We should all ask ourselves, ‘What exactly is a Christian?’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? I’ve heard ministers ask this soul-searching question during sermons encouraging Christians to live out what they profess to believe.

Iranian Pastor Yousef Nakarkhani knows firsthand the answer to that question. According to news articles, in 2009 the Christian pastor was convicted and sentenced to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity.

Witnesses reportedly stated that the 34-year-old father of two did not practice Islam, but he was born into a Muslim family. The pastor has been given opportunities to recant his faith in Christ, but he has refused. Despite an international outcry, he could be executed at any time.

During this year’s presidential campaign, commentators have raised the question as to whether or not a particular candidate was a Christian. It’s been said that only God knows, “…For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is a Christian? Is there a definition we can agree on? First, I looked up the word in a dictionary that defined a Christian as “a person who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” The Holman Bible Dictionary states, “A Christian is one who becomes an adherent of Christ, whose daily life and behavior facing adversity is like Christ.”

Another Bible scholar describes a Christian as “someone who has repented of their sins and turned to Christ for their salvation, and as a result has become part of God’s family.” The first time the word was used to describe a person can be found in Acts 11:26, “…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (a town in ancient Syria).”

A.W. Tozer once said a real Christian, “feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.”

I’ve heard it said recently that just because someone says they are a Christian may not mean anything. Some people say they do not want to become a Christian because of what they call “hypocrites” in the church. Pastor and author Adrian Rogers has made this comparison, “You don’t throw away all the money away just because there are a few counterfeit bills from time to time.”

Through the years growing up in church, I remember singing a chorus based on 1 John 3:14 that says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Perhaps theologian Charles Spurgeon said it best, “A Christian should bear a striking likeness of Jesus Christ.”