Last week we discussed the characteristics of a Christian. Among them we mentioned that those who come to Christ become a new creation (John 3:3-5), live by a new standard (Hebrews 4:15), and become a part of Christ’s body (I Corinthians 12:20). Knowing the attributes we should recognize in a Christian it is also important to mention what a Christian is not. Someone cannot claim to be a Christian simply because she is a ‘good person.’ One does not become a member of Christ’s body merely by doing ‘good deeds.’ The Roman centurion, Cornelius, was a “devout man who feared God,” “gave alms generously to the people,” “and prayed continually to God” (Acts 10:2). However, he was not a Christian. God did not save him based on his faithfulness alone or his prayers, instead He informed Cornelius to send for Peter who would “declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household” (Acts 11:14). A Christian is one who hears the gospel message and responds to it as Cornelius and his household did (Acts 10:34-48). The story of Cornelius is one of thirteen conversion stories recorded in Acts. None of them contain every detail of the gospel plan of salvation. Nonetheless, a study of them reveal certain commonalities. What are the common elements of their conversions? Hearing the word, faith, repentance, confession, baptism? Anything else? A Christian is one who actively responds to God’s call in obedience to the word.
Being a good person in and of itself is not a saving grace. Nor is ‘being religious.’ “Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious” (Acts 17:22). The people of Athens had many statues for their many gods. They were a religious people. They were also a lost people. Which is why Paul peaked their interest by informing them he wanted to discuss with them the unknown God, the One who had created all things, and breathed life into man (Acts 17:22-32). Being religious is one thing, being a Christian is something else, something more. A Christian believes in the One True God, and has come to His Son, Jesus Christ, seeking salvation. As Paul wrote, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:6-13).
A Christian is the man or woman who has been made alive in Christ. However, the story doesn’t end there. A faithful Christian continually studies the word of God and practices its life lessons (II Timothy 3:14-17). He masters the word of God, as Paul encouraged Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). The dedicated man of God is eager to know God’s word, because they seek the truth (Acts 17:11-12).
The faithful Christian is a doer. One who seeks the truth and perseveres in it (James 1:22-25). As Jesus told His listeners, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name. And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23). God expects those who come to Him to be obedient to His word (John 14:15), not because He is a tyrant, but because He has our interests at heart, and knows what is best for us.
Those who remain faithful have something else in common, besides a zeal for God’s word (Isaiah 2:3). They have a desire to worship Him (John 4:23; Hebrews 12:28). They also have a zeal not only for their own spiritual condition, but for one another’s welfare (Hebrews 10:23-25; Matthew 18:20). Moreover, whether together or alone, the faithful Christian is dedicated to a life of prayer (I Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2; I Peter 3:12; I John 3:21-22).
As the redeemed in Christ not only should we have a great desire to communicate with our heavenly Father, we have a compelling reason to communicate with others about God. Whether we are sharing the word in an evangelistic effort (Romans 10:17; John 5:24; Acts 2:41; 4:4; 8:4) or are setting an example in our behavior (Philippians 2:14-16; Ephesians 5Z:8-11), we should use every opportunity to reflect God in our lives. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Every Christian should be making an effort to glorify God in their lives. First and foremost, we do this by walking according to God’s ways and not the world's.
In Psalm 1 we read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:1-4). Those who love God hunger for His approval, separating themselves from the world in quest of His truth (Matthew 5:6; John 17:17). This is not a separation that we should hide, but one we should put on display, in adherence to God’s ways, such as those written of by Paul: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).
One who seeks God’s truth necessarily opposes evil. These are not those who pay lip-service to God all the while doing as they please (Matthew 15:8-9). The truly faithful seek to understand God’s will, and to not only do it, but to expose that which hinders it (Ephesians 5:10-11). As Paul wrote, “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (I Thessalonians 5:21-24).
A Christian is someone who not only loves righteousness but opposes evil, not only in deed but in word. He thinks before he speaks (Colossians 4:6), evaluating the benefits or damage his words may cause (Ephesians 4:29-30; 5:4). Jesus once exclaimed to a group of Pharisees, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:33-37).
Do our words condemn us, or justify us? James considered the religion of a man who could not bridle his tongue to be worthless. The spoken word is a reflection of the true man, for good or bad, he thought, writing, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10; 3:5-10; 1:26). What do our words tell the world about us, and how does that reflect on our claim to be a child of God? When we speak do we seek to bring others to Christ, or to strengthen our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, or do we often create or fuel conflict and division? A Christian is someone who seeks to do good with his speech.
Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission before His ascension, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Certainly the word of God is made up of positives and negatives, but all that it contains was written to bring man to God. As Paul informed Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). The scriptures are full of proclamations of salvation and God’s love for man, as well as dire warnings for those who reject God. When we speak of words of blessing or cursing, words of cursing are negative in the sense of being designed to do harm. Words of warning in the Bible are negative in consequence, but positive in their desired effect. They are spoken not to do harm but to warn man away from that which actually causes harm. As Christians our responsibility is not only to do no harm, but in fact to warn others away from spiritual danger and destruction, while at the same time guiding them to safe passage along the path to heaven.
The Christian seeks to help others in their spiritual quest, while avoiding the pitfalls of the world himself (Galatians 6:1-10; Romans 10:1-4; Acts 2:40-41). As Paul informed the Ephesians: “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
In the end a Christian is someone who remains faithful to Christ, through the good times and the hard times (Matthew 10:21-22; Revelation 2:10). She is the one who refuses to be bowed by the adversary, trusting in the Lord, as Paul admonished his readers when he wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). Our labor, our lives will not be in vain if we follow in the path of Christ come what may. Then on judgment day together we can say, as Paul did: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.