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What is Conversion?
Conversion is a mystery. Conversion is a change in our mind, our emotion, our will and our lifestyle. Our part of the conversion process begins when we decide to turn from our sins and self and change our focus towards God. God’s part of the conversion mystery is to renew our hearts and minds to one of love and forgiveness. How is this to be done?
Before we start, we have to go to the root of the question: What is sin?
All the passages below are taken from Billy Graham’s booklet “The Key to Personal Peace,” published in 2003.
DIS-EASE of Our Soul---Sin
The Bible teaches that our soul have a disease. It’s worse than any dreaded cancer or heart disease we can face. It’s the plague that causes all the troubles and difficulties in the world. It causes all the pain, confusion, and disillusionment in our own lives.
This disease is the most terrible, the most devastating problem in the universe. It has crippled every one of us. It has destroyed the inner harmony of our lives. It has robbed us of our nobility. It has caused us to be caught in an evil and hideous trap.
The name of the disease is an ugly word. We don’t like to use it. We don’t even like to hear it. But this spiritual disease is the root of all our troubles. All the sorrow, all the bitterness, all the violence, tragedy, heartache, and shame of history are summed up in this one little word. The word is sin.
Sin---plain, old-fashioned sin---is what we are all suffering from today. And it won’t do any good to try to dress it up with a fancy, more attractive label. We don’t need a new word for it. What we need is to find out what this word---the word that describes our deadly disease---means and what we can do about it.
WHAT IS SIN?
We may want to take a light view of sin and refer to it as “human weakness,” but God says it brings us death. We may try to call it a trifle, but God calls it a tragedy. We would pass it off as an accident, but God says it’s an abomination. We want to excuse ourselves of sin, but God must convict us of it, and He wants to save us from it. Sin is no amusing toy. It’s a terror to be shunned! So we must learn what sin is in the eyes of God.
Bible scholars give us five definitions of sin:
First, sin is lawlessness---the transgression of the law of God. The Bible says, “The person who sins breaks God’s law. Yes, sin is living against God’s law” (1 John 3:4 NCV). It is because we have broken God's laws and commands that we are guilty of sin.
Second, the Bible describes sin as iniquity. Iniquity is deviating from what is right. Iniquity includes our inner motivations, the very things we so often try to keep hidden from other people and God. They are the wrongs that spring from our own corrupt natures.
The Bible describes this inner iniquity when it says, “People are tempted when their own evil desire leads them away and traps them. This desire leads to sin and then the sin grows and brings death” (James 1:14-15 NCV)
Third, the Bible defines sin as “missing the mark.” Like an arrow missing the target, sin is falling short of the goal that has been set. God’s goal is Christ. The purpose of all of life is to live up to the life of Christ. When we fail to follow His example, we miss the mark and fall short of the divine standard. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NKJV).
Fourth, sin is trespassing. It is putting self in place of God, or trespassing on God’s divine territory. Sin is centering your affection on yourself instead of reaching out with your heart to embrace God. Egoism and selfishness are the marks of sin, as surely as theft and murder are. Putting self first may be the most subtle and destructive form of sin, for it is so easy to overlook.
Jesus said, “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me.... It is worth nothing for them to have the whole world if they lose their souls” (Mark 8:34, 36 NCV).
Fifth, sin is unbelief. Unbelief is a sin because it is an insult to the truth of God. The Bible says, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has the truth that God told us. Anyone who does not believe makes God a liar, because that person does not believe what God told us about his Son” (1 John 5:10 NCV).
Unbelief shuts the door to heaven and opens it to hell. Unbelief rejects the Word of God and refuses Christ as Savior. Unbelief causes people to ignore the Gospel and deny the miracles of Christ. So, unbelief is sin.
THE PENALTY OF SIN
Our sins may be very obvious and open, or they may be very subtle and hidden. Perhaps we are preoccupied with things that---while not wrong in themselves---have wrapped their tentacles around us and are squeezing out our spiritual hunger. We may be preoccupied with our careers or families or any of hundreds of other things that can dull our appetites for God and His righteousness.
