The Christian community is in danger of losing its identity. Billy Graham is a Christian, but so is Donald Trump. The strictly religious connotations of Christianity appear to be fading away. Are Christians a culturally homogeneous group desperately seeking to maintain its social and economic advantages? Or are they a vaguely hateful assortment of people fighting for the last two or three principles that it owns before it is neutered by the interfaith dialogue/ecumenical movement?
If you are not sure what a Christian is, then you are not alone. However there is a definite answer to the question: What is a Christian?
According to the bible, a Christian must be right about at least four things. A Christian is:
Right About the Bible
Right About Jesus
Right About the Gospel
Right About the Great Commandment [Right About Love]
A True Christian is Right About the Bible
2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV 1900) 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
The bible is God’s accurate and complete record regarding his own nature and His plan for mankind. The entire basis for the Christians faith rests upon the truthfulness and authority of the bible. The practical rejection of the bible is widespread today. Many do not accept the scriptures as inspired, that they originate from God in their entirety. Others accept the contradiction that the bible is inspired but contains significant error. Many reject the authority of scripture in what it proclaims and commands, that is, they claim to be Christians but refuse to submit to the bible’s instruction in their daily lives.
The typical professing Christian today does not even read the bible. As a consequence, he is easily deceived by false teachers who lure him into self-destructive beliefs and practices. Unbelievers are unable to get clear answers regarding God’s will and plan from Christians who do not know their bibles. As a consequence, many persons claiming to be Christians are practicing a religion which is actually mysticism, an attempt to directly communicate with God without reference to His revelation in the scriptures. The truth is that many professing Christians have just enough bible knowledge to be inoculated against the gospel.
A True Christian is Right About Jesus
1 Timothy 3:16 (KJV 1900) 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
A Christian must be right about Jesus. This means the biblical Jesus, not the popular Jesus of today who is conformed to our desires for a new age avatar; a culturally sophisticated superhero who tolerates everything except the bible and especially dislikes the apostle Paul.
It is not enough to believe that Jesus was sent by God or that he lived a sinless life. The bible represents Jesus as God Almighty in the flesh, the holy God who rejected sin to the extent that He gave his life to set men free from its domination and curse. This Jesus did not compromise with the corrupt State or the corrupt religious orders of his time. The Jesus of the bible rejected the debasement of the institution of marriage [Mark 10.4-9] and demanded repentance from sexual sin. The biblical Jesus was not racially prejudiced: he called a Canaanite apostle, ministered in multi-ethnic Galilee and to the black Phoenicians who came from their land to the north of Galilee to hear Him. The biblical Jesus believed in and preached the existence of Hell as the permanent abode of the person who rejects the gospel.
The scriptural Jesus would not be popular today, perhaps less so than at His first advent.
A True Christian is Right About the Gospel
John 3:16 (KJV 1900) 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Every true Christian must be right about the Gospel. The bible teaches that every person is a sinner who is alienated from God. The bible also teaches that we are morally bent towards evil and therefore unwilling to have a relationship with God upon His terms. God, our Creator, considers our sin as a debt that must be paid before we can be reconciled to Him.
God became flesh in the birth of Jesus Christ specifically to pay the sin debt of mankind by substituting Himself for us. By his perfect sacrifice through crucifixion Jesus satisfied the just anger of God and paid for the sins of mankind.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (KJV 1900) 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
As a consequence of Jesus death and resurrection from the dead, salvation is available through faith in his shed blood for your sins. Faith is your belief in the gospel of forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice and the desire for that sacrifice to be applied on your behalf.
Because you receive eternal life as a result of believing alone, you cannot be saved by living a moral life or by dying a heroic death or by sacraments or the prayers of others after you are dead. Furthermore, there is nothing that can be added to faith in order to secure eternal life: not church membership, or baptism, or tithing, or speaking in tongues or promises regarding ones future behavior. All of these things pertain to Christian discipleship and not to the new birth [except for tongues which are not a legitimate spiritual function for today].
The consequences of the new birth are many, but include forgiveness of sins and the breaking of the power of sin over the life of the believer. There is immediate fellowship with God and with the company of true believers in Christ. This fellowship is immediate and eternal and is enjoyed today and in the future, via resurrection, with God and the redeemed forever in heaven [1Thessalonians 4.16-17]. Those who will not believe remain alienated from God and after death spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.
This is what a real Christian believes about the gospel, and he or she believes it because of what real Christians believe about the bible.
A True Christian is Right About the Great Commandment [Right About Love]
Matthew 22:36–39 (KJV 1900) 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The great commandment is about love, the chief Christian virtue and the evidence to the world of the genuineness of ones salvation [1 John 3.10]. Christians often confuse a lack of moral discrimination for love. In the great commandment, Jesus taught that the first object of love is God Himself and not man.
It is our love for God’s Person, for His perfect character and integrity from which our love for our fellow man is derived. We love because He first loved us. The true believer will not offend God in what he loves. This means that the true Christian cannot love sin and that he must in many cases practice both love and separation at the same time.
The believer must love and show love to the sinner, but he cannot be bound up with him in such a way that he becomes identified with or a partaker of his sins. It is in this way that the believer demonstrates God’s priority in his life. For example, the believer can and must love the one who accepts false doctrine, but he must limit his fellowship with this individual. The inability of Christians today to separate themselves from sin and from error, without becoming hateful, is a foremost characteristic of believers in this age. We love the sinner, but we are to oppose his sinful practices. We love the ecumenist, but we warn against his alliances and do not join him in his conferences. We do not allow ourselves to be condemned by God in the things that we approve. The great commandment teaches that love for God comes before love for men.
The true Christian is right about the Bible, with the result that he is able to be right about Jesus, the Gospel and Love. The Christian, through his ministry on behalf of God, in spreading the gospel and making disciples, is the only human force for permanent divine good in the world.
1 John 5:11–12 (KJV 1900) 11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.