, a 'blameless' people. This term refers to the Old Testament animal sacrifice which could only be offered to God if no blemishes were found in it. The animal must be perfectly formed and healthy before it could be used to offer to God. The offering of our lives–be it our home life, our personal life, our recreational life or our work life–must be the best possible. A chosen person must be a person who is willing to undergo the very scrutiny of God! Perfection in love and blamelessness in behavior is the high goal of Chosen People. It is a great blessing to be a chosen person, but with that privilege comes a great responsibility to be holy and blameless.

So the first description of a Christian's spiritual heritage is given in Ephesians 1:3-4. A Christian is a chosen person. Not only chosen, but also destined (verses Ephesians 1:5-6). To this we must next turn.

"O God, like you, enable me to be separate from sin, but never separated from sinners. I cannot be faultless in behavior, but enable me to be blameless in love. For Jesus' sake! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who chooses me to be holy will cleanse me to live a holy life!

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Ephesians 1:5-7

Destined To Be Sons!

Secondly, Christians are Destined People. "He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6) Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us as His children! The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every person! God claims the right to be our Father, and we as His children! God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! David asked in wonderment, "What is man that thou art even mindful of him, O God?". But we can ask with equal wonderment, "What is man that thou, O God, art willing to make him a son of the living God, through special adoption? Through that adoption, our sins are cancelled out and we are made a part of God's wonderful family!

Third, Christians are Redeemed People. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:7-8) The meaning of redemption is "to loose'. Man is in bondage to sin by reason of his own sinful nature and by reason of his own willful choice. Man is unable to free himself from the terrible bondage of sin. The man without Christ feels like crying out, "Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?" (Romans 7:24) It is Christ's death that loosed men from the bondage to sin. Christ's death appeased the wrath of God, and at the same time, demonstrated the love of God for sinners. Christ's resurrection revealed God's power–a power so great that sin's chains could be broken! Christ's death was the substitutionary price of redemption, and Christ's resurrection was the availing power to set the sinner free!

Fourth, Christians are Forgiven People. "We have forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us." Guilt drains away vitality, causes mental and physical distress, marks the face, and scars the soul. Shakespeare described the terrible plague of a guilty conscience:

"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings 
in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villian.

But "as far as the east is from the west, so far hath God removed our transgressions from us".

"Dare to believe that I am a redeemed and forgiven soul, a soul whose sins are buried in the sea of God's forgetfulness, never to be remembered against me again! In Christ, my dreams become realities! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Loosed from the chains of sin, I shall forever be chained to the heart of God!

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Ephesians 1:9-12

Enlightened And Enlivened People

Fifth, Christians are Enlightened People. "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a, plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10) The mystery or secret of God has been gloriously revealed to Christians. What is that secret? Very simply, yet profoundly, the secret is this: All of nature and all of humanity will be unified and redeemed in Christ! God is sovereign and He will make even the wrath of men to praise Him! Evil will not triumph! Rather, good and justice will have the final word! Right will be rewarded; evil will be punished! The godly will be saved; the ungodly shall perish! God both wills and desires that all men come to repentance, but those who won't repent will be punished. All of nature and all of mankind will either willingly or unwillingly bow the knee to Christ and proclaim that He is Lord of lords!

"In olden times God did not share this plan with his people, but now he has revealed it by the Holy Spirit to his apostles and prophets. And this is the secret: that the Gentiles will have their full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's sons; both are invited to belong to his church, and all of God's promises of mighty blessings through Christ apply to them both when they accept the Good News about Christ and what He has done for them." (Ephesians 3:6, Living Bible)

Sixth, Christians are Enlivened People. "In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:11-12) The life that is fitting into God's master plan for history is the life that brings praise and honor and glory to the Saviour. What is God's master plan for history? To bring all things and all people into unity and fellowship around the feet of Jesus! Enlivened people are reconciling people. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Christian people should, of all people, be the most alive, for they are people of destiny, purpose. They know where history is going! "Stanley Jones said the awful events of earth did not disturb him because he knew 'how it will all come out'. Yes, of course. This is the secret of serenity in our work. The genuine Christian, in his depths, is not at sixes and sevens, for he knows that history has a goal divinely determined and that, whatever happens, Almighty God is moving redemptively to that great and grand goal." (The Minister's Ministries, Don Demaray, p. 20)

"O God, your perfect will is to save all humanity in Christ! Your permissive will is to allow those who reject Christ to live a Christless eternity! What you perfectly will–my total salvation–help me perfectly to realize! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's revealed plan gives me power to realize life's purpose–to be united in Christ!

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Ephesians 1:13-23

Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit!

