What is a Christian?
Sermon By Albert N.Martin
A Christian isn’t just:
1. Someone who isn’t a Muslim, Jew, Atheist etc
2. Someone who has been Christened
3. To be kind, gentle, considerate, to make an honest effort to live and do the good thing
4. Someone who had a religious crisis connected in some degree with Jesus that in some way or another helped a person to feel good and get his act together
None of these notions have any foundation in the word of God, despite these notions being widespread among popular opinion.
What is a Christian is answered to us in 3 simple categories of biblical reality.
1.) A Christian is someone who has honestly faced the personal problem of sin.
A Christian is one, be it a 5 year old child or a 70 year old man, be it someone from a moral upright background or someone who came out of the most immoral unstructured background, who has personally faced the personal problem of sin. True biblical Christianity is essentially and fundamentally a religion for sinners, not a religion for good people, the strong, the noble or those of great philosophical mind. Only those who have honestly faced their own problem of sin can have any claim to be Christians and make that claim stick.
Luke Chapter 5 gives a record of some people whose religion consisted not in being a sinner but in being a good person, who were shook up upon seeing Jesus associating with sinners. They couldn’t understand how such a great religious leader could be such an intimate friend of sinners:
“ And Jesus answering said unto them. They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.” Luke 5: 31
This indicates that Jesus came to earth not to call the righteous, those who have no consciousness of sin and have no awareness of their personal involvement in sin but to come to call sinners to repentance. Paul reiterates this fact where he states:
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15
The whole purpose to do with Christ’s coming is to do with sinners and until a person honestly faces his personal problem of sin, he will not become a Christian.
Human sin boiled down to its most basic has two fundamentals. The problem we have of a bad record and the problem we have of a bad heart. Regarding the first of these two fundamentals of a bad record, scripture tells us that God keeps records of our life and will judge the world:
“ And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20 12-15
It’s what is in these books that constitutes our bad record. The bible makes it abundantly clear that when Adam took the fruit from the hand of Eve and in open eyed wilful disobedience sinned against God. When Adam sinned, we sinned with him:
“ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men. For that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12
It may not seem fair for us as we weren’t even born when this happened and that the sin of one is the sin of all, but if you don’t come to grips with this God will make you come to grip with it in the day of judgement. What makes us think any of us would have done it any differently in the Garden of Eden? As 1 Corinthians 15: 22 states ‘ For as in Adam all die’. We’ve got a bad record that goes right back to the garden of Eden. The bible goes on to say that we are guilty of our own actual individual sins:
“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Ecclesiastes 7:20
Romans 3 10-18 which brings together various verses from the Old Testament states that ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’. Sin is the failure to come up to the standard of what God requires or any deviation of coming across that standard. We realise that God judges thought and the very intentions of the heart as well as words and deeds, for example lust of the eye is the very essence of adultery. The picture of the court in heaven in Revelation ends with frightening words.
“ And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:15
God will by no means clear the guilty, if he burned the record of one individual, he would cease to be just and the pillars of the universe would crumble, without having the just cause to clear you of that sin. A Christian is someone who begins to take seriously that bad record.
The second of these two fundamentals is of a bad heart, meaning in biblical terms, the real you:
“ Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
David says in Psalm 51:5, ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.’ This indicates that we are sinners conceived from conception who go astray from the womb. That’s why Jesus said:
“ For from within, out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts.” Mark 7:21
How did they get there? They got there when we were conceived as a sinner. They didn’t come from the outside, they are imbedded into our very nature, evil thoughts, sexual impurity, coveting, murder, deceit. How easy we can deceive. We can deceive with a look ( the look of innocence). How is it that we can deceive so naturally? It is because of the heart, a bad heart that is full of sin. Jesus said:
“ These things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:23
That’s the problem we have. The problem of a bad record through the bad things we have done and the problem of a bad heart as we are bad in nature. Who’s a Christian? A Christian is someone who has taken seriously that personal problem of a bad record and a bad heart.
Why is the emphasis on personal problem? People are concerned about sin in society such as injustice, distribution of wealth, abortion, but they don’t have one ounce of concern for the sin in their own hearts. That’s why the word personal is emphasised. A Christian is someone who has taken seriously the personal problem of sin, not sin in society, but the personal problem of sin. A Christian is someone who has taken the place of the publican described in Luke 18:13. The publican who stood at a distance would not so much even lift up his eyes to heaven. When he thought of Heaven he thought of God and when he thought of God he thought of holiness, and when he thought of holiness, he thought of his own bad record. He couldn’t look up to Heaven, it haunted him and he cried out to God, ‘ God be merciful to me a sinner.’ He didn’t say be merciful to other people, but to me a sinner.
