Many people identify as a Christian, but how many people understand what that means? Do I understand what that means? What does it mean, biblically, to be a Christian? This is by no means a comprehensive list, as the implications of being a Christian impact every area of life, but it is meant to give a basic overview of primary, essential truths to being a Christian.
1) Christians are sinners (Rom. 3:23)–There are two kinds of people: Jesus and sinners. Jesus, fully God and fully man, never sinned. Everyone else that has ever lived is a sinner and deserves the wrath of God. Christians are no different. Even after we enter into a relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord, we still sin, and will continue to battle a sinful nature until we die or the Lord returns.
2) Christians know that God is God, and they are not (Psalm 51)–The life of a Christian is a life marked by confession of sin to God and a recognition that the only right way to live is to follow God (repentance). By the grace of God, we see that there is no God but God, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that the only acceptable response to Christ’s resurrection is surrender to Him as Lord. Our desire is to honor God because He is our God and we want the world to know what a great God He is.
3) Christians know they need a Savior, and they know the Savior’s name (1 John 1:9, John 3:16, Romans 7:24-25)–As made obvious in the first two points, God is God, we are not, we sin against Him, and we deserve His wrath. So if we are to be right with God, we need a Savior, not a better performance. We need the perfect righteousness of another, and we need our sin wiped away. Thanks be to God, Jesus Christ did both of those things, and we set our hopes and our confidence for being accepted before God completely on what Jesus has done for us. Instead of trying to stand before God on our own, we trust Jesus to stand in our place.
4) Christians are submitted to the Lordship of Christ (Romans 10:9)–Biblical salvation is not just being forgiven and then living the same life. Biblical salvation, made evident in Romans 10:9, means turning away from sinning against God to confess that Jesus is Lord and that you trust what He has done to save you, and that you want to follow Him in a new life, submitting every nook and cranny to His power and authority.
The issue of so-called “Lordship salvation” comes into play, here. Some believe that they can have Jesus as Savior and not Lord. That’s heresy. When you’ve sinned against a holy God and incurred His wrath, you don’t get to negotiate the terms of your redemption. 2 Corinthians 5 deals with the idea of reconciliation to God. If sin has separated us from right relationship with God, salvation brings us back into right relationship with God. We absolutely must have the finished work of Christ, for without it, there is no forgiveness of the sins we’ve committed, are committing and will commit, and we must have His righteousness, because we are not perfect on our own. But we must absolutely have Christ as Lord, as well. If you claim to be in right relationship with God, but He’s not God (and you are!)–you’re not in right relationship with God. If I claimed to be in right relationship with my parents, but instead of me listening to them and honoring them, I set the rules for them and told them what to do, and raised them, I’m obviously lying. Right relationship with God means, as point two explained, letting God be God. Submitting to the Lordship of Christ, repenting of sin, is not some pre-conversion work that earns God’s favor, but rather an act of our hearts, minds and mouths that confesses that we know that He’s God, we want Him to be our God, and that we want to come back into a right relationship with Him and follow Him. It’s turning the car around, not putting a hand or a middle finger up to God and saying, “Whatever.”
5) Christians are submitted to the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–This will be the downfall of the church, if we are not careful. Submitting to Christ as Lord means submitting to His Word. John 1:1 makes it abundantly clear that God is behind every word of Scripture. So reading, rightly interpreting and rightly applying the Word of God is necessary, each and every day, in the Christian’s life. And if we despise the Word of God, we despise the God of the Word. Now, right interpretation is vital. Otherwise, we start applying commands meant for ancient Israel or the first-century church to our churches and lives today. Please don’t go home and sacrifice your farm animals. It’s not necessary. We have to do proper exegesis, understanding the biblical context and culture, what applies to us today, what doesn’t, etc. But right interpretation has been done, and will continue to be done, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to go to seminary to rightly interpret God’s Word. You do have to be a Christian, filled with the Spirit, submitted to God’s authority, trusting the Son’s salvation, and willing to do what the Word says. I urge Christians to invest in study bibles, commentaries, Logos (if you can afford it) software that gives thousands of commentaries, word studies, etc., and, more than these things, prayer and the local church–sometimes we learn better together than we do individually.
6) Christians are committed to the local church and missions (Matt. 28:20, Acts 1:8)–We are saved individually, and Jesus is changing us. But we are not the only ones. When we come into the family of God, we get Christian brothers and sisters to help us continue to trust Christ and follow Him. As we do that, God commands us, and gives us the great joy and privilege, to invite others along in our journey, to share our faith and make sure everyone around us knows who Christ is, who we are, what He’s done, and how we rightly respond to Him. We rejoice when our earthly families grow; we should rejoice all the more when our spiritual families grow, because it means God is moving, people are getting saved, and the church and the kingdom are advancing.
7) Christians love as God loves (1 John 4:7-12)–The most important words of this point are “as God loves.” There’s a lot of confusion as to how God loves. The emergent, seeker-sensitive, (dare I say it) liberal (not politically) church believes that God’s love does not care about sin, does not judge others and does not call them to repentance–it’s just focused on loving people (whatever that means). But love was shown when Christ DIED on the cross for our sins. If Christ died, sin must be a big deal. If sin wasn’t a big deal, then why in the world did Jesus have to give up His life for it? If sin is just a little mistake, then why does the Bible talk so much about it? Why did prophets command Israel to repent and return to the Lord over and over and over and over?
God is a holy God, and in order to maintain that, He must punish sin. So the cross is necessary for God to maintain and glorify His holiness. And this is God’s love expressed, for if He is not holy, He is not God, and if He is not God, then why should we bother with Him, for what can He offer us that no one else can?
What’s so glorious about the cross? God made a way to show His holiness, His hatred of my sin, and His wrath toward sinners, while simultaneously telling sinners that He loves them, and has made a way to forgive them and be their God once again. At the cross, God’s love and justice meet. At the cross, God shows His love by maintaining His holiness while inviting us into a relationship with Him, which is infinitely greater than our sin. He calls us to repent because He wants what’s best for us–Him.
God’s love does not condone our sin. Instead, God’s love tells me that my sin is worse than I can ever imagine, but the price for it has already been paid, and that now I’m invited to return to God and find the greatest joy imaginable in knowing Him.
The love that we show sinners is one that preaches the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. You don’t love someone if you don’t tell them that hell is real. You don’t love someone if you don’t tell them of their deadly condition. But we cannot stop there, or we become Westboro Baptist Church. We must tell them of how God, rich in mercy, sent His Son Jesus to take away our sin, to be our Savior. We must tell them that following God and finding joy in all that He is and becoming like Him is better than sin. We preach repentance not as an unpleasant act we must do to “get God,” but as a gateway to joy, for it is in confessing our sin and humbling ourselves before God that we find grace and hope for a new life.
I hope this has been helpful. Please comment, share, etc. What, if any, other points would you add to this? I welcome discussion.
Lord, may we never forget that we are sinners and that you are God. May we continue confessing our sin, trusting in your grace as our Savior and Lord to pardon us and to change us. May we love as you love, God.