Regardless of what kinds of sins we have in our lives, all sin incurs the penalty of death. Sadly, none of us have the ability to save ourselves from it or to cleanse our own hearts of sin’s corruption. And because the pure and holy God of heaven cannot coexist with sin, we are at war with Him.
AT WAR WITH GOD
The greatest warfare going on in the world today is not between nations and countries. It’s between us and God. This is the root cause of our spiritual disease.
We may not even realize that we’re at war with God. But if we don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior, and if we haven’t surrendered to Him as Lord, God considers us to be at war with Him. And it would be the greatest tragedy if I didn’t tell you that, unless you repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Savior, you are going to be lost.
But that is not what God wants! God doesn’t want us to be at war with Him. In fact, the Bible says, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:l6 NCV). God wants to save us and He provided the way.
A CEASE-FIRE IS NEEDED
The key to finding peace with God is to stop fighting Him. God has been trying to get through to us for years with the message that He wants to give us peace. Through Christ He said, “My peace I give you” (John 14:27 NCV). He wants to give us peace.
But God can’t give us His peace as long as we march under the red flag of rebellion. We must stop resisting God! We must no longer shut Him out of our lives. We must stop fighting! We must surrender to the only One who can rescue us from our problem---the God who created us, the God who wants to give us peace, the God who can forgive sin, the God who loves us.
WHAT IS GOD LIKE?
Can you understand the secret of God?
Can you search the limits of the A1mighty? (Job 11:7 NCV)
WHO IS GOD? WHAT is He like? Can we know Him? Can we even begin to understand Him?
If you’re asking these questions, welcome aboard. We all have asked these questions sometime, either aloud or in our hearts, for we can’t look at the world around us and not wonder about its creation and its Creator.
As a watch must have a designer, so our precision-like universe has a Great Designer. We call Him God. His name is familiar to the whole human race. But what is God like?
The answer is actually quite simple: God is like Jesus Christ. The reason is because God came to earth in the form of a man named Jesus. He made God visible to us, and He became our Redeemer. When Jesus returned to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to live in those of us who believe in him.
GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO US
God has revealed Himself to us in the book called the Bible. By reading the Bible carefully and regularly, we can discover what God is like.
As a diamond has many facets, so there are many different aspects of God. With our limited space, we can cover briefly only four of His most significant attributes.
God is Spirit
First the Bible declares God to be spirit. Once, while talking with a woman at the Well of Sychar, Jesus made this straightforward statement “God is spirit” (John 4:24 NCV).
What image does the word spirit bring to your mind? Do you think of a wisp of vapor drifting across the sky? Is spirit just a formless nothingness to you? Is that what Jesus meant about God?
No! Spirit means “without body” In fact it’s the opposite of body. Yet it is just as real as the pages of this book, or more so.
This infinite concept is difficult for us to understand with our finite minds. It is like trying to explain the sweep and majesty and awe-inspiring grandeur of the ocean to a person who has never seen a body of water larger than a mud puddle. How can such a person fathom the bottomless depths, the mysterious life, the surging power, the ceaseless roll, the terrible ruthlessness of an ocean storm or the all-surpassing beauty of ocean calm? How could you make that person believe such a wonder even exists?
God is not limited to body, shape, or boundaries. Because He has no limitation, He can be everywhere at once---He can hear all, see all, and know all.
We can’t do any of that, so we try to limit God and make Him like us. We deny His power to do things we can’t do. But our saying it doesn’t make it so. There is no limit to God! There is no limit to His wisdom, His power, His mercy, or His love. We cannot limit the God who made us and our world, any more than a drop of the ocean can limit the ocean itself. He is spirit; He is limitless.
God is a Person
Second, the Bible reveals God as a Person. All through the Bible it says, “God loves,” “God says,” “God does.” Everything that we attribute to a person is attributed to God. A person is one who feels, thinks, wishes, desires, and has all the expressions of personality.
Our finite minds cannot envision a person who does not have flesh and bones. We know that our own personalities will not always be clothed in the bodies they now inhabit, but it’s difficult for us to accept.
God is not bound by a body, yet He is a Person. He feels, He thinks, He loves, He forgives, He sympathizes with the problems and sorrows that we face.
