What is a real Christian?
You are...if you did this;
Romans 10:8-10 ESV But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Once you do that in sincerity (God and you know), you are saved and a joint heir with Christ. In other words a member of God's family just like His Son Jesus.
Once saved you are changed, “born again” and at that moment you are a Christian. It happened instantaneously without your help. It was because of God's grace.
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
You are a new creation, a Christian and nothing can change that.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ESV From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
We have heard these verses, especially verse 17 many perhaps hundreds of times;
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, ⌊he is⌋ a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come
What does that mean?
The old sinful person you once were has gone as a result of the finished work of Christ.
The first thing we need to understand is that this new creation is something created by God.
John 1:12-13 ESV But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
In order for this new creation to take place we must be born again. Jesus told Nicodemus,
John 3:5-6 ESV Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
This tells us that this new birth or creation was brought about by the will of God. We did not inherit the new nature, we didn't recreate ourselves. God didn't just clean up our old nature either; He created something entirely fresh and unique. The new creation is completely new, created from nothing, just as the whole universe was created by God from nothing. Only God could do that.
We don’t know how it happens but we know that it does. In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus when he asked Jesus how is it possible to born again Jesus said
John 3:8 ESV The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
You didn't work for it or pay for it, but somebody had to purchase it and it was very costly.
John 3:16-17 ESV "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote:
Galatians 1:3-5 ESV Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
We have to now realize, as new creatures, that we no longer have an identity apart from Christ.
By David Burchett
“If you were a real Christian you would (fill in the blank)” is one of my least favorite phrases.
I have found that blank is always filled with an observation that you would believe exactly as your accuser if you were, in fact, a real Christian. The strategy is from the guilt is a way easier persuasion tactic than grace handbook.
Recently I passed a billboard with this message.
Real Christians Obey Jesus.
Okay. I get the intent of the message. Too many folks leave their Sunday Lesson in the parking lot as they drive to lunch.
Exactly what does it mean to be a “real Christian”? We subtly (or in my own experience, not so subtly) program Christians to believe that growth is about doing more right things. That righteousness somehow requires busyness for Jesus. We imply that change can only happen when you are trying hard and being disciplined for God. The truth is that a dramatic change has already happened when you make that faith commitment to follow Jesus.
Let’s just hit the highlights. Scripture tells you that at the moment you trust Jesus you have a new identity. You are literally a new creation. God sees you as righteous because of your relationship with Jesus. That’s it. Nothing you have done or ever will do earns that righteousness. It is a gift of grace.
You are changed completely when you trust Christ. The trick is living out of that truth. I see Jesus putting His arm around me and explaining that I have been changed. I see Him telling me that my sins are completely forgiven. I see Him explaining to me that all of those things that used to be true about me are no longer true. That no matter what the Accuser might say those things are dead and buried at the Cross. I don’t have to grit my teeth and try harder to win favor and please Him. That sin does not have power over me anymore. That if I trust Him and let God love me I will please Him. My faith and trust is what pleases Him according to God’s Word.
All I need to do to be a “real” Christian is to believe and trust that. I have been a follower of Jesus for five decades. During stretches of that journey you would have been hard pressed to see if that my faith was real. What potential judges would not have seen was that Jesus was slowly and patiently working in my life to make me more in His image. I am a very different person today than I was in my early walk. It was never helpful to have someone point out that “if I was a real Christian” I would be doing this or that. What did help was having grace filled believers come along side me, believe in me, and help me find the gift of grace that Jesus offers. Those are the people you remember with gratitude and joy.
Jesus talks about how we limit our ability to have peace when we don’t allow Him to provide us with strength. He didn’t mention a harness of legalism and works. He talked instead about a yoke, and that His yoke is “easy.”
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30, NLT
Jesus wants you to don His yoke. Trust Him. Have faith. He has done the heavy lifting already. Rest in Him. Learn how to be humble and gentle in spirit. Quit trying so dadgum (that may not be in the Greek) hard and serve out of grateful love. Jesus tells us when we believe those truths, our burdens are light. The walk with Him is easy and natural.
Being a “real” Christian means beginning each day with a profound sense of gratitude that Jesus offered me this gift of grace. A “real” Christian would never, never, never take advantage of a God who loves you so much that such a sacrifice was made.
I do believe a “real” Christian obeys Jesus but it is so critical to clarify why and how. I obey out of gratitude for His grace. I love Him because He loved me first. Jesus loved me when I was unlovable. Forgave me when I was unforgivable. How hard is it to follow and obey someone who loves you like that? That is real.