red apples

FAQ#2: What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?

Introduction

Living in the so-called “Bible Belt,” it seems like everyone and their mother considers themselves to be Christians. Oddly, with so many “Christians” running around the country, it seems like there has never been such a time of moral degradation in the United States as today. The sad reality is that not everyone who says they are a Christian are in fact Christians. While there are many historical factors that led to this sad state of self-deception, the common denominator is a departure from the Bible and its authority. So with all this confusion about what it means to be a Christian, we need a solid, Biblical definition of the word.

A Student of the Master

The word “Christian” refers to a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. This was the fundamental call of the Great Commission in Matthew 28: go and make disciples. A disciple is a student, a learner. In the context of first century Judea, a disciple would, quite literally, follow in the footsteps of his teacher as the rabbi traveled. So, a Christian is one who follows in the footsteps of Jesus; in other words, a person who has devoted his or her life to conforming their life to the teachings of Jesus.

A Follower, Not a Pioneer

This leads to an important implication that we have to get right early on: Christianity is about following Jesus, not pioneering our own way. Some people consider the Bible to be nothing more than a guidebook. They think that it is a good starting place with some good precepts to follow, but that they can adjust it or disregard it as it suits their purpose. There a lot of problems with that way of thinking, but one of those problems is that it is not the attitude of a follower.

True Christianity follows Jesus; it is not about pioneering our own way. This plays out by an unending desire and quest to live a life in total conformity to all of Jesus’ teachings, not just the ones we like. The basis for this type of devotion is the fact that Christians are people who have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). This necessarily comes with the recognition that we cannot live to ourselves, but are rather slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18).

The Chief Mark of a Christian

What this means is that there are measurable, identifiable marks of a Christian. The chief mark of the disciple of Jesus is love: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35). In fact, Paul says that love is the fulfillment of the law of God: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Indeed, the Lord Jesus himself taught that the entire law hangs upon the two precepts of loving God and loving others.

Trees and Their Fruit

The question, then, becomes: “How can I know that I am a Christian?” Jesus tells us the answer: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). There is also a somewhat scary example that our Lord gives in the Sermon on the Mount:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:21-23

It’s not enough to just say or to even think that you are a Christian. Jesus said that if you love him, you will keep his commandments. Are you seeking to follow the commandments of Jesus? Look over the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: can you say that you are striving to exhibit each of those traits in your own life? Are you praying for the Holy Spirit to work in you a greater conformity to Christ?

Do you submit yourself to the authority of the Bible? Not just in some areas, but in every aspect of your life. The true Christian does not say, “I know what the Bible says about such-and-such an issue, but….” The true Christian says, “Whatever the Bible tells me, that will I live by.”

How to Be A Christian

Perhaps someone reading this may realize that they are not really a Christian after all, even though they thought they were. The good news is this: it’s not too late! We are not promised tomorrow, but God, in his goodness, has given you today. Today is the day of salvation! Repent of your sin and trust in the finished work of Jesus. Live your life as a living sacrifice for the glory of God by obeying the commands of Jesus (Rom. 12:1-2).


bright bulb close up conceptual

FAQ #1: How Do You Know God Exists?

Introduction

This is, perhaps, the most frequent of the frequently asked questions. Indeed, the whole crux of Christianity hinges on this point. If we cannot be certain about the existence of God, then the Christian religion really falls flat on its face. In this age of skepticism and doubt, I can assure you with full confidence that the God of the Bible does indeed exist; and even more, that he has spoken to us in no uncertain terms. The question then arises, “How can you be certain that God exists?” Some of you may find my answer surprising.

Rose-Colored Glasses

Historically, theologians and philosophers sought to answer that question with appeals to reason. So, we have such arguments as the ontological argument: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Then there is the teleological argument (the argument from design): just like a person who picks up a watch from the ground knows that it must have a designer, so too we look at the world and must come to the conclusion of a Designer.

Well, I must say from the outset that, all things being equal, the human mind could (and really must) reason its way to the God of the Bible. We were created in the image of God, and our reason is part of that created image. The problem is that we are born with rose-colored glasses. Except instead of brightening the world around us, these glasses darken it. This is what theologians call the noetic effect of sin.

The Blind Leading the Blind

This noetic effect means that our sin nature distorts our ability to think about God properly in our fallen state. All of us are born into a fallen state because we are born in Adam (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 47-48). So by default, we cannot think about God rightly in our natural state. This necessarily means that we need God to reveal himself to us if we are to know him, and to know him rightly. This leads me to the part of the answer that may surprise you: certainty of knowledge must come from outside ourselves. In other words, in order for me to be certain that God exists, I need something that is outside of myself, an external source of information.

God Exists, Certainly

With that said, I know that God exists because he has revealed himself through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Now, when I say that, I know that the immediate objection that comes into some people’s minds is that it is a subjective definition. So, let me take a minute to explain how that statements is not subjective. For those of you who may not be crusty old philosophers like me, something that is subjective is founded upon the subject.

Remember your grade school English lessons? The basic elements of a sentence are a subject, a verb, and an object. So, something that is subjective is something that varies from person to person. A perfect example of this is your favorite color. You and I can have two different favorite colors, because that is a subjective truth. The truth of “favorite color” varies from person to person because its truth is founded on the subject (the person viewing the color) rather than the object (the color itself).

So, the existence of God, and the certainty of his existence, is not subjective precisely because it requires revelation (knowledge) that comes from outside of us. This means that the knowledge of God is objective. God does not exist because I believe he exists. He exists whether I believe he does or not because he exists outside of myself. Well, “how do you know that?” Because he has spoken. Remember, I am certain that God exists because he has revealed himself in the Bible, his Word. So, the reason why I know that God exists whether you think he does or not is because he is a personal Being who has spoken.

There Can Be Only One

Of course, the nature (fallen) objection would be: “how do you know the other guy’s god(s) do not exist?” That is an excellent question, for which I have two answers. First, because the God of the Bible has revealed himself as supreme, sovereign, unique. There can be no other gods like him, because there is no being like Him. Second, I know that the gods that other men worship (which includes themselves) are nothing more than idols. The human heart loves to make idols, so in the fallen state men will worship everything other than the God of the Bible. Why? Because the God of the Bible is our Creator, and since he is our Creator, he is by default our Judge. He determines whether we meet up to our created standard or not.

Men naturally hate that fact, and so rebel against it. Human beings also hate anything that does not let them boast in themselves. So when fallen men hear the message of the Bible, that our hope lies in God and God alone, they naturally hate it. It requires the supernatural revelation of the Holy Spirit for men to not hate it (John 3). So, when people love the God of the Bible and his message to us, then it is a demonstration that he has worked in their hearts.

Conclusion

Do you know what every false religion in the world has in common? It is human beings trying to justify themselves. Every system in the world except for Biblical Christianity tells us that we have to make ourselves right with God. But Biblical Christianity says that there is only one way to get right with God: through the person and work of another, Jesus Christ.

See, the whole point of this short article is to show that I have no warrant for bragging. I did not arrive at some secret knowledge that only a select few can obtain. My God bought me at a price, delivered me from bondage to sin, and set me free in Christ. The same offer that was extended to me is offered to you as well. Repent of your sin, and trust in the work of Jesus Christ, and you too will be set free from sin. The promise is that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Will you call upon him today? Feel free to reach out via the Contact Page if you would like to hear more, or if you just need someone to talk with.