God is Holy and Righteous
Third, the Bible says that God is a holy and righteous Being. From the first book of the Bible to the last, God reveals Himself as a holy God. He is utterly perfect and absolutely pure in every detail. He is too holy to tolerate sin, too holy to endure sinful living.
Here again, this is a difficult concept for imperfect people to understand. We, whose faults and weaknesses are obvious, cannot imagine the absolute purity and holiness of God. But we must recognize them if we are to understand what the Bible says about God.
God is too pure to ignore evil. He can have no dealings with sin. We once had fellowship with God when the human race was originally created. But sin destroyed that fellowship and now we all stand condemned before Him, worthy only of His judgment. Only through Jesus Christ can we re-establish our fellowship with God. Without Him, we would be lost forever.
God is love
Fourth, “God is love” (1 John 4:8 NCV). While God’s holiness demands that all sin be punished, God’s love provides the plan and way of redemption for us. God loves us, in spite of our sin! God’s love provided the cross of Jesus, by which we can have forgiveness. It was the love of God that sent His Son to die in our place on the cross.
Never question God’s great love, for it is as unchangeable a part of God as His holiness. No matter how terrible your sins, God loves you. Were it not for the love of God, none of us would ever have a chance for the future life. But God is love! And His love for us is everlasting! “God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NCV).
THE CERTAINTY OF GOD
Whenever anyone asks me how I can be so certain about who and what God really is, I am reminded of the story of the little boy who was out flying a kite. It was a fine day for kite flying: the wind was brisk, and large, billowy clouds were blowing across the sky. The kite went up and up until it was entirely hidden by the clouds.
“What are you doing?” a man asked the little boy.
“I’m flying a kite,” he replied.
“Flying a kite, are you?” the man said, looking up. “How can you be sure? You can’t see your kite.”
" No,” said the boy; “I can’t see it, but every little while I feel a tug on the string, so I know for sure that it’s there!”
Don’t take anyone else’s word for God. Seek Him for yourself, and then you, too, will know by the wonderful, warm tug on your heartstrings that He is there for sure.
WHO IS JESUS?
The Son reflects the glory of God
and shows exactly what God is like. (HEBREWS 1:3 NCV)
ONE DAY I WAS WALKING down a dirt road with one of my young sons. And I accidentally kicked the top of an anthill. Naturally, the confused and terrified ants swarmed out of the hill and began working furiously to defend it.
“Wow Dad!” said my son. “You really made a mess of their world.”
“Yes, son, I’m afraid I did,” I replied. “But I didn’t mean to. I wish I could tell them I’m sorry that I stepped on their home. I wish I could tell them I care, and I didn’t mean to do it, and I’d like to help them restore it somehow. But there’s just no way I can communicate with them”
My son thought for a moment. “The only way you could do it, Dad, would be to become an ant yourself.”
And that is exactly what God did! On a black Judean night, while the stars sang together and the escorting angels chanted His praises, God the Son voluntarily threw off His heavenly robes and became a man!
But He didn’t just become a good man or a godly man. He didn’t just become a great moral teacher or even an eloquent prophet. He actually became God Himself in human flesh. As one writer said, “He was God with skin on.” He was both completely God and completely man at the same time. You might say He became an ant in an ant’s world.
The difference is that God didn’t kick our anthill. We destroyed our world ourselves through sin. He just came to restore it and restore us to Himself.
ONE GOD---THREE PERSONS
The Bible teaches that God is actually three Persons. This is a divine mystery that we will never fully understand.
The Bible doesn’t teach that there are three different gods, but that there is only one God. This one God, however, presents or expresses Himself to us as three distinct Persons. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
The Second Person of this Trinity is God the Son, Jesus Christ. He is coequal with God the Father. He is not a Son of God but the Son of God. He is the eternal Son of God---God exhibited in human flesh, the living Savior.
Here’s what the Bible says of Jesus: “No one can see God, but Jesus Christ is exactly like him. He ranks higher than everything that has been made. Through his power all things were made---things in heaven and on earth, things seen and unseen, all powers, authorities, lords, and rulers. All things were made through Christ and for Christ. He was there before anything was made, and all things continue because of him” (Colossians 1:15—17 NCV).
