Fundamentals of a Christian life - 3 of 5
The third in a series that summarise what the Bible says about what we need to do to re-establish our relationship with Him – to truly become a ‘friend of God’.
Part 3: What must I do to have eternal life – to be saved?
In the previous article we covered that:
- we are all sinners and thus not good enough for God
- the punishment for sin is eternity in hell - permanent separation from God
- but that our punishment for sin has been paid for by Jesus Christ’s death
- but only as long as we acknowledge Christ’s death for us
Becoming acceptable to God is described by several terms in the Bible:
- being saved
- receiving salvation
- being ‘born again’
- becoming righteous and holy
- having the Spirit of Christ
So if this is so important, how does it happen? How do we get saved? How can we be born again?
There are many scriptures that we need to look at to get the complete understanding of what’s required, but these six are a reasonable summary:
Acts 16:31 (NKJV) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.
Heb 11:6 (NKJV) For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him
Rom 10:9 (NKJV) If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
John 3:5 (NKJV) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Rom 8:9 (NLT) Remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.
Acts 2:38 (ESV) Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is very important that we do not just take one of the above scriptures by itself, but look at all of them together to get the complete picture of what’s required for salvation, which is that:
- we believe in God and that the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, has died so that we can avoid paying the penalty for our sin;
- we repent;
- we are baptised in water for the forgiveness of our sins;
- we are filled with the Holy Spirit
All of these steps are part of the process of our rebirth as a son or daughter of God.
It is quite literally, being born again as described in John 3. It is a brand new start for each of us. No longer just physical people, but people filled with a part of God – His Holy Spirit.
So what is really involved in each of these steps?
Believing in God
This is simply acknowledging God as our creator. God is very happy to be asked to prove Himself to us if we’re not sure of Him . This is the start of our journey of faith where we don’t just say that we believe in God, but start acting on that belief.
Believing and faith are not passive – they are not just us acknowledging that God exists. Instead they are active. True belief and faith results in us being obedient to what God asks of us. Real belief and faith means we trust God, love God, honour God, and serve God.
Then over time, that belief and faith will grow stronger as we begin to experience the power and work of God in our lives.
That leads very naturally to the next step – repentance.
‘Repenting’ literally means to ‘turn around and go the other way’. It happens when we decide that we don’t want to live our lives just for ourselves, but that we want and need God to be a part of our lives.
Repentance is to turn away from everything in your life that grieves God, and instead choose His direction for your life. We decide that we want to start living the way God wants us to live.
Repentance is a conscious decision on our part, and thus is impossible for young children. (But that's OK because young children are made holy by their believing parents 1 Cor 7:14). We need to be old enough to be able to believe in God, to acknowledge our sin, and to repent all by ourselves.
Repentance is more than just saying ‘sorry’. It’s wanting to put right what we’ve done wrong. Genuine repentance brings a willingness to obey God’s word.
That means repentance is not just a passive thought in our head, but it results in action. It needs us to give voice to that desire – to ‘confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus’.
And that leads us to the next action – baptism in water.
Being baptised in water
‘Baptism’ is a Greek word that has been brought into the English language, and as a consequence has become a religious concept that hides its real meaning. In fact it is a simple Greek word better translated as immersed, submerged or saturated. Baptism in water literally means that we are totally immersed under water.
This act is symbolic  as we follow Christ into the grave and out the other side.
It is recognising and accepting Christ’s death on our behalf, for the forgiveness of our sins .
Baptism in water is one of the first acts of obedience that we will do as a consequence of believing in God and repenting. It is often a humbling experience, but at the same time one of the most exciting things we can do as we respond to God calling us to follow Him.
Believing, repentance and being baptised in water are all things that we decide to do ourselves. But there’s one more thing that has to happen before a Christian is truly ‘born again’, and that is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit
This is not something we can do for ourselves, or that anyone else can do for us such as baptising us in water. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is something only God can do for us. For many it is the first truly miraculous thing that happens in our lives.
It is up to us to ask for the Holy Spirit, but it is God that gives us the Holy Spirit.
But far from pleading for the Holy Spirit, we can ask very confidently, boldly and persistently for it . Just like a child will often nag a parent for something they’ve been promised.
How do we know that we’ve received the Holy Spirit?
Quite early in the New Testament church, the Apostle Phillip went and preached in Samaria . This account makes it very clear that something physical happens when we receive the Holy Spirit. In Samaria, many miracles had occurred and many people were baptised in water, but they had to send back to Jerusalem for Peter and John to come down because ‘as yet the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them’ .
In other words, other people can know when someone has received the Holy Spirit.
And the only consistent physical evidence of the Holy Spirit that is recorded for us, is speaking in other languages, also called ‘speaking in tongues’ .
Just like there is lots of noise when we’re born physically (the welcome cry of the newborn), there is also lots of noise when we are born again spiritually . It is the sound of a new language that we’re given miraculously.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is incredibly important. Repentance, baptism and the Holy Spirit are all essential for salvation, but receiving the Holy Spirit makes the biggest difference for us:
- It is the power of God coming to live in us 
- It is the seal of our salvation 
- It is our guarantee of eternal life 
- It an important part of our prayer life 
Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are not outdated ceremonies. They are the first steps to a new life. As a Christian you can then expect physical healing, peace of mind and a joyful heart as your right. Your life will be blessed by God as you continue to do the things that Jesus said to do.
You are like God
‘Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ’ Mark 16 v 38