I have called myself a Christian for a long time but I realize my faith is dead. I struggle to trust God to forgive my sins because I fear I have committed the unforgivable sin. I want to believe.
In John 3:1, 10 we are told that a leader and teacher of the Jews named Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:2). Jesus told him that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he or she is born again. Literally, Jesus said “born from above” since the Greek word is anothen. That is, ultimately eternal life is given to us by God above. God determines who obtains eternal life. Therefore, we will examine what is true of someone who is a Christian. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 teaches that someone who is a Christian has true faith or saving faith and not vain faith. Therefore, we want to discover what are the characteristics of saving faith or real faith. What follows will answer the question, “What must I do to become a Christian?” You can have peace and know if you are a Christian.
Repentance Accompanies Saving Faith
God has told us that we sin and warned us that because of our sins we deserve spiritual death or hell. Hell is described as a horrible place of brimstone, fire, flames, darkness, heat, pain, and suffering. James 1:13-15 tells us that we cannot blame God for our sins. We are totally responsible for our own sins. We choose to sin! Our sins reveal we are sinners (John 8:24; Romans 5:19). We are wicked people (Romans 3:23). We are going to hell without Jesus Christ.
God wants us to stop sinning and become as holy as He is (1 Peter 1:15-16). Therefore, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins according to John 16:8-11. At the moment someone truly believes in Christ, they will also understand that Jesus died for them. They realize that only Jesus can save them from the consequences of their sins, and will repent of their sins. Those who do not understand the seriousness of their sins will not feel remorse for their actions.
One of the characteristics of someone who is truly a believer in Christ is that they also grieve their sins and are repentant of their sins. They will seek God’s forgiveness. Notice in Luke 13:5 that Jesus says if a person does not repent they will perish.
I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:5 (NASB)
Then in Acts 20:21 we are told again that repentance and faith in Christ accompany salvation. They occur together.
. . . solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21 (NASB)
The apostles were teaching people to repent.
. . . but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. Acts 26:20 (NASB)
We have discovered that repentance accompanies true faith.
Notice that Luke 5:32 records a statement of Jesus where He said that He came to call sinners to repent. He did not call the righteous to repent.
I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32 (NASB)
Jesus equated faith with repentance. True faith results in repentance!
Submission To Christ Accompanies Saving Faith
Submission to Christ also accompanies true faith. Romans 10:9 couples faith and submission to Christ together.
. . . that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)
Here we are told that anyone who believes in his or her heart that God raised Jesus from the dead will also confess or agree that Jesus is Lord. It is a personal admission that Jesus is the Lord of his or her life.
When someone seriously understands they are 1) a sinner going to hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23) and then 2) realizes that Jesus died and was raised from the dead so their sins could be forgiven and 3) responds by repenting and submitting to Christ, they become a Christian.
We have just discovered that a person becomes a Christian when they repent of their sins and yields theirself to Christ at the point of trusting Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. You can know you are a Christian at the point you are repentant over your sins, willingly submit to Christ as Master and are trusting Him to forgive your sins. Remember repentance and submission accompany true faith in Christ.
Suggested Links:Book of 1 John
How long can a person sin and still be a Christian?
Can someone attend church, leave, and become a Christian later?
True Christians Count the Cost
Can a Christian stray from the faith and still be a Christian?
How do you receive Christ? What does John 1:12 mean?