When the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” in Antioch, this label did not have the far-reaching meaning as it does today. As a rule today, Christians are those who profess to be followers of Christ and, often includes those who do not even profess to be His followers. People living in so-called Christian countries are often all assumed to be Christian by people of other countries. A Christian in the biblical sense is more than just a resident of a “Christian” country. Being a Christian is more than a geographic matter. Yes, to be Christian means even more than being a morally good person. It means more than following a specific formula and also more than being a member of a church.
A Christian is a person who believes what Jesus Christ taught. Today, in many religious circles, what Jesus and His apostles taught is presented as minor and unimportant and is often ignored. We often hear: “It does not depend on what a person believes as long as he is honest and lives an upright life!”
If it does not depend on what a person believes, why does the Bible give so many definite teachings? If the Bible gives us a definite teaching, we are to believe and obey it. “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God” (John 7:17), says the greatest Teacher. Again, He says: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
God’s people everywhere need to be grounded in the principles of the Bible. Only when we are grounded with a solid foundation can we express the hope we have within us. How would it be possible to stand up and defend the belief that was given to the followers of Christ if we do not know what this belief is? We ourselves must be convicted by this belief. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it if we are to stand for the truth. We need to recognize truth if we want to live as a Christian.
A Christian is a person who has an intimate connection with Christ and has experienced a personal conversion. Christianity is more than just a teaching. We can compare the teachings of Christianity to a ladder that leads us to a higher life. It would not be enough to place the ladder against a structure and just remain standing under it. In the same way, our belief in the biblical truths leads us to an experience with Christ. The gospel requires that we honor Christ not just with our intellect, or because we agree with a teaching, but most importantly with our heart so that Christ may live in us. A person may be devout but without a pure heart. Christianity is not only a series of teachings but has to do with a Person, who is Christ. Everything revolves around Him. In the biblical sense, a Christian is one who has experienced Christ, is in contact with Him, and maintains a relationship with Him.
If our belief is real, it will effect a real change in us. On the threshold into the Christian life is the need to be born again. “You must be born again” (John 3:7), Jesus Himself said. We need to become a new creation in Christ, being dead to sin and having a new life in Christ. Yes, a Christian is part of the godly nature. Christ must be in us. The likeness of God, the righteousness and the holiness, must be within us. We must have had a personal conversion. That means we become a new creation through Christ.
Also, to be a Christian does not mean that somewhere in the past we have had a conversion experience. It is not what we once experienced but what we now have that is important.
True Christianity is also not based on feelings, even though a true Christian does experience good feelings. A Christian has joy, pure, true joy. Without this, Christianity is not even possible. However, joy is the result of this experience. One person may have more joy than another, and yet both may be true Christians. Whoever is truly born again seeks this fellowship with His God and Lord. Time spent in communion with Him is precious.
A Christian is someone who lives his life like Christ did. If the life of Jesus is in us, then we must also live it. If Christ is in residence on the throne of our heart, He then has control of our total person: the tongue, the hands, the feet, and over each member of our body. Everything must be put under His control. Our life must be in agreement with our faith in God and our experiences. A river cannot rise higher than its source. Each tree bears fruit of its type. “By their fruit you will know them,” Jesus said. If righteousness dwells within one’s heart, it will also be visible in that life. Someone once said that the teaching is the root of the Christian life, the experience the flower, and the life the fruit.
Our Christian life must be in sync with the reputation and name that we bear. A true Christian will live a pure and God-pleasing life. The life of a Christian has been changed through being born again when everything became new. A pure life originates from a pure heart. It is a holy life. If the heart is holy, then the life will also be holy. “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15).
The life of a Christian is also one of obedience. God does not have any disobedient children. He said: “If you love me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). A Christian is devoted to God and ready to serve Him. It is a life of service in His vineyard and, above all, a life of prayer, an intimate relationship with Him, the source of all life. It is a joyful and peaceful life upon which eternal life follows.
It would not hurt and would certainly be a great blessing if all of us who profess to be Christians would ask ourselves the question: “Am I truly a Christian in the biblical sense?” Let us look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word. If our conversion was truly genuine, it will survive the test of time. Should our conversion not be genuine and we have no fruits to prove it, it would be better that we realize this now so that we can once again turn to the Lord and experience genuine revival before it is too late.