Christian

<<a follower of Christ, a believer>>

This is a person who has a personal relationship with Christ through intentionally repenting of their sins and accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in their place; by being ‘born-again’, they become a child of God, receiving the gift of salvation and indwelling of the Holy Spirit; having “passed from death to life” their love for Him is demonstrated by obedience and the evidence of increasing Godly character (Jn 3:3,6, 5:24; Rom 8:16-18; 1 Cor 6:19; 1 Jn 3:14).

This is more than knowing the facts and making a profession of salvation, adhering to a philosophy, following a code of conduct, or having been raised in a Christian home and undertaking outwardly religious activity, as it is an individual heart matter. Some people can point to a defining moment when they were converted (became a Christian) while others may not be able to point to a specific date or place – rather it was a growing awareness and acceptance of Christ, yet it is an equally valid entrance to His Kingdom. Regardless of the path, it requires an ongoing decision of commitment to follow Christ,  as only genuine faith in Christ will result in the fruit of a changed life (Mt 3:8; Act 3:19; Rom 15:5; Gal 6:9,10). “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The person who says, ‘I know Him’, but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in them” (1 Jn 2:3,4). If there is no ‘fruit of righteousness’ becoming evident we have the right to question if the person is truly a Christian (Mt 7:16,20).  

The reality of the spiritual life depends on maintaining a right heart relationship with God as our love for Him is outworked through obedience, coupled with a focus on service to others (Mk 12:30,31; Lk 6:31; Jn 14:15; Act 24:16; Tit 2:14). “This is how we know who the children of God are and who

     If you claim to be His child can others                                     see the family likeness?

the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; neither is anyone who does not love their brother or sister” (1 Jn 3:10). As believers come into increased wholeness, with the fruits of the Spirit evidenced, there will be greater authenticity, consistency and balance to their lives for “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” and are progressively “becoming conformed to the image of Christ” (Rom 8:29; Gal 5:22-24).

Being a Christian does not solve all our problems or make us immune to the tragedies of life, but we have the confidence that everything is working out for our ultimate good and nothing can separate us from His love, for Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit is with us (Rom 8:28,35-39; Heb 13:5).

There is a common misconception that ‘all roads lead to God’ however, we perceive the deity. Although there a many different religions, with each claiming they are the way to heaven, Christians hold to the Bible’s authority that Jesus is the only way, with salvation being found in no other (Jn 14:6; Act 4:12). However, across the spectrum of Christianity, there are different views about the theology surrounding salvation and what signifies Christian lifestyle. Religion is basically humanity trying to earn salvation, while Christianity is based on the gift of forgiveness from which good works should flow as an expression of gratitude for the salvation that can never be earnt.

Why become a Christian?

We are all sinners, doing wrong in the sight of a holy God, and in fact hostile to Him as we fall short of His standards (Rom 3:23, 8:7). The Bible declares the person who sins will die, with the ‘wages of sin’ being eternal separation from Him and all that is immensely enjoyable (2 Chr 25:4; Isa 59:2; Jer 5:25; Ezek 18:4,20; Rom 6:23). This sin separates us from God, for to be in close fellowship with Him, we have to be holy like He is, and unless we believe in Him we will die in our sin because we have rejected the only solution available (Jn 8:24, 14:6; 1 Pet 1:15). However, the good news is, “While we were locked in our sin Christ died for us”, paying on our behalf the price for our sin (that we could never pay), enabling us the opportunity to pass from eternal death to eternal life (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Tim 2:5; 1 Pet 3:18). Unfortunately, if people don’t recognise there is a problem, they won’t seek the solution – salvation from an everlasting, undesirable existence of torment in hell (which is described as the lake of fire). The remedy is of no value unless applied (Jn 1:12, 3:18; Rev 20:15, 21:8).

Receiving salvation is the most important decision we can ever make so demands our utmost attention – “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith…be eager to make your calling and election into God’s family secure” (2 Cor 13:5; 2 Pet 1:10).

The process of becoming a Christian

This is an option freely available to anyone prepared to turn in repentance from their sin and towards God in obedience and love (Jn 1:12).  It requires humility to accept we are incapable of saving ourselves and that God has facilitated the means by which we can be rescued. Faith involves a conscious and genuine acceptance of His offer – the gift of salvation. The outcome is a spiritual rebirth, becoming a ‘new creation’ (2 Cor 5:17). Once we are saved we are urged to ‘live out’ the change Christ has made in us, and to continue with His enabling on the pathway toward Heaven, for it is a process rather than a one-time decision (Eph 2:8,9; Phil 2:12). We no longer have to battle life on our own as He gives us the Holy Spirit within to guide and help, along with His manual (the Bible) and other Christians for encouragement (Jn 14:16; 1 Cor 6:19).

