What does it mean to be a Christian? Many people would answer that question quite differently. For some, the fact that they grew up in the US and aren’t Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, or some other religion, means that they’re a Christian by default. For others, going to a Christian church makes them a Christian. Or their parents consider themselves Christians and they celebrate Christmas, so they’re Christians. Being a Christian is a cultural identity, a religion to follow. Go to church at least on Christmas and Easter, or maybe every Sunday. Participate in things like Lent, confession, missions trips and other religious observances.
But is that all it is? Religious observances, trying to be a good person?
“Christian” by definition, is one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. What does He say about following Him?
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my load is light. -Matthew 11:28-30
When Jesus called His disciples, He simply told them to follow Him. In Jewish society, following a rabbi meant trying to replicate their lifestyle, beliefs, and way of doing life. It was a relationship. As Christians, we are followers of Jesus, seeking to do life the way Jesus did life. To believe and obey what He taught.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
Believe Jesus. Not be a good person, go to church and participate in religious activities. Not do lots of good things. Believe Jesus. Take on His yoke and learn from Him.
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23
Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we are sinful people. We fall short of God’s standard of perfection. Even if we just look at the ten commandments, we don’t follow those.
You shall have no other gods before Me. -Exodus 20:3
Do you prioritize other things over God? Is money or comfort or your spouse or food or anything else more important than God?
You shall not murder. -Exodus 20:13
Most of us haven’t killed anyone, but Jesus said in Matthew 5:22 that even being angry with someone with cause breaks this commandment.
You shall not commit adultery. -Exodus 20:14
In Matthew 5:28, Jesus said that looking at a woman lustfully is committing adultery in his heart. (The same goes for women!)
My point is that all of us have sinned by falling short of God’s standard. We might be a “good person” by our own standard, but God’s standard is the one that counts.
The wages of sin is death. -Romans 6:23a
Because of our sin, we have earned ourselves death – separation from God both now on earth and forever in hell.
But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 6:23b
We have earned death, but God has offered us the free gift of eternal life. Where do we get that gift? Through Jesus.
The thing that separates true Biblical Christianity from every other religion, is that instead of people trying to reach God through good works or religious observances, God came down to us. Jesus is God with a body on. He became a person to show us how to live. He lived a perfect life, then died on the cross to take our punishment for us. Those wages of death that we earned? Jesus paid them on the cross.
But God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8
You don’t earn a gift. You receive it. Going to church is a good thing, but it doesn’t bring you forgiveness for your sin and a relationship with God. Being a good person is good, but that doesn’t get you there, either. We all have a decision to make. Do we take the gift of forgiveness that Jesus offers or are we going to try and work for it?
If we decide to take the gift, Jesus comes to live in us and to teach us how to live life His way. He created us and designed us. He knows the best way to live.