When someone says they’re a Christian, what does that really mean? Is it that they’re a nice person? Or that they’ve been baptized and go to church? Is it about being justice-minded, or about being conservative? Or could it be that you embrace the teachings of Jesus? Well, actually, none of these definitions capture what it truly means to be a Christian.
If we start at the beginning, the term “Christian” was originally used by others to describe the followers of Jesus because they were so much like Him. I think it’s interesting that it started out as kind of an insult but by about a hundred years later, the disciples had adopted it as a title of honor. Besides being a fun fact, this tells us something about what it really means to be a Christian: it’s following Jesus and becoming like Him… Even when the people around you don’t approve or think you’re strange.
Obviously, following someone starts with accepting their leadership. For Christians, another way to say this is that we begin following Jesus by accepting Him as Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9.) Making Him Lord of our lives means letting Him be in charge (Mt. 16:24.) Recognizing Him as Savior means believing what He teaches about how we need to be saved from our sins, and how He is the only One who is able to do it (John 1:29 & 10:10; 1 John 3:5.) This is the essential first step to being a Christian, but it definitely doesn’t stop there.
What comes next is a process, where God actually changes the Christian to become more and more like Jesus (like what the early Romans noticed about the disciples.) Now, that might seem pretty daunting, and in fact we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own. But that’s one of the amazing things about being a Christian: God doesn’t leave us to do it by ourselves. Jesus said,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth… - John 14:16-17a NLT
As Christians we actually have a personal, everyday, ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit! We can talk to Him about everything.
So it turns out, being a Christian isn’t about a political position or a personality trait. And it’s not about figuring out what Jesus would do if He was in our shoes, or being a nice person. There’s more to it than that.
“It is not good enough for you to just be nice. You have to start learning to think like Him, respond like Him and be like Him.” (excerpt from Taking Hold With Pitbull Faith pt.2, by Dr. Chester C. Pipkin Jr.)
And even though the path might look different for all of us, and the transformation doesn’t happen all at once, God is still walking every Christian through their own personal journey.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. - 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT