Unpacking the basics: What does it mean to be a Christian?
Alpha // May 23, 2019, 7:37 pm
Relationships are really exciting – and the most exciting relationship of all is a relationship with God!
1. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus
The Apostle Paul says: Those who become Christians become new persons (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). They’re not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
What does the word ‘Christian’ mean? A Christian is a Christ-ian: Someone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ.
2. It’s about an intimate relationship
In John’s Gospel, it’s said: “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
What John is saying there is this is the closest possible intimate relationship of love. It’s like a child and a parent. In other places it’s talked about like a lover or a friend. And sometimes the New Testament even uses the analogy of a husband and wife – it’s that close: an intimate relationship.
3. We can have confidence
You can know that you’re a Christian; you can know that you have faith; you can know that you have eternal life.
John says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
So what is this faith, this confidence, this assurance based on? Like the legs of a tripod, the Christian faith is based on three things.
3. Our faith is based on the word of God
The first is this: the word of God. It’s based on facts and not on feelings. Because our feelings go up and down. But the facts remain the facts.
Paul says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. (Romans 10:17 NKJV)
You can have faith by just reading the Bible on your own. This is a way we can interact with God; God speaks through the Bible.
4. We can invite Jesus to be part of our lives
An example is the famous verse in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Imagine that your life is like a house and Jesus is knocking at the door of your life and he’s saying: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. I’d like to come into your life, into the house of your life, and be part of your life. I want to come in and eat with you.”
Eating together is a sign of friendship. And effectively Jesus is saying: “I want to be your friend.” That’s what it means to be a Christian: it’s to be a friend of Jesus.
Jesus is not going to force his way into your life. He stands at the door and knocks, and he leaves it up to you and me to decide whether to invite him in, to be part of our lives.
4. Our faith comes from the work of Jesus
The second leg of the tripod is the work of Jesus. It’s done, not do.
Sometimes people say: “Well, I don’t think I could be a Christian because I’m not good enough. And if I was going to be a Christian, there are lots of things in my life I’d just need to sort out first. I need to change things.”
No, no, no. You come exactly as you are. It’s not about what you do or what you can achieve; it’s about what has been done for you by Jesus on the Cross. You receive total forgiveness. And you receive it as a gift.
5. We have the gift of eternal life
Paul wrote this: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NLT)
We’re deeply suspicious of anyone who offers us a free gift. We think: “God is offering this free gift. There must be a catch.” There isn’t a catch. It’s free. But it’s not cheap.
It cost Jesus his life. He died so that we could be forgiven and receive this gift of eternal life, this gift of a relationship with him.
6. We receive this gift through repentance and faith
Repentance sounds a really heavy word, but all it means is turning away from the bad stuff in our life, changing our mind about that stuff and saying: “Actually, that doesn’t do us any good anyway.”
God loves us. He never asks us to give up things that are good for us. He just says: “Get rid of that junk. Turn away from it.”
Faith is just trust. Everyone exercises faith. You’re exercising faith by sitting on these chairs – you’re trusting that the chair will hold you up. We can base our life on faith in what Jesus did on the Cross for us.
7. Our faith is based on the witness of the Holy Spirit
The third leg of the tripod is the witness of the Holy Spirit: it’s him and not us.
In Revelation 3:20, where Jesus is knocking at the door of our lives, he says: “If anyone opens the door, I will come in”.
He comes in by his Spirit. It’s the Spirit of Jesus who comes to live within you.
And Jesus says about the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit is like the wind. Has anyone ever seen the wind? No. Do you believe that the wind exists? Yes, of course. Why?
Because you can see its impact. You can see what happens to the leaves. You can see the power of the wind.
8. We will start to bear fruit
It’s the same with the Holy Spirit. You can’t see the Holy Spirit, but you can see its impact.
Paul says “the fruit of the Spirit” – the things that start to change when the Spirit comes to live within us – is this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Being a Christian doesn’t make you better than anybody else, but hopefully it makes you better than you were before.
9. We can experience His love
The Spirit also brings a subjective experience to our hearts. Paul writes that the Holy Spirit “testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16 NASB).
As you take a step of faith – as that experience begins to take place – it moves us from faith to knowledge of a relationship, knowing a person.
Another thing about the wind is you can also feel it. You can feel the Holy Spirit – not physically feel, but you can feel his love for you.
The love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We experience his love for us.
To know that you are loved – that’s what it means to be a Christian. That’s what it means to have the Spirit of God living within you. That’s what it means to be living in a relationship with God.
10. You can pray to open that door to Jesus
If you would like to open that door, here’s a prayer that you can echo in the silence of your heart:
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you love me so much. I now turn away from everything that I know is wrong – all the bad stuff.
Thank you that you died so that I could be forgiven. I put my trust in you and in what you did on the cross.
And now I open the door of my heart, and I invite you to come into my life by your Spirit to be with me forever.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
This article was adapted from the Alpha Transcripts and has been republished with permission. If you have more questions and would like to further explore the basics of the Christian faith, find out more about Alpha or use the map below to connect with an Alpha group near you.
THINK + TALK
- How do you feel about the idea of a relationship with God?
- How do you think Christianity will change your life?
- Is there anything that is hindering you from calling yourself a Christian?