And Jesus said of Himself: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NCV). He, and He alone, had the power and capacity to bring us back to God. He would have to be the substitute. He would have to die in the place of sinful people. And all this would have to be done voluntarily.
How Jesus Lived
Though Jesus was fully man, all the days of His life on earth He never once committed a sin. He is the only sinless man who ever lived. He was examined by His enemies day and night, but they never found any sin in Him.
Jesus lived a humble life. He didn’t try to make a reputation for Himself. He received no special honors from people. He was born in a stable. He was reared in the insignificant village of Nazareth. He was a simple carpenter.
And when He began His earthly ministry, He gathered around Him a humble group of fishermen as His followers. He walked among us as a man. He was one of us.
Jesus lived among us so we could see God with our eyes, touch God with our hands, talk to God with our lips, hear God speak with our ears, and live with God in our world. He came so that we could learn how to be like Him---the Son of God.
We, too, can become sons and daughters of God. Jesus has shown us how to live, love, laugh, and be accepted in the eyes of His Father---our Father. And that’s not all He did for us.
WHAT DID JESUS DO FOR US?
The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them
(Luke 19:10 NCV)
“BARABBAS! WAKE UP, BARABSAS! Your big day has finally arrived.”
When the rusty cell door swung open with a noisy creak, Barabbas shielded his eyes from the light. He knew why the Roman guards were there. He had long dreaded this day, for this was his day to be executed for his crimes.
At least the sun is shining, he thought. That better than dying in the rain.
But wait. Something was wrong. The guard was grinning at him oddly.
What’s this, another one of your demented jokes?” he asked.
“Barabbas, today you are indeed a fortunate man.”
“Why, because I’ll at least be out of this rotten hole?
“No,” one guard replied, “because we have orders to release you! The governor, Pilate, has freed you and ordered Jesus of Nazareth to die in your place.”
The guards removed his chains and, slack-jawed from surprise, Barabbas stumbled out of the prison into the teeming streets of Jerusalem.
He was guilty; he knew it. But he was free! Absolved of all charges, they said. He’d been saved from the death he deserved by some man named Jesus.
Barabbas, overcome by what had happened, must have fallen to his knees on the stony pavement. All he could think was, Why should Jesus die for me?
WHY SHOULD JESUS DIE FOR ME?
What a poignant question! Perhaps you’re asking it too. The simple but astounding answer is this: Jesus was born to die for you. That was His purpose. That was His mission.
Jesus willingly came from heaven to earth to save sinful people like you and me. He came to appease the wrath of our holy God, who was so offended by our sin. And there was only one way Jesus could do it.
When Jesus was born of a virgin, He was born with the shadow of the cross darkening His pathway. From the cradle to the cross, He had one purpose---one mission---to die for you and me.
FORSAKEN AND FORGIVEN
God’s holiness demands a sacrifice for our sins. That sacrifice requires death, either for the sinner or a substitute. Christ was our substitute!
It wasn’t the vicious spikes that held Christ to the cross---it was the unbreakable cords of God’s love that bound Him there. For you! For me! He bore our sins in His body upon the cross.
But the physical suffering of Jesus Christ was not the worst part of His suffering. The deepest suffering of Jesus Christ was spiritual. He felt the final blow of sin and sank to His deepest sorrow when He cried, “My God, why have You forsaken me?” The wondrous truth: He was God-forsaken so that we could be God-forgiven.
He bore my sins in His body upon the cross. He hung where I should have hung. The pains of hell that should have been mine were heaped on Him. The substitution was made. The sacrifice was complete.
Now that the foundation of redemption has been laid, we have the key to unlock the door to peace with God---we, as sinners, must believe in God’s Son as our Substitute, our Savior, our Redeemer. We must accept the incredible grace of God: “God loved the world [that’s us!] so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NCV).
But Christ doesn’t remain hanging on a cross with blood streaming down from His hands, His side, and His feet. On Friday afternoon after His death, He is taken down and laid carefully away in a borrowed tomb. A huge stone seals the entrance of the tomb. And soldiers guard it.
