At every opportunity I seek to persuade people to become Christians. I do not seek to persuade people to become members of any denomination, but to simply become Christians and continue as faithful Christians as per the instructions found in God’s word. Yet, with all the division that is seen in what is called Christianity, many are confused concerning just what it means to be a Christian. In this brief article, and the one to follow, we wish to discuss what it does not mean to be a Christian and what it does mean.
First, being a Christian does not mean that you have no more temptations. Though I have heard many say that after becoming a Christian they no longer were tempted by sin, the Bible clearly teaches that this is not true. Paul told the Corinthian brethren that, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man” (I Cor. 10:13). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter, James and John to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Many other passages could be cited as well that show that we can and will be tempted after becoming children of God, but it is simply our goal as Christians to overcome the temptations, not succumb to them.
Secondly, becoming a Christian does not mean perfection. Over the years I have heard many say they would not become a Christian because they didn’t think they could live perfectly. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), yet even David was not perfect (I Kings 15:5). Solomon was said to have been the wisest of all men, yet Solomon sinned (I Kings 11:4). We too shall fall short in our life as a child of God. The apostle John was writing to Christians when he wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:8, 10).
Thirdly, becoming a Christian does not mean that everything will come up roses. Christians still have the same kinds of problems and hardships that others have. There is still poverty; in fact Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us (Matt. 26:11). We will also suffer sickness, temptation, and most any other kind of hardship that any other person suffers. Just look at the example of some of the godly men of the Bible. Joseph, who was sold into slavery and then falsely imprisoned. Job, whom God considered to be one of His most faithful servants, yet he lost his family, his wealth and his health. The great apostle Paul who was beaten with rods, shipwrecked and received thirty-nine stripes on five occasions. He later told Timothy, “yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12). It truly rains “on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45) and problems likewise come on the just and the unjust. Jesus clearly demonstrated that the troubles of life did not come only to them that were sinners (Luke 13:1-5).
Fourthly, becoming a Christian does not make us a member of some denomination. The New Testament, which is the pattern for Christianity (Heb. 8:5-7), is completely silent concerning denominations of the church. It does teach us that there is only one church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4) and that Jesus is the savior of that one church (Eph. 5:23). It tells us that we are to “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). In fact, Jesus prayed that all Christians would “be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” (John 17:21). The Lord adds the saved to the church daily (Acts 2:47), setting them in the body as it pleased Him (I Cor. 12:18). Let not man get the idea that becoming a Christian means becoming a member of some man-made denomination.
Finally, becoming a Christian does not mean you are finished. No indeed, it is just the beginning. Paul said, that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). Jesus described the process as being “born again” (John 3:3-5). Peter likewise used the “born again” terminology (I Pet. 1:23). At the point of conversion, a life of labor is before us. The Hebrew writer said to Christians, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11). Becoming a Christian does not guarantee us of a home in heaven for it takes continued faithfulness on our part to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
Certainly, with all these things that becoming a Christian does not mean, we do not wish to discourage one from becoming a Christian, but rather to encourage all to become Christians. The things which becoming a Christian do mean, are far, far superior to these things it does not mean. In our next article we will discuss what it does mean to be a Christian.
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