What is a Christian?

The Confusion of Christianity

There is a great confusion about what a Christian is. Many people profess to be Christian, but seemingly live like others who do not.

Those opposed to Christianity point to a hypocrisy in the choices Christians make and what ideals they claim to have.

What’s fact and fiction about Christians? Read on to learn for yourself what a Christian is and isn’t.

First, let’s discuss what a Christian isn’t, and that may form a better picture of what a Christian is.

What a Christian isn’t

A Christian is not a sinless person (Romans 3:23). Claiming to be a Christian does not magically stop a pattern of behaviors that someone has practiced for a lifetime. Some people drastically change their behaviors overnight. Others seem to take the rest of their lives to change. Was one truly a Christian and the other not?

Not necessarily. As those who oppose Christianity will quickly point out, even those without a relationship with Christ can change their lives.

The Correction of Sin

A Christian is not a judge of sinners. The phrase “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” is a bit of a mantra among some Christian circles. While I am not thrilled at the overuse of this trope, it does illustrate that while we are to judge sin in the lives of others, we are not to judge the eternal destination of the person committing the sin.

Most people claiming to be Christian will agree with this assessment. Clearly, the Bible has warnings against judging others (Matthew 7:1-4). There is also clear direction that judgment is reserved between believers and not those who do not claim to know Christ. While we are all sinners, those who are in Christ will not have their sin held against them, so we are called to correct other believers (Matthew 7:5).

While we are called to correct others, that correction should come in very specific ways and at very specific times (1 Timothy 5). Too often those who claim to be in Christ ignore or are ignorant about these commands from the Bible. I will address that in a future post, but know if a person claiming to know Christ is judging those who do not, they are not following the commands of the Bible.

Christians – Enemies of Fun?

Christians do not hate fun, and they are not without joy or happiness. Too often, people who proclaim Christ focus so much on the rules, they lose sight of the grace that God provided them (John 15:11). While we should not continue to live in sin, we should also not be so focused on removing sin from the world that we forget we exist to lighten the load on our neighbors (Mark 12:31).

The mark of a true Christian is they adopt Jesus’ viewpoint of the world and the people in it. We are not only called to love others, but to serve them. If Jesus can lower himself to wash the feet of his own disciples, we should humble ourselves and serve those who do not always agree with us (John 13:1-17). If we are called to pray for and love our enemies, we should be willing to stop and provide assistance to people we cannot stand to be around (Matthew 5:34).

Who Should be Called Christian?

So who should be called Christian. What can we do to earn the title of Christian?

Here’s the beautiful part. We can’t do anything. We don’t deserve it. But like the issue of salvation, we can’t do anything to earn it. We don’t deserve it. Jesus earned it when he died on the cross. He gave us this title. God made us co-heirs to His estate by adopting us into His family.

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB)

Claiming Your Birthright

Being a Christian is claiming Jesus as your brother. Pure and simple, you are identifying yourself as a child of God. It means in the same way you trust a chair to hold you up when you sit in it, you trust Jesus to catch and hold you when you do fall. We all fall to sin, but it is the mark of a Christian that we do not stay down, but stand up after the sin.

The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ-seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Romans 8:16-17 (HCSB)

A Christian’s Posture Toward Sin

The difference between Christians and those who are not should be characterized by the posture toward sin. We should no longer seek to sin, but rather seek Christ and His teachings. We fall into the arms of Christ when we do sin, but walk tall knowing He is our hope for any relationship with our creator.

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.

Romans 6:1-4 (HCSB)

So, know that when you accept Christ, you claim what Jesus told the woman at the well. First, you believe that He does not condemn you for your sin, and then you agree to go and sin no more (or do not seek out sin anymore, John 8:1-11).

How can I be saved?

What does being saved mean?

To understand what a Christian means when they say “being saved”, you must first know what sin is.

Sin is defined by Miriam-Webster as an offense against religious or moral law, transgression of the law of God, or a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God.

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the last two definitions.

Transgression of the law of God

So what is a transgression of the law of God? Put quite simply, it means disobedience of the commands God sent. In this sense, sin can be broken down into two categories.

