A young person recently wrote to me, asking how to become a Christian.
I’d like to answer by telling my own story, hoping that it clearly explains how I came to Christ and will provide enough information for her to make a decision of her own. By sharing it here, I hope it will encourage anyone on the same path.
When I was 12 years old, I attended a tiny youth group at a church near the farm where I grew up. The youth group leaders talked to us about Jesus, explaining from the Bible all that was true about Him. They said He was the risen Savior and that I was lost without Him. They said that the only way to find eternal life was in Christ, and they explained that I needed to invite Him into my heart and ask Him to be my Lord and Savior. Even though I’m sure they were clear, I didn’t understand all of what that meant—I was verging on being a “Christian,” but I didn’t know how to “become one.”
I remember going on a long weekend trip with that youth group. On the way, they played a recording of a doctor describing in great detail the physical pain and anguish Jesus went through when He was beaten and then nailed to the cross. All of that suffering was for our sin, they said. Jesus willingly endured all of that was because He loved us and died for us even while we were sinners, taking on our guilt as a sinless sacrifice that we might have life.
Little by little, on that trip and for months following, they explained how great my need was and how great His sacrifice was and how I could accept Him. But I still couldn’t put it all together.
Finally, a woman named Pat pulled me aside after church one Sunday and said, “I think you’ve heard enough to understand who Jesus is. Haven’t you?”
“I think so,” I answered. I felt my heart start to thump in my chest and my cheeks flood red. Something big was about to happen, and I could literally feel it.
She used several verses in the Bible to review one more time the basics of what I needed to grasp. Just now, knowing I would be telling you my story, I actually found something very similar online (click here). The information at that site is what I remember Pat explaining. She used her own words, but turned to the same verses (the following is straight from that website—I’m going to just paste it in here because they said it so well, so much like Pat told me):
People tend to divide themselves into groups – good people and bad people. But God says that every person who has ever lived is a sinner, and that any sin separates us from God. No matter how we might classify ourselves, this includes you and me. We are all sinners.“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Many people are confused about the way to God. Some think they will be punished or rewarded according to how good they are. Some think they should make things right in their lives before they try to come to God. Others find it hard to understand how Jesus could love them when other people don’t seem to. But I have great news for you! God does love you! More than you can ever imagine! And there’s nothing you can do to make Him stop! Yes, our sins demand punishment – the punishment of death and separation from God. But, because of His great love, God sent His only Son Jesus to die for our sins.
“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
For you to come to God you have to get rid of your sin problem. But, in our own strength, not one of us can do this! You can’t make yourself right with God by being a better person. Only God can rescue us from our sins. He is willing to do this not because of anything you can offer Him, but just because He loves you!
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Titus 3:5
It’s God’s grace that allows you to come to Him – not your efforts to “clean up your life” or work your way to Heaven. You can’t earn it. It’s a free gift.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
For you to come to God, the penalty for your sin must be paid. God’s gift to you is His son, Jesus, who paid the debt for you when He died on the Cross.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Jesus paid the price for your sin and mine by giving His life on a cross at a place called Calvary, just outside of the city walls of Jerusalem in ancient Israel. God brought Jesus back from the dead. He provided the way for you to have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus. When we realize how deeply our sin grieves the heart of God and how desperately we need a Savior, we are ready to receive God’s offer of salvation. To admit we are sinners means turning away from our sin and selfishness and turning to follow Jesus. The Bible word for this is “repentance” – to change our thinking about how grievous sin is, so our thinking is in line with God’s.
All that’s left for you to do is to accept the gift that Jesus is holding out for you right now.
“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
God says that if you believe in His son, Jesus, you can live forever with Him in glory.
“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
Are you ready to accept the gift of eternal life that Jesus is offering you right now? Let’s review what this commitment involves:
- I acknowledge I am a sinner in need of a Savior – this is to repent or turn away from sin
- I believe in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead – this is to trust that Jesus paid the full penalty for my sins
- I confess Jesus as my Lord and my God – this is to surrender control of my life to Jesus
- I receive Jesus as my Savior forever – this is to accept that God has done for me and in me what He promised
If it is your sincere desire to receive Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, then talk to God from your heart.
Pat paused as she went through those points, asking, “Do you understand that?” I would nod in response. I realized my sin, my need for a Savior, my hunger for forgiveness and eternal life. Pat helped me see how I could receive God’s love and grace through the gift of His Son.
Then she led me in a prayer very similar to the one below. She suggested I just repeat after her, but making the words my own. And I did:
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”
As I prayed, I felt as if I experienced something new. Nothing dramatic happened; I just felt like my soul changed. But many people report that they pray a prayer like that and don’t feel anything. Pat assured me, “if you pray sincerely from your heart, it is just as real, just as secure, whether you sense something or not.” She hugged me, and I started to cry—from relief, I think, and joy. “You’re saved,” she announced firmly.
When the Lord drew me into His kingdom that day, I found life and hope in Him alone. Christ Jesus took hold of me, and it was the first step in a lifetime of following Him.
After I made that decision and prayed that prayer, I shared with others about my new faith in Christ and started to spend time with God, reading in my Bible, writing prayers in my journal, doing Bible studies with the youth group to learn more about the God I’d just committed my entire self to.I do hope that you have someone to talk with in your “offline” life, as well, such as a parent or youth group leader or someone who can provide you with ongoing guidance and input from the Bible. We all need people in our life who can walk with us, helping us to know more what it means to belong to Jesus Christ, to walk with Him daily, to be obedient and faithful.I needed someone to say all this to me and pray for me when I was young.
I’m honored to be that person for you.
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