What is a Christian, really?

Categories: Brother to Brother.

Aug 29, 2016 // By:Dave // 1 comment

Greetings reader. I have been leaning more towards introspective writing lately, especially with regard to a christian”walking the walk and not just talking the talk”. (Let me insert here that I am referring to “christian” in a biblical sense rather than the common cultural sense meaning a “moral person”. While it is expected that a christian behave morally, it is important to understand that being moral does NOT make someone a christian.

what is a christian? Some say “what we do or how we act”. I say “it’s what we are that defines what we do”. The “being defines the doing”. Daffy Duck dressed as Bugs BunnyStrapping on a pair of long ears and hopping around while eating carrots does not make me a rabbit (even though that is what rabbits do)  The same applies here : behaving morally or charitably does not make one a Christian (although many Christians should and do behave as such)

The reason for this post is to provoke thought and hopefully understanding among both believers and non-believers as to some common misunderstandings and the cause is two-fold:

  1. I encounter many people daily who claim to be believers without seeing any evidence of such belief (except for their verbal claim of such)
  2. I prefer to always take such apparent contradiction and turn it on myself and ask “am I doing the same thing?” (sort of checking to see if there is still a log in my eye first, Matt 7:3-5)

I have always held to the axiom that once an idea or concept is defined as true or accurate it should (must) effect change in the mind and actions of the person holding this new truth. After all, this new truth just changed the definition and perhaps even the purpose for something existing in their world, and perhaps, even enhances or redefines the perceived purpose of the person identified by “that mind”.

A simple example is when I sit down into a chair. I am demonstrating, by my actions, that I believe the chair will hold my weight so I am resting my bodily substance and safety into said chair. I am placing faith in the chair to hold my weight. My actions align with my belief and everyone watching me can see that I believe in the chair’s capacity to hold me up. I would not sit in the chair if I did not think so, but since I do, I am able to enjoy the benefits of such a chair and all who observe can see regular demonstrations of this belief.

In short, you can see what I believe by watching me use the chair.

The book of James offers a great treatise on this topic of faith expressing itself in visible ways so that all can see what we believe (James 2:14:26). This is true of all people whatever they believe (whatever facts they hold true about the world around them).

Another place to look is what I call the “litmus test” (your either gonna test pink=flesh or blue=spirit) which is found in Galatians 5:16-24.

  • Verses 16-21 gives us ways in which the flesh expresses itself (i.e. the works of flesh)
  • Verses 22-24 gives us ways in which the spirit expresses itself (i.e. the works of the born again nature).

the flesh expresses it’s faith, what it holds true, by it’s own set of thoughts and deeds, while the new nature, empowered by the Spirit of God, expresses it’s faith, what it holds true, by it’s own set of thoughts and deeds.

Your beliefs WILL affect your perception, your values, your conclusions about the world around you, your perceived reason for existance, and the deeds you carry out (not to mention what you allow passively to happen around you as well).

If you tell me you are a christian but do not live like one, an observer has only so many conclusions to come to about such a christian:

  1. he deliberately misinforms others knowing that he is not a real believer.
  2. he thinks he really is a believer and thinks his actions align with his claims of what he believes

If it is number 2, then there are breakdowns in one or more of the following areas:

  1. his definition of “christian” is incomplete or erroneous
  2. his application of what he believes is illogical or erroneous

the last two, can be as simple as some “bad doctrine” or teaching, or lack of good teaching, lack of discipleship or accountability, or just thinking he is saved when he is not.

SO4J has some really though provoking articles on the topic of unsaved people thinking they are saved
(click here to read)

people only thinking they are christian

Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB) JESUS says, “Not everyone who says to ME, ‘LORD, LORD,’ will enter the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, but he who does the WILLof MY FATHER who is in HEAVEN will enter. “MANY will say to ME on that DAY, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not PROPHESY in YOUR NAME, and in YOUR NAME CAST OUT DEMONS, and in YOUR NAME PERFORM MANY MIRACLES?‘ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER KNEW you; DEPART from ME, you who PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.

