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What is a Christian?

Updated: 6 days ago

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

Lamb walking in grass with fence and sky

What is a Christian?


Many people would say being a Christian means reading your Bible every day, praying at least twice a day, and going to church every Sunday. Others might say it includes fasting, tithing, volunteering at church, donating money to a ministry, and sharing the Gospel. These are all good things in the life of a Christian, but these things are not what makes someone a Christian. Being a Christian is not about our performance, practicing morals, doing our due diligence, or checking things off a list.

 

So, what is a Christian? A Christian is someone whose heart has been transformed by the truth in Jesus. A Christian is someone who has been made new in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). A Christian is someone who has been given the Holy Spirit and a new heart with new affections and desires (Ezekiel 36:26). A Christian is someone who has been born again into God’s family (John 3:3-7) and adopted into His eternal Kingdom. A Christian is someone who has peace with God and has been restored to a right relationship with Him, by grace through faith in Jesus (Rom 5:1). A Christian is someone who is eternally secure. A Christian is a son or daughter of God. A Christian is a disciple and friend of Jesus. A Christian is someone who has a genuine and personal relationship with Jesus Christ and abides in His love.


A Relationship with Jesus


What does it mean to have a personal relationship with Jesus? It means knowing Him, but more importantly, it means being known by Him. It means learning of Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, walking with Him, waiting for Him, trusting Him, loving Him, obeying Him, finding joy in Him, and growing in His grace. And we come to know Jesus through His Word.


The chief end of man and the sole purpose for our existence is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Isa 43:7, 2 Cor 3:18, John 17:1-5,22, Ps 145). That's what it means to be a Christian. To fulfill our purpose is where we will experience the greatest joy. The end of the matter, all that has been heard: fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the end of the matter for all mankind (Ecc 12:13). Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts (Ps 119:2).

 

Abiding in Jesus


“I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in Him, He it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:1-11).

Scripture describes Jesus as the True Vine and Christians as the fruitful branches. There is no such thing as a "fruitless Christian." There will be a struggling Christian at times, but certainly not a fruitless one. We will produce fruit only when we abide in the True Vine, proving to be both Jesus' disciples and His friends. A few verses later Jesus tells His disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). He doesn't say, "You are my friends if you hear what I say but don't do what I command."


The word abide means to remain or persevere. 'Remaining" in Jesus and abiding in His love is evidence that salvation has already taken place and not vice versa. We don't abide in Jesus to be saved. We abide in Jesus because He's already saved us. Scripture says that our actions will be the evidence that we have come to know Jesus in our hearts. And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).


A Perfect Trio


Love, obedience, and joy are three aspects of the Christian life that sing together in unity. They are a perfect trio. You can't have one without the other two and vice versa. They come as a package deal in the Christian life.


Naturally, we do what we love. So when we do God’s will from the heart through faith, it shows that we love Jesus. Scripture defines love as an action, not an emotion or an abstraction (1 Cor 13:4-7). In the simplest terms, Scripture defines love for God as obedience to God. Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; (John 14:21).


A Christian is someone who loves God's Word, loves His Law, loves His commandments, and loves to do His will (See Ps 119). To sum it up, a Christian is someone who not only knows the Truth but loves the Truth. And consequently, hates all false ways (Ps 119:104). Obedience is the Christian's loving response to who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for him, which is always marked by joy.

 

Free to Obey


To understand the significance of joyful, loving obedience, we must look to Jesus, who was our Perfect Example. Even through all the evil opposition that Jesus faced, Jesus found joy in doing the will of His Father. Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross (Heb 12:2). Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and accomplish His Work” (John 4:34). As Jesus found real joy in obeying the will of His Father, we too as Christians can experience that same joy when we lovingly obey the will of our Father. When we surrender our own will to God’s will, we will experience the fullness of joy that Jesus is talking about (Ps 16:11)

 

Obedience naturally flows from a loving relationship with Jesus. We can’t say we love Jesus and claim to have an intimate relationship with Him and then continue a life of disobedience and rebellion to His Word. That wouldn't make any sense. And if we try to obey Jesus without a love for the Truth, then our efforts are in vain and amount only to legalism. Mere external obedience only shows that we're still under the tyranny of the Law and not under grace. In order to be free to obey God and find joy in our obedience, we must be under grace. God is the One who gives us the grace to obey Him through faith. He's the One who gives us the Holy Spirit and a new heart with new desires. That's what Christian liberty is: it's freedom to obey Jesus because the Christian is no longer under the Law but under grace. The Christian is someone who is no longer a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness (Rom 6:18).


The Greatest Joy


Being a Christian is not about checking things off a list or performing duties to earn salvation or God’s love. The Christian knows that he is saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus (Eph 2:8-9). The Christian knows salvation is a free gift and that salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps 3:8).


Being a Christian means experiencing the most beautiful relationship there is: A personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who is none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and our closest Friend. As we come to learn more of Jesus, we will grow in His grace and come to love Him more. As we come to love Him more, we will come to obey Him more. As we come to obey Him more, the more of His joy will fill our hearts and show up in our lives and conversations, pointing everyone to Jesus: Our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Dearest Friend, and Greatest Joy.


The greatest joy is to obey Jesus out of love for the Truth and to abide in His love. A Christian is someone who ought to be the happiest person in the world.


 

"As followers of Christ, our greatest delight will always be found in our obedience to His Word." - Voddie Baucham


For I delight in the Law of God in my inner being. Romans 7:22


And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. 2 John 1:6


Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Romans 6:15-18

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