WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN
What Is A Christian?
The Rt. Rev’d Dr. Felix Orji, OSB
What does it mean to be a Christian in the biblical sense of the word? There is significant confusion and ignorance in respect to this question. James A. Fowler once wrote,
“There is much confusion among the general public, as well as the religious community, concerning what it means to be ‘Christian.’”
Does it mean assenting to a particular belief system?
Does it mean consenting to a prescribed morality pattern?
Does it mean changing and improving one’s behavior?
Does it mean joining a church organization?
Does it mean practicing regular rituals of worship?
“Even those who call themselves Christians,” he continues “seem to have much difficulty articulating and verbalizing what it means to be a Christian. Their ambiguous explanations often convey an amalgamated ‘mish-mash’ of affirmations of the above mentioned activities.”
It is necessary to clear this confusion for two reasons.?First, we do not want to be deceived into thinking that we are Christians when we are not. Such deception is very costly. Listen to the words of Jesus as He concludes His sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:21-23,
“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. Many (emphasis added) will say to me on that day (the Day of Judgment), ‘Lord, lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me you who practise lawlessness.’”
The people Jesus is addressing in this sermon are not your regular secular pagans, rather they are church-goers. They are people who profess Jesus as Lord, people who consider themselves Christians, people who are sure that they will enter the kingdom of God. But sadly, as the text indicates, these people will be terribly shocked to see themselves excluded by Jesus from entering the Kingdom of heaven on the final Day of Judgment.
But the real problem was that they never truly repented of sin. Here is Dr. J. I. Packer:
“Repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as King in self’s place… More than once, Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves. ‘If any man will come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and take up his cross daily, and follow me… Whosoever will LOSE HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE, the same (but only he) shall save it. [Luke 9:23-24, cf. LK. 14:27, 33] … The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limit to the claims which he may make on their lives.”
You or I may be one of these people. Some professing Christians and clergy we know may be in this group of people. God is no respecter of persons. So, it is important to clear this confusion and be rescued now from a form of deception that leads to damnation. More so, clarity will enable us to enjoy the blessing of God’s assurance when Satan tries to discourage us or assault us with doubt.
Second, we need to be clear because it is not helpful to be ignorant on a matter that God wants us to be clear about. Not only for our sake, but for the sake of our calling to witness to the truth of the gospel. How can we share a message of which we are either ignorant or are in fact leading people astray by our sincere but sad misrepresentation of it? It is dangerous to lead people in the wrong direction on a matter as serious as their relationship with God as their eternal destiny depends upon it. This was the point that Dr. John R W. Stott emphasized when he wrote,
“Ignorance is probably the greatest enemy of the Christian faith today, and?muddle-headedness is one of the sins of the age. Hundreds of people reject?Christianity without any clear understanding of what it is and hundreds more?would like to become Christians if only they knew how.”
What then is a Christian? It is simple. A Christian is a person who has entered into a personal relationship with God by turning away from sin against God and neighbor (repentance), by trusting in Jesus Christ as the one who died and rose from the dead to save him/her from the penalty and power of sin (faith); and by committing oneself to obeying Jesus as his Lord and King through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (submission). In other words, claiming to be Christian does not necessarily mean that you are one, and being a member of the church does not necessarily mean you are a Christian until you turn to Christ in penitent faith. You may not remember when you became a Christian. What is important is that right now you know from the evidence (or fruits) of your present life of repentance and obedient faith that you are indeed a Christian.
To be Christian is to belong to Jesus and to His church. It is to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus for the rest of your life. It is a wonderful relationship with God through repentance and faith in Christ And as episcopal theologian Timothy Sedgwick puts it, the Christian life is life lived “in the presence of God” – His forgiving and transforming grace – in love, obedience, faith and hope.
When a person turns to God through repentance and faith in Christ, he is reconciled to God and regenerated (born-again) by the Holy Spirit. He is forgiven and given eternal life by God. He is made a member of God’s family and Christ’s church. He is given the gift of divine righteousness, the hope of heaven, and justified forever before God; and will never come into condemnation. He is given the Holy Spirit to enable him to live the Christian life.
Do you want to be a Christian? Then you need to do three things.?First, turn from your sin (give it up) and ask God to forgive you.?Second, confess your faith in Jesus, telling Him that you believe He died on the cross and rose again from the dead for you – in order to bear the punishment of your sins and deliver you from the power of death and Satan.?Third, tell Jesus that you want to follow Him in love and obedience as the Lord of your life and begin to do that in earnest.
Finally, tell someone about your decision to follow Christ. Find a Christian believer or a pastor and tell them as well so that they will help you grow in your faith. Get involved in the worship and ministry of a church that faithfully follows the teaching of the Bible immediately. In addition, make time everyday to read your Bible and talk to God, ask Him to help you obey Him and He will do it.
May the Lord Jesus bless you as you take this step