What is a Christian?

It can be confusing at times to be able to identify what it means to be a Christian.  Several people claiming the title of Christian may all look different from an outside perspective.  You may think that someone who attends church or lives a moral life is a Christian.  You may think someone is a Christian based on their culture or family. But what does the Bible say is a Christian?

The Bible brings clarity and understanding of what a Christian is definitely.  There are common beliefs of every Christian.

  • Christians know that God is holy and loving (Revelation 15:4, Psalm 136).
  • Christians admit that they have fallen short of God’s perfect standard (sin) which causes a separation between them and a holy God (Romans 5:1-2, Romans 6:22-23).
  • Christians believe that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and came to life again to build the bridge to God for humanity (II Corinthians 5:17-21).
  • Christians are to deny themselves and become followers of Christ (Matthew 16:24).
  • Christians have received grace and forgiveness by responding to God’s call. Through the Spirit’s leading, they turn from their former lives and living a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Romans 8:14, Philippians 1:27).

The Bible tells us, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).  In Hebrews 12, we see the work of Christ on the cross when it says, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In Romans 10:9, it says that “if you confess with your mouth that, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  The Holy Spirit makes us alive in Jesus which seals us with eternal life, and make us into new creatures in Him (II Corinthians 5:17).

Becoming a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, is about responding to the work of God’s Spirit inside your heart.  The Bible describes people who do not know Christ as lost, dead in their sins, orphan, in darkness, and with a heart of stone.  Through the incredible work of Jesus, Christians are described as found, alive in Christ, son or daughter, in the light, and with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

A person can be sure that God’s Spirit is at work in them by looking for a changed heart. II Peter 1:5-11 helps us examine our own lives by saying, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Being a Christian is less about rules followed and more about knowing God’s perfect love in relationship with Him.  Following Christ is about acknowledging the work of Jesus on the cross and being led daily by His Spirit.  Christians will behave in a way that is honoring to Christ but this is not in order to gain His approval or forgiveness.  Behaviors change in Christians because they love Jesus and their desires have been changed by that perfect love.

II Corinthians 5:17 clearly summarizes the definition of a Christian saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!”

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