Early on Sunday morning---the first Easter morning---three of Jesus’ followers named Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Salome make their way to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body with burial spices. But when they arrive, they are startled to find the stone rolled away. And the tomb is empty!
An angel in gleaming white robes is sitting on the stone. He says to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified.”
And then the angel gives the most glorious news that human ears have ever heard: “He is not here; He is risen from the dead!”
THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION
Upon that great fact hangs God’s entire plan of redemption. Without the Resurrection we could have no salvation.
In actuality, there is more evidence from eyewitnesses that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three. Jesus’ Resurrection is a fact. It’s undeniable. It’s historically accurate. And here is what His Resurrection means for us.
First, the Resurrection proves that Christ was undeniably God. He was what He claimed to be---God in the flesh.
Second, the Resurrection proves that God had accepted Christ's sacrifice on the cross, which was necessary for our salvation. “Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25 NCV).
Third, the Resurrection proves that we are reconciled, forgiven, and at peace with God forever. “So as one sin of Adam brought the punishment of death to all people, one good act that Christ did makes all people right with God. And that brings true life for all” (Romans 5:18 NCV)
Fourth, the Resurrection proves that our bodies will also be raised and made new in the end. “Christ has truly been raised from the dead---the first one and proof that those who sleep in death will also be raised” (1 Corinthians 15:20 NCV). Christ promises, “Because I live, you will live, too (John 14:l9 NCV).”
Fifth, the Resurrection proves that death will be abolished, and we will be with God in Heaven in eternity. The power of death has been broken, and the fear of death has been removed for all who believe. Now we can say with the psalmist, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4 NIV).
FINDING THE WAY BACK
YEARS AGO WHILE I WAS PREACHING IN Hollywood, a group of movie people asked me to talk to them about religious experiences. After my address we had a discussion period, and the very first question they asked was, “What is conversion?”
Sometime later it was my privilege to address a group of political leaders in Washington. When the discussion period started, the first question again was, “What is conversion?”
In many ways conversion is a mystery, for from our viewpoint it is both our work and God’s work. Our responsibility is to turn to Christ in faith and repentance, turning from our sins asking Him to come into our hearts by faith. We determine to change the course of our lives, and we acknowledge our inability to do this apart from God’s help.
When we turn away from our sin and towards God, His part of the conversion mystery is to regenerate or renew our hearts and minds. Then we have truly been converted.
GIVE CHRIST YOUR PROBLEMS
What is troubling you today? Is your heart burdened because of some sin that threatens to overcome you? Are you filled with anxiety and worry about some wrong you have done, wondering what will happen as a result of it?
Listen, friend, you can find the key to personal peace by turning to Christ. Change the direction you are traveling and be converted by the Lord Jesus. As a child of God by grace through faith in Christ, you can give these struggles to Him, knowing that He loves you and is able to help you.
The Nature of Conversion
In order to get to heaven, Jesus said that you must be converted. I didn’t say it---Jesus said it! This is not a man’s opinion---this is God’s opinion! Jesus said it this way: “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NKJV)
True conversion involves your mind, your emotions and your will. Thousands of people have been intellectually converted to Christ. They believe what the Bible says about Jesus, but they have never been really converted to Him in their hearts.
Conversion simply means “to be changed." Truly converted people love the good they once hated and hate the sins they once loved. They will even have changed their hearts about God. Where they once may have been careless about God or lived in constant fear, dread, and antagonism toward Him, they now find themselves in a state of reverence, confidence, obedience, and devotion.
Converted people also have a constant gratitude to God, a dependence upon God, and a new loyalty to Him. In other words, conversion means a complete change in the life of a person.
FROM SAUL TO PAUL
A great example of conversion in the Bible is Saul of Tarsus. As a young man he started down the wrong path in life by participating in the killing of God’s servant Stephen. Acts 8:1 says that when he died, “Saul agreed that the killing of Stephen was good.”
That event began Saul’s early career of viciously persecuting Christians. Acts 9 continues his story by saying, “In Jerusalem Saul was still threatening the followers of the Lord by saying he would kill them.”
