It was late and had become dark outside. The evening was cold and uncomfortable, and, additionally, heavy rain started to fall. I was driving home from work when on the straight stretch ahead of me, I suddenly noticed a young man on the side of the road, hitchhiking for a ride. I stopped and asked about his destination. He needed to get to the next village, about 8 km away. “Well then, get in,” I said.
We barely had ten minutes of ride-sharing together, only time for small talk. “Where are you from, where are you going?” After a moment’s thought, I ventured to ask, “Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus?” Surprised, he looked at me. I’m sure he didn’t expect this question. But he quickly collected himself. “Oh yes, I believe in God and Jesus. I’m Catholic and basically a believer.” I didn’t get the impression that he knew much about God, though. In the short time I had left, I tried to show him how much Jesus loves us and how much each one of us needs Him.
Is profession of faith enough?
Saying “I believe in Jesus” – am I then truly a Christian? Is historical or social faith enough to have a living relationship with God?
We must answer these questions with a clear “no.” No, it is not enough to grow up in a Christian home. It is not enough to bear the name “Christian.” It is not enough to belong to a Christian church. Yes, even biblical baptism is not a guarantee that we are true Christians.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read about Simon, the sorcerer, who apparently became a believer and was baptized with the others. But when Peter and John came to Samaria, Simon’s real inner condition was exposed. Peter said to him, “Repent…for I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (see Acts 8:4-25). So we see that professing Christianity is not a guarantee that one is truly a Christian.
Becoming a Christian
Becoming a true Christian firstly requires forgiveness and secondly a change of heart. We need forgiveness because as human beings, we have all sinned before God. We need a change of heart so that we – reoriented – can serve God.
This process is so transforming that the Bible speaks of a new birth, a rebirth. Jesus says, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). For this reason, we must be born again by the Spirit of God.
However, before we can be born of God, we must realize that we are far from God and that we are guilty before Him because of our sins. When this becomes clear to us, deep inside of our heart, a desire for God and His love will grip us. We will desire deliverance from all sin and guilt. The Holy Spirit works this desire. He draws and calls us to God. This “drawing of the Spirit,” the desire for God and the knowledge that God loves us infinitely, no matter who we are, leads us to God.
In repentance and contrition, we can now come to God, confess our sin and guilt in prayer, and ask for a clean heart. As a result, God intervenes in our lives and grants us forgiveness and new life, which we must accept through faith. Only then, the statement “I believe in Jesus” gains its true value. There are no genuine Christians without a genuine rebirth.
The results of faith
This dynamic experience of receiving forgiveness of sins and a new life makes us a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This is the change of heart that is so imperative. We must have a new direction for our lives, and the following results will be evident in our life:
* We will have a living relationship with God. He is now truly our Father, and we will seek fellowship with Him through His Word and prayer.
* Jesus not only forgives sin but also sets us free from sin (John 8:36). By the grace of God, we can have victory over sin.
* The fruit of the Spirit is the logical result of a living relationship with God (Galatians 6:22).
* The term “Christian” comes from “Christ.” So our goal will be to live a Christ-like life. Someone put it this way: “Live in such a way that no one will have any doubts whether you are a Christian or not.”
I believe in Jesus – God grant us not only a profession but a living faith which manifests itself in a life that pleases God.