So you think you’re a Christian?

“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” (2 Timothy 2:19).

Why do you think that you’re a Christian? Could it be because you were baptised as a child, and either or both of your parents are Christians? Or is it because you live in a “Christian” country, like the UK or the USA? Does your attendance at Sunday school when you were a child make you Christian? Does regular church attendance mean that you are a Christian?

God has graciously given us answers in His holy book, the Bible. Here we will find the following:

 To be a Christian is to be radically different from those who are not Christian. It is to be as radically different from non-Christians as light is from darkness. In fact, you cannot be a Christian unless you are born again. Jesus, the One who true Christians follow, gave the definition of a Christian to Nicodemus in John 3. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Volumes have been written on what it means to be born again. The essence of the rebirth is that God Himself, by His Spirit, recreates an individual. It is not the work of man; as Jesus exquisitely put it: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Have you been reborn?

To be a Christian is to have come to the knowledge of your innately sinful and hopeless state. It is to have come to the knowledge that God is a supremely holy, sin-hating and sin-punishing God, and that your sin has separated you from Him. To be a Christian is to respond with grief at your sin; it is to seek God’s forgiveness, and to place your entire faith in Jesus alone.  A Christian is one who has been justified freely by God’s wonderful grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

To be a Christian is to have moved position radically: from being under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18) and under the law (Romans 3:19) to being reconciled to God and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is to have turned “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God”, having received forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among those being made holy by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18).

To be a Christian is to be divinely united with Christ. A Christian is one who has been baptised into Christ in His death, and has been buried with Him, and risen from the dead with Him by the power of God. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, our “high priest”, who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). To be a Christian is to live the resurrected life (Romans 6:3-5). A Christian is one who has experienced the crucifixion of the “old man” (the old, sinful way of life). In essence, a Christian no longer serves sin. This does not mean that a Christian cannot possibly sin, but it does mean that sin is no longer his nature, and he no longer abides sin. Sin shall certainly have no dominion over the true Christian (Romans 6:14). Sin grieves the Christian, and when a Christian sins, he is quick to confess his sin to God, in line with 1 John 1:9.

To be a Christian is to love Jesus totally and to be ardently devoted to our Lord and Saviour. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). This does not mean that we hate our relatives or anyone else, for we are commanded to love even our enemies and to do good to all. It means that the love of Jesus trumps all other loves; it is a love that allows no room for competition.

To be a Christian is to love fellow Christians with a true and fervent love. In John 13:35, Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. It has baffled me for years how it is that many professing Christians can have animosity towards one another. According to God’s word, these cannot be true Christians. They are merely professors and pretenders. Love and holiness are indispensable marks of true Christianity.

To be a Christian means that you love neither the world nor the things in the world (1 John 2:15). The defiling lusts and carnal appetites of the world are diametrically opposed to the pure and holy will and word of God. A Christian is in the world, but is not of the same spiritual substance as the world. To be a Christian is to be a stranger and a pilgrim, looking with unshakeable hope for that better city – “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

To be a Christian is to practise, continually, a denial of self. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). To deny self means that the Christian is utterly yielded to the will and to the Lordship of Christ. A Christian knows that he has been bought at a very high price, and is no longer his own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

A Christian takes up his cross and follows Jesus. This means that we willingly choose the path of reproach, dishonour and persecution for the sake of the name of Christ. Jesus warned that a disciple is no greater than his master: just as He was persecuted, so also His disciples will suffer persecution. They will be reviled, mocked, beaten, bruised and some will lose their lives for the cause of Christ. A Christian is one who has counted the cost and has chosen to follow Jesus no matter what. Jesus said that anyone who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

To be a Christian is to have renounced your own will, choosing only the will of God. Jesus said that His “meat” is to do the will of the Father. So, also, the disciple’s all-consuming zeal is to follow God’s will. To be a Christian is to abide in Christ (John 15:5‑10), and to bear spiritual fruit. To be Christian is to be led by the Holy Spirit in all things. To be a Christian is to increasingly exhibit the beautiful array of the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

To be a Christian is to treasure God’s word, and to echo continually the Psalmist’s cry: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). To be a Christian is to obey the commands of God, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). To be a Christian is to hold to the teaching of Jesus Christ (John 8:31). To be a Christian is to follow the Lord’s command to engage in the ministry of reconciliation. The Christian has a burden for the lost and necessarily engages in evangelism, in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).

To be a Christian is to have the mind of Christ. To be a Christian is to be meek. A Christian is not conformed to this world, but is radically changed by the renewing of his mind, by the word and Spirit of God. To be a Christian is to pray continually. Jesus magnificently modelled communion with the Father, and gave a wonderful pattern for prayer. A Christian is sanctified by the word of truth (John 17:17).

To be a Christian is to forsake all to follow Jesus. Jesus said, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Surely this means that a Christian must gladly abandon all hindrances, all potential impediments, pride, material possessions, status, and any besetting sin to wholly follow our Lord and Master. For the Christian, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

To be a Christian is simply the divine work of God and to God alone be the glory forever. Amen.