From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 20 – How do we actually become a Christian in practical terms?
Please now consider this abbreviated list. Do you understand and believe all of these basic things?
a) That God exists, that He is the one true God and that there is no other God.
b) That God exists in three separate Persons: God the Father, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit.
c) That nonetheless, those three individual Persons together form One God. So, it is true to say that God is One.
d) That God created everything, including us, and that we belong to Him.
e) That we are unworthy and have sinned, transgressed and rebelled against God and offended and angered Him.
f) That we are therefore condemned in God’s eyes. And, unless we are forgiven, we will be eternally separated from Him when we die and face His judgment. We will then go to eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire because of our sin.
g) That nothing we can do on our own behalf can save (justify) us by giving us forgiveness or righteousness in God’s eyes. We are not good enough and none of our works or deeds will ever be good enough to save us, because in God’s eyes even our best deeds are inadequate.
h) That Jesus Christ is not only a man, but is also divine (i.e. that He is God). He is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God. He became a real human being, whilst at the same time remaining the Son of God.
i) That Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and then died an unjust death, which He did not deserve, in order to be punished in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. That was how God the Father viewed Jesus’ death. He was putting His own Son, Jesus, to death to be the sacrifice that pays for our sin.
j) That when the Lord Jesus Christ was on the cross, the burden and the guilt of all the sin of the world was put upon Him. God the Father poured out His wrath, anger and punishment upon Him, instead of on us.
k) That the Lord Jesus Christ died and then rose from the dead. He was resurrected physically and He ascended physically into Heaven 40 days later. He is now alive and in Heaven, in His resurrection body, waiting to return to the earth.
l) That we must repent towards God the Father for our sins and sincerely turn away from our sins and genuinely change in our attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle.
m) That we must be baptised in water, by full immersion, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And this must be done by us as a repentant believer, not done to us as an infant. Any past baptism as a baby does not count as real baptism.
n) That we must receive the Holy Spirit, otherwise referred to as being “filled with” or “baptised in” the Holy Spirit.
o) That forgiveness and eternal life with God are available to anyone who meets God’s conditions. Those are to repent, believe, be baptised in water and receive the Holy Spirit.
p) That there is no other way for any person to get to God. No man, religion, system, activity or formula can save us. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do it because of His death on the cross, when he took our punishment in our place.
q) That if we die we will eventually be physically resurrected We will then have eternal and indestructible “resurrection bodies” which will never die. This is true both for believers and unbelievers. The resurrection body of an unbeliever will never be destroyed, even in the Lake of Fire.
r) That Jesus Christ will, one day, return physically and literally to this earth. He will then rule as King of Israel and King of the whole world. In other words, He will set up the Kingdom of God and bring it to completion.
Go through the above list and check carefully whether you truly understand and believe each point. If so, speak out loud to God to say to Him that you do believe each of those things. Tell Him that you do put your faith and trust solely and totally in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, not in yourself or in your own goodness.
Ask God to give you the forgiveness that is available due to Jesus’ death on the cross, so that you can be saved and given eternal life. Ask for the guilt of your sins to be placed on Jesus Christ and for His righteousness to be transferred, or credited, to you. Just ask God in your own simple words and style, using your own vocabulary.
Speak to God the Father and tell Him that you want to follow His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as His disciple (follower), from this moment on and for the rest of your life. Promise God, if you really mean it, that you will give yourself and everything you have to Jesus. Hand over your whole life, and all your ambitions, and plans, so that Jesus Christ will, from now on, be your Lord and the one who decides your priorities. That includes where you go, what you do, and how you live.
Speak out loud and tell God the Father and Jesus that you believe that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords and that you acknowledge Him to be so. Say that you also personally recognise and accept Him as King and Lord in your own life. Then ask God to give you the grace and the help to be Jesus’ disciple and to remain faithful to Him.
Remember that being a disciple, and continuing faithfully on “the Way”, is not what justifies you or gives you forgiveness. However, it is what is needed to bring you to Christian maturity. More importantly, it is what Jesus commands us to do. The idea of handing over the whole of your self and your future to Jesus can be scary. You might fear that He cannot be trusted with your future and to make decisions about what you should be and do.
It’s natural to be apprehensive about that, but you really don’t need to be. He is totally trustworthy and can be relied on to form a plan for your life which is far better than anything you could plan for yourself. God is good and kind and full of mercy. All His plans for your life will be for your good:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Having taken each of these steps, then thank God for forgiveness and salvation and for the gift of eternal life. However, do not rely on your feelings. It may be that your emotions will surface at this point. You may be tearful or emotionally moved in some way. Or, more likely, it may be that you are not. Becoming a Christian is primarily a decision of the will, not of the emotions. God is much more interested in what you decide than in what you feel.
Therefore do not judge the validity of what you are doing on the basis of whether there is an outward emotional reaction. The emotions are a side-issue here. They may or may not materialise. Instead, simply take God at His word. Claim the forgiveness that you have asked for and believe that you have received it. God is faithful. He can be trusted and relied upon to honour every promise that He makes. Therefore believe Him to do so. On that basis, then give thanks to Him for forgiveness, justification and eternal life.
Step three in becoming a Christian: be baptised in water, preferably in public
If necessary, please refer again to Step 3 – Baptism in water (chapter 16). This is a badly neglected topic. Many people have come to regard it as something peripheral and non-essential, as if it was an “optional add on”. Others take the view that they were baptised as a baby and therefore it has already been done.
