San Diego, California
Remember, all the help we shall ever get will be from above, not from this earth. Salvation is from God. Do you want to be a Christian? Would you like to be a Christian, but do not know how to begin?
The steps to Christ are few and plain and easy to understand, and we shall just turn to God’s Guidebook now for our information. What must one who would come to God do first of all? The answer is found in Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
1) We must believe God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. That’s the first step. But you say: “I don’t have faith. How can I get this faith in God?” Well, here’s the way as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” The word of God, then, as found in the Bible brings faith when we study it and receive it into our hearts. So begin at once to follow the Bible path.
2) Now we come to the second step, which leads us to a change of life. It is here in Romans 2:4: “Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?”
So the second step is repentance. First, belief in God; second, repentance. But you ask, “Are you sure God will forgive me?” The answer to that question is found in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We read the same thing in Exodus 34:6,7: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
So you see, our heavenly Father treats us better than we deserve.
So you see, our heavenly Father treats us better than we deserve. Yes, He desires to forgive us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16
That’s what God’s love and goodness led Him to do for us. So. first of all, we must believe in God. Then we must realize that we are sinners and repent. “Repent, then and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” — Acts 3:19
Now, no one is going to repent if he isn’t sorry for his sins. We read in 2 Corinthians 7:9: “Now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.” Repentance is simply being sorry for our sins and putting them away. It is not a sorrow for fear of punishment, but a hatred of the sin itself because we know it grieves the heart of God, whether or not we suffer for the sin here on earth. Is it natural for us, of our own selves, to repent? No. In Acts 5:31 we read: “God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”
You know, friends, conviction is not repentance. It is one thing to be awakened at five o’clock in the morning, but it is another thing to get up. It has been said, “Repentance is being so sorry for sin that you quit sinning.”
Across the great Zambezi River in Africa, just below the Victoria Falls, there is a great bridge spanning the chasm over the most terrible turmoil of waters on earth. It was built by engineers working from both sides of the river. They extended on through the single span until the two arms met above midstream, thus completing the bridge.
Repentance and faith are the arms of the bridge that enables us to pass from earth to heaven.
Repentance and faith are the arms of the bridge that enables us to pass from earth to heaven. They unite to make our salvation possible. Neither of itself is sufficient. We must believe in God and we must repent. It is useless, friends, to try to be Christians if we do not repent of our sins. We cannot change ourselves from sinners to believers in any other way. We read in Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” Repentance is absolutely necessary. One reason why we have such unhappy lives is that we do not repent. Many who carry on a form of Christianity have never truly repented, and therefore have never been happy in their Christian experience. One reason why some religious workers never have a revival is that they have not repented of their sins—they are still unconverted. Friend, have you repented? Will you repent?
Dr. F. B. Meyer tells of a revival meeting that was dragging along with no signs of success. Finally one of the leading elders arose and said, “Pastor, l don’t think we’ll have a revival here as long as Brother Jones and I won’t speak to each other.” Then he went over to Jones and said: Brother Jones, You and I haven’t spoken to each other for five years. It’s time to bury the hatchet. Here’s my hand.” Just then a sob broke the silence. Another elder arose in the audience and said, “Pastor, I don’t think there will be revival here until I repent. We can’t have revival as long as I say mean things behind your back and nice things to your face. I want you to forgive me.” Soon others arose and confessed their sins and tried to set matters right. It wasn’t long before the revival broke out. Then the blessing of God came upon them and swept over the community for three years.
3) The next step in becoming a Christian is confession. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) “He that conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) Confession that leads to the forsaking of sin is the real kind. But, in addition to this, what else is necessary on the part of the repentant sinner? “If the wicked gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die,” — Ezekiel 33:15.
Real repentance and confession mean not only to stop sinning, but to do everything possible to make right past wrongs.
Real repentance and confession mean not only to stop sinning, but to do everything possible to make right past wrongs. No man can steal ten dollars and expect God to forgive him unless he tries to pay back what he has taken. Otherwise it wouldn’t be real repentance or real confession.
But when a person truly repents and confesses, God forgives, for we have already read in 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Forgiveness is God’s work, not ours. When we confess, we simply believe that God forgives, and He does. That's the end of it. We may or may not feel that our sins are gone, but they are. We are not to depend upon feeling, we are to believe God.
The son of a minister strayed from the straight and narrow way into a life of debauchery and sin. He made a name and great fame for himself in the world of affairs, but allowed himself to slip down to the lowest places. He described his own condition as that of a drunkard, a dope fiend, and a down-and-outer. But, after fifteen long years, he gave God a chance to redeem him and he was gloriously saved. Then he returned home, but only to find that his poor father had died of a broken heart, calling his name, that through all those years his mother had kept a lighted lamp in the window every night and all night.
Friends, God has a light in His window for all His wayward children; and, while the lamp holds out to burn, the wandering sinner may return. Won’t you come back now, for God will forgive you? So we have these three important steps: To believe in God, to repent, and to confess our sins.
4) Now the next step is baptism, and the proof for this found in Acts 2:38, 39: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The change which comes through faith, repentance, confession of sin, and following the Word of God in all obedience, is called the new birth. Jesus said: “You must be born again,” John 3:7. This is spoken of also as regeneration. It’s new life, a re-creation by the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the one who believes. This is not something that we can work up, not a form of psychology. It’s not a by-product of education or culture, but it’s a miracle wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Then Christ lives His life within us, a life of perfect obedience.
Can we obey in our own strength? No, for in John 15:5 we read, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” But how much can we do with Christ’s help? The answer comes to us from Philippians 4:13:“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” But if we do sin after we have made a start for Christ, should we become discouraged and cease to follow Him? Never! We read 1 John 2:1: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
A saint, or follower of Jesus, is not necessarily one who never sins, but one who, as soon as he does sin, asks forgiveness of God, believes himself forgiven and goes on rejoicing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. He may stumble and fall, but he gets up and presses forward again. Such a fall is not counted against him when he repents and asks forgiveness and divine help to live the right life. But he is to grow stronger and stronger. Is it possible to be kept from falling? Jude 24 answers that question: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy!”
So we have clearly outlined the steps that we need to take in order to become a Christian: (1) To believe in God, (2) to repent, (3) to confess our sins, (4) to be baptized and obey the Lord.
*This article is adapted from a radio message by H.M.S. Richards