(October 24, 1990)
Christians are people who carry around Bibles and hand out tracts. Christians are kind and generous people. Christians are those people who go to church on Sunday. Christians are no different than anyone else.
What is a Christian anyway? More important, do those who call themselves Christians fit the biblical description?
Here is a simple definition -- A Christian is a forgiven friend of Jesus who follows him. Allow me to clarify...
FORGIVEN: This adjective implies something needs to be forgiven, that is, we have done something that angers God and separates us from Him. The Bible calls it sin and declares all guilty of it. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sin is one three-letter word that nobody likes to hear or talk about. Probably all of us make excuses about sin. We say things like, “I’m not as bad as some people” or “I really couldn’t help it” or “Everybody makes a mistake now and then.” Sin is usually thought of as the biggies like murder, stealing or adultery, or sin is seen as such a universal problem that there is no cure -- since everyone is guilty, what’s the use of trying?
The Bible defines sin as falling short of the mark, like an arrow that didn’t have quite enough lift and missed the target. Sin is also those actions that break God’s laws. Jesus narrowed it even farther by saying even inner attitudes like hate and lust are sin. To be sure, some people may do more loving deeds or think nobler thoughts than others, but none of us are what God calls for. He says all have “turned to their own way” either by defying Him or simply ignoring His commands. Thus our failures need forgiveness. He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
FRIEND OF JESUS: Everyone knows what a friend is: someone who stands by you through thick and thin, is loyal, warm-hearted, generous, a person that you can share everything with, someone you trust completely. Jesus said, “You are my friends, if ye do whatever I command you. From now on I do not call you servants; for the servant does not know what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from Father I have made known to you” (John 15).
Jesus is the friend of every person who genuinely desires His forgiveness and comes to Him asking for it. He is loving and faithful. He even gave His life for us, “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Not only is He the “friend of sinners,” He calls those who obey Him His friends; because of their love, loyalty, and commitment to Him.
FOLLOWS HIM: Look back at the verses from John 15. Notice Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”
There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians. They may even have prayed a prayer asking God to forgive their sins or asking Christ to come into their hearts. That is the right thing to do, but if there is no change of lifestyle, no obedience to Christ, then such a person is not a Christian. Following Him is vital. He said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed.”
It is important not to get this backwards. Some people do many good things and hope to become Christians by their behavior. However, as important as doing good is, good deeds do not stand alone. Forgiveness with all its implications is necessary to begin the relationship, and obedience is evidence that the relationship is genuine.
At least the definition is not complicated.