But one day, on the road to Damascus, where Saul intended to arrest and kill even more Christians, “a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’”
It was Jesus! Saul had come face to face with the God he had been persecuting. And that encounter turned him around and put him on the road to peace---peace with God.
Acts 9:19-2O says, “Saul stayed with the followers of Jesus in Damascus for a few days. Soon he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’” He was converted.
Saul’s name was eventually changed by God to Paul. His conversion was so complete that even his name had to be different! And Paul became one of the greatest spokesmen for Christ the world has ever known.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Perhaps you are ready to change directions, too, and start on the way to personal peace. If so, you are probably wondering Where does conversion begin? How can I be converted?
Unless one is born again, he cannot be in God’s kingdom. (JOHN 3:3 NCV)
IF I COULD COME AND HAVE a heart-to-heart chat with you in your living room, you might confess, “I am perplexed, confused and mixed up. I have broken God’s laws. I have lived contrary to His commandments. I thought I could get along without God’s help. I’ve tried to make up my own rules, and I’ve failed. What I would give to be born again! What I would give to go back and start all over---what a different road I’d travel if I could!”
If those words strike a familiar chord in your heart, I want to tell you some glorious news. Jesus said you can be born again! You can have the fresh start for which you’ve longed. You can become a person---a clean and peaceful person from whom sin has been washed away.
A WAY OUT
No matter how soiled your past or snarled your present, no matter how hopeless your future seems to be---there is a way out. There is a sure, safe, everlasting way out, but there is only one way! That way is Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the 1ife. The only way to the Father is through me” (John 14:6 NCV).
You can go on being miserable, discontented, frightened, unhappy and disgusted with yourself, or you can decide right now that you want to be born again. You can have your sinful past wiped out and make a new start, a fresh start, a right start. You can decide now to become the person that Jesus promised you could be.
HOW CAN I BE BORN AGAIN?
The next question you may ask is, “How can I have this rebirth? How can I be born again? How can I start afresh?”
Here are some guidelines from the Bible that will help you be born again by accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior.
First, you must recognize what God did. He loved you so much He gave His Son to die on the cross for you. We discussed that earlier.
Second, you must repent of your sins. Jesus said that unless you repent, you will die (Luke 13:3 NCV). It’s not enough just to be sorry. Repent means to turn away from sin---to change your heart and life.
Third, by faith you must receive Jesus Chits as Savior and commit yourself to Him as Lord. This means that you stop trying to save yourself and accept Christ as your only Lord and Savior. John 1:12 says, “To all who did accept him and believe in him he gave the right to become children of God.” Trust Him completely, without reservation. Do it now!
GET ON BOARD!
Let’s say you decide to fly to Europe. You contact your travel agent, make reservations, and buy your ticket. You pack your bags and take a taxi to the airport. You even check your bags, get your boarding pass, and walk to the gate. But if you stop there, you’ll never make it to Europe. Why? One thing is lacking: You need to get on board the plane!
To know about Christ is not enough. To be convinced that He is the Savior of the world is not enough. To affirm our belief in Him it not enough. To believe that He has saved others is not enough. We really don’t believe in Christ until we make a commitment of our lives to Him and by faith receive Him as our Savior. We have to get on board with Jesus.
Why not get on board today? The Bible says, “The ‘right time’ is now and the ‘day of salvation’ is now” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NCV). If you are willing to repent of your sins and to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do it right now.
HOW TO BEGIN
You may say, “I really want to be born again, but how do I begin?” I would suggest that you make a list of all your sins. Then confess them to God one by one and check them off, remembering that Jesus Christ has promised to forgive. Hold nothing back! Give them all to Jesus. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins.... He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done” (1 John 1:9 NCV)
Next ask God to cleanse you from those sins you may not be aware of and to make you more sensitive to hidden sins in your life---wrong motives, wrong attitudes, wrong habits, wrong relationships, wrong priorities. You may even need to make restitution if you have stolen anything, or you may need to seek out someone and ask forgiveness for a wrong you have committed.
