What is a Christian?
People have many different ideas of what it means to be a Christian. Some people think you are a Christian if you lead a good life, or if you had Christian parents, or you were brought up in a Christian country. Many people would without a thought call themselves Christian even though they may never have been to church or considered what they believe.
But is this what being a Christian is really about? The word “Christian” was first used by outsiders as a nickname of the early believers. It means, literally, “a little Christ”. The people who looked at the early church saw people whose lives were so shaped and moulded by their faith in Jesus Christ that they themselves imitated Jesus in what they said and did.
And this gives us an important clue as to what a Christian is. A Christian is, first and foremost, someone who believes in Jesus Christ, and who, secondly, allows Jesus to take first place in his or her life. If you’ve never thought about being a Christian in these terms, then click onto the links about “The Christian Faith”. They explain who Jesus is, and just why He died and rose again for us.
The Bible explains the Christian faith in these terms: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). This famous verse from John’s gospel tells us five important things:
First of all, that this world is God’s world. We are not a product of chance or blind evolution, but the work of a loving creator God, designed to be in right relationship with Him, with one another, and with the environment.
But secondly, this verse tells us that we are perishing. We have decided to live our own way, and ignore God’s plan and design for our lives. The result is a broken relationship with God, and a life spoilt by sin and wrongdoing.
However, thirdly, this does not mean that God stops loving us. Rather than let His creation fall away and perish, in His love and mercy He sends His Son to take on His shoulders the sin and wrongdoing that have cut us off from Him. And so Jesus is born as one of us, identifying fully with our human nature, but also fully the Son of God, who grows into a man who spends three years going round calling people to faith and repentance, and preaching the good news of the kingdom, before He is crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem by the religious authorities. They thought they had done away with Him for ever; but three days later, in one of the best recorded events in human history, He rose again. Why did He do this? So that by paying the full penalty for our sin, our relationship with God could be restored and we could enjoy that life with God our Heavenly Father – eternal life – we were always meant to enjoy.
But fourthly, in order to receive that eternal life there is something we must do. We must respond in faith to Jesus’ call upon our lives. We must recognise Him as not just a good man who lived 2000 years ago, or a prophet, or a teacher, but the very Son of God who died for us to save us from our sins.This means not just accepting Jesus into our lives, but also resolving to live for Jesus day by day, and making Him the first priority in our lives.
And fifthly Jesus not also calls us not into a new relationship with God as our Heavenly Father but He also calls us into a new relationship with other believers. The Bible knows nothing of a solitary Christian, and the first believers would have thought it impossible to be a Christian without belonging to a church. This eternal life the Bible talks about here is life in the kingdom of God to be shared with all who have responded to Jesus’ call, where we come together to worship, to use our gifts, to share our burdens, and to invite others to join us.