Advice for young people thinking about committing their lives to Jesus Christ.
“I want to accept Jesus, but I’m afraid. I’m not even sure if I’m ready yet, but I want to be.” My wife and I were talking with a teenage girl. She said she wanted to accept Jesus but didn’t understand how. “Can you describe what happens when I decide to commit my life to Christ? What is expected of me as a Christian? How will I have to change?”
These are good questions. They’re also important questions. To answer them completely, we need to discuss topics like salvation and grace. But even before those things, one of the most important issues for anyone who wants to come to Christ is: How do we make Jesus our priority number one? That’s what it means to believe him, accept him and follow him.
Believe in Jesus Christ
The first thing expected of a Christian is to believe that Jesus was and is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14).
When Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, their answers ranged from John the Baptist to Elijah, to Jeremiah, to one of the prophets. Finally, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter correctly said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
As a Christian, you believe that Jesus was and is the Son of God. Of course, he was also a real human—born to Mary—descended from David. He breathed, he sweated, he ate, he drank, he bled and he died. Christians believe that Jesus lived as a human on this earth. He was God in the flesh. Jesus Christ was tortured, nailed to the cross, killed and buried. That same Jesus was resurrected and lives today. That’s who Jesus is. He is the Son of God and he is your Savior.
That may sound simple, and with the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is understandable. But for some people, these things are almost impossible to believe. Why? Because a commitment to Christ requires faith. Faith is a word that describes our relationship with Jesus. It takes faith to believe that Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14). It takes faith to believe that once a person dies, he or she can live again.
Jesus lived again. He was resurrected. How important is that resurrection? It means everything. “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). If Jesus had not been resurrected, then we would have no salvation, we would have no hope, we would have no future. But he is risen. So to believe takes faith, and faith is a gift from God.
Salvation through Christ
A Christian also believes that Jesus came to save the world (John 3:17). Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven. Through Jesus, we have access to God and the Holy Spirit. Only by Jesus are we given salvation (Acts 4:12).
Christians believe what Jesus said. A Christian takes the words of Jesus to heart, and makes those words a part of life. This is another step in putting Jesus in your heart, of making him priority number one. It’s more than talking about Jesus – it’s living the life Jesus lived, walking the walk Jesus walked.
Expect the Unexpected
People would never have expected the Messiah— the promised King—to be born in humble circumstances! Or to grow up in a town like Nazareth—in Galilee, of all places. They wouldn’t have expected him to choose fishermen and a tax collector as his assistants. Or to be at odds with the religious establishment. Neither would they have expected him to spend time with street people, prostitutes, beggars and greedy tax collectors.
No, Jesus Christ was not what everybody expected. His teaching style often included startling statements, ironic twists that hit people right between the eyes:
Jesus never sinned, but to the people around, especially the religious leaders, he was a dangerous radical. Controversy surrounded him.
His death was the greatest irony. Here he was, the king the people thought would save them from Roman occupation, and he allowed himself to be killed by the Romans. Why? To save us all from a much greater oppression: our own sins. The true enemy wasn’t the tough-skinned Roman warrior, but the hardened heart under our own skin.
But today, everyone has Jesus figured out, right? After 2,000 years, it would be hard for Jesus to surprise us, wouldn’t it? I’m sure you’re not surprised that I say, no. Today, just as before, Jesus does the unexpected. Read the accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Look at them from the perspective of the listener in the first century A.D., and you’ll find some surprises. Then translate Jesus’ teachings into your 20th-century situation, and you may be in for even bigger surprises.
Where do you expect to find Jesus today? Unconsciously you may expect to see him with the pious church ladies and the super-righteous deacons, but you may be disappointed. If you expect to see Christ wherever his name is used a lot, you may be disappointed (see Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus may not be visible in all the places we expect. But if we look closely, we may find him in unexpected places. We may have overlooked his transforming work in small children, in the homeless and inner-city poor, in murderers on death row. The surprise that affects you most is this: With all the billions of people on earth, Jesus is taking a special, personal, full-time interest in you!
We might expect Jesus to be too busy. Or we may feel that he’s given up on us when we fail again and again. But that’s not so. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
That’s powerful love. What else would you expect from a God who does the unexpected?
Jesus was perfect. He never sinned. He loved everyone. He set a right example in everything he did. Does he expect the same thing of you? Yes and no. Jesus came and lived as a human being for many reasons. One was to let us know that he understands what we face. Jesus understands the battles we face against peer pressure. He understands depression, sadness and anger. He understands frustration and stress.
Jesus understands that no one is perfect, and that we will sin. He knows that Christians aren’t perfect, but we are forgiven. So you can safely say Jesus Christ doesn’t expect you to be exactly like him, because you can’t be. But with Christ’s help, you can deal with the problems and challenges life brings. As the Bible tells us, Christians are counted as righteous because of what Christ did for us, not because of what we do.
Christ’s message for you—how to live your life, how to treat others, how to look to God—is throughout the Bible. The four Gospels— Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—give different views on Jesus, the life he lived and the words he spoke. In Matthew 5 through 7, you find what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a great place to find out how Jesus wants you to live.
Salt and light
Jesus said a Christian is the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Salt gives flavor. Salt is also a preserver. It is even used for medicinal purposes. A Christian is also the light of the world—someone who isn’t ashamed of being known as a Christian (verses 14-15). He or she is willing to talk about Jesus Christ to those who want to know.
A Christian sets a right example and, if that example is commented on, gives the glory to Jesus Christ. In this way, other people can see the Christian’s good works and praise God (verse 16). In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us our relationship with God is personal. Our acts of righteousness—acts of love and service such as giving to the needy—don’t need to be seen by other people.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus then talks about prayer. He emphasizes that prayer is personal, something between you and God. It’s much easier to talk to God when you know others aren’t listening. Praying in private allows you to be honest with God, to share your secrets, your fears, your goals and your thoughts—something you wouldn’t likely do if you were praying in public. Jesus even gives us a sample—sort of an outline—for prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
Live as he lived
Having Jesus in your heart simply means Jesus is living in you and is giving you strength. It means you have committed yourself to following Jesus. It also means you are committed to doing what he said. It means to live the life of a Christian, striving to live as Jesus lived. That’s
what Jesus will help you do.
It’s not always easy. It takes commitment. Jesus’ way isn’t the most popular or the easiest. But it is the right way. To have Jesus in your heart—to know that you are in him and he is in you—is to study the words of Jesus and the apostles and, with his help, to put those words to practice.
The best news of all is that Jesus said he won’t leave you on your own. He said he will send the Holy Spirit to give you strength to follow him (John 16:7, 13). Believing in Jesus Christ involves
making Jesus a part of your life—studying his Word, becoming like him and making him priority number one.
Author: Rick Shallenberger