There is a fundamental error both in our society and in the church at large concerning the nature of Christianity.
Ask the average person what it means to be a Christian, and you will get answers that generally center around various actions ( or lack thereof).
Despite what most seem to think and even some teach, Christianity is not about the Golden Rule, or following the Sermon on the Mount, or for that matter any other of the teachings of Jesus. Herein lies the fundamental error most have when it comes to Christianity: they assume it centers around what Jesus said rather than what Jesus did. Let me explain.
Many today believe that they are Christians because they happen to subscribe to some of the teachings of Jesus. Sadly the vast majority of those believe that all it takes is to subscribe to those particular teachings they happen to like while at the same time discounting the volumes of teachings with which they disagree.
Thousands of people believe that they are Christians because they subscribe to the Golden Rule, yet these same people deny the essential teachings of Jesus. The essential teachings of Jesus center upon who he claimed to be ( God in the flesh) and what he did, namely, he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave to purchase for us a place in heaven which he offers to us as a free gift.
The very thing that defines genuine Christianity is the very thing that thousands who claim to be Christians deny. Deny the deity of Christ and you have lost the entirety of the Christian message. You may be religious and you may both subscribe and follow some of the principles Jesus taught, but you are not a Christian.
Jesus did not come to make bad people good, he came so dead people could live. I like the way the noted British Journalist of the last century, Malcolm Muggeridge put it: “As Man alone, Jesus could not have saved us, as God alone, he would not; Incarnate, he could and did.”
How does the Bible define a Christian? Perhaps no passage is clearer than John 1: 12- 13, “ But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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 man, but of God” ( NASB).
These two verses give us the biblical definition of a Christian. Verse 13 eliminates the three most common misconceptions people have ( telling us what a Christian is not) and ends in the definition of a true believer. Verse 12 gives us the means to becoming a Christian.
“ Who were born, not of blood.” This first phrase informs us that being a Christian isn’t the result of one’s parentage or heritage. Many believe they are Christians because they have grown up in a Christian home.
I often tell my people, “ God doesn’t have any grandchildren.” You are not a Christian by virtue of the family or the country you’ve been born in.
“ Nor of the will of flesh.” This phrase belies the concept that a Christian is a person who does certain things — good works. No one can work his way into God’s favor, no matter how well he may think he is following the Golden rule ( See also Ephesians 2: 8- 9).
“ Nor of the will of man.” This phrase destroys the concept that some human individual has the power or authority to declare someone else a “ believer.” Becoming a Christian is an individual decision not a group activity.
The true Christian is the person who has been “ born of God” through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ( verse 12). We’ll explore this concept further next week.