21st Century Discipleship Resources

Teaching Extra 05 - New heart, new mind


Believing and following

An opening reading: Acts 16: 22 - 34

A. Becoming a Christian

There are various expressions used to describe the act of becoming a Christian. They include:

  • making a commitment to Christ

  • repenting of sin

  • being born again

  • becoming a disciple

  • believing in Christ

  • receiving Christ as Saviour

  • coming to know the Lord

  • asking Christ into your heart

  • making a decision for Christ

  • being converted

  • being saved

  • giving your life to Christ

All of these are different ways of referring to the same thing: the act of turning to Christ for the first time, like the jailer in Philippi, so that Christ really does become for us the one who unites us to God the Father. This is done in prayer either on our own or with someone present. Nobody can do it for us. In this session we explain what some of these terms mean.

B. What needs to happen

'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved' (Acts 16:31).

The essential ingredients in becoming a Christian are as follows:

1. Repentance

This means recognising that we are in need, that we have sinned against God and need to be forgiven. Sin involves two things: (a) sins, which are particular acts of wrongdoing contrary to the will of God for his creatures, and (b) sin, which is an attitude of the heart and means that we live without acknowledging the claim God has on us. Repentance means making a clean break with both sin and sins. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter said to the crowds: 'Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins' (Acts 2:38).

2. Faith

Repentance means turning away from sin. Faith is the act of placing our trust in Jesus Christ as the one who is able to save us and bring us to God. It involves both believing certain things about Christ and putting our trust in him as one who is alive and able to help us. We need to believe that:

  • God exists

  • Jesus is the way to the Father

  • Jesus has died for us and paid the penalty for our sins.

We need to believe in Jesus as:

  • the Saviour who is alive now

  • the mediator who can connect us with the Father

  • the one who has the power to change our lives and remake us.

3. Going public

'If you confess with your mouth that "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' (Romans 10:9). 'Then immediately he and all his family were baptised' (Acts 16:33).

When we have repented and believed in Christ, we should also make this openly known. This helps us to be even clearer about the step we have taken. It also helps others to know where we stand. In the New Testament, the standard way to make a public confession of personal faith was by being baptised.

4. God's response

When these essential ingredients are there, God forgives us, accepts us as his children and gives us the Holy Spirit to change us on the inside and bring us into a new spiritual life. We can then say we have been 'converted' (we have turned to God - 1 Thessalonians 1:9), we have been 'born again' (we have started a new life - John 3:3) and that we have been 'saved' (from sin and its power - Ephesians 2:8-9).

C. Can I be sure?

How do we know if we have really become Christians? In two ways:

1. If we have repented and believed, Christ has promised to receive us: 'Whoever comes to me I will never drive away' (John 6:37).

2. When the Holy Spirit lives within us, we are given a sense of inner certainty that we have been accepted: 'The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children' (Romans 8:16).