There is the sin of comission and the sin of omission. Comission is doing something God has commanded we shouldn’t do. This would be something like murder or theft.

Sinning by omission, however, is not doing something that should be done. This would include failing to give to the needy or even helping a friend in need.

These are transgressions of the laws God has given to man.

Vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Huh? What does that mean? Definitions can sure get confusing, so let’s break it down.

In Genesis 3, The Bible tells the story of Adam and Eve, who are thought to be Earth’s first inhabitants. God created Adam, then seeing that he needed a helper, created Eve. They lived in a place called Eden, a paradise garden with plenty to eat and nothing to worry about.

God told Adam and Eve they could eat anything in the entire garden, except the fruit of one tree. God had created them with something called “free will”, or the ability to make their own decisions about what they do with no intervention from God.

One day, a serpent asked Eve about the one tree God said not to eat from. She told the serpent that God said if they eat from that tree they would die. The serpent then told Eve that God only said that to ensure she and Adam do not become like God.

Long story short, Eve eats the fruit then tells Adam to eat it. Having disobeyed God, both of them were banned from Eden, having been cursed with a “sinful nature”, or an inclination to disobeying God.

God and sin

God cannot be in the presence of sin. It goes against his character. It’s like an asthmatic being around cigarette smoke, but worse. God loves his creation though. He does not want anyone to miss out on a relationship with Him.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 (Holman Christian Standard)

So God sent His son, Jesus, to the world to command the world to once again obey God. Knowing that man could not obey God without help, Jesus also had another mission, one that would not be revealed to the world until it was complete. Jesus was to die to pay the price of death for all sin of all time.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

Romans 5:8 (Holman Christian Standard)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (Holman Christian Standard)

What must I do to be saved?

Growing up, I was taught in church that all that was required to be saved was to say a short prayer and I would go to Heaven and not Hell. While the people who taught this were well-meaning, they were oversimplifying a process that requires guidance and constant attention.

The people who taught me this pulled from Romans 10:9.

if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 (Holman Christian Standard)

Being saved is not simply saying a little prayer. It is looking to and remembering the action Jesus took in sacrificing himself for all of mankind. It involves relying on God to transform you rather than anything you can do to earn salvation.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:23-26 (Holman Christian Standard)

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart!

Some of the most prominent preachers and evangelists boil salvation down to a pre-written prayer sometimes called the Sinner’s Prayer. It was meant to simplify the process by adding acknowledgement of our sinful nature, recognizing the need for Jesus to atone for that sin, and committing your life to the mission Christ left His followers.

The problem with simplifying salvation to a prayer is that without following up and disciplining (mentoring) the person who prays it is people treat it like fire insurance. Too often, it’s treated as a “get out of hell free” card or a license to sin.

The Sinner’s Prayer isn’t bad, and some people who pray it are saved. But the prayer itself doesn’t provide salvation. It can’t save you, only your posture toward Jesus can do that.

How Do I Know I’ve Been Saved?

There are two key ingredients to being saved. The first is repentance. Repentance is more than asking for forgiveness, it is turning away from sin. To be saved you have to forsake your sin. Leave it like a toxic relationship and never look back.

It doesn’t mean you will never sin again, but you should never WANT to sin again. You shouldn’t be actively seeking out sin.

The second ingredient is faith. Many people mistake faith for belief. I believe in a chair. I believe it exists and I believe that it has held other people who put their entire weight on it.

Until I place my trust in the chair by transferring all of my weight onto it, I am not placing my faith in it. This is the difference between belief and faith. Until you can rest your full weight of your eternal destiny squarely on Jesus, you are not practicing faith.

Take Up Your Cross

Following Christ requires a daily commitment to live according to His teachings and to love other people enough to continue a lifelong mission to introduce others to God.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?