Seventh, Christians are Hopeful People. "In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:14-15)

We have already seen that past mysteries are revealed and present life is enjoyed in Christ. Now we see that future riches are assured. The future for the Christian is as bright as the promises of God, and to guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an illusion of the mind, God has given us the promised Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit "is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it". (verse 14)

On October 23, 1975, Merlin Adamson, missionary to Africa for nearly 20 years, died at the young age of 48. He died at the height of his missionary career, a victim of cancer. He was my wife's cousin. Shortly after he died, my wife and I received a small note from his wife: "Of course, we miss Merlin so very much, but it is comforting to know that he is with the One who loves him even more than we do. Heaven seems so much closer now that he is there". It is the Holy Spirit who makes heaven's future treasures real to us now, giving us a foundation for our hope. The Holy Spirit is God's promise to us that lithe best is yet to be".

Eighth, Christians are Empowered People. You must read Ephesians 1:18-23 to better appreciate this. A group of students were asked if they thought Christianity was essentially a demand or an offer. How would you answer that question? After considerable thought, they realized that Christianity is an offer! God has promised that His grace is sufficient for every problem of life. God said that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul affirmatively met life with a resounding 'Yes' when he shouted, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Christ offers adequate resources to meet every crisis of life. Paul declared that we are 'more than conquerors' through Christ. Paul prayed for all believers that their spiritual eyes might be enlightened that they might see "the immeasurable greatness of God's power in us who believe", The power that works in the 1ife of the believer, is the same power that was best demonstrated in God's workings with Christ. God's power toward Christ resulted in (1) Christ's resurrection, (2) Christ's ascension, (3) Christ's dominion (militant victory), (4) Christ's headship over the church. That same mighty power works in you!

"God, send your hopeful Holy Spirit to inspire hope in my despairing soul. Send your powerful Holy Spirit to impart power to my weakened spirit. Send your inspiring Holy Spirit to cleanse my cloudy vision from earth's trivia, in order that I may see heaven's treasures alone!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God demands, He always provides. What God provides, I will receive–today!

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Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?'

  1. What does 'Justification', as used in the New Testament, basically mean?

  2. How does God view the breaking of His holy law by mankind?

  3. Why cannot God, out of the motivation of His eternal love, easily and quickly forgive mankind for breaking His holy law?

  4. How can the just character of God be maintained and, at the same time, unjust men be saved from the eternal damnation which their sins deserve? How is the substitutionary death of Christ an answer both to maintaining God's justice and demonstrating God's mercy? Why is God 'obligated' to forgive the sins of the genuinely repentant sinner?

  5. Discuss your understanding of the following statement: "God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy Christ's borrowed righteousness".

  6. On what basis can God declare and treat a sinner righteous? Because a repentant sinner enjoys the 'borrowed righteousness' of Christ, what privilege does such a person enjoy? (Note Colossians 1:21-22)

  7. What is the difference between justification and regeneration?

  8. List and describe some of the metaphors which are used in the New Testament to describe the concept of Regeneration.

  9. What is the difference between becoming a better person (human reformation), and becoming a new person (divinely-wrought transformation), as these concepts relate to motivation for change and quality of change in a human life? (What is the difference between being tolerant toward Christianity as a religion and being personally transformed by Christ as a Person?)

  10. Cite Biblical references that describe divinely-wrought transformation of a sinner in terms of 'cleansing'.

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Peace, according to the Biblical understanding, is not the mere absence of trouble, but it is the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good".

  12. What evidence, both from Scripture and from your own personal experience and observation, can you cite to demonstrate Christianity's claim that Christ is able to break bad habits and to make bad men good?

  13. What evidence is there that a person who is converted to Christ is easier to live with and easier to get along with?

  14. On what basis can a Christian be filled with joy, in spite of the changes and chances of life's circumstances?

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    Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?' (continued)

  15. God's people can be described in eight different ways, according to the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians. List those eight descriptions.

  16. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group". (Note Ephesians 1:3-4)

  17. For what purpose are persons chosen by God?

  18. To what are Christians destined (according to Ephesians 1:5-6), and why is such a destiny so amazing?

  19. What is the Biblical definition of 'Redemption' and how does this concept relate to God's people (according to Ephesians 1:7-8)? Why is an understanding of the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection essential to a proper understanding of the meaning of 'Redemption'?

  20. What are the consequences of Guilt, and what does God offer the guilt-ridden sinner?

  21. What is the 'secret' or 'mystery' of God which has now been revealed to God's enlightened people, according to Ephesians 1:9-10?

  22. What revealed knowledge is given to God's people that motivates them to be the most enlivened people on earth?

  23. What is the guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an 'illusion of the mind'? (Note Ephesians 1:14-15)

  24. Is Christianity essentially a demand or an offer? Explain your answer, and share Scriptural references to document your answer.

  25. The power that God demonstrated in Christ, is the same power that God makes available to believers. According to Ephesians 1:18-23, in what four ways was God's power demonstrated in His relationship to Christ?

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