How to become a Christian
Christianity is a common and commonly misunderstood system of beliefs, but for those who have truly become Christians, it is more than just a set of beliefs, it is the adoption of an entire worldview and a personal relationship with their Creator. The purpose of this writeup is to provide the basic information about how to become a Christian. I will inform the reader that this is based entirely on my understanding of the Bible and more specifically, the teachings of Jesus - the central figure of Christianity. In the interests of clarity therefore, I will make statements from the Christian viewpoint without inserting "I believe" or "Christianity teaches" before each sentence, and remind the reader to understand the perspective from which these statements are being made.
The process of becoming a Christian begins with a mutual interest. God loves every person no matter what their actions or lives have been like, and regardless of their belief in or acceptance of Him. The Bible also indicates that there is a natural drawing in every person's life toward a knowledge of God. Certainly without an interest in Christianity, this information will not be applicable.
There are truly no preconditions to becoming a Christian other than a belief in the resurrection of Jesus after His crucifixion, and an acknowledgement of His authority over your life (in King James language that would equate to confessing Him as Lord of your life.) The voluntary acceptance of His authority is crucial, it is not enough just to believe in Jesus or in the resurrection - The Bible says that even satan believes that. The original Greek words also implicitely mean that the acknowledgement is not hidden, but public, thus "confessed" to others. Many Christians became so by reciting a simple sinner's prayer, but there isn't a certain phrase or action that is proscibed, just that the condition in Romans 10:9 be met:
...that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved - NIV version
...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved - NKJ version
...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved - NASB version
(extra versions added by request)
Whatever prayer, public or private, meets those conditions, along with the willingness to not hide one's faith, is enough.
Learning about Christianity
There is a wealth of information on the internet, in books, on television and that can be gained from talking to others. Unfortunately, much of this is misleading or plain wrong. Whatever you do, don't depend exclusively on other people for your information - it is too easy to get mislead this way. There are millions of people who call themselves "Christians" and have little or no idea what Jesus intended for them to live like. The public perception of Christianity, the stereotype of Christianity if you will, is based in large part on this type of person. Thus Christianity has been portrayed as rife with hypocrisy, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, misogyny, and many other negative characteristics, when in fact Jesus Christ was not any of those things.
The Bible teaches that all are seen as equals in God's eyes regardless of race, sex, or other characteristics by which others may define a person (Galatians 3:24). There is no substitute for learning from the Bible - and more specifically from the teachings of Jesus and Paul the Apostle. Paul himself implores those he writes to in his letters to check what others (even himself) say against what they know is true from Jesus' teachings. Get a translation you can understand - I recommend the New International Version or the Living Bible. The King James translation is more obscure unless you are familiar with archaic Modern English. Learn from other sources such as pastors, books, and other Christians; but always check what they say against what the Bible teaches and always side with what is written there. It was intended to protect Christians from being persuaded away from the truth.
Once you become a Christian, find a church or gathering of other believers. The Bible indicates that is important to learn from others and have personal relationships with other Christians. As Christianity is a relationship, there are no actions or rituals that you must comlete in order to remain one, just as there's nothing necessary by law to remain married once you become married. The things Christians do are based on wanting to do them for God, not being required to do them. A true Christian lives a Christian life to please the God that they love, not because of fear of hell or punishment.
Of course, God has set a course that He prefers us to follow. Trusting in Him, telling others about Him, putting your relationship with Him first over everything else, and living a good life all all important to God. He wants believers to be baptised as well, as a public display of their decision. The "Great Commission" in Matthew 28:19-20 implores Christians to tell others about Christianity. Christians who know the truth about Jesus and the Bible will not find it difficult to tell others what they have found. Don't exclusively trust what other people say about Christianity, find out for yourself. Read the Bible (particularly the gospel of Luke and the book of Romans) if you are interested in what Christianity teaches. As another person who is a Christian and seems to be living a good life, and perhaps they can help as well. I'd be glad to help as well.
Author's note: After many comments about the church of FOO thinks this, and this denomination says this, I would just like to clarify one point: I did not base this writeup on any certain church view - simply on the most basic of tenets that I could derive from the Bible. I understand that each denomination, church, sect, or other division has built up a structure of religion around the teachings of the Bible Some exercize these teachings selectively, believing what they wish and ignoring the rest; and some add to them rituals, sacraments, structures of authority, and other man-made devices. Some divisions believe that some or all others are not really "Christians", some are, perhaps, overly inclusive with their definition. Regardless, trying to delve into the widely disparate structures that make up modern Bible-based religion was not the intent of this writeup, nor do I have any desire to tackle it here. The resurrection was the main point most disagreed with, however this is possibly the most basic belief of Christianity. As the apostle Paul said:
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. I Corinthians 15:12-19 - NKJV
I certainly would not ask you to believe this viewpoint if it were simply my personal opinion. That is why I endeavored to leave my viewpoint out of it.
Author's additional note: Some took my comment regarding man-made "devices" in the author's note above to be disparaging - it is not intended to be so. The things that people add to basic beliefs, as long as they don't contradict the Bible's teachings, are not "bad" or "good", nor are they important in the big picture. These differences actually are in many cases helpful in that they provide many different flavors of Christianity, allowing it to meet the needs of many disparate types of people. Regardless, Romans 14 instructs us not to quibble over these relatively minor differences.
Originally a NSR of "How to become a Christian" - member of E2Religion