Starting a relationship with God…
You’ve read the Gospel, you sense that it is true, what do you do next? Jesus taught his followers how to become his disciples.
Right from the start of his public ministry Jesus makes it clear that being one of his followers means a radical change of lifestyle and of priorities. He calls people to ‘repent’ (Mark 1:15), that is to turn around. Jesus wants us to do a 180˚ turnaround. He expects us to turn away from living a life of rebellion that displeases God and to turn towards Jesus for rescue. We need to acknowledge that we’ve been travelling down the wrong path, and change direction.
Jesus taught if you want to be his disciple you must ‘deny yourself’ and ‘take up your cross’ (Mark 8:34). Self-denial means saying ‘No!’ to selfish desires, self-centred goals, and self-absorbed choices. Jesus is calling us to walk on the way of the cross – the way of suffering, death, shame, degradation and self-sacrifice. Jesus makes it very clear that being identified with him is costly.
Have you counted the cost of becoming a Christian? There will be ethical implications for your life – you will have to live a life by God’s standards of right and wrong rather than by your own opinions. There will be social implications – the gospel will impact how you socialise, and it might mean you are rejected by family or friends. There will be financial implications – the gospel will impact how you spend your money. There may be political implications – you might have to renounce your political allegiances. But, viewed in the light of eternity, these issues are nothing compared to the glorious future that awaits all of Jesus’ followers!
Jesus called his hearers to ‘Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15). In the Bible ‘belief’ means so much more than intellectual agreement, it means to trust. Jesus is calling us to trust him, to depend on him, to rely on him.
The identity of Jesus is a huge theme that runs throughout Mark’s account (E.g., Mark 1:1; 4:41; 8:29; 14:61). It’s clear that we are being asked to trust that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Similarly, we are to trust in Jesus’ saving death and resurrection, another big theme of Mark’s account (E.g., Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 10:45). Mark wants us to respond with faith on the basis of the evidence he provides for us.
Mark compares the blind being given sight with the disciples being given faith and understanding (Mark 8:14-38) - faith is a gift that is given by the God who can do the impossible (Mark 10:27). It is this faith alone that makes us right with God.
Jesus warns us about the reality of false faith – after all, anyone can say that they’re a Christian - but trouble or persecution (Mark 4:17), or worldly desires (Mark 4:19) will show their expression of faith to be a sham. Jesus is looking for life-long commitment and loyalty through think and thin.
Jesus could walk up to people and command them to follow him! (Mark 1:17; 2:14). He had authority over people’s lives. Jesus said ‘If you want to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34).
He calls us to follow him publicly, and unashamedly. He says, ‘If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38). He calls us to follow him in difficult times, acknowledging that we will certainly face persecution for our faith (Mark 10:30; 13:9-13). He calls us to keep going, promising that ‘those who stand firm to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:13).
Prayer of commitment
You can talk to God using your own words. There is no special formula. You can pray out loud, or silently in your heart. If you feel lost for words, here's an example of what you might like to say:
Loving Heavenly Father, I know I have rebelled against you and my sins have separated me from you. (I am particularly sorry for...) I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past and look to the future with Jesus as my Rescuing-King. I trust that Jesus took the punishment I deserve to face for my sins, when he died on the cross, and that he rose again from the dead. Please help me to receive your salvation as a gift that I don't deserve and cannot earn. Thank you for forgiving my sins and for putting me in a right relationship with you, now and forever. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be. In Jesus' name. Amen.