Matthew 16:24-26 (Holman Christian Standard)

Jesus Prayer For Us – A Prayer of Blessing and A Purpose

Jesus Prayer – Blessing, Purpose, Protection

Jesus prayer for His followers was both a blessing and a mission. It was a prayer of purpose and one of protection. Read: John 17:1-26

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

Jesus’ Prayer For Us

“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

Not of This World

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Prayer For Future Believers

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

We Belong to Christ

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

John Records Jesus’ Prayer

When Jesus spoke to the Father in His most intimate encounter, John recorded it in his Gospel. How fearful the disciples must have been when Jesus turned his focus from His requests for Himself to requests for His disciples.

Jesus says that as He delivered The Father’s message to His disciples, so he sends them into the world to continue his work.

Jesus then continues to pray a prayer of protection for all Christians, present and future.

Our Work Isn’t Finished

Our work continues to this day. We are to deliver God’s message of hope and salvation to a world doomed to destruction. Jesus has even prayed for us in this mission. Do you continue to fulfill the Great Commission, or have you considered your job finished in the matter?

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…” John 17:20

Jesus Savior The World Needed – Not The Savior The World Wanted

Jesus Savior of Sinners and Tax Collectors Alike

Jesus savior of all people, from sinners to tax collectors, and even executioners, visits Jericho. He runs across Zacchaeus who was one of the least well thought of citizens.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector for Caesar. The profession was known for cheating people by overcharging taxes and keeping the extra for themselves. The citizens of Israel hated the tax collectors.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  All the people saw this and began to mutter,
“He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord,
“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Read: Luke 19:1-10

Jesus Comes to Save Jericho

When Jesus came to Jericho, he came to seek the lost. He found Zaccaeus, a jewish tax collector who worked for the Roman government. He cheated his fellow Jews out of money and kept any above what Caesar asked for.

Jesus asked Zaccaeus to come down from the sycamore tree he climbed, for he was to host Jesus. This confused many of the religious people of Jericho. They grumbled and asked why Jesus would go to the home of a sinner.

Zaccaeus Answers the Call of Jesus the Savior

Zaccaeus told Jesus he would give half of possessions to the poor and pay those he had cheated back 4 times as much.

Jesus explains that he did not come into the world to condemn the lost, but to save them.

Are we truly following Jesus’ Savior Methods?

How do we spend our time? Do we surround ourselves only with fellow believers? That is the natural thing to do, but God is supernatural. We should strive to seek the lost and share The Gospel with them. Whom will share Jesus with and allow Him to save?

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Luke 19:9

Prophet Priest – Two Roles Jesus Filled While On Earth

Prophet priest – Jesus Filled These Roles While On Earth

Prophet, priest, and king. The first two of these roles are ones we should probably emulate while we are on earth. Read: Mark 1:21-28

When Jesus went to the temple to teach, many today miss the significance. Jesus was merely a child the first time, and a carpenter by the time this passage takes place. According to tradition, only priests anointed by God could prophesy in the temple.

Jesus Assumes His Role

Yet, when Jesus did this, He did it with the full authority of God even driving out an impure spirit from a man there. Jesus spoke and healed with authority, so people listened to what he has to say. The prophet and priest embodied within a simple carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth.

When confronted with people who act as though they have authority in spiritual matters, it is our duty to speak God’s word about His plans. We are to give His message, and do His work. Others may have authority in earthly matters, but do not keep silent for their sake. Instead we should speak for the One who has true authority over Earth and Heaven.

It is ultimately the job of the Christian to take on the roles of prophet and priest. Jesus’ last message on earth, The Great Commission, commands Christians to go and make disciples of all the earth.

Boldly Fulfilling Our Role as Prophet-Priest

Can we be so bold as to start a spiritual revolution by sharing God’s message with authority? Will we fulfill our roles as prophets and priests? Do we dare choose to truly emulate Christ on Earth?

“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” —Mark 1:22

Prophet Role – Boldly Proclaiming God’s Message To The World

The Prophet Role – What is it?

The prophet role is boldly proclaiming God’s message to the world. Consider 2 Kings 2:15-18

Elisha and Elijah

Elijah was Elisha’s mentor. When God was ready to take Elijah up to heaven, he directed him to go to Bethel, so Elijah told Elisha to stay behind, but Elisha insisted on going.

