What does it mean to be a Christian? The Acquitted Criminal
Per Kind Permission from MASIHI ISHA'AT KHANA
Lahore - Pakistan
In most of the countries of the world there are many people who are known Christians. There are also many who are seeking for the truth, and who want to know what it means to be a Christian. Since the term "Christian" is used to convey a large variety of meanings it will be of value, both for Christians and also for those who are thinking of becoming Christians, if we explain briefly who a Christian is.
The dictionary defines a Christian as one who Jesus" believes in, professes, or belongs to the religion of Christ". This definition is of course correct, but it is too brief and incomplete. If one wishes to know more perfectly who a Christian is, he must refer to the book which contains the authentic teachings of the Christian religion, which is known as the Holy Bible. In this book, which was written by holy men who were guided by the Holy Spirit of God, there are accurate and complete explanations of the Christian religion. Anyone who wants to know what it means to be a Christian should study this heavenly book with the greatest care. There are references in this booklet to various parts of the Bible. From the teachings of the Bible we are able to define the word "Christian" in the following statements:
A CHRISTIAN IS A CRIMINAL WHO HAS BEEN FORGIVEN BY GOD
Every civilized country has laws to prevent evil men from injuring other people, and if anyone breaks these laws he is a criminal and is punished. God also has ordained laws for the men whom He created, to discourage them from doing evil and to guide them in doing good. When Jesus Christ was asked what God 's greatest commandment is He replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (See Matthew 22:36-40). These are indeed the greatest commandments, for they contain all God 's laws for men. But who has ever been able to keep these commands perfectly? No-one who reads these words can truthfully say that during all the years of his life he has loved God with his whole heart, for we all know that we have often loved ourselves, or our money, or our pleasures, or something else more than God. We also know well that we have not often been able to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. By neighbors we mean those people whom we meet, work with or live near. Therefore, everyone who has broken these great laws of God is a criminal sentenced to eternal death by God is a criminal sentenced to eternal death by God who is the Righteous Judge.
However, the Righteous Judge is both. Just and Merciful and does not desire that those who break His holy laws should perish. Rather, He wants to forgive and save them from death. Therefore, because of His amazing love for sinful men, God sent Jesus Christ His true Son. The term "Son " of course, is used not in a physical but in a spiritual sense. It is evident that God did not take a wife and have a son, for such a thing is utterly impossible and unthinkable. Christ died in the place of sinners and took on Himself the punishment for their sin. God has promised that every sinner who believes in Jesus Christ will be forgiven, as is stated in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life".
A Christian, therefore, is a law-breaker and a sinner, who by simply trusting on Christ as his Savior has been forgiven by God, and saved from eternal death. When men sentenced to death are pardoned by the ruler of the state and brought out of prison and set free, their happiness is so great that it cannot be expressed in words. In the same way Christians continually rejoice and praise God for forgiving their sins through the sacrifice of Christ 's death on the cross.
A CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO HAS A NEW HEART
Why is sit that men break God 's holy laws, loving evil more than good, and hating one another? It is because their hearts are bad. When God first created man He have him a good heart, but man by his failure to obey God caused his heart to become evil. As a result every kind of evil is committed by sinful men-untruthfulness, pride, lust, adultery, hatred, murder and every unclean thing. If God should only forgive such sinners, and not change their evil hearts, they would probably continue to do evil. It is evident that to forgive them is not enough, they must also be made good. So God does another wonderful thing. He creates in those sinners whom He has forgiven new and good hearts. We have all read in the newspapers of the remarkable operations which some skilled surgeons have performed on people whose physical hearts had stopped functioning. They take out the bad heart and put in its place a good heart taken from someone who had just died of an injury. This is indeed wonderful, but God has done something yet more wonderful. For by His Holy Spirit He has given new spiritual hearts to those who have believed on Christ so that they will thereafter hate what is evil and love what is good, and be able to love God and love their neighbor as God commanded. Christians are people who have new hearts.
This does not mean, of course, that Christians are sinless for the only man who ever lived a sinless life is Christ Himself. But Christians do not want to sin, and they try with God 's help not to sin, and to obey God in everything. And when they do unwillingly sin, they at once confess it to God and repent and endeavor not to sin again.
Therefore, we see that those who have the new hearts that God has given them have been truly born again, and are new men in Christ. And this new life which is theirs is not only for this earthly life, it is also eternal life, which death cannot destroy? A Christian is one who has everlasting life.
A CHRISTIAN IS A BRANCH OF THE TRUE VINE, WHICH IS CHRIST
When Jesus Christ on the night before He was crucified wished to explain to His disciples what their relationship to Him would be in the future, He spoke a parable which is found in John 15. In this parable Jesus said He was like a vine, and said that His disciples were like the branches of the vine. The next day Jesus died on the cross, but on the third say He rose from the dead as He had said he would do, and came out alive from the tomb, never to die again. Jesus is alive today, and Christians live by being united to him by faith. So He commanded His followers to abide in Him and never be separated from Him. For just as branches cut from a tree soon wither and die so Christians who by their sin are cut off from Christ also wither and die spiritually. But when by faith they are united to Christ they will live and bear fruit, that is, the holy qualities of love and truth and peace and joy will be found in them, and they will give worthy service to God and man. A Christian is truly one in whom Christ lives.
