How to Convert to Christianity?

The basic method of converting Christianity is described at the "birth" of the church on the Jewish day of Pentecost.

On the day of Pentecost (the Jewish holy day of firstfruits) the disciples of Jesus as well as Jews from many different countries were in Jerusalem. The disciples were gathered together in one place, apparently preparing to keep the rituals by bringing a grain or meat offering to the temple.

Suddenly there was a sound from above like a mighty wind and what looked like tongues of fire hovered over each disciple.

The people outside heard the sound and were attracted to the location of the disciples.

They disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak to the gathered onlookers. The disciples were able to speak to each group of foreigners in the crowd in their own native language.

The Apostle Peter stood up to address the entire crowd. After his address, the people asked what they should do.

Acts 2:37-39
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

The record indicates that about 3,000 people were baptized and added to the disciples at that time.

There are three things the Apostle Peter told his listeners to do:

  • Repent
  • Be baptized
  • Receive the gift of the holy spirit
Let's briefly look at each of these to see what Peter told the first converts to do.

Repent

The Greek word translated "repent" is metanoeo.

This Greek word (metanoeo) means to change your mind. That is, you decide that the way you have been living is not working. You decide to do things differently.

You come to realize that your way of thinking and acting does not produce good results. Like Frank Sanitra used to sing "I did it my way", you were living a life filled with thoughts of vanity, jealously, lust, greed, pride, competition, strife, selfish desires, and lack of respect for others.

Repentance is simply the decision on your part to live the kind of life that Jesus taught.

Describing this life to his disciples, he said:

  • Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  • Happy are those who are sad: for they will be comforted.
  • Happy are the gentle: for the earth will be their heritage.
  • Happy are those whose heart's desire is for righteousness: for they will have their desire.
  • Happy are those who have mercy: for they will be given mercy.
  • Happy are the clean in heart: for they will see God.
  • Happy are the peace makers: for they will be named sons of God.
  • Happy are those who are attacked on account of righteousness: for the kingdom of heaven will be theirs.
  • Happy are you when men give you a bad name, and are cruel to you, and say all evil things against you falsely, because of me.
  • Be glad and full of joy; for great is your reward in heaven: for so were the prophets attacked who were before you.

When you repent, you want to become a gentle peace maker, you want to do what is right to all people, you feel sad about all the crime and violence in the world. Jesus taught these and many other things to his disciples. You can find many helpful life changing teachings as you read through the Gospel accounts.

Even though you change your mind about how to act, you still retain your long practiced habits. You will still have society pushing you to return to the competitive, dog-eat-dog, way of acting. And, evil spirits (demons) will try to influence you. Even the Apostle Paul, after years of being a Christian, indicated the old ways were difficult to overcome.

Paul wrote to the Roman church, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."

So, do not be discouraged when you fail to live up to the ideals Jesus describes. Just keep on trying to live the right way.

Now, many will tell you that you should feel sorry for your past way of life and that you should demonstrate through some act of penance that you, indeed, are sorry. Penance is a way of punishing yourself for your past "sins".

This concept of penance was popularized by the Catholic Church when they translated the Greek word "metanoeo" into the Latin word from which we get the word "penance". Thus, we see Catholics confessing their sins to a priest and the priest giving them acts of penance to perform as "payment" for their sins.

The incorrect concept of penance may not even result in repentance, a decision to change your way of life. Penance can lead you to believe that by suffering you will pay for your sins and can continue your old way of life.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was the one and only act that paid for your mistakes. As long as you repent of your failures you need not burden yourself with any acts of penance. Your mistakes were laid on Jesus and he paid the price of your sins.

Repentance is your decision to abandon your current lifestyle and become faithful to the teachings of Jesus. As your belief, respect, dedication, and commitment to Jesus grows you will increasingly want to live the life Jesus described. This process is the building of faith or faithfulness.

Be Baptized

The Greek word translated baptize is baptizo

The word "baptizo" literally means to dip, immerse, or submerge. It indicates a process of submerging an object under water to effect a change.

The method of baptizing then is to be submerged. While some religions "baptize" by sprinkling or pouring water on the person, this appears not to be consistent with Biblical accounts.

One of the symbolic meanings of baptism is the laying down in death of the "old" sinful man and the rising up of the "new" man dedicated to God. The old sinful "man" dies in baptism. All his past sins die with him.

