There may be those who come across this article who have never become a Christian or who are unsure as to whether you have done what the bible instructs one to do in order to become a Christian. I would urge such readers to closely examine the evidence for Jesus and should you come to believe that he is the Christ, I would urge you to follow the example of those who became Christians in the first century by repenting of their sins and submitting themselves to baptism for the forgiveness of their sins.1 Nothing could be more important for your future!
However, there is probably an even greater number of readers who have “become a Christian” but who are not “becoming Christian.” This article is especially directed to you.
Many people grow very uncomfortable when the word “Christian” is used as an adjective in this way. It implies that there is an ideal that all Christians must be striving toward. It demands that individuals change who they are in pursuit of that objective standard. It condemns those who call themselves “Christian” but are making no effort to live as such. For many people, this idea is downright contemptible. Such people believe that being a Christian is largely about self-identification and that each individual “Christian” is free to interpret what it means to “be Christian” for themselves. The idea that someone would insist that you change to fit an objective standard or, heaven forbid, suggest that you might not actually be living as a Christian by biblical standards is considered by many to be anathema – a sure sign that the person making such a suggestion is a bigot and judgmental.
Yet, the teachings of Jesus and his apostles clearly demonstrate that there is an objective standard which our Lord expects us to be striving for – his standard. In other words, the New Testament teaches that the Christ gets to define the Christian. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and he is the one who has the authority to tell us how to live.2 The very word “Christian” implies that we acknowledge him as Christ and submit to his rule over us, and whether we like it or not, that means we must allow him to change us.
For example, in the time of Jesus, the most popular and most highly regarded religious sect was that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees lived in keeping with a strict code of Torah observance – often going to great lengths to ensure that they were keeping even the minutest detail of the Law of Moses. Yet, Jesus called on people to live according to an even higher standard than that of the Pharisees,3 and he warned that those who did not live their lives in keeping with his teachings would face disaster.4 Yes, the Pharisees were “good people” but that didn’t make them “Christian.” In order to be true disciples of Christ, they had to strive for an even higher standard. They were called to build their lives on the solid foundation of Jesus’ teachings – Jesus’ standard. They were considered good, holy people already, but to be followers of Jesus, they were going to have to change.
Jesus also came into contact with a lot of people who were clearly sinners – people who were either caught in the act of sin or who had embraced lives that were not in keeping with God’s standards.5 It is true that Jesus did not refuse to be around them, and it is true that he called such people to him, but the modern idea that one can continue in sin and still be a true Christian is belied by the fact that Jesus consistently calls on these people to repent of their sin – that is, to change how they were living.6 Were they rejected by the Lord because of the mistakes they had made? No! Was the fellowship and salvation offered to the “good” Pharisees just as available to them? Absolutely! Were they able to go on living sinfully and still be disciples of Jesus? Absolutely not. Jesus calls on them to change, and it is only when they do that they “become Christian” – leaving sinful living behind.7
I say all of this to challenge you to carefully consider who you are. We live in a culture that says that if you identify yourself as a Christian, then you are a Christian. But the Christ himself taught no such thing. He and his apostles called on people to leave behind the lives they had been living before and to strive for a higher moral standard. Is a person who is not doing that truly following the Christ? Because that’s what “Christian” means! Have you been calling yourself a “Christian” without actually working to become one?
Jesus holds us to a high standard, and striving to be true Christians is not an easy task. That is why he has blessed us with fellow disciples who are striving for that goal as well. Please contact us if there is some way that we can help get you on track!
1 See Acts 2:36-41; 8:12; 17:30; Matthew 28:19-20; etc.
2 Matthew 28:18
3 Matthew 5:20
4 Matthew 7:24-27
5 E.g., prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.; See Matthew 11:19
6 E.g., John 5:14; John 7:53-8:11; Luke 19:1-10
7 1 Corinthians 6:9-11