As explained in Chapter 16, that is not a biblical view. Baptism needs to be done when you have genuinely made a conscious decision to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. If all you have had is baptism as a baby then you need to do it again. Whatever was done to you as a baby is not valid baptism in water. At any rate, nobody was ever baptised that way in the Bible.
Therefore, once you have taken these steps, go as soon as you can and get baptised in water. Speak to someone at church, and get baptised in a river, or lake, or in the sea or a swimming pool. Anything will do. (However, if for health reasons you cannot do that, then be baptised in a warm bath at home. If you really can’t do even that, then I feel sure that God will accept you being baptised in some lesser way, e.g. by sprinkling some water on your head, provided that is all you can manage. God is very reasonable and gracious, but you would need to have a genuine reason to depart from the normal biblical method).
Ideally, do it publicly so that others can witness it. That will help you to get over any problem you may have of being ashamed of being identified with Jesus Christ. The act of baptism in water will help to remove that. It will also let the world, and the Devil, know where you now stand. It will also help to cut you off from your past life as an unbeliever. That will help you to become free from many things such as habitual sins, addictions or demonic influences in your life.
More importantly, quite apart from any benefits it brings, we have been commanded to be baptised to demonstrate our repentance and our belief in Jesus. Therefore don’t leave it out or neglect it. Don’t even delay it. Baptism is very important.
Step four in becoming a Christian: receive the Holy Spirit
Look again at Step 4 – Receive the Holy Spirit (chapter 17) if you still feel any confusion or uncertainty about this. However, if you feel you do grasp what this means and you want to go ahead and receive the Holy Spirit then, first of all, make sure you have taken the first three steps properly. Make sure you have genuinely repented, that you really do believe, and that you have been properly baptised in water. If you haven’t taken all of these steps properly, then put that right. Take them now.
If you have properly dealt with all three of these steps and you want to receive the Holy Spirit, then the ideal is to get the help of someone else who believes that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is for today, not just for the first century. Find someone who has, him or herself, received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues or operated in one or more of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. Ask them to pray for you and lay their hands on you. It needs to be a genuine Christian who has a proper, biblical understanding of the need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, most people in British churches, including leaders, do not have that level of knowledge or understanding. Therefore there is a problem. If you were to just ask the first person you see, they may tell you that you don’t need to receive the Holy Spirit. Ot they may say that you have already received the Holy Spirit automatically. They may even tell you that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased and are not for today.
They may be sincere, but they would be wrong and they would confuse you. God is unlikely to use such a person to help you to receive the Holy Spirit. They will only hold you back and discourage you.
So, try to find a person who does understand and believe the Bible on this subject. They can help you. They can then simply lay their hands on you, i.e. on your head or back, and pray for you to receive the Holy Spirit. As they pray for you, pray also for yourself, in your own language, for Jesus Christ to baptise you in the Holy Spirit.
Remember that Jesus Christ wants to do that. He’s not against the idea. He is in favour of it. He is the very Person who baptises us in the Holy Spirit. You don’t need to persuade Him. The main thing is for you to believe that Jesus really does want you to receive the Holy Spirit and to expect Him to answer your prayers.
Try to relax and avoid being stressed, afraid or tensed up if you can. Then be willing to step out and open your mouth to speak. Don’t speak in English. Just begin to make sounds and see what comes. Step out boldly and with faith. Go ahead and don’t hold back or be shy. Don’t be afraid of sounding foolish. My fear of that held me back needlessly for two years. Don’t make my mistake.
You may find that you suddenly take off and are away, speaking in a new unknown language immediately. Or, you may not. There could be a delay or blockage which holds you back. If so it could be for a number of reasons. Here are some of the main ones:
a) You may be too tense/uptight/afraid. The Holy Spirit will not force Himself on you. He will wait for you to be ready and relaxed. He wants you to be in control of when to speak, not Him.
b) You may not have genuinely or properly repented, believed or been baptised in water. If so, see chapters 10-17 again.
c) The person helping you may not understand or believe any of this. Or he may never have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit himself. If so, try asking someone else (if possible). Or just go ahead by yourself. You are much better off being alone than being prayed with by someone who doesn’t agree with, or believe in, what you are seeking for. They would be tensed up themselves, or even opposing you.
d) There could be some particularly significant sin in your life which God wants you to deal with first. I don’t mean that you must deal with or cease all sin. That’s not possible this side of death. However, there can sometimes be major sins which God is particularly concerned about. For example you could be involved in some sexual affair or stealing money or living in some immoral way. God may want you to stop that particular sin first before He will recognise you as having genuinely repented. Therefore consider this and ask God to reveal to you any specific sin that He is particularly concerned about, which may be a blockage to you receiving the Holy Spirit.
e) There could be some occult involvement in your past, (or even now), which has still not been dealt with or repented of. If so, repent now, fully and unreservedly. If you still possess any occult books or charms or jewellery etc, burn all it now. Ask God to set you free from its hold over you. If you are unsure, ask God to highlight anything relevant.
If you have nobody at all who is suitable and willing to pray with you, do not be discouraged. Go ahead by yourself. Just take all the same steps but pray by yourself. Remember, it is Jesus Christ Himself who baptises us in the Holy Spirit, not the person who prays with us or lays their hands on us. Such a person, if there even is one, is just there to help us and to explain things. They are not essential.
Also, be aware that some people just seem to take longer than others to break through. That ought not to be the case, but it often is. If so, and there is delay, keep on asking and don’t give up. Also keep on attempting to speak. Don’t just leave it to God alone. Play your part too by stepping out in faith and beginning to speak. Let your mouth make sounds and see if God then releases you fully to speak in tongues. If you persist, then He will do so at some point, even if not immediately.