While our salvation is a gift we can’t earn or pay for, it doesn’t come without a cost to us. When various bystanders said they were willing to follow Jesus, He discouraged them from taking the step until they understood some of the costs and He said that if a person began the Christian path with Him and looked back (indicating a divided heart) they were not suitable for service in the Kingdom of God

   Is my lifestyle consistent                with that of Christ?

(Lk 9:57-62).  In another instance, where wealth was the man’s real objective, Jesus stated “If you want to enter [eternal] life, obey the commandments” and challenged him to deal with this issue (Mt 19:16-22).  God’s claim on our affections, relationships and possessions is to take priority over everything (Ex 20:3). Can we expect to receive the privileges and benefits of what Christ offers yet refuse the demands of the cross and deny Him the right to enlist us in His purposes? Being a true follower is not just giving a half-hearted intellectual assent, paying lip service, or being motivated by self- interest, while continuing to live a sinful and rebellious lifestyle disobedient to the claims of Christ (Mt 15:7-9).

Becoming a Christian is not just adding Jesus to our list of acquaintances but involves a radical change - giving undivided loyalty to Him as the new master and Lord of our life.

While being “born again” is vital, continuing and completing our lives well is also essential. Through an intimate relationship with Christ we are enabled to implement the spiritual disciplines and to live according to His rules (Mt 13:20-22; 1 Jn 3:14). A true Christian is a disciple who endeavours with the Holy Spirit’s help, to live by the principles and directions of the Bible in all areas, especially morals and lifestyle. Righteousness is a mark of genuine salvation (Lk 6:44; Rom 6:2; 1 Jn 3:10). Jesus made a solemn statement to those who called Him “Lord” yet refused to do what He said, saying they would be cast into hell (Mt 7:21-23). 

Although a believer may point out to an unbeliever the need for salvation, pressure should not be exerted as any so-called conversion would be in response to human manipulation, not the genuine working of the Holy Spirit and the person’s own choice, consequently there will be no lasting commitment. Becoming a Christian involves our conscience becoming aware of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, our need for salvation, repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus as our substitute for wrongdoing, for “No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws them” through an inner conviction (Jn 6:44).

The majority of people enter into God’s family through a process rather than a quick decision. Thus it is important to, journey with the unsaved by being involved in their lives prior to conversion – through a process of friendship evangelism. As various Christians sow seeds into their lives they may be drawn to the Saviour. Each one has a strategic part to fulfill in order for them to be won for Christ (1 Cor 3:5-9).

Characteristics of a Christian

1/. Jesus didn’t just die to forgive us, enabling us to live saved yet selfish lives, but to establish His Lordship over us. Once saved, we shouldn’t live any longer for ourselves, but instead for the Lord because He paid the ransom for us (Act 20:28; Rom 14:7-9; 1 Cor 6:20; 2Cor 5:15). The cross means an end to selfish living, so besides fulfilling our earthly responsibilities we should pray, give of our resources and time for the activities of His Kingdom.

2/. We are to live in humble dependency and vital connection with Him, the source of real life, sensitive to the specific leading of the Holy Spirit within, together with our conscience, in matters of integrity and issues of right and wrong (Jn 10:10, 15:4,5). There will be a love for God together with a desire and sensitivity to hear His voice within, to know “This is the way walk in it” (Isa 30:21).

3/. This calls for obedience to the Lord’s commands and principles as given in the Bible and being mindful that all we do should conform to and reflect the divine character, so ‘Christ is formed in us’ (Gal 4:19).

4/. Although we will continue to sin on occasion, we should repent and move on, forgiven and wiser, to overcome the wicked one through self-control and reliance on the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). This refers to the many minor offences against us that we should forgive and overlook, yet the major indiscretions that bring harm to the person themselves, others or us must be adequately addressed.

5/. When we became His children, we surrendered ourselves to His Lordship. It our responsibility to ‘put off’ the characteristics of ‘the flesh’ and put on the qualities of the new life that reflect the character of God coupled with an ongoing submission to Him rather than asserting our rights (Mt 26:42; Eph 4:22-5:21; Col 3:5-17). Baptism signifies death to the old way of living and being raised to a ministry of bringing the lost into relationship with Him (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 5:17-19).

