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What is a Christian?

So you know someone who attends a Christian church regularly, gives to the poor, and even goes with their youth group on mission trips from time to time. They must be a Christian…right? Not necessarily. Many people claim to be Christians, are active in the church, and believe they will go to heaven one day, but are not actually truly following Jesus. So what does it mean to truly be a Christian? 

A Christian is someone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, and are willing to fully surrender their lives to God. They are not trusting in their own “good” works to be justified before God, but trusting instead in the work of Jesus on the cross. To become a Christian one must repent of their sins, put their faith in Jesus Christ, and be born again. “Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)  Being born again involves being filled with the Holy Spirit, and is symbolized by water baptism. Once Christians are born again and filled with the Spirit, they start the difficult process of sanctification. This involves repenting of sin, embracing discipleship, and letting go of the love of the world to be conformed to the image of Christ. 

So how can we tell when someone is truly a born again Christian? They’ve said they put their trust in Jesus for salvation. How do we know if it’s genuine? Well, there are a few indicators of true salvation that we can look to for others and most importantly for ourselves. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Are you exhibiting the fruits of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23) Or are you stuck in bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, and jealousy? Although we won’t do this perfectly, a true Christian will be continually sanctified by the Holy Spirit to produce good fruit in their lives. 

Another indicator will be a desire to live holy. Ever heard someone claim the name of Christ, but then live like the world? This is a huge indicator that the person might not be genuinely saved. “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) A true Christian will no longer desire the sin they once loved but will instead desire to live holy. They will lay down their lives, their idols, and their love for anything that keeps them from fully following Christ. Embracing the process of discipleship and reading and obeying the scriptures will be an essential part of their walk with Christ. They will also most likely want to join a local church to fellowship and worship God with other believers. All of these things are vital to the Christian life and are only possible by the leading and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

In summary, a Christian is someone who has put their faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ for their salvation, and is willing to follow Him at all costs, beyond just a prayer. They have been born again, have become a child of God, and are blessed with a new life to live for Christ. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.” (John 1:13)

Are you born again today? If you have never heard the gospel and been born again, click here to learn more.  


"What are some of the signs of genuine saving faith?"

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