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What does it take to become a Christian?

March 19, 2008
Raised hand

My mind is reeling this morning. I have been praying and working a lot over the last two years to reshape my thinking and to base it purely on God’s truth, not on man’s interpretation and processes. That alone has been an interesting and complex journey. Some things have become very clear and I have realized how far from God’s truth I have walked. Every once in a while something comes up that shakes me and leaves me with huge questions about what I have been taught, what I believe, and what is really true.

This past weekend I attended the Dare2Share conference held in Seattle. About 5000 youth and leaders joined together for a time of teaching, worship, challenge, and encouragement. It was an awesome experience. Greg Steir and several other speakers challenged us to no longer be lukewarm, to make a commitment to God, and to live that out every day. We were challenged to stand up for what we believe in and to love God so much we share him with others. Dare2Share definitely has an evangelism component to it, but they also want to provide some discipleship materials and resources for others. A part of Friday night was to make sure those attending the conference were convinced of what we believed and had made a commitment to God. There was a time where we closed our eyes and people were given an opportunity to raise their hand and acknowledge that commitment by raising their hands. Then they were encouraged to share their decision with others at the conference. At the time it seemed right. I had been through times like this before and I have seen many people make commitments in this way.

Today as I drove to work I listened to a sermon by Francis Chan, pastor at Cornerstone Church in California. He was teaching on the Holy Spirit and was referring to a verse from Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “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.” The question was asked, what does it take to become a Christian? Is it just a hand in the air and a heart decision? Does it say anything in the Bible about making commitments in this way? This verse from Acts tells us to repent and be baptized.

Now I am puzzled, not for myself because I know that I went through a time of repentance along with my decision to follow Christ, but for all the youth and others I have worked with and for all those I know who have made commitments at events where people just raise their hands. Does Christ just want a decision to follow, or is repentance a necessary part of it? If someone doesn’t repent are they actually turning from their old life and pursuing a new life in Christ? Are we asking God to change us even though we are full of sin, or are we actively trying to put down our sin and move away from it so we can follow God?

Lots to think about……I think this one might take me a while to work through.

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