6/. Although we can’t get to heaven by our efforts and good actions, such behaviour should be an obvious sign of a changed life, now with an outward looking concern for others (Eph 2:8-10; 1 Tim 6:18; 2 Tim 3:17; Tit 2:7, 3:8; Phil 2:4).

7/. There will be a desire to be with other believers who, the Bible instructs, we are to love intensely, yet with utmost purity (Jn 15:12; 1 Tim 4:12, 5:1,2).

8/. We can’t serve two opposing masters at the same time, by attempting to appear in the Kingdom of God while our heart is far from Him; if we have turned our allegiance to the new owner, the old master (Satan) is not to have any further authority over us (Mt 6:24, 15:8; 1 Jn 2:15). He is not pleased when people leave his side for the Lord’s and does all He can to regain lost territory so we need to be aware of his strategies.

9/. With integrity we will diligently and faithfully apply ourselves to “doing the will of God from our heart” being “Eager to do what is good” and recognizing that anything of eternal worth will not be accomplished by our effort but through God’s power (Zech 4:6; 1 Cor 3:10-15; Eph 6:6; Tit 2:14).

Give this serious attention

Some Christians teach the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved’ that suggests after becoming a Christian a person can revert to ungodly

Is there enough evidence from my lifestyle               to ‘convict’ me of being a Christian?

behaviour but still get to heaven because they are unconditionally saved. It is similar to the misleading reasoning Satan presented in the Garden of Eden; ‘you can disobey God without fear of divine consequences’ (Gen 3:4). Likewise, the ‘cheap gospel’ suggests once a person has ‘said the sinner’s prayer’ they can continue in sin (without the evidence of a change in lifestyle) and still expect God to admit them into heaven. This teaching gives a false, mistaken security, cheating countless people out of eternal life, because the true gospel of Jesus Christ demands a complete and radical lifestyle change, obediently giving up all that is sinful to be His disciples for “If you want to be my follower you must deny yourself and take up your cross” (Lk 9:23, 14:33). This is not optional. It calls for a full surrender of all we have, are, and hope to be, making Jesus Christ Lord of our lives because He delivered us from the terrible consequences of sin; He paid the debt we could not pay and in return we are to give ourselves to Him (1 Thes 1:10). If there has been a real salvation experience, there will be a desire to live in agreement with Christ’s directives regardless of Satan’s opposition.

While it is the will of God that everyone who believes in Christ should have eternal life the Bible says salvation is dependent on remaining ‘in Him’ and obediently continuing in His teaching (Mt 10:22; Jn 6:39,40, 8:31,32, 15:1-9; Heb 5:9; 2 Pet 3:9). Paul reminded the believers about, “the gospel on which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word…Otherwise you have believed in vain” (1Cor 15:1,2). This is a sobering message of
vital importance to us all – that if we don’t continue to walk with Christ our belief is useless, and of no benefit.

Jesus’ command was to go and make disciples – dedicated followers, who are radically committed to Him as their ‘new master’, living out their faith by obeying His teachings, and not just getting converts who treat Him as an ‘add-on’ (Mt 28:19,20; Rom 6:16). Unfortunately, many seriously backslide or fall away due to offence or the entrapment in sin. At the final assessment, Jesus said there will be many

 We are to be obedient to                       our new master

who, because of the miracles and good works they did in His name, will question why they are shut out of heaven. The devastating answer was because they were not born-again – although they gave mental assent to the Words of Christ, they never obeyed in their hearts (Mt 7:21-27). Our walking on God’s path is more important than our (often deceptive) talking about it. The Bible states, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness…The Lord knows those who are His. Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (Rom 6:13; 2 Tim 2:19).

Often today the sinner’s prayer is used when leading a person to accept Christ. They are asked to repeat a simple prayer acknowledging they are a sinner, are turning from their sin and inviting Jesus into their life. However the Bible’s instruction given to those who were desirous of salvation was to repent and believe emphasizing turning from sin to Jesus and trusting in Him for deliverance from the eternal consequence of sin (Act 2:37,38, 16:30,31). The cost may seem high but the value of being His child is an investment that lasts for eternity and gives incredible rewards.

Rice Christians is a term given to those who fake conversion to Christianity in order to obtain food or some other material benefit. In Jesus’ words, they are ‘not fit for the kingdom of God’.

See also: apostasy, assurance, backslide, baptism, believers, born again, cheap gospel, Christianity, connection, conversion/convert, cross, disciple/discipleship, eternal damnation, eternal security, evangelism, fruit, good works, gospel, heaven, Jesus Christ, non-Christian, religion, repentance, salvation, sinners prayer, spiritual disciplines, surrender, wilderness wanderings.

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