In this way you “die to your sins” and share in Christ’s death on the cross for you. The apostle Paul said, “I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore---it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20 NCV).
At this moment I invite you either to bow your head or get on your knees and say this prayer:
O God, I admit that I have sinned against You. I am sorry for my sins. I am willing to turn from my sins. I openly receive and trust Jesus Christ as my Savior. I confess Him as my Lord. From this moment on I want to live for Him and serve Him in the fellowship of His church.
In Jesus’ name. Amen
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. I commit myself to Him as the Lord and Savior of my life.
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, my friend, then welcome home! Welcome into the love and fellowship, of the family of God.
PEACE AT LAST
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone. (Revelation 21:4 NCV)
ONE OF THE POWERFUL, enduring images that my wife, Ruth, and I have of our early years together is of the ticker-tape parades in New York City celebrating the end of World War II. The war was finally over! And those who had been spared from death by the enemy were jubilant beyond words.
Millions of multicolored streamers and mountains of confetti rained down on the returning heroes. Friends, family, and fellow citizens danced in the streets to express their own happiness and excitement.
Emotions ran extremely high---unfettered joy, exuberant hope for the future and unvarnished pride in the victors. But the emotion that ran deepest causing tears to rush down the faces of moms and dads, grandparents, and even stalwart soldiers---from privates to generals---was relief.
The war was over! We were victorious. The soldiers were home. And there was peace at last.
NOW THAT YOU’RE HOME FROM THE WAR
Now that you’re home from your spiritual war with God, you must be feeling incredible relief too. With God’s help, you’ve conquered your enemy, the devil. You’ve been spared from death by Jesus, who acted as your shield in battle. You’ve been rescued, renewed, and regenerated by God. What amazing feelings of relief and hope and happiness you must be experiencing now. You have personal peace at last!
Still, as a new believer, you probably have many questions. You may be wondering, Okay, now what? What happens when we become followers of Jesus? And that’s certainly a legitimate question.
Here are some things that automatically come with your citizenship in God’s kingdom.
You are forgiven! Just think of it! Every sin you’ve ever committed, without exception---no matter how terrible or heinous---is gone. Jesus took them all unto Himself, and they were nailed to the cross with Him. They are forgiven and forgotten by God. You are pure in His eyes. You are saved.
You are adopted! You have become a child of God! God has adopted you as His own beloved child. You’re a member of the Royal Family of heaven. You’re a child of the King, and nothing can change that.
The Bible confirms it: “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26 NCV). This is one reason why it is important for you to become part of a church where Christ is preached, because there you will be with other members of God’s family.
You are justified! The moment you were born again, you also received a new nature and were justified in the sight of God. Justified means “just-as-if-I’d never sinned.” It is God’s declaring ungodly people to be perfect in His eyes. God now sees you through the blood of His perfect Son, Christ, which washed away your sins. You are pure and perfect in God’s sight.
Christ is living in you! The moment you received Christ as your Lord and Savior, through the Holy Spirit He came to live in your heart. The Bible says, “God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself; who is in you” (Colossians 1:27 NCV).
FROM OLD TO NEW
Soldiers who came home from World War II discovered that many changes had happened while they were gone. And they had to go through a period of adjustment as they settled into their new lives. In the same way, you can expect certain changes to take place now that you’ve been born again. And you will have a period of adjustment as you settle into your new spiritual life with God.
First, because Christ now lives in you, you will have a different attitude towards sin. You will learn to hate sin as God hates it. You will come to detest and abhor it, because God cannot coexist with sin. “We know that those who are God’s children [that’s you!) do not continue to sin” (1 John 5:18 NCV).
Second, you will want to obey God. The Bible says, “We can be sure that we know God if we obey his commands” (1 John 2:3 NCV) It will become extremely important to you to do what God says is right and avoid what God says is wrong. The Bible will become your daily companion.
Third, you will strive to be separated from the world you once followed. The Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you” (l John 2:15 NCV). And here’s why that’s so important: “The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever” (verse 17). Forever!
