Most things that are valuable and good in this life are difficult to define. Defining what a makes a Christian a Christian is no different. It is a tough venture not only to describe what makes us Christians, but also to live it. Many smarter and better educated folks have written really good books on this subject. I will attempt to quickly give a snapshot of how I would answer this question through this post. But first a few thoughts from part 1, which if you haven’t already, please read before proceeding.
Confusing the fruit.
From the list of responses to the question of “What makes a Christian a Christian” there were some very good and Christ-like attributes mentioned. What’s important here to remember is that individually none of those things make you a Christian (with the exception one of them). They are only the possible fruits of being a Christian. When we confuse the fruit of following Jesus with what it means to actual following Jesus that’s where we begin to head into some really rough waters.
One of the scariest verses in the bible for me is Matthew 7:21-23… ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
What makes this verse so scary is that we can be doing the things God wants us to, and produce these fruits, and still miss the point. If we are focused solely on the fruit of following Jesus it’s my fear that we will end up like the person described above. Having done many great things in the name of Jesus we will miss out on Jesus himself.
If I am a Christian then I…
1. Believe in Jesus.
“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
It’s easy to read this verse and think of it as a one time thing. Confess Jesus to be our Lord and believe it at one time or another and you’re good. You’re now a Christian. The level of belief that we are talking here is one that permeates every part of our lives. Not just for a moment, but for the rest of our lives. We begin to see life differently and therefore begin to live it through the lens of our belief in Jesus and our making him Lord of our lives. We begin to trust our whole lives to Jesus and live in a way that He comes first.
Everything that follows after this belief is not what makes us a Christian, it is the fruit of being one.
2. Have a relationship with Jesus…
Jumping back to Matthew 7, the second half of verse 23 says, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” The fact that the people Jesus is addressing in this verse don’t “know” him means that knowing Jesus is crucial to being a Christian. Having a relationship with him means many different things for our lives and that relationship stems from our belief in him. Jesus makes it pretty obvious that without a relationship with him we have absolutely nothing.
It’s important for us to remember that it’s not our deeds or what we do that makes us Christian, it’s our relationship with Jesus that defines us. The fruit of this relationship, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, may help identify a life lived in Jesus, but they are not a list of things we have to be to be a Christian.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Tullian Tchividjian has a book entitled Jesus + Nothing = Everything which dives much deeper into this topic than I can. It’s a fantastic read that is very worth your time.
When we add things to what it means to follow Jesus we essentially are offering something that is no longer rooted in Jesus, a watered down and fake gospel. Be careful to live a life rooted in the truth of Jesus that we can find in the bible, and not on someone’s opinion. Don’t be confused by the fruit, but seek to live a fruitful life through your relationship with Jesus.
Are there places you’ve been confusing the fruit of a relationship with Jesus with the real thing in your life? Comment below with your thoughts.