There is much confusion among the general public, as well as the religious community, concerning what it means to be a "Christian."
Does it mean assenting to a particular belief-system?
Does it mean consenting to a prescribed morality pattern?
Does it mean changing and improving one’s behavior?
Does it mean joining a church organization?
Does it mean practicing regular rituals of worship?
The definition of "christian is: A follower of Jesus Chhrist. Christians comit themselves to Chhrist and become increasingly like Him.
When others look at your life, do they see you as a follower of Christ? How? If not, why?
Even those who call themselves "Christians" seem to have much difficulty articulating and verbalizing what it means to be a Christian. Their ambiguous explanations often convey an amalgamated "mish-mash" of affirming the above-mentioned activities. What is needed is a clear Biblical restatement of the basic spiritual reality of being a Christian. That will be our objective in this study.
In order to do so, we will divide the study by differentiating what is involved in becoming a Christian initially, and what is subsequently involved in being the Christian one has become. Thus we can consider both the commencement and the continuance of what it means to be a Christian.
Becoming a Christian
We are not referring to "getting religious," or "joining a church," or "believing and reciting correct creedal doctrines." The issue we address is "becoming a Christian."
What must one do to become a Christian?
In one sense, there is nothing anyone can DO to become a Christian. Everything necessary to become and be a Christian has been done by Jesus Christ, which is why He exclaimed "It is finished!" (John 19:30). It is only by the grace-activity of God in Jesus Christ that the opportunity of becoming and being a Christian is afforded to mankind. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9). There is no human performance or effort that can effect the spiritual reality of becoming a Christian.
Becoming a Christian is not a matter of external physical attachment to a social organization called a "church." Nor is becoming a Christian effected by mental assent to historical or theological tenets of belief. Behavior modification and ritualistic repetition are not the essence of becoming a Christian.
Becoming a Christian is a spiritual reality that transpires in the spiritual core of our being. Our "spirit and soul and body is to be preserved complete" (I Thess. 5:23) in Jesus Christ. The most basic need of man is not physical rejuvenation, or psychological adjustment, or social improvement, but spiritual exchange and regeneration. Because all of mankind begin their physical lives spiritually "dead in their trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1,5), the primary need of man is to be made alive spiritually.
The figurative expression that the Bible uses to illustrate spiritual enlivening is the concept of being "born again" (I Peter 1:3,23) or being "born from above" (John 3:3,7). When Jesus told Nicodemus, the religious ruler of the Jews, that he needed to be "born again, from above" (John 3:1-7), he reverted to the literalism of physical obstetrics. As a "natural man," though extremely religious, he failed to understand spiritual things (I Cor. 2:14).
Man’s primary need is not more knowledge and education, nor is it self-realization and self-improvement. The need of man is to be re-lifed with the very life of God in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God gives life (II Cor. 3:6) to our spirit, causing our spirit to be alive (Rom. 8:10) with "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). One who thus becomes a Christian "passes out of spiritual death into spiritual life" (I John 3:14).
The spiritual life that the Christian receives is the divine life of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). "He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (I John 5:12). This "eternal life that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:23) is the spiritual life that Jesus came to bring (John 10:10) to restore man to God’s intent for humanity. Eternal life is not a commodity or state of existence that we receive after we die physically, but is the life of Jesus Christ in the Christian presently with an eternal continuum of perpetuity.
Spiritual re-lifing, or regeneration, occurs in the spirit of man. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). "The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). A spiritual union is effected whereby "one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (I Cor. 6:17).