Have you ever been brought to a place where you have seriously considered the personal problem of sin, not the things in society but your bad record and your bad heart? Has your bad record such as your lies and other sins you commit ever trouble you? What about your bad heart. Has you ever been concerned about your bad heart? A Christian is someone who has taken his personal problem of sin seriously. A lot of people come that far and are not Christians. A Christian is someone who has not only honestly faced the personal problem of sin, but is one who has seriously considered the divine remedy for sin. One of the most unique things about the bible is this; not only does it tell us that Christianity is a religion for sinners, but it tells us the remedy is divinely initiated. In other words, God takes the first step and the second and the third.
We take John 3:16 for God (Its starts with God, not with man) so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son or a passage like Ephesians 2:4 describing mans terrible condition of a bad heart and a bad record in the first three verses, which from verse 4 onwards, Paul states God has come to do something. Its not self help, picking yourself up or human help by having someone else help you, but it is God intervening. What are the major elements in that remedy? Touching upon three of them, which are that the remedy is bound up in a person, the remedy is centred on the cross and that it is adequate for all and offered to all without exception.
Firstly the remedy is bound up in a person. Some remedies come to us in the form of a pill or a diet or in the form of therapy. The remedy comes in all different ways. For some people the remedy may be a change of climate. How does the remedy of sin come to us? It comes to us bound up in a person, not in a set of ideas or a set of rules that float by called Christianity, but the remedy comes to us in a person. The scriptures tell us:
“ And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Jesus himself said in John 14:6, ‘ I am the way, (not the church or the minister or any other person) the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me.’ Going back to John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son’, states that God gave a set of truths about salvation. The remedy is in a person, the only answer to your bad record and your bad heart is in a person and that person is Jesus. That is the glory of the Christian faith, the remedy is in a person.
The second thing we need to say about that remedy is that it is centred on the cross. Although the remedy is in a person, it is centred in the cross of that person. The heart of the message of the cross is this, Jesus took what sinners deserve, because of our bad record and our bad heart:
“ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” Galatians 3:13
“ For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be the righteousness of God in him.” II Corinthians 5:21
The Father cast Jesus off, because that’s what sin deserves. Jesus was being made sin for us, and the father bruised his own son, in the language of Isaiah 53:11, ‘ by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.’ The remedy in the person is bound up and centred on the cross in the person who died as a substitute for sinners.
The third thing about the remedy is that it is adequate for all and offered to all without exception. One of the problems that anyone who begins to take their sin seriously meets is this. What Jesus did when he died for sinners may be good for this person or that person, but there’s no sinner quite like me as I’ve sinned too much, too deeply and too grievously. What we need to know is that there’s no record so bad that Jesus’ blood cant cleanse. We need to understand that as God said:
“ Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
You need to know that what Jesus did is adequate for the vilest of sinners. That is why Paul said in I Timothy 1:15, ‘ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of who I am chief.’ That provision is adequate no matter what you’ve done. That’s the gospel, that’s the good news of salvation, but its not only adequate, its sincerely offered to everyone. As Isaiah 55:1 states, ‘ Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’ All the benefits of salvation are freely and sincerely offered:
“ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
2.) A Christian is not only someone who has faced the personal problem of sin, but has seriously considered the divine remedy for sin.
That remedy that’s bound up in a person: the Lord Jesus Christ. That remedy that is centred on his cross. That remedy that is offered and is adequate for all men. A Christian is one who has whole heartedly complied with the divine terms, with obtaining the divine provision for sin. God has made the provision that is adequate and offered to all. God doesn’t say that it automatically becomes the possession of all who hear about it. God says the terms are repent and believe the gospel:
“ Jesus began to preach , and to say, repent: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
“ Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” Ezekiel 18:30
You will not become a Christian until , from the heart and not on the surface, you comply with those terms of which God offers his mercy to sinners. You must repent and comply, cast yourself upon him and be cleansed in his blood, to be forgiven by the virtue of Christ’s life and death, to be accepted by his righteousness. Repentance and faith are not the acts of a moment. They must have a beginning but then they become the very disposition of the heart, so that we who truly repent continue to repent and if we truly repent, we are characterised in the bible as those who continually believe. Unless you truly repent and believe, there is no life and salvation until you do repent and believe, for as Mark 16:16 says ‘ he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned’, and as Luke 13: 3 & 5 say, ‘I tell you, nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’
3.) A Christian is a person, who has taken seriously their bad record and their bad heart and the remedy centred in the person, bound up in the cross, adequate for all and offered to all, without discrimination. A Christian is someone who wholeheartedly accepts the terms, on which the offer is made.
He has come to grips with the reality of his sin and there is no sin that he will wilfully and deliberately cling too. That is repentance, which is to turn from sin to the Lord, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in him to forgive and to cleanse.