I'm sure you have experienced this as I have ... when the subject of faith comes up, people often define themselves by saying, "I am a Christian". But what does that really mean to them? Is there a universal understanding of what makes someone a Christian? Does the person who describes him or herself with that designation have a fixed and unalterable idea of what the term means? I ask because I think it is important for the effectiveness of the Christian faith for those who identify as such to be able to discern and clarify the characteristics, attributes, and values of a Christian.
When my husband and I are meeting someone who has been referred to our ministry, we take the time to sit and visit with them in order to make them comfortable with us, of course, but also to establish how they view and experience their faith. How a person views God will ultimately determine how they live their life on this earth, especially as a Christian. We explain, that the heart of our ministry is to partner with Jesus to help them attain the freedom and abundant life that He died to give them. We don't have any magic pill to make the pain of this world [or anger, fear, shame, or unworthiness, etc.] go away. We can only offer them Jesus, and we work within His guidelines.
Invariably, they respond with "I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus". Some can elucidate their faith quite well; showing an erudite understanding of God's expectations of the Christian life and His redemptive plan for all mankind through faith in His Son, Jesus. They know the history of this divine plan and they know the future that He promises us -- both the miracles, signs, wonders and eternal life, along with the struggles and persecution. Being a Christian to them is more than just a name. It's a condition of their heart and spirit.
Then there are those who say they are a Christian, and are Saved, yet when we ask, "If you were to die right now, are you certain you would go to Heaven", they are unable to say yes. Some will say they are a Christian, but express doubts concerning their salvation. But they identify as a Christian because "I come from a Christian family".
I bring these thoughts up because I believe it is most important in this particular time in world history that we are in need of true Christians who follow the teachings, commandments, practices, and example of Jesus's life in order to overcome the evil that threatens our very existence. But for too many self-identifying Christians, it has become as simple as appropriating the label because they own a Bible or go to Church. In all honesty, that is probably how I started out on my "Christian walk". I didn't pursue Him out of a hungry spirit to know my Creator and my purpose. In fact, I didn't even realize that I couldn't just choose to become a Christian. I had to answer the invitation or calling on my life and then repent [or change the way I lived my life; viewing how I lived from my Heavenly Father's perspective]. That requires developing a real relationship with Him so I can hear His voice and begin the journey for His kingdom that I was sent here to do. And being baptized was an important part of changing from my old sinful existence into a new covenant by being born again by water and receiving the Holy Spirit, who would begin to counsel and teach me the spiritual truth of God and His Word.
I submit to you that it is important for us to truly understand [and agree!] on what it means to be a Christian. Otherwise, it's too easy to settle for being religious or claiming that our excellent moral conduct is the standard that qualifies us to be a Christian. [And we know how hypocritical that can look to the lost who we are supposed to be showing, by example, why they should receive Jesus's invitation to follow Him]. Far too often, that only leads us to imitating our idea of what a Christian looks like, instead of imitating all that Jesus was and did. And that flawed imitation often leads to judgment of others, which can lead to the squelching or suppression of the movements of God among those He has called and invited to represent Him. That limits what God wants to do in His redemptive plan; what He can offer to elevate our understanding, relationship, and participation with Him.
It's not about expecting everyone to look like our version of a Christian which can lead to comparisons and indictments of imperfect faith! God is so big and can do a mighty work with someone who does not look or act or sound like us. He didn't make us all from a cookie cutter mold, and the only comparison we should be making is whether a person resembles Jesus. Is he [or she] kind, righteous, modest, compassionate, trustworthy, forgiving, faithful, loving, discerning? Are they steadfast in the face of mistreatment, discrimination, or persecution; able to teach, prophecy and encourage? Unwilling to compromise their beliefs in the commands of God? Do they speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with reverence, seeking to share the Good News of their salvation and the kingdom that is theirs? No one can entirely embody the perfection that is Jesus. But if we can recognize a heart that focuses on following Him as much as is humanly possible, then I think that is the definition of a Christian.
I admit that I have not attained the fulfillment of that goal. None of us have. But I am continuing to pursue my purpose in God's plan, and I can certainly discern those who are trying to do the same. And I am willing to accept that God may be doing something different in someone else to show an attribute of Himself that I do not possess. And I trust the Holy Spirit to show me who is a true representative and spokesman, and who is a false mouthpiece of the enemy. I never want to inhibit a move of God in another's life, nor do I want to fall for lies and deception. A true Christian will be so in tune with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that there will be no doubts.
Father, help us to take our focus off the world's definition of what it means to be a Christian. After all, the world didn't understand our faith after Christ's ascension in the first century, and we've had 2000 years to confuse the nature, scope and significance of our identity. Let us become what it originally meant ... "little Christ's". May we all become true imitators of all He was. Let the Enemy of God and his agents be put on notice that "as Jesus was, so shall we be". The world needs us to grow up into the maturity of being Your representatives and no longer compromise nor tolerate the strategies of the devil. Let us take off the Christian "mask" and reveal the true identity of a Christian ... a child of God; a spirit joined to Jesus; the temple of the Holy Spirit; a conqueror in Christ; a daughter/son of the King; a healer; part of a royal priesthood; an ambassador of Heaven and the Kingdom of God; the light of Christ; and so much more through the grace and faithfulness of our Lord. These attributes are far from complete, but I thank you for sending us to represent You, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in this place and this time. It is a privilege to submit all I am and all I have to Your cause. Amen!
#whatisachristian #meaningofchristian #representingjesus #littlechrists #christianmeaning #thelightofchrist
Ephesians 5:8 For once you were darkness, but now in union with the Lord, you are light. Walk as children of light.