We talk a lot about Jesus around here. In fact, he’s the whole reason we’re here! If you grew up not going to church or not hearing anyone talk much about Him, then we’d like to introduce you to Him. You may not know Him, but we can assure you that He knows you.
Who Is Jesus?
Jesus was an actual man who walked the earth, 2,000 years ago. While Jesus is recorded in many historical accounts, the Bible records Jesus as not just a historical figure, but for who he really was. In the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, found at the beginning of the New Testament, Jesus’ life, death, and identity are laid out.
Jesus was far more than just a man, though. It becomes clear through these accounts that Jesus was the very Son of God, 100% God and 100% man. He came to earth to show us the very heart and character of God in himself, and so spent his life on earth loving people deeply, forgiving sins, healing people, and calling out wrongdoing and injustice. However, that was not the only reason he came. Jesus turned the tables on the culture, saying that to be the most important in his kingdom, you needed to be the lowest servant, and that what was most central to a person was not what country they belonged to, but whether or not they belonged to God. Between all of this and his claims of being God’s son, he was killed on a cross.
But his death wasn’t a normal death. Because he lived a perfect, sinless life, when he died, he did something no one else could do. He broke the power of sin and offers freedom for all who would accept it. And he didn’t stay dead, either. After three days, he rose from the dead, and now offers us new life with him, both here on earth and after we die.
So what’s sin, and why does it matter?
Sin, simply put, is anything that separates you from God. It is often associated with outward actions, like theft, lying, or murder. But sin goes far deeper than that, and it includes your thoughts (“Ugh, not him again”), your motives (“It’s worth it to save my reputation”), and ultimately, who/what you love most.. The reason all of these things separate you from God are because they are all the exact opposite of who he is. He is love (1 John 4:7). Because God is love, he doesn’t have selfish moments, the desire to deceive others, or even the temptation to embellish the truth to make himself seem better than he is. He isn’t a liar or a murderer, but rather a lover and a justice-bringer. 1 Corinthians 13 describes what love is like this way: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
God designed us to be in a loving relationship with him. He made us in his own image (Genesis 2:23), which means that he created us to love like he does. Jesus says that the two most important things are to love God with everything you have, and to love the people around you like yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). And so, anything we do, think, or even want that doesn’t reflect God separates us from him, and is called sin.
And sin has consequences. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because sin separates us from God, our creator and source of life, it ultimately leads to death, and not just the death that comes with old age or tragic events. Again, because sin separates us from our creator and source of life, sin continues to separate us from God after we die. You’ve probably heard of hell, and that’s where sin leads. Sin is not a problem restricted to the people we can all agree are “bad,” but rather it’s a problem encountered by all humans, and one that we cannot escape or solve on our own.
So what do I do?
Great question. And actually, “step one” required you to do nothing. See, God created us, and he loves us. So when sin came in and destroyed our relationship with him and with each other, God took action. He was unwilling to sit back and let us be separated from him with no hope of redemption, and unwilling to let us die with no chance to know him. So that’s why he sent Jesus. That’s why Jesus came and died and broke the power of sin; Jesus wanted to rescue us. So he has established a way for us to go back to the way he intended things to be, and he’s already paid the price with his life to make it happen. Now, he asks us to come and follow him.
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
Another great question. One that we strive to answer each Sunday morning. But to keep it short for right now, here’s some basics to get you started.
- Believe. I know it sounds simple, but this really is the starting point. Acts 16:31 says to believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. Why is this so important? It means that all of your perspectives, your view on the world and every thought you have are now shaped by the reality of a God who loves you and Jesus who died to free you from sin. That’s not something to take lightly. That’s something that changes you.
- Repent. Repentance is one of those fancy church words that has a very simple meaning. It means to turn away from, to walk in the opposite direction. Part of starting (and continuing) a relationship with Jesus means that you have to first admit to him that you need him, that you’re a sinner in need of his mercy, and that you want to be done with your old life. That you want Jesus more than you want the comforts of sin.
- Count the Cost. Following Jesus is not a free ticket into heaven with no strings attached. Following Jesus means living like he did, loving like he did. It means that your relationships with your family, friends, and coworkers will change. It means that your priorities and desires will change. It means that you will change. But it also means freedom from the sin that has been killing you slowly. It means getting to experience the love of a God that is love itself. It means that you will be part of the Church, a worldwide body of believers who also love Jesus and want to be with him. Following Jesus is so worth the cost– but there is a still a cost.
- Know Him. You’d never approach a stranger on the street to tell them that you want to follow them, and then walk away and never talk to them again. Don’t do that with Jesus. He wants you to get to know him, to taste and see that he is good, and to love him. He wants you to follow him because you want to be with him, wherever that takes you. Pick up a Bible (if you don’t have one, we would love to give you one!) and start getting to know this God that loves you so much. Spend time in prayer (which is simply talking to God), and ask him to show you more of himself. He wants to be known by you.
You can wait and think about it for a bit. Come to church with us, see what it looks like to live a life following Jesus. Learn more, talk more, ask more.
But if you’ve felt something click into place in your soul after reading all this, if you feel ready to give your life to Jesus, then you can do that with just you and him. It’s called prayer. There’s no right or wrong way to talk to God. There’s no ritual to follow or magic formula to figure out. You need only pray with a sincere commitment of your heart and life, with the intent of following through on what you believe. God is listening…he’s always listening. This prayer means you are trusting God and Jesus with your life. Here’s a guide for you to follow:
Thank you for loving me. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and failures. I admit to you that I am a sinner, that I need you to save me. I ask you to forgive me for my sins. I turn from them now. I invite Jesus into my life as my Savior and Lord. I turn my life over to him. I will live for him as long as I live. Give me the Holy Spirit to change me in to the person you want me to be. I truly mean this. Though I will surely fail at some point, I believe that you will never fail me. Thank you for giving me eternal life and making me a child of God. Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer and meant it, you are now a follower of Jesus, a Christian. Please tell someone about your decision! Christianity cannot be lived alone. Share your new faith with someone you trust, and with a church where you can grow in your commitment to Christ. In fact, we’d love it if you’d tell us about your decision to follow Jesus Christ so that we can give you some next steps to take in your faith.
I Became a Follower of Jesus Christ Today!
Faith is living like God is telling the truth. You may not feel any different yet, but faith and feelings don’t always agree with each other. It’s okay if fireworks don’t go off or you don’t hear God’s audible voice or you don’t hear a choir singing “Hallelujah.” You have a new life. Jesus said it. You can’t unbecome a child. Trust God, not feelings.
You’re still going to sin. Becoming a believer doesn’t mean you become perfect, it just means that God sees you that way. Jesus has wiped away all traces of your sin before God’s eyes, and now he wants to transform your heart to become more and more like his heart. That process that Jesus takes you through is called “sanctification,” and it means that bit by bit, as Jesus changes your heart, as you want him more and more, as you love him more and more, you’ll sin less and less. There’s hope!
You’ve just entered into a new relationship. With God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Like all relationships, if it’s going to thrive and become stronger, you need to spend some time on it. You can talk to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit through prayer, anytime, anywhere. Listen to what they have to say to you. It may not be audible words (or it might), but it could be a feeling, something you read, or even a person you bump into that suddenly has the answers you were looking for. Take these as gifts from God, his way of talking to you. Read a Bible, often. The Bible is God telling us about himself. Listen to music about God, sing to him, spend time with others who feel as you do, get involved in helping others, find a church to belong to. All these things will grow you in your relationship with God.
Here are some other online resources to help you:
Bible Gateway: Searchable bible passages in whatever version you choose