The Christian faith teaches that it is possible for absolutely anybody to have a fresh start, whatever they have done in their life. Being a Christian is not about going to church, living a good life or living in a Christian country. It is not even about believing in God. It is about being a follower of Jesus Christ and having a relationship with him. At first sight, this might seem impossible: Jesus Christ was born about 2,000 years ago in the Middle East and was executed by the authorities when he was aged about 33.
It is about being a follower of Jesus Christ and having a relationship with him.
But at the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that Jesus was, and is, God in human form and that he lived, died and came back from the dead. He then returned to heaven. His life, death and resurrection enable humanity to have a relationship with God.
The Bible book of John records what Jesus said about becoming a Christian: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
Making a fresh start
Jesus spent about three years travelling around teaching people. Sometimes thousands of people gathered to hear him. At the beginning of this time, his message was simple: he urged people to ‘repent’- to turn around from the way they were living and go in a new direction. That might mean changing their attitude to the poor, being more generous or helping others.
Repentance is a key step in becoming a Christian. It is the moment when a person admits to God, by praying to him, that they have been going in the wrong direction. They ask for his forgiveness for all the wrong they have done, thought or said. They then promise to go in a new direction in life, asking for his help to follow the teachings of Jesus by putting him first rather than themselves.
The Christian faith teaches that anyone who genuinely prays to God seeking his forgiveness will receive it. This forgiveness is a gift from God himself. It cannot be earned by doing good things. But it means that anyone can be set free from guilt, fear and memories of failure. The Bible book 2 Corinthians says ‘if anyone is in Christ (i.e. a follower of Jesus) they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come’.
Jesus promises to love and support a new believer as he or she goes on with their new life. Before he returned to heaven Jesus told his followers ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’. This ongoing support comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, ‘the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’.
Christians also find support from the Bible and from other Christians. The Bible has accounts of people whose lives changed forever after meeting Jesus. One was a woman caught committing adultery who faced being lynched by her outraged community. Another was a tax collector who was hated for collaborating with occupying forces. In the 2,000 years since Bible times, millions of people have discovered that their lives have been immeasurably better because they have had a relationship with God to sustain them.
The Christian faith teaches that anyone who genuinely prays to God seeking his forgiveness will receive it.
For some people the moment they became a Christian was a dramatic occasion; for others it was a process that occurred over a period of time. But for all of them, it was a life-changing decision with eternal consequences. And it changed their spiritual status too. The Bible book, John, says people who have believed in Jesus and follow him have been given ‘the right to become children of God’. In other words, Christians are like adopted children of God.
That close relationship with God enables Christians to behave differently, and even do things that might seem impossible. For example, the Christian faith of a Dutch woman, Corrie ten Boom, enabled her to forgive a former guard at the Nazi concentration camp where she and her family were imprisoned when she met him after the Second World War.
Faith means believing in something you cannot see. But becoming a Christian is not a blind leap of faith. It might not be possible to prove the existence of God but there is plenty of evidence for the existence of Jesus and his death and his resurrection. The Bible has eyewitness accounts of people who spent years with him. They listened to his teaching, saw him die and saw him after he rose from the dead. Their lives were also changed forever by him.