What is a Christian?
The most important question deserving serious and sincere consideration is that of a person’s salvation.
A person is made right with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This message is called “the gospel” because it is the good news that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of sin, and that all who repent of sin and turn to Jesus for forgiveness will be forgiven and made right with God.
Salvation means that a person is forgiven of sin by faith in Jesus Christ. This person is freed from the guilt and punishment of sin. He or she has been brought into a personal relationship with God as his child and will continue to follow Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit until they are taken home to heaven.
Several Bible verses give an outline of the basic understanding of salvation:
Ephesians 2:8-9 – Salvation is a gift of God.
Grace is the word that describes God’s gift. Grace means that salvation is a free gift to us. Salvation is free to us because Jesus paid for it with his life. We do not deserve salvation nor could we ever do anything to earn it. Salvation is a gift that is received by faith in Christ’s payment for our sins. It is not accomplished by our works.
Romans 3:23, 6:23 – Every person is a sinner and has sinned in thought, word and action.
Our status as a sinner separates us from God because he is sinless, perfect, and holy. Because of our sin, we are spiritually dead and separated from God. Our greatest need is for a Savior who will take away the guilt of our sin and make us right with God.
Romans 5:8 – Jesus Christ is our Savior.
God showed his great love for us by sending his Son, Jesus, to earth to die on a cross. Jesus took the punishment for our sins on himself. By bearing our punishment and dying our death, Jesus is our Savior.
Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9-13 – The death of Christ removes the sins of those who believe in him.
To believe in Jesus is to repent of sin and turn to him for forgiveness. To believe in Jesus is also to confess him as Lord by calling on him for salvation.
John 3:16 – The one who believes in Jesus will not die the eternal death of separation from God but will be granted eternal life.
Eternal life begins the moment a person trusts Jesus. It is a life of love and fellowship with Jesus on earth and eternal life with him in heaven.
Have you become a Christian by believing in Jesus? Have you repented of sin and called on him to save you? Are you on the road of following him in this life? Please do not continue on in life without settling this most important issue. If your heart is stirred to become a Christian, consider the following prayer. If this prayer reflects your heart, say it to God right now.
“Dear God, thank you for the good news I have just read from the Bible. I know that I am a sinner and that I am separated from you. I believe that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for my sin by dying on the cross. I repent of my sin to follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me, for giving me eternal life and for making me a new person as your child. Teach me what I need to know to live as a follower of Jesus. Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer, please let a church leader know. It is important that you continue to grow as a Christian, and we would like to help you.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is an outward expression of the inward reality of being saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded the church to baptize those who became his disciples (Matthew 28:19). The first church in Jerusalem did this when they called new believers in Jesus to be baptized based on the fact that they had been forgiven of their sins (Acts 2:38-41). Every Christian is to obey Christ’s command to be baptized.
Why is baptism important? It is certainly not because the act of baptism has a saving effect on the one baptized. Salvation is a gift of God given freely to all who believe in Jesus Christ. The importance of baptism is in the communication of the act and in the obedience of the believer.
Romans 6:3-4 tells us that baptism communicates outwardly what actually happens to us inwardly when we come to faith in Christ. Inwardly, we are made to die to sin’s guilt, penalty, and domination in our lives. We are also granted new life to walk in the power of Christ and in fellowship and obedience to him. Outwardly, baptism symbolizes this death to sin and resurrection to new life. Just as Christ died and rose again, we also die to sin and rise to new life. Baptism shows our union with Christ.
When a believer in Jesus is baptized, they are publicly professing their faith in Jesus before others. This step of obedience is prompted by the inner working of the Holy Spirit and is evidence of the new life the believer now possesses.
All analogies are limited in their ability to communicate the reality to which they point, but the wedding ring can help us understand the significance of baptism to a degree. When a man and woman stand at the altar of marriage, they take a marriage vow to love, honor, and cherish each other as long as they live. Then, with that heart commitment spoken before God and witnesses, they put on wedding rings as an outward sign of the inward love and commitment they have pledged to one another. It is not the ring that makes them husband and wife, it is the pledge of heart love. The ring, however, communicates to all who see it the reality of the love they share together. Baptism is not the saving grace of God, and being baptized does not make a person a Christian. Baptism points to the grace of God in salvation and is a profession of faith on the part of the one baptized.
Inherent in the meaning of baptism is the understanding that baptism is for those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. Since a conscious faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, it is also necessary for baptism.
In Acts 2:41, it was those who received the word and were baptized who were added to the church. Salvation and baptism are necessary to be added to the local church.
Grace Community Church has baptized many believers who have come from other church traditions that do not require baptism after conversion. We have never cast doubt on the salvation of anyone based on his or her tradition’s understanding of baptism. It has been a joy, however, to help all our members gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the ordinance of baptism.
What is Spiritual Growth?
When Jesus gave the Great Commission to go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), he had in mind the conversion, profession of faith in baptism, and spiritual maturity of people. Jesus wants his followers to grow in grace.
Spiritual growth is a gift of grace just as salvation is. This means that our progress in faith comes to us from God, is initiated by God, and will be completed by God (Philippians 1:6, 2:13). Just as God’s grace for salvation is received by faith, so is his grace for spiritual growth. There are certain means of grace which help us grow spiritually.
1. Prayer and the word of God. The primary way we communicate with God is through prayer. The primary way God communicates with us is through his word, the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit assists us in both acts of faith. He helps us pray (Romans 8:26-27), and he opens our minds to comprehend the meaning of God’s Word (John 16 :13). Listening to God in his word and talking to him about everything are essential for spiritual growth.
2. The fellowship of the church. When we step out in faith to follow Jesus, we step into a family of faith to live and grow together. We need the presence and support of other believers to grow in our faith (Hebrews 10:23-25). Corporate worship, small group connection with others, and friendship with believers provide this support and move us in the direction of Christ.
3. Obedience and faith. Every act of obedience to Jesus is a step of faith. We must believe that Jesus is right and that he will take care of us before we will do what he tells us to do. Obedience seems risky at times, but it helps us mature by building in us a strong faith and by opening us up to greater experiences of grace.
These means of grace are acts of faith. They are not meritorious for salvation. We must always remember that human effort and works save no one. These acts of faith are ways we walk with God as he does his maturing work in us. We must also remember that the purpose of the means of grace is not for obtaining knowledge or discipline only. The means of grace aid in conforming us to the image of Christ. Knowledge and discipline serve the purpose of growth in grace.
At Grace Community Church, our aim is to build spiritually healthy and growing people who serve Christ in the world.