Like Button

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

What is a Christian?

We've had conversations and debates about what it takes to be a Christian. "Do you have to believe in the Trinity?" "Do you have to believe in the Bible?" "Do you have to be good?" On and on. I've even written a series on the Essentials of Christianity. But what is it? What makes a Christian? Can we really settle this?

I think we make a mistake when we look for a checklist, an itemization of what we need to believe or do in order to be a Christian. I think the biblical version is something else entirely. Jesus told His disciples,
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (Matt 7:21-23)
There. Did you see it? First, we have a group of people entirely convinced they're "in" with Jesus. Hey, they even call Him "Lord", right? Jesus disagrees. What was their shortcoming? Why did He tell them to depart? "I never knew you." We see the same thing in Jesus's High Priestly prayer. "Eternal life," He says, "is that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

That's not what we expected. Some of us thought it was "being sufficiently good". Others were sure that it was "believe". But neither of those show up here. Instead, it is found in an actual relationship -- literally an intimacy -- with Christ. That's what makes a Christian -- a personal, intimate relationship with Christ. Not knowing about Him; being connected.

There are signs, measures to take, evidences. In order to enter that relationship with Christ, it takes faith (Acts 16:31). It takes repentance (Acts 2:38). And the life that is made alive in Christ (the biblical definition of "Christian") will be a changed life (1 John 3:9). There is baptism and fellowship with believers and good works. There is sanctification. These exist in our minds like some sort of checklist because they do exist, but most of them can be faked. People experience false versions of them all, like those ones that called Jesus "Lord, Lord." No, the real definition of what it means to be a Christian is in that relationship between Christ and you. It can't be faked. It can't be manipulated. It can't be forced or manufactured. "If I say the right words and do the right things I can claim it." No. If you claim to be a Christian -- if you want to be a Christian -- it is that singular reality that you will need to have. The rest is just support material.


Bob said...

John 1:12 But to all who did receive Him,He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man, but of God.
I care less about what we call Christian these days.
Children of the promise, purchased of God, born of the Spirit, need not concern themselves with dubious distinctions and bogus terminology. Because they are filled with Spirit, they will effectually be drawn into a relationship with Christ.
Romans 8:29 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also * justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things?
seems i got a little wordy here.. my bad.

Stan said...

You got as wordy as Paul does.