What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?
By Grant Phillips
I haven’t tried this, but I wonder how many different answers I would get if I were to ask, oh let’s say, 100 people this question. Many of the responses would be the same or very much the same, but yet there would be many categories of responses to this inquiry. I wonder too, how many would be correct. Among those who are not Christians, I dare say none would be correct. Among Christians, yes Christians, I wonder how many actually know why they are a Christian.
If the question were asked, the answers may be different in one part of the country than in another. The geographical locations could make a difference, but I don’t think they would be too far off in like responses.
One response I am noticing in these last days is that Christians are “right-wing, non-compromising, hate-filled, people with no compassion for others.” They are, “ignorant, old-fashioned, hypocritical snobs living in the dark ages of reasoning.”
On the lighter side, many think Christians are those who “belong” to a church or at least attend a church setting occasionally, live by the golden rule, try to follow the ten commandments, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t “fool-around,” don’t smoke or drink alcohol, don’t dance, don’t have tattoos, don’t use make-up, do dress conservatively, and a thousand other examples.
The question remains, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” First of all, one must ask, “How does one become a Christian, to be a Christian?” There has to be a starting point somewhere. So, in this instance, these two questions are actually one in the same, and usually result in the same responses.
Are you a Christian? Assuming your answer is “yes,” do you know why you are a Christian? If your answer is within any of the examples listed above or among a thousand others of like kind, you really need to re-examine your stance with Jesus Christ. You may not be a Christian. On the other hand, you may be a Christian, but have the wrong concept of what it means to be “Christian.”
The most important question any individual could ever ask, especially concerning spiritual matters of this importance, is, “What does the Bible say?” You see, it doesn’t matter what you think, or what I say, the only thing that matters is “what does God say?” There are thousands of reasons people think they are “okay” with God, but there is only one that counts, and it comes from God Himself. He provides everything we need to know in His Book. We call it the Bible. By the way, our term “Bible” is derived from the Greek “biblos” meaning a “small book, a scroll, or a written document.” The word “Bible” is not in the Bible. So, it being a small book, God has not told us everything He knows, obviously, but He has told us everything we need to know.
I live in an area of the United States called the “south.” I can attest that there are numerous people in my area who think they are saved (a Christian) because they “belong” to a certain church or church group, or they “walked the aisle,” or they were baptized, etc. To these misguided folks, it’s all about “what I have done.” Isn’t that actually true of those in other parts of our country as well? All of these false responses come down to one thing, “I have done thus-and-so.” It’s called works, human works. Here is what God says,
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [emphasis mine], he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again [emphasis mine].” (John 3:7)
“Being born again [emphasis mine], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
God says we must be born again. Just as we were born physically, we must be born spiritually (born again) to become a Christian. How do we become born again?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Once we are born again, we are Christian and we realize,
“3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 ESV)
Now that is what it means to be a Christian. There is absolutely nothing we can brag about in our becoming a Christian and being a Christian. The sooner we get that engrained in our minds, the better off we will be.
Christians come in all flavors; some likable some not, some pretty some not, some intelligent some not, some rich some not. But all are “Christian” for the same reason; i.e. the grace of God, not human works. Paul said it best.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
What did Paul mean by “I am what I am?” He meant simply that he was a saved sinner, saved by the grace of God. He said he “labored more abundantly than they all.” Did he labor to obtain his salvation and to keep it? NO! Twice he said it was by the GRACE of God. He labored to serve his Lord because he loved Him. That is the only place our works are justified. He was a Christian because he believed in the only begotten Son of God, and he served Him because he loved Him.