How do I know if I am already a Christian?
There is much confusion in the religious world concerning this question. Yet, it is a vital question that must be answered accurately. Despite the confusion in the world, God’s word is implicitly clear on this matter. We are saved only when we die to ourselves and live for Jesus, as He died and gave His blood to save us. The Bible clearly states that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We cannot work off the debt of our sin. We cannot do deeds of righteousness that will overcome the debt of our sin. Our salvation rests entirely on the grace and mercy of God (see Romans 5:6-9, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:16). The fact is salvation is a gift from God. So, how does one receive this gift from God?
The Bible tells us many times that grace is received and salvation is given when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. Placing faith in Jesus involves several clear activities explained in the Bible. For convenience, we will condense those activities into a simple five-step approach.
Hearing the Gospel
The first step is to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Put simply, that gospel message concerns the death, burial, resurrection, and glorification back to heaven, of Jesus the Son of God. God asks that we hear the teachings of His Son, and that we accept Jesus as the Lord of the universe. By accepting His lordship, we surrender our will to His will and begin to live daily to please Him.
Believing the Message
Believing takes us beyond simple intellectual assent. It means that we accept the message of Scripture to be true concerning Jesus, and we accept our own lost position and need to be saved by Jesus. It means we understand that there is heaven and hell, and only those saved by Jesus will inherit heaven. It means we understand that we are helplessly lost without Jesus with no hope and no way to save ourselves. Believing is in Jesus and His power to save.
Repenting of our sin
Many people in the religious world confuse this step with actual salvation. The experience they feel when they come to the understanding of their helplessness and need for salvation is confused with saving obedience to Jesus. This unfortunately short-circuits two very necessary activities in God’s plan of salvation. This step requires that we come to grips with a major problem in our lives. The problem is SIN and eternal punishment if our sin is not paid for. Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That means that every one of us sins and has sinned. The truly horrifying part of sinning is the penalty – which is death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When we come to grips with the nature of our sin, then we can take steps to find a solution to our plight of “lostness”. Repentance is how we seek forgiveness for our sins. Repentance has often been described as “a complete turning.” It is to turn away from our sin and sinful activities and adopt an attitude of righteous behavior for Jesus’ sake. Many religious groups at this point will direct the sinner to offer a prayer and “invite Jesus into their hearts.” The Bible does not present that step as a part of the salvation experience. Instead, it demands something more. (For more on repentance please read Acts 2:38, 2 Corinthians 7:10-11)
Actually, there are two different matters involved in confession. The first is confession of the fact of sin in your life. By confessing our sin, we denounce secret sinning and open ourselves up for God’s healing grace. Much as an alcoholic must publicly admit his alcoholism, so the sinner must publicly admit his sin (1 John 1:8-9).
The second confession we must make is to confess aloud that Jesus is Lord and that we believe God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). By this confession, we publicly proclaim our belief in the person, work and lordship of Jesus Christ.
Finally, the person seeking salvation must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Sins are not removed from the sinner and the price for those sins is not paid, until the sinner dies with Christ by submitting to baptism. The Bible has much to say about Christian baptism and what occurs at the point of baptism. We will highlight a few of these passages.
Acts 2:38: Baptism is “in the name of Jesus”. This phrase indicates that Jesus is the one providing the authority for baptism to be legitimate. It is not simple washing in water, but is a rite sanctioned and commanded by Jesus Himself (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16). Baptism is also, “for the forgiveness of your sins.” There is no other way presented in scripture in which forgiveness for sins is possible. Only in baptism will Jesus pay the price for sins and remove them from the sinner. It is also in baptism that the infant believer receives “the gift of the Holy Spirit” – which is the Holy Spirit Himself to dwell inside you. Without the Holy Spirit living inside a person, that person has no hope of eternal life with God.
Romans 6:3-6: The apostle Paul spoke to the church at Rome about baptism – something they had already submitted to. In his discussion of what they had already done, Paul explains other things involved in the rite of baptism.
a. It is “into Christ Jesus” – meaning that a person cannot be transferred into the grace of Jesus apart from baptism.
b. It is “into His death” – meaning that a person cannot live with Jesus until that person has first died with Jesus.
c. Baptism is “buried with Him” – a person cannot be raised to life until he has first been buried.
d. Baptism is the step prior to walking “in newness of life” – meaning that our new life with Christ cannot begin until first we have been baptized.
e. Baptism allows us to be “united with Him in the likeness of His death” so that we can be also “in the likeness of His resurrection.” Resurrection cannot precede death.
f. Baptism is the point in which “our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with.” Our sin is not removed before we are baptized.
g. Baptism sets us free from slavery to sin.
1 Peter 3:21: Baptism now saves you. It is not a matter of the removal of physical dirt from the body. Rather, it is an appeal to God for a clear conscience. Baptism is the point in which God grants forgiveness for sins, the blood of Jesus cleanses and pays the price for sins, and the sinner receives a clear conscience and the knowledge that the debt of sin has been cancelled.
Please do not let anyone tell you that baptism is not essential for salvation. It is as essential as any of the other steps involved in this redemptive process. To refuse or delay baptism is to refuse God’s clear plan of salvation. Remember, we cannot be saved by deeds of righteousness. Baptism is not a deed – it is a participation and a submission. It is participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It is submission to God’s will and His plan of salvation.
How do I become a part of this church?
If you are already a Christian, one who has been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, then all you must do is let us know of your desire to labor for the Lord and worship Him at Southside. This demonstrates your desire to serve with us here. You can announce this desire in one of several ways: during our worship service we offer an opportunity for anyone wishing to make a need known to the congregation. You may place your membership with our church at that time. Or you can simply inform one of our elders or ministers of your desire to place membership here. You will be recognized, welcomed, and put to work immediately.
If you have any other questions or would like to study the Bible further on these matters, please feel free to contact us by either email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling (870) 251-1818. Our elders or ministers will be glad to help you in any way with your study.