Fourth, you’ll have a new love for other people. “We know we have left death and have come into life because we love each other. Whoever does not love is still dead” (1 John 3:14 NCV). God is love. As His children, we must also “be love” to those around us. You will want to pray for others and help them, instead of ignoring or hating them.
PEACE IN YOUR HEART
The Christian life is the best way of living. Don’t overlook the advantage that a Christian has both now and for all eternity.
Now! Jesus said, “I came to give life---life in all its fullness” (John 10:10 NCV). We don’t have to wait until we die to enjoy the blessings of being God’s child. He promises that, if we live according to His guidelines for happiness, life will be better now
Eternally! “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him [that’s you!] may not be lost, but have eternal life”(John 3:16 NCV).
What a prospect! What a future! What a hope! What a life! I wouldn’t change places with the wealthiest and most influential person in the world who didn’t know Christ
I know where I’ve come from, I know why I’m here, and I know where I’m going . . . and I have personal peace in my heart. His peace overwhelms my soul! In Christ we are at peace even in the midst of problems and pain. The storm may rage, but our hearts are at rest.
We have found personal peace at last!
HEAVEN OUR HOPE
God will have a house for us. . . .it will be a home in heaven that will last forever. (2 Corinthians 5:1 NCV).
I WILL NEVER FORGET the last few months of my mother’s life, just before she went to be with the Lord. During those months she grew weaker and weaker physically but her joy and excitement about heaven grew stronger and stronger!
Whenever anyone went to visit her, they came away marveling at her radiance and sense of expectancy. Yes, when she died, there were tears. But in the midst of them, those of us who loved her had a deep sense of joy and comfort, because we knew she was with the Lord.
THE GLORY AHEAD
Death is not the end of the story for you as a Christian either. We are just pilgrims passing through this physical world with its pain and suffering. There is life beyond death! This is the clear-cut promise of God in the Bible.
A young man with an incurable disease was reported to have said, “I don’t think I would be afraid to die if I knew what to expect after death.”
Evidently this young man had not heard of the heaven God has prepared for those who love Him. For Christians there need be no fear. Christ has given us hope!
Do you have that hope in your heart? Do you know that if you were to die tonight you would go to heaven to be with Christ forever? You can, if you will trust Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house... . I am going there to prepare a place for you. . . I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am” (John 14:1—3 NCV).
For Christians, the grave is not the end, nor is death a calamity. We have a glorious hope---the hope of heaven.
WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE?
Heaven will be beautiful. It is beautiful beyond description or imagination! Heaven could not help but be so because it is the Father’s house, and He is the God of beauty.
Look at the world around us. Wherever we look we are surrounded by amazing beauty. And the same hand that made trees and fields and flowers, seas and hills, clouds and sky, made a home for us called heaven.
It is a place so beautiful that when the apostle John caught a glimpse of it, the only thing to which he could liken it was a young woman on her wedding day. He said heaven was “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 NIV).
Heaven will be happy. Think of a place where there will be no sin, no sorrow, no quarrels, no misunderstandings, no hurt feelings, no pain, no sickness, no suffering, no night, and no death. God’s house will be a happy home because there will be nothing in it to hinder happiness (Revelation 21:4 NCV).
Heaven will be happy also because it’s a place of music and song. The Bible says it sounds like many waters crying, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Revelation 19:6 NCV).
And heaven will be eternal. What will make heaven so delightful? It will be that we shall behold the King in His beauty and see Him face to face. We shall be in the very presence of the living God and His magnificent Son for all eternity. That is why heaven is glorious!
Christ will be there with us. He will be the center of heaven. To Him all hearts will turn, and upon Him all eyes will rest. And we will rest secure in His presence forever.
DON’T YOU WANT TO GO THERE?
Heaven is such a wonderful place! It’s a place of unending peace and happiness. Don’t you want to go there? I know I do---and I pray you do as well.
Until that glorious day, let us live for Christ. Let us trust Him. Let us turn to Him in our time of need. And let us joyfully walk hand in hand with our Lord Jesus Christ---regardless of our circumstances---until we join Him for all eternity. That is the road to personal peace!
Jesus said, “I leave you peace, my peace I give you. . . .So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NCV) (12-57)
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