Becoming a Christian…

(Is conversion an act or a process?)
By Dr. Ron Woodworth

In the New Testament a Christian is synonymous with being a disciple (Acts 11:26). Furthermore, a disciple is a faithful and fruitful follower of Jesus Christ. To follow Christ means to pursue him with a whole heart (Matthew 22:37). Such a whole hearted devotion will most certainly translate into attitudes and actions consistent with those of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. However, as every good student can attest: To master any skill can require literally years of study and practice. Does that mean then that being a Christian will take years before one can claim the title?

The answer is “no” and “yes”!

The answer is “No!”…

I put “no” first because the Bible teaches that if we, as an act of faith, believe in our heart (in Christ’s resurrection from the dead) and confess with our mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” we will most certainly be saved (Romans 10:8-9). In other words, there can and does come a time when every genuine Christian has become sufficiently convinced in the divine Lordship of Jesus Christ. Such conviction then leads us to placing our faith or trust in Christ who is believed to have the ability to restore our broken relationship with God.

The answer is “Yes!”…

This point of conviction however, may have taken us many years to arrive at. This is why some speak of the process of conversion rather than the act of conversion.1  In my mind, both the act and process of conversion are mutually inclusive principles of faith. After all, generally speaking, can one really claim to have exercised the act of conversion if there is no continuation of faith? And conversely, generally speaking, can one claim to be in the process of conversion without that process leading to decisive acts of faith? In other words, the process of conversion leads to the act of justifying faith just like the act of conversion leads to the process of continuing faith. Both are necessary if one is to become a faithful and fruitful follower-disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the error of emphasizing one to the exclusion of the other has arguably produced generations of believers who are either fruitlessly self-confident or fearfully insecure.

The truth is, my friend, if you are to become a genuine Christian it will involve both the act of faith and the process of believing.2

So the real question is both “have you believed” and “are you believing”?

  1. Have you believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth to die for your sin? Have you also believed that he has risen from the dead thus guaranteeing your right standing (justification) before God? If so, then call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ right now and be saved!
    a.   Do: Confess the following verses of Scripture…

“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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11)

  1. Are you continuing to believe by following Christ in prayer, study of his Word (the Bible), Christian fellowship, walking in the spirit, and testifying of his grace to others? (See: Welcome to Your New Life In Christ [LINK]) If you have not done so, then repent (change your mind) and resolve (exercise faith) to begin again to be his faithful and fruitful follower for life.
    a.   Do: Confess the following verses…

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Remember: Becoming a Christian is not just a decision you make once in a lifetime–it’s a lifetime decision!!      


[1] I have in mind the endless arguments between Armenians and Calvinists–as well as between Catholics and Protestants.  I will write more about these topics in subsequent articles.

[2] Aorist and present tense Greek verbs allow for a specific “point of action” as well as a “continuous state of being” respectively.