One time I was having a very engaging conversation with a person very close to me.
The topic turned to "Christ following" and a discussion ensued about how one begins in Christianity. In the course of the conversation I flatly asked, "What do you think? How does one become a Christian?"
But I have to be honest. I was a little bit taken off-guard by the response simply because I thought I knew the person's knowledge base, and when nothing was articulated about Jesus or his role in one "becoming a Christian," it surprised me.
What about you? What are your thoughts on this matter? How does one commence with Jesus? No matter what religious perspective you come from, understanding others' is important. Intellectually grasping how one becomes a Christian does not mean one is a Christian. It is just a first step. Once you understand the mechanics of starting with Jesus (step one), then you can make the decision whether you want to "buy in" (step two). It is then you can choose by your own will to take the faith step to follow Jesus or to reject.
In Colossians 1:21-23 we get some details on how to start with Jesus: "And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."
Three words given in this passage provide a knowledge base of the mechanics behind what it takes to become a Christ follower.
The letter or epistle "Colossians" was written by the Apostle Paul to the ancient church at Colossae; therefore, the first audience was a group of people who were already professed Christians.
Verse 21 presents the first key word in understanding how to become a Christian -- "alienation." "You were once alienated and hostile in mind." What this means is that a follower of Jesus admits that he or she has a "checkered past," remembers that they as individuals were antagonistic to God and his ways. The result of hostility and evil deeds is this very concept of alienation (relational separation from God). God is holy and will not tolerate evil and rebellion. Starting with Jesus requires a realization that each person is not naturally on good terms with God because of personal sin.
The second key word is "reconciled." Because of the alienation or estrangement between humanity and God, there is a need for relational bridge building, for healing. In order to heal any relationship conflict someone has to step up. Reconciliation with God is based on the atonement of Jesus as "his payment" restores unfriendly relations with God. Jesus has stepped up!
Hostility, evil and rebellion is "paid for" by Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, making it possible for the disagreement between each individual and God to be settled. Jesus' "substitutionary sacrifice" (that is his death in our place for our sins) allows us to be "presented holy, and blameless and above reproach before him!"
The third key word is "faith." Faith is a growing trust and belief in what is not seen. Faith is the catalyst that puts reconciliation into motion for those who are alienated from God. "If indeed you continue in the faith" helps us to understand that reconciliation is conditional -- that is, it is base faith. Another verse from Ephesians 2:8-9 gives more light, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." The gift is available but you must receive it in order for it to apply.
Starting with Jesus or becoming a Christian does not depend on your ability to do what is right or to attend church. Commencement occurs when one realizes it is not what they do but what Jesus has already done. This means there is hope for the helpless, grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing for all who would receive.
Are you ready for commencement? Imagine what would happen in your life if you admitted your need for help and received Jesus' atonement by faith. It would change your life and your legacy. You would know how to begin with Jesus, and you would be in a helpful position to pass that on to others!
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 10 a.m. Sundays in the cafeteria building of North Central Michigan College in Petoskey and 10 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City elementary. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.