Since we talk so much about Christianity here, I thought it might be worthwhile for some to take a step back and define what being a Christian actually entails. Christianity in the traditional sense simply means one who is a follower of Christ. In modern evangelical terms (if you are new to Christianity, you’ll find we have A LOT of terms), a Christian is defined as someone who has prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. My purpose is not to find fault with either definition, but rather to elaborate on them, with an emphasis on what Jesus commanded of His followers.
There’s nothing magical about the prayer you pray to accept Christ. The wording does not matter. Furthermore, the prayer is not a prerequisite to faith in Jesus Christ. Only two things matter: what you believe and what you do with that belief.
What you believe is of ultimate importance. A Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who assumed the form of a man, gave Himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins, then rose from the dead to defeat death for all of us. That is the core. Depending on your tradition, upbringing or church affiliation, you will have additional beliefs that complement the core. Different denominations, or factions, of the Christian faith often engage in heated debate around these periphery issues. While the subjects of those arguments may be very good topics for future blog posts, the focus here is on the essential beliefs of a Christian. If you truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for you and rose again, then you have faith in Jesus Christ. But that is not the end of the story.
The Bible repeatedly points out that faith without “works” is dead. The term “works” is defined by the actions we take and the way we live. Having a faith in Jesus does not make one a follower of Christ; it simply makes you a believer. Jesus commanded that those who would follow Him would need to leave everything behind and trust Him for all their needs. A Christian is one who no longer is enamored with the things they were before they trusted in Jesus. Turning your life over to Christ means getting rid of your selfish motives; it means living for something bigger than yourself. Instead of focusing inwardly, our focus must be on those around us. You have the Spirit of God within you. You have a new voice inside that will constantly remind you of the way you should be living. Following Jesus means doing the things that He did. That means we are to love everyone and show compassion to all. It means we must look after orphans, the homeless, widows and the single mom’s. It means living life generously instead of hoarding money and possessions. No longer are we entrapped by trying to measure up to the standards of our world. Instead, we are free to be different; we are free to express the love of God to everyone we meet.
Being a Christian means you have expressed faith in who He is, and it means you are putting action behind your faith. It’s not enough to just believe, you must express your belief in Him, your love for Him, by doing the things He told you to do. Neither is it good enough to just do the things Jesus did; you must believe He is the Son of God who gave His life for you. Following Christ brings a dramatic change of life and purpose. I promise you that you will never regret your decision to follow Jesus. Being a Christian doesn’t remove pain and suffering from your life; but it does add joy, peace and freedom that you have never before experienced. Believing in Jesus and following Him by doing the things He commanded, this is what it means to be a Christian. If you have not yet experienced this freedom, call out to Him today. Tell Him you believe in Him; thank Him for what He did for you. Then rise up and put your faith into action by demonstrating the love of Christ to everyone you meet.