CNN is airing an Anderson Cooper special entitled “What is a Christian?”, and since it is the Easter holiday, it is a timely topic for consideration. There can be a great deal of confusion surrounding Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. There is even supposed to be a controversial chocolate sculpture of Jesus on display at a Manhattan gallery on Monday.
I remember Donald Miller relating a story in his book “Searching For God Knows What” about something that happened when he was teaching a class of Bible college students in the US. He presented the class with a form of the gospel, but left out a key element while telling them in advance that he would do so. He went on to lecture about the sinful state of man without God, the need to change and live a moral life and about what heaven would be like. After he finished his eloquent presentation, not one in the class of 45 students who had studied the Bible and grown up in Christian homes realized that he had presented the gospel without any reference to Jesus Christ.
A Christian is not . . .
Someone who simply follows a moral code.
Christianity is not a list of do’s and don’ts. A person cannot make themselves good enough to please God, who is perfect. Martin Luther tried to please God by his own efforts until he read the Bible for himself and realized that his righteousness was based on faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14) When a person recognizes they are only right with God because of His grace, they can extend grace and compassion to others. The Bible states that “the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
Someone who chooses a convenient religion.
When a person accepts Jesus Christ, they are not choosing to become a Christian because Christianity is the predominate religion in their culture. They are choosing it because it is the truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
A Christian is . . .
I have never thought of Christianity in terms of simply going through religious motions. Once when I was growing up in the South, I was at a church event sitting on a pew. There was nothing wrong with the meeting, but I went out the back door and ran into a nearby field to pour out my heart to God. It wasn’t the only time I did something like that as a young Christian. I sensed that the passion and life found in really knowing and walking with Jesus Christ was something that made my heart want to soar, yet I had so many questions. And He has been gracious enough to answer my pursuit of truth and relationship with Him, leading me on adventures beyond my wildest dreams. The wonder of it all is still unfolding as I walk with Him.
Becoming a Christian means meeting the God of creation and realizing that all history is defined by the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ, culminating in a pivotal decision to let Him in to bring about a spiritual rebirth – exchanging death, guilt and separation for eternal life, forgiveness and unconditional love. This is the beginning of life as a Christian. A Christian is someone who has a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and follows Him in every area of life.
When you follow Him, you will lead others into a relationship with Him because such a life-changing experience has to be shared. As a missionary in Ukraine and the Philippines, what it means to be a Christian is quite clear and profound, yet simple. It is especially simple in Manila where there is tremendous church growth through small group outreach. People reach out to others, help them come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, become established in their faith and begin reaching out to friends and family all within the context of community. It happens on a daily basis right where people live, work, have coffee or work out.