When you rise from the baptismal water you are a new creature in Christ, completely forgiven of you past misdeeds.

John the Baptist preceded Jesus. John preached and baptized people in the wilderness near the river Jordan.

Mark 1:4

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

At the start of the church on Pentecost, Peter spoke to many Jews who had gathered for the annual feast of Pentecost. At the end of his message the crowd asked him what they must do.

Acts 2:38

And Peter said to them, "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."

Both John and Peter indicate that after you repent, baptism is a step then cleanses you from your sins. Your sins are completely washed away.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth indicated that some of the Christians there formerly lived the life of a sinner. He indicated that though they once were a part of that life, now those sins were completely washed away.

I Corinthians 6:9-11

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

That is, baptism illustrates that:

  • Our flesh (symbolically our selfish attitude, the "I want mine now" lifestyle) is put to death just as Jesus was put to death. And, just as he rose again, so we rise up out of the water of baptism with a new life, a new lifestyle based on Jesus' teachings.
  • Our past sins are completely forgiven and washed away.

Baptism, then, is an outward display of your belief that you have repented (your old nature has died) and are dedicated to live the according to the ideals of Jesus.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is of God and will dwell or make his home within you.

You need the Holy Spirit to help you overcome your old habits, the influence of your environment, and the influences of what are often called unclean spirits.

The Holy Spirit is often described as:

  • A guide that influences you.
  • A teacher that gives wisdom and understanding.
  • A comforter who advocates for you to a higher authority.
  • A miracle working power.

The Holy Spirit is given during or immediately after baptism. Some local churches have a tradition of placing their hands on you to impart the Holy Spirit.

There probably are more interesting religious traditions regarding the Holy Spirit than any other aspect of Christianity.

Some denominations believe there is a first and second "baptism" of the Holy Spirit. The first baptism is the Holy Spirit you receive that assures you of salvation. They claim the second baptism of the Holy Spirit imparts to you a sort of euphoria of the spirit. You then laugh, roll around on the floor, bark like a dog, or do other crazy things "in the spirit".

Some pentecostal churches believe you should speak in tongues (unknown languages) to demonstrate that you have the Holy Spirit. While speaking in tongues appears in several accounts in the Book of Acts, it is not always mentioned. Paul even indicated that not all speak in tongues.

While these ideas are fascinating, there is little or no Biblical support for them. Many of the denominations that support these beliefs point to the "experience" itself as evidence of its validity.

The Holy Spirit is, in essence, your helper. It is not meant to create a spectacle drawing attention to you.

How Not to Become a Christian

Neither Jesus nor the Apostles described any rituals, signs, holy days or other typical characteristics of popular religions. The only "ritual" Jesus commanded was taking bread and wine (symbolically his body and blood) and foot washing (to show humility and an attitude of service to one another).

Jesus and the original Christians were all Jewish. The disciples initially thought that Christianity was simply a Jewish sect, a subgroup of the Jews.

When non-Jewish people (gentiles) began to receive the Holy Spirit and join the church there was a controversy regarding keeping the laws of Moses, especially circumcision. It was decided that the rules and regulations that characterize the Jewish religion were not required of gentiles.

Paul further indicated that people of every ethnic group become Christian just as the gentiles--without religious rituals and laws.

Becoming a Christian is not the same as following an authoritative father figure. Many people have given their money and time to follow the teachings of a special group or an individual claiming a special relationship with God. Remember that, as a Christian, your main teacher and example is Jesus, not some other human being.

Becoming a Christian is not the same as joining a popular religion. Becoming a Christian means that you are joining a group of faithful believers of all races scattered throughout the world. All these people have repented, were baptized and received the Holy Spirit.

How to Become a Christian

If you are serious about becoming a Christian, you should find a local church and discuss becoming a Christian with the pastor. You may want to choose a non-denominational church that has fewer traditions of rituals and ceremonies.

Remember that every local church is filled with real people who are not perfect. You need only read some of the Apostle Paul's letters to see that some pretty terrible things were being done in the local churches.

You may not like everyone or everything you see. So, please allow them to make mistakes and be human. Worship with them and learn as much as you can about how to live as Jesus described.

Both you and the other members of the local church should strive to grown in the knowledge and understanding of Jesus and his ideals, and put them into practice.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Sherman