A CHRISTIAN IS A CHILD OF GOD
Every child who is born into the world has a physical father, who is the source of his life. But when one is born again by the Spirit of God whose child is he? It is evidence that he is a spiritual child of God and God is his true Father. Therefore a Christian because he has received the new birth from God is a child of God. In various religions men who wanted to please and serve God called themselves slaves of God and this was right. For truly God is the Lord and Master of all, and it is the duty of all men to obey and serve Him. But when God forgives sinners and gives them new hearts He says to them, "No longer do I call you my slaves, you are now my beloved sons and daughters, and they you address me you may call me Father". What a privilege it is to pray as Jesus taught His disciples, saying, "Our Father who are in heaven, holy is thy name". (Matthew 6:9).
There is a story of a great and good king who one day, as he was passing along the street in his royal coach, saw a poor blind orphan boy, clothed in rags, sitting in the dust begging for bread. The king stopped his coach, got out and went to the beggar child, lifting him with his own hands into the coach. Then he took him to the palace, bathed him and clothed him in royal robes, and seated him at his own table, saying to him, Luke "You are not my son, and from now on you will live with me and I will be a father to you." What amazing love the king showed to the beggar boy!
But God 's love to us sinners is far more amazing. For when we were rebels, enemies of God, disobeying His holy laws, He had mercy on us. Instead of destroying us in our sin He forgave us and changed us so that we may become pure and good, and gave us a place in His heavenly home, to be with Him forever. Thus we see that Christians are children of God not because of any merit of their own, but only by God 's great mercy. As is said in the Holy Bible, "Beloved, we are God 's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He (Christ) appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is, and everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure". (1 John 3:2-3). Since Christians are children of God and are expecting their Savior, Jesus Christ to return as He promised, they try to live pure and holy lives, worthy of their Holy Father.
A CHRISTIAN IS A MEMBER OF A WORLD-WIDE FAMILY WHICH IS THE CHURCH OF GOD.
Sometimes it happens that when a baby is born into a human family he is an only child, and has no brothers or sisters. This is not the case for one who becomes a child of God for God 's family is very large. Today there are Christians in almost every part of the world. Some of them are old and some are young, some are learned and some have not yet learned how to read and write, some are poor and some are rich. They speak more than 1300 different languages, and each in his own language calls God "Father". They recognize other Christians as brothers and sisters, and even though they may not be able to talk to each other they feel close to one another, because they are all children of God.
If a Christian makes a journey around the world he will discover to his joy that in almost every city he visits, and even in many villages, he will meet his Christian brothers. One Christian traveler was once on a ship which stopped on a Sunday in a port in Malaysia. He searched for a church in which to worship God and the one he found belonged to Chinese Christians. In spite of the very heavy rain the church was filled with men and women and children. The language in which the worship was conducted was Chinese, which the traveler did not understand at all. But at the close of the worship the Chinese Christians came to the stranger and smiled at him and treated him with love. Although they had never seen him before they recognized him and welcomed him as their brother. Christians earnestly pray that all people everywhere will become members of God 's great family, which is the world-wide church of Christ and will love one another as brothers, as God commanded. The sign of membership in the Christian church is baptism with water, a symbol of cleansing.
A CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO FOLLOWS JESUS CHRIST IN A LIFE OF LOVING SERVICE TO GOD AND MAN
Jesus Christ loved His Father perfectly, and showed His love by doing the work the Father gave Him to do. He did not seek His own glory or profit or pleasure, but passed His live in healing the sick, comforting the sorrowing, feeds the hungry with bread, saving sinners, and teaching men about God and their duty to Him and to one another. He obeyed God even to death, going to the cross at his Father 's command to die for sinners.
The Christian follows in the footsteps of Christ his Master, and tries to love all men, not only Christian friends and brothers, but even enemies, and to serve men of all races and religions. When Jesus Christ poured water in a basin and washed the feet of His disciples, he told them they must follow His example and wash one another's feet, that is, they must serve one another in love and humility. And Jesus told them that the mark by which people would recognize Christian as His disciples would be by their love for one another. True love is expressed not in words alone but also in deeds of service to others. This kind of love is the mark of a Christian.
One way in which Christians are able to show their gratitude to their Savior is in telling other people the Good News of His salvation. It is God 's desire that all men everywhere should know Christ and believe on Him, and Christians have been given the privilege and responsibility of making Christian know to others and inviting them to believe on Him and become children of God. When one truly knows and loves Christ he will be eager to help in telling the Good News of God 's love in Christ to all the people of the world.
In conclusion, we would remind the reader that it is possible for one to be a member of a so-called Christian race, or the child of Christian parents, or a member of a Christ church without being born again by the Holy Spirit. And one who has not been born again by the Spirit cannot be a member of God 's family, and does not really belong to Christ.
In brief a Christian, according to the teaching of the Holy Bible, is one who through faith in Christ has been forgiven, who has been born again by the Holy Spirit, has been united with Christ, thus becoming a child of God and a member of God's family which is the church. A Christian joyfully obeys Jesus Christ as Lord and follows His example in living a pure and holy life, in service to God and man. What a high privilege it is to be a Christian! Though no one is worthy to bear this name, God loves all men so much that He is ready to give this privilege to anyone who sincerely seeks it.
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