Once they got to Bethel, the prophets told Elisha that Elijah was being called to heaven, and Elisha told them he knew. Then Elijah was called to go to Jericho. Again Elijah instructed Elisha to stay, but Elisha refused, so they went to Jericho.

At Jericho, once again prophets told Elisha that God would take Elijah from him that day. He said he knew. Then Elijah told Elisha he would go to Jordan and instructed him to stay. Elisha told him where Elijah went, he would go.

Elisha’s Inheritance

After crossing the Jordan, Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for him before leaving the earth. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah said if Elisha saw God take him up to heaven, it would be his.

Then Elisha watched as Elijah was caught up in a whirlwind to Heaven. He then returned to Jericho.

Elisha Becomes God’s Prophet

When the prophets from Jericho couldn’t find Elijah, they wanted to go look for him. Elisha told them there was no point.

They pushed Elisha until he relented and told them to go. They searched everywhere, then returned to report they couldn’t find him.

Elisha told them “Didn’t I tell you not to go?” He wasn’t taunting them, but exercising authority and confidence that he carried the message of God.

Christians – Modern Day Prophets

We as Christians should also proclaim God’s word, not in anger or out of some self righteous spirit. We should do it with the full confidence and authority of the great I AM. God is where we draw authority, and there is no higher authority.

Be confident. Proclaim the Gospel. Share God’s word without fear of consequence.

They sent fifty men, who searched … but did not find [Elijah]. When they returned to Elisha … he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”
2 Kings 2:17-18

Defining Christians – How Can You Tell A Christian From A Non-Believer?

Defining Christians – What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?

Defining Christians can be a very tough thing to do with all of the seemingly conflicting definitions offered by society. The simplest definition of Christian is “christ like”. To know what that is, we need to understand who Christ is. Read: Mark 1:1-13

John baptized people in the Jordan river telling them he would baptize them in water to cleanse their sin, but when Christ would come, he would baptize them in the Holy Spirit, eternally cleansing their sins.

This commitment does not come without a cost, though. It comes with a series of new responsibilities which carry some pretty powerful titles:

Prophet – Priest – King

As John baptized Jesus, Heaven opened and a dove appeared, signaling God’s anointing of Jesus as a prophet, priest, and king.

Prophet

A prophet is defined as a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God. They are thought to convey messages from God. The message they deliver is called a prophesy.

Notable prophets in the Bible are: Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaac, and Samuel.

The prophets in the Bible were used by God to deliver his messages to his people. Sometimes they carried messages of hope and deliverance. Often, though, they carried messages of warning and destruction. Prophets were rarely well thought of and often lived in seclusion.

Priest

A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform sacred rituals, and is a mediatory agent between humans and God. Priests guide and mentor the people they take charge of. They also lead and teach them.

Priests have a higher standard of ethical and moral code placed on them. While still human, they are to live a life free from sin, modeling how to follow Jesus’ commands, and calling others to God’s message of hope and redemption.

King

A king is the male monarch (ruler) over a group of people. Kings provide protection and lead the nation. They are sought for their judgement in certain matters, and are looked to for knowledge and wisdom. Their decisions impact their nation and nations around them.

Good kings lead by keeping the best interests of the people in their nation at heart. They think about the impact to their nation, and the nations around them for every decision they make.

Kings also provide protection, building for themselves armies, walls, and defensive measures to protect his people.

God called Jesus to all of these roles. If we are to be “christ-like”, we must also assume these three roles.

Jesus then said in his ministry that Christians should be the hands and feet of Christ. God calls us to the roles of Jesus’ anointing, also, we are to tell God’s plans to the world. Finally, our calling to guide and council those we come into contact with is paramount. We are to rule over resources and people God may send our way to work for His purpose.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

As a true follower of Christ, you will take on these three roles throughout your life. I can offer you this warning, be sure in all decisions you are in His will. Working toward your will and not His is grossly mishandling His power, as a result, you will hurt others. In everything, give God the credit and acknowledge his role in your life.

Remember that the world is watching you. God does forgive your sin, but the world often will not. Do not damage your witness by letting your actions be about you and not about God.

“As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” – Mark 1:10