God knows who are His and who are not and will eventually reveal this

  • Romans 8:19 “For all Creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His Children really are.”

Revelation 3:15-16 contains a vivid metaphor of how our Lord reacts to “lukewarm christians” … He vomits them out in reaction to disgustingness. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Much of this post has concerned itself with works and fruit. The actions of people reveal who they are and what they believe but these actions are but a tool to perceive the workings of the heart within. They are like smelling the exhaust of a car to try to determine how the engine is running (is it burning oil or antifreeze, too much gasoline, etc)

Let’s look at the heart of the matter, found in Matt 7:23 “…I never knew you…”

Trying to generate genuine “works of the Spirit” that are pleasing to God without an indwelling Spirit to empower you to do so is like “putting the cart in front of the horse”. It just ends up looking foolish and quite non-productive in the end. You’ll end up pushing the cart by yourself and trying to pull the horse along instead which will be quite resistant (and entertaining to all watching, I suppose)

In the kingdom definition (God’s way of doing things), you:

  1. Accept Christ as your Savior and Lord
  2. Receive His holy Spirit (as a seal, promise, comforter, helper and empowerer)
  3. Repent (as if doing a 180) from old way of life and sinful behavior
  4. nurture a relationship with Jesus, and begin building relationship with other beleivers as a member of the body of Christ, (the Church), at the same time, you will experience motivations, desires, and abilities to minister in one or more ways to believers and to non-beleivers as His Spirit begins to work in your heart and give you new priorities

Jesus offered many parables to show how non-believers will eventually be separated from true believers

  • Matt 3:47-50
  • Matt 7:13-14
  • Matt 7:15-20
  • Matt 7:24-27
  • Matt 13:36-43
  • Matt 25:1-13
  • Revelation 3:15-16

Jesus knows which are truly His and which are not. Do I ?  Do you?

As I mentioned earlier, there are usually evident actions to reveal the beliefs in the heart, but complications can confuse things, cause misperceptions and misunderstands. (remember my first comment about checking for a log in my own eye first?)

You are accountable and responsible for what is in your heart and what you believe. Praying a sinner’s prayer and calling yourself a christian does not make it so (not even close).  The name christian was first applied to “followers of the Way” back in Acts 11:26 (apparently the first mention of this “nickname” was applied in Antioch). It means “of Christ” or “follower of Christ”.

Are you a “follower of Christ”? Do you know Him, spend time with Him, try to be like Him, try to tell others about Him and what He did to show His father’s love for all?

It’s easy to say you believe but do your actions back your words? Do you really follow the Nazarene?

Would He say “I know you”? when you list all you have done in His name?

Is Jesus your top priority in life (Luke 14:26 says He should be if you are His disciple, His follower)
(article by Pastor Rick Warren on the topic)

If you are a believer, you should be following Him (John  14:6), since no one comes to the Father except through Him, the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. If you are not following, then you simply dont believe He is who he claims to be. (and you might not be what you think you are)

I write this in love to all who will read it for a single purpose: “check your heart and be sure you are His”

Let our actions proclaim our faith in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  There is no other name by which we may be saved. (Let us not attempt to use the cross merely as an insurance policy to heaven or a get out of jail free card in the monopy game of life). Let us be changed from the inside out to be lights on hilltops, salt to savor and preserve. We are to look, sound, smell and feel like Christ Himself did (still does?)

Remember how great a privilege it is to bear the name “Christian”. It is not a statement of morality as our culture would use it. It means “I belong to Christ, I follow Him, and you can see Him by looking at me”

εν διακονια τω θεω, Dave Cadieux


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  1. Dave, wonderful provoking thoughts on the meaning on being a true christian. I pray people will read this particular blog :). Great job

    ben borrego

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