Someone might answer, “Anyone who follows Christ.” This begs another question, “What does it mean to follow Christ?”
Many people would call themselves “Christian” because they have grown up in a “Christian” home and have morals. That is, they don’t yell at too many people, they believe God exists, they think the “Love Thy Neighbor” thing Jesus taught is a good principle, and so on. However, if this person were to read the Bible and make application for their own life, they would have more stringent standards, since the Bible has such.
Over these next several entries I am going to think about what it means to be a Christian.
Why is this important? Many people in our culture today have been very loose with what it means to be a Christian. The Bible has given us very clear teaching on how we might be saved. It is very simple, and yet very profound – going into the very heart of our longings. I see many who call themselves “Christian” and have not thought about what this might mean for their practical living.
It is helpful when defining what you are by starting with what you are not…so here is an abbreviated list to consider. You are NOT a Christian because:
1. You live in the United States – the U.S. is not a “Christian nation”. There has not been such a thing, not even the Roman Empire that extended Christendom by the sword. This is due to the fact that Christianity is a decision on the part of the individual to submit to King Jesus. I will deal more with this in subsequent entries.
2. You believe God exists. The apostle James would give you a pat on the back, but tells you that you are not a Christian because of this. James 2:19 – You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
3. You go to church. There are many who attend church services who will show themselves to be destined for Hell. 1John 2:19 – They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. Read Matthew 13:24-30 where Jesus teaches that there are wheat and tares that will be separated on the last day.
4. You are a good person. Even Jesus said: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). And Paul reminds us from the Psalms: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10; cf. Ps. 14:1; 53:1). We need to raise our standard of “good” and realize that we are corrupt. This is why we have such a hard time being nice to people (though only one result). If we lay down on our beds at night and are honest, we will admit that we sin repeatedly. This is due to the fact that God has blessed us with a conscience that is meant to lead us to Christ for mercy and salvation.
5. You were baptized. Salvation is by grace through faith, which is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). Therefore, no amount of religious rites and sacraments you perform will earn your way into heaven.
6. You were confirmed by the church. See above.
7. Your parents are Christians (or god-fearing). John the Baptist and Jesus told people directly to repent from their own sin and commanded them to believe. They did not solace people who had been “raised right”.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives us a good launching pad for our discussion. Some of these may have been basic to what you already know. Thank you for reading through to get to this paragraph. We will begin looking at the positive signs of saving faith. It will be a mix from my ruminations on texts as well as thoughts from Puritans named Jonathan Edwards and John Owen.