Tuesday, December 2, 2003, 07:30 AMMay 2007
What is a Christian?
For several years Iíve been collecting my thoughts, questions, concerns, and beliefs regarding this question. Itís been a while since Iíve written an article, but I was inspired by my teacher to share what Iíve learned about being a Christian.
Another article written May 2003...
What is a Christian?
When I was in my late teens, I joined the Navy and became a sailor. I was about to get drafted and was pretty sure I didnít want to become a soldier, so I chose to become a sailor. My father had been a soldier during World War II. I had been told many frightening stories about Viet Nam from friends and acquaintances. From the things I heard and learned, I didnít want to become a soldier. I chose to be a sailor.
I went through basic training, was issued uniforms, and was taught what the Navy thought I needed to know in order to make me a sailor. Was I a sailor at that point? Looking back I would say no.
Even though I had training, was wearing sailor clothes, and was paid by the United States Navy I was not a sailor. I look back now and realize that until I started living the life of a sailor, I was not a sailor. It wasnít until I lived on a ship and performed the duties of a sailor that I could actually declare that I was one.
I lived the life of a sailor for two and a half years. At that point my commitment was complete and I became a member of the Navy Reserve. After another three and a half years my days of being a sailor were over.
From the time I was born I lived in the household of a church attending family. I attended a Lutheran School and was taught the things I needed to know in order to be a Christian. I learned what I needed to do to be a Christian. I was shown how to follow Christ and I was also taught to be a good person.
Being taught how or wearing something that gives the appearance of a Christian did not make me one. The fact that my parents called themselves Christians did not make me one. Just as the fact that my father had been a soldier could not make me a soldier, too. It was my choice, my decision.
For many years (about 35) I thought I was a Christian. If someone were to ask, I would tell them I was one. I was taught how to be one and I was not what I considered to be a ďbadĒ person so I thought that I was a Christian. I chose sins that were acceptable in my eyes. I chose sins that were socially accepted.
Early in the year 2000 I finally recognized that I had been wrong. I had gone through most of my life thinking I was being a Christian. Just like being a sailor, in order to be a Christian I had to live the life of a Christian. I had to make a drastic change in my thinking and my lifestyle. It was because I made a decision to change that I went from thinking I was a Christian to actually living the life of a Christian. This didn't mean I was no longer a sinner. We all sin. But I started a relationship with my Savior and began to make Him the most important thing in my life.
I still have some of my Navy uniforms (of course they donít fit any more) and I still remember some things I was taught about being a sailor. Does that mean I am still a sailor? No, I donít live the life of a sailor any longer. That is merely a part of my past.
My point here is thisÖ
.. You are not a Christian because you say you are.
.. You are not a Christian because of what you wear.
.. You are not a Christian because your mother was or your father was. Not even because your grandmother was a Christian.
.. You are not a Christian because you are not a ďbadĒ person.
.. You are not a Christian because you were taught to be one.
.. You are not a Christian because your parents had you baptized when you were a baby.
.. You are not a Christian because you go to church regularly or even more than most do.
.. You are not a Christian because you own a bible or because you can recite scripture verses.
.. You are not a Christian because you are a deacon, elder, pastor, or any member of a church staff.
.. You are not a Christian because you give large amounts of money to the church or TV evangelists.
... You are not a Christian because you used to be one.
In order to be a Christian you have to live the life of a Christian. In order to live the life of a Christian you need to steadily follow Christ.
Sharing Godís love,
I thought I was going to slip by with a simple newsletter article with a poem this month but Godís convicting me to write more. Someone needs to hear something He has to say. I donít know who needs it or why they need it but I really feel the Lord telling me to write this article. Maybe itís just me that needs to hear it. Iíve learned in the last couple of years that if the Lord leads you, be obedient. For so many of my years, the person I followed turned out to be me. I never want to travel that road again.
I learn a great deal from my brother and sister Christians. I pray that I can offer things for others to learn, as well. Iíve learned that we can all be an example for others even if we are being the bad example. Iíve learned that God can use even me. Iíve learned that itís not sufficient to know God. He has to know me too. Donít get me wrong, I understand that God is all knowing and all mighty but for Him to know me I had to take the steps toward building a relationship with Him.
I used to keep God at arm's length. I treated Him like the auto club. It was nice to know that He was there when I needed Him and when I had a problem I could give Him a call. It took me a long time to learn that many of my problems could have been avoided if I would have just spoken with Him prior to making my choices. He and I both know how bad I am at making the right choice. My past is proof. Now I go to Him in prayer and ask Him to guide me to the right choice.
Before I became a ďborn again ChristianĒ I used to think I was a Christian. I often debated the question ďJust what is a ChristianĒ? Before I became a ďborn again ChristianĒ I would scoff at someone that claimed to be a one. I would find myself wondering just what happened to them the first time. Why did they need to be ďborn againĒ? Why didnít they get it right the first time?
I used to have doubts about heaven. Did it really exist? If it does exist, how good did I have to be to get in? If heaven didnít exist then why not make my own path on earth, but just in case I was wrong, I would still be good enough to get in. If the Bible is right about eternal life, I didnít want to miss my chance to get in on it.
I used to think that if I was good enough (You know what I mean Ė keeping the most important of the ten commandments Ė never killing anyone, not stealing, obeying your parents, not committing adultery - the big sins) then some of the little sins would be excused. You know what I mean Ė the little ones Ė remember the Sabbath day, not coveting, occasionally (only occasionally) taking the Lords name in vein. I thought that sins had a weighted value. I thought that just the really bad sins would keep you from heaven. I thought that the little sins were excused if I was a good enough person.
I used to think that if a person was ďgoodĒ and claimed to know God then they were a Christian. What I learned in recent years is that no one is ďgood enoughĒ and that the gift of eternal life comes from Godís grace and mercy. Nowhere in the Bible does it ever mention that being good is how we get to heaven. Thank God for that. Heaven would be empty if sinners were not allowed to enter the gates.
I was so far off the mark about being a Christian that I donít even like to look back and see what others must have seen in me. I didnít understand that all of my sins were forgiven and the only one excusing them was me. I didnít realize that being a Christian meant following Christ. The better I know Him the easier it is to see when I stray off His path.
Sharing Godís Love,