What is a Christian?
This question can be answered by examining the Bible’s first use of the word ‘Christian’. Acts 11:26 says, ‘And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch’.
The Roman dictators of the first three centuries AD expected people to worship them as Caesar. There are many so-called ‘saviours’ in this world today, as there were in pagan Antioch and the Roman empire.
Many still think they are saved by their good works or by such ‘spiritualities’ as transcendental meditation, yoga and New Age religion. But the Christian knows that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour.
What do you believe about Jesus Christ? Some do believe that he was a great teacher and prophet. But a Christian believes far more – that he is the only Saviour and the true God who saves us from the condemnation our sins deserve, by his atoning death and triumphant resurrection (John 20:29).
Not of yourselves
Some New Agers consider themselves Christians, but they espouse pantheism (everything is good and god is everything) and exalt themselves as ‘gods’. Yet Ephesians 2:8-9 says something very different: ‘For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast’.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins on the cross and rose again on the third day after his death (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). They have a faith that stands the test of time; it is not superficial but profound and real.
Faith means simply trust and dependence on God. He will never fail us; he is absolutely reliable and we can trust him fully. ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). Christians have trusted in Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord.
Another mark of being a ‘disciple’ (Acts 11:26) is repentance. Repentance involves a change of heart and mindset towards God (Acts 20:21). Identifying with Christ means forsaking sin to follow Christ fully.
All activities like drug-taking, adultery, lying, covetousness, blasphemy, idle talk and gossip must come to an end when we live for Christ. Repentance is a hallmark of salvation.
The disciples at Antioch were exhorted to ‘cleave to the Lord’ (Acts 11:23). Many even today face persecution for being a Christian, but we must not give up.
Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, was 86 years old when they brought him to Rome to execute him for being a Christian, but he was faithful to the end and is now in the presence of God.
Paul testified of the gospel of the grace of the Lord and the help that Jesus gives to live for his glory: ‘But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God’ (Acts 20:24).
Some non-Christians are materially wealthy, but they have no hope for eternity. In the eyes of the Lord, they are spiritually bankrupt. Life without Christ is a hopeless end, but with Christ it is an endless hope.
The Christian has been changed and is now a good person, not because of himself but through Christ and the Holy Spirit indwelling him. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that our ‘body is the temple of the Holy Ghost’.
We are to walk in the Spirit daily, and not according to the flesh and its worldly lusts. ‘And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:18ff).
It is natural for true Christians to want to join others in church to worship God each Lord’s Day. This is what happened at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Real Christians will want to join their brothers and sisters in Christ to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (Hebrews 10:24-25). They are not ashamed of the gospel, nor of the congregation of Christian believers.
Although coming to church on the Lord’s Day does not make one a Christian, a real disciple wants to learn more, read and hear the Word of God preached, and pray with God’s people.
Are you really a Christian? Don’t be a Christian in name only, but in heart as well. If you are not yet saved from sin, be saved now.
Be full of the Holy Spirit and of good faith in Christ alone. Seek Christ as your Saviour and Lord in repentance and faith. Christ died for our sins and rose again. Be filled with hope, peace, joy and comfort from this day!