Becoming a Christian not only involves your intellect and your emotions, it also involves your will. You must first be willing to obey God and His Word.
Christ emphasized the importance of man's will in relation to the assurance of salvation. Jesus said:
If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth.
Some people are reluctant to obey Christ because they fear He will change their plans and take all the fun out of their lives.
One student with whom I counseled and prayed hesitated to receive Christ because he enjoyed his life of parties and sex. But through the prayers of fellow students and friends, this young man decided to obey Christ. He discovered that what he thought was an exciting life was nothing compared to the abundant life which the Lord Jesus gives. He became one of the most vital and fruitful Christians on campus.
This student had fought against God's will for his life until he realized the truth of Jesus' words:
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.
And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul? And anyone who is ashamed of me and my message in these days of unbelief and sin, I, the Messiah, will be ashamed of him when I return in the glory of my Father, with the holy angels.
Let me assure you that no one has ever given up anything - home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or property - for love of me and to tell others the Good News, who won 't be given back, a hundred times over, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land - with persecutions!
A leading athletic coach held in high esteem by millions of people, a man of sterling character and tremendous ability, shared with me his reluctance to surrender his life fully to Christ. He feared God would ask him to become a minister and to give up the joy and love of his life - teaching.
Many successful people have refused to follow Christ because they are afraid He will demand they sell their possessions and give everything to the poor as Jesus told the rich young ruler to do." Although God does lead some people to give their possessions, He leads others to use their influence for Christ in other ways.
As you walk in faith and obedience to God as an act of your will and allow Him to change your life, you will gain increasing assurance of your relationship with Him. You will experience God's work in your life as He enables you to do what you could never have done on your own - things like being able to love someone who treats you badly, maintaining a spirit of peace while surrounded by great pressures and problems, developing a growing desire to reach other people with the love of Christ.
But, if you do not trust God and His plan for your life and obey His commands, you will inevitably have doubts about your salvation.
Some people refuse to receive Christ because of pride or self-will. For approximately fifty years, I have worked with the so-called intelligentsia. In all those years, I have not met one single person who has said, "I have considered all the historical evidence and the claims of Christ, and I cannot believe He is the Son of God."
Every one with whom I have counseled who has rejected Christ has always denied Him as a matter of the heart, not the head - a matter of the will, not the intellect. They have used intellectual issues as a smoke screen to cover the deeper issues of the heart.
Many years ago I met with a famous professor of a very prestigious seminary. He did not believe that Jesus is God, even though he had taught thousands of young students who became ministers. One day I was invited to visit this great scholar by a friend who was getting his doctorate under his supervision.
My friend explained, "He does not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but he is a good man. I like him. He is personable and warm-hearted, and I think you might be able to communicate with him."
The professor's first words to me after I was introduced to him were, "Mr. Bright, when you talk to students about becoming a Christian, what do you tell them?"
Knowing his reputation, I wanted to weigh my words carefully, but before I could reply, he asked a second question. "Better still, what would you tell me? I would like to become a Christian."
He went on to explain that he had recently been reading the Word of God with a new understanding. For a couple of years he had also been studying the writings of the church fathers and biographies of great heroes of the faith. As a result, he had become intellectually convinced that Jesus is the Son of God. But he did not know Him as his personal Savior.
I drew a circle on a piece of paper explaining, "This circle represents your life." In the circle I drew a throne and on the throne I wrote the letter "S" for self. I explained, "In order to become a Christian you must receive Christ into your life as your Savior from sin and the Lord and Master of your life. You must surrender the control of your life to Him."
"That's my problem," he said. "Intellectual pride has kept me from doing this. I've received many honors in the academic world, and I haven't been willing to humble myself before God. For years I have denied the deity of Christ and have taught thousands of young men to do the same."
At that moment we were interrupted by a telephone call, and due to other scheduled appointments, we were unable to finish our conversation. He asked us to return two days later. When we returned, he took us into an office with no phones and, locking the door behind us, said, "I want you to know that I went this morning to one of the local churches, took communion, and prepared my heart for your coming. I have been meditating on the third chapter of John, and I want you to pray for me that I may know Jesus as my personal Savior."
First I prayed; then he prayed, and then my friend prayed, and that day this man of international renown, like a little child, received Christ by faith as an act of his will. His whole life was changed. His teachings changed, his philosophy of life changed, and he became a new creation in Christ. Basically his problem was not intellectual; it was a problem of pride and self-will.
Another reason people are reluctant to commit their lives to Christ is because Satan has deceived them. Jesus spoke about Satan's character this way:
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Some years ago I was invited to meet with a well-known military leader. He was a most cordial and gracious person. As we talked, he said he wanted to become a Christian but somehow couldn't make the decision.
We talked together for more than an hour, and finally I felt impressed to share with him a passage from Colossians 1:13, 14. I asked him to read it aloud. "God has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins."
Then I explained, "There are only two kingdoms in the world - God's kingdom and Satan's kingdom. Which one are you in?" After some thoughtful moments of silence, he said, "I guess I'm in Satan's kingdom."
I then asked him, "What would you like to do about it?"
He replied, "I would like to move over to God's kingdom."
Then this great general, whose influence was felt over the world, entrusted his life to Christ and moved from the darkness and gloom of Satan's dominion into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
Has your enemy Satan deceived you? Have you thought you must become a better person before God will accept you? Has your enemy caused you to question whether God really loves you? Has he caused you to become comfortable with your disobedience to God?
No matter what influence may be keeping you from Christ, I encourage you to turn from that influence -- and turn to Christ.
To be sure you are a Christian, you must be aware of basic truths from the Scriptures. You must not only believe these truths intellectually, but you also must, as an act of your will, accept them and make them central to your life.
This begins with knowing that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
God has your best interests at heart. He is concerned about your needs and has provided a way for you to know His love and plan for your life.
But you are sinful and separated from God; therefore, you cannot experience His love and plan for your life until something wonderful happens.
You see, you were created to have fellowship with God, but because of self-will, you chose to go your own way as we all have. This self-will with which we struggle is revealed in either active rebellion against God or passive indifference to Him. The Bible calls self-will "sin." Your sin has made you spiritually dead and separated from God.
God is holy and people are sinful. A great gulf separates the two. People attempt to reach God and the abundant life through their own efforts including living a good life, holding to a certain philosophy and practicing religion. But no human efforts enable a person to reach God.
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.
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