The way we find out whether the Holy Spirit has brought someone to faith is by hearing the person’s “confession of faith.” — that is, the person would tell us what he believes.
Of course, God can make someone into a Christian without that person telling us. We do not need to find out in order for the person’s Christianity to be valid. Rather, the value of hearing someone’s confession of faith is that it shows us we can now move on to the follow-up and nurture stages of discipling.
HOW CONFESSION OF FAITH DIFFERS FROM OTHER APPROACHES:
Using the term “confession of faith” means this site recommends this approach rather than several other possible ways that could be used to decide whether or not someone has become a Christian, such as:
Behavior. Some Christians judge the reality of another’s faith by their moral behavior. The problem is that it takes time for a person’s new allegiance to affect behavior. Moreover, if we use behavior as the criterion, we are setting up a standard that we ourselves cannot meet. By accepting one another as Christians based on a confession of faith, we avoid judging one another.
Action. Some Christians judge the reality of another’s faith by the action they took at the time of conversion: that is, did they say a certain kind of prayer. The problem is that by stressing a prayer, the new believer can fall into doubt later as to whether the prayer was sincere enough. When the person has confessed faith, prayer can also take place, but the conversion is not brought about by prayer. It is brought about “through the gospel” and “by the Holy Spirit,” not through a prayer.
Experience. Some Christians judge the reality of another’s faith by the inner experience of the new believer. Typically the Christian will compare it to his own inner experience. The problem is that each of us experiences things differently. Feelings also come and go. A confession of faith does not require that the person has a certain “feeling.” When feelings depart, it is important that the new believer knows his faith is based on the promises of God, not on his experiences.
HERE IS A BETTER WAY:
After a person has heard the gospel message, and seems to be considering it, the person might ask you, “what do I have to do to become a Christian?” You might answer, “Jesus has already done it all: by dying on the cross he has taken the penalty that you owed to God because of the wrongful things you have done — can I ask you a few questions?” (Questions like the following give opportunity for the person to confess faith. ) If the person does confess faith, the person is already a Christian. Even if the person does not confess faith, these questions help you gain an insight into the person’s thought, and so you know how to proceed in further conversations.
The sample questions that follow include the scriptural background which shows why the question in pertinent. Answering these questions does not “make someone into” a Christian — the answers are there to help you discover whether the Spirit has already made the person into a Christian. Therefore this website calls them —
Do you admit that you are a sinner? If you answer yes, you can know the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Read John 16:8-9: Jesus said, “When He (the Spirit) comes, He will convict the world of sin.” One role of the Spirit is to convince you that you are a ________.
Will you repent of your sins, telling God you are sorry and hate your sin? If you are willing, you can know the Spirit is at work. Note 2 Corinthians 7:10: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation ” Your repentance is an indication the the ________ is at work in you. Note Acts 2:38 (answering the crowd’s request, Peter said “repent and be baptized;” verse 47 labels those who responded in this way as “saved.”)
Who is Jesus? If your answer is, “God who became a man,” you can know that God is working in you, because according to Matthew 16:15-17. Peter knew that Jesus was Christ because ________ had told him. (Peter told Christ the he was the Messiah; Jesus answered that Peter was blessed, because this had not come to him in a natural way, but had been revealed by God the Father.)
What was Jesus’ mission on earth? If your answer is, “to die for me,” you can know that God is working in you. Note 1 Corinthians 1:18. (For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.) Many people think that the idea of Jesus dying on a cross for us is ________, but those who believe it are those who are “being ________.” Note 1 Corinthians 2:12. (we have received the spirit sent from God, so we may understand what God has freely given us.) If you believe God’s plan, you were taught by whom? ________
How did Jesus prove that He accomplished His mission? If you answer “Jesus rose from the dead,” you can know God is working in you. One of Jesus’ disciples, named Thomas, did not believe at first. Note John 20:27-29. (after Thomas realized it was Jesus, Jesus told him, “because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”) Someone who has not seen Jesus, but believes Jesus has risen, is _________l
Do you trust in Jesus, not just agree that He exists? If yes, you can know that God is working in you. Note Ephesians 2:8-9. (by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works). Your faith did not come by itself, but it is a gift of ________ Note Acts 2:21 (Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved)
Will you leave other gods and masters, and trust in the triune God, the God who created everything, as your only Lord? If yes, you can know the Holy Spirit has been working in you. Note 1 Corinthians 12:3. (No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.) If you realize that Jesus is Lord, it as a result of the work of the _________ __________.
You can then ask the person to read Romans 10:9 (If you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and confess with your lips that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved). Since you have said that you believe that Jesus is Lord, and you have said that you accept that Jesus rose from the dead, what does this verse tell you about yourself? That you shall be _______.
These scriptures give us a basis for recognizing whether the Spirit has made someone into a Christian. Upon hearing such a confession, you have scriptural reasons to tell the person, “The Holy Spirit has already brought you to faith.” You can assure the person again of some of the promises that the person now possesses —
Your sins are forgiven
You are accepted by God
You have been given eternal life
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
In the days following a confession of faith, a new Christian might be assailed by doubts, such as “I was not sincere enough,” “Why would I presume to think God would accept me,” or “how could I be a true Christian because I am still sinning.”
We can prepare the new Christian to cope with these doubts. When doubts arise, we do not want the person to look at his or her own qualities, but at the promises of God. The person was not saved by meeting a behavior standard, by having a certain level of sincerity, or by deserving God’s acceptance. Therefore the person’s salvation can not be lost if any of these come up lacking. The person was saved by the work of Christ.
Therefore scripture promises that are good to leave with a new Christian include:
1.Titus 3:5 “It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy that he saved us.”
2.Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
3.Romans 8:39 “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
It is certainly appropriate to pray together thanking God for these promises.
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