What does it mean to be a Christian?
What does being a Christian mean to me? — To be a Christian literally means that you are a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Saying that you are a follower of the teaching of Christ and actually living according to what He teaches are completely different issues. Anyone can claim to be any religion they elect to call themselves, but if there is no evidence indicating they actually practice the fundamentals of their religion then that is what you call pretending, or blowing hot air.
I have often stated that Christianity is arguably the most popular worldwide religion that people making such a claim do nothing to indicate they actually practice its fundamental teachings. This is because for the most part when someone grows up in an environment where Christianity is the common practice it may be assumed that they are one not realizing that just being around Christians does not make you one. Likewise just saying you are something doesn’t make you what you say you are.
True Christians understand that you must accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Once accepted, you are compelled to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. It means that your old ways of living will be replaced by this new creation, one reshaped in the likeness of Christ. It does not mean that you will no longer sin or fall short of perfection, but when you fall short you agree to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to work on and in you making the necessary changes whereby genuine fruits of the Spirit are produced. Where there is no fruit or evidence of a transformation then one should question if they are actually a follower of Jesus Christ… or one in name and title only.
There is much more to being a Christian than contained within my knowledge, but I am more than willing to share what it means to me to be a follower of Christ. Important to note that I am only a layman… a person that seeks to follow Christ and not one that claims to be a clergyman or teacher. The opinions I share are coming from a layperson rather than one who may have been called to deliver the Christian message. Perhaps there are others who might relate to our common challenges, many of which I am more than willing to share. Coming from the perspective of a commoner it might be somewhat easier to receive knowing that you are not alone in facing your challenges.
Let me speak about my experiences in accepting the Christian faith. During my personal walk, I often struggle with falling short of what Christ teaches. This is commonly known as being a sinner. Thankfully accepting Christ as your Savior means that we are under grace, which means that the blood of Christ covers our imperfections as payment for our sin debts. This does not give us a free ticket to keep on sinning without consequences? If you freely and willingly keep on sinning knowing that you claim to accept Christ as Lord, then you either make the Holy Spirit a liar or you have not fully accepted Christ as Lord. Again, saying that you are something has to be backed with a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to transform your behaviors. Even in stating this we are all a “piece of work in progress” because no one is perfect here on earth.
As an example, I could call myself a duck. I could put on a duck costume and waddle like a duck, quack like a duck and do many things to imitate the behavior of a duck. However, unless I am willing to totally transform my life into the character and lifestyle of a duck fulltime as my manner of living, then saying I am a duck does not make me a duck. I would only be imposing duck-like behavior on top of what I really am as a human being. In the same way, I can call myself a Christian and put on the image of being a Christian at times, but if there is no transformation of actually turning into the likeness of Christ that does not make me what I call myself. But, if my desires were genuine, help is on the way.
Even though I was being sarcastic about becoming a duck, I know that no matter how much I pretend I could never physically turn into a duck. On the other hand, turning into a Christian is not beyond physical possibilities. Everyone falls short of the perfection that was born in Christ. By that measure, everyone has the possibility of being transformed. But, just because the possibility is present doesn’t mean that everyone will exercise the option of taking advantage of what might be possible.
Knowledge is Key
If you don’t know what you don’t know… you don’t know what you don’t know! To be ignorant of something simply means that you lack awareness. It does not necessarily mean that you are a bad person or that you do not have the heart capable of being changed or transformed. When we were children we acted and thought like children but once we got older we were expected to act in a more matured manner. If children are not trained in ways of moral behavior they do not necessarily become moral and decent older persons. Scripture tells us to train up a child in the ways that they should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. A child untrained remains ignorant of moral behaviors.
To become knowledgeable requires a process of training. Somehow we must gather knowledge and then learn how to apply it to how we live, how we think, and how we operate. Where there is no knowledge or training there can be very little expectation of behaving properly. You can’t just toss a bunch of seeds in the air and expect it to become a beautiful rose garden. There may be some weed seeds mixed in the bunch.
People left untrained or uneducated don’t normally turn out well mannered. Even if they are merely fed knowledge that does not necessarily mean that they will have a positive response to it. Perhaps this is why the scripture says to train up a child rather than just expose them to knowledge. You can give a child a gun but that does not mean that they will have the discipline to use it in a manner that would not be dangerous. It’s not just the mere presence of knowledge that edifies people, but knowledge put into practice.
To become a Christian one must be exposed to the knowledge of what it means to practice Christianity. Once this knowledge is practiced it becomes a way of life if applied. Again, just knowing about something does not mean that one will do what they know. Something has to compel you to act upon what you know. Fortunately for Christians, there is a Helpmate. You are not expected to take this journey by your will power alone. You are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in the ways of righteous living. For me personally this has been a long process of learning what it means to be a follower of Christ then learn how to put such knowledge into a lifestyle practice.
Before getting too deep into this subject I would like to caution that it is not by our will power alone that we are shaped into the likeness of Christ. Christ said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them near.” Essentially God draws us near as a possibility and then we must respond to the draw. Our positive response is what starts the process of transformation. If there is no willingness to be transformed into the likeness of Christ then the invitation remains a mere possibility that may never manifest. For example, I could invite you to a party but you do not have to accept the invitation or show up to the party.
Who or What is this Helpmate?
Over my years there have been many fundamentals that I had to learn in order to properly practice my faith. I am not sure if left alone I would have been able to learn how to properly practice my faith without intervention. There is so much knowledge contained within the Holy Scriptures but it appears you need a key to unlock the messages. For years I would read the printed pages of the Bible but somehow the messages did not come through as clearly as they do now. Even though scripture is completely available to anyone who desires it, in order to extract wisdom, knowledge, and understanding it requires a Helpmate. Since the Bible contains the living Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) this Spirit can use various passages in the living Word to open messages to you according to what is needed at a particular time during your walk of life.
This is another thing that you learn once you are serious about seeking God. You are no longer on this path alone, but you are given a Helpmate to be with you, in you, and in a strange way walk you along the proper pathway towards God’s righteousness. It is through the Father that we are drawn near to Christ, our Savior and our Helpmate (the Holy Spirit) becomes our live-in guide.
This is where things get rather complicated. It is also a point where you might want to seek a clergyman for Christian fundamental doctrines and sound teachings. I can share what I learned and how I responded to what I learned but there are those who are called to be our pastors, teachers or members of the clergy. I personally like to read and study, but it always helps to have someone gifted in teaching. This is extremely important when it comes to learning the basic fundamentals of our faith. The Trinity of God is one such complicated fundamental that many find hard to fully understand.
The Trinity of God
Christians believe in the Trinity — God as Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is One but represented in three functions. God the Father is Creator over all things in the heavens and upon the earth. Jesus Christ is the manifested Son Who was sent to earth in human form for the salvation of mankind. Upon His death, He left with us the Holy Spirit, our Helpmate, to live amongst us and in us to assist us in living a righteous life as God desires of His children. It can be even deeper to understand but there are not three different Gods, but three in One. Some refer to this as the Godhead. Though this is my understanding, others may describe things somewhat differently. The HS will also guide you into a deeper understanding when your heart is ready to receive.
Since God is Spirit, as Father we cannot see Him other than how He chooses to manifest. Christ told us: “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in Truth.” God manifested Himself in human form through the person of Jesus, His only begotten Son, while still being God in Spirit over all creation. Upon His death, Jesus returned to His position in the heavenly kingdom leaving us with our Helpmate, which is the Holy Spirit of God with a specific function in the Godhead. God cannot be around sin or evil yet the Holy Spirit can be in and with us even though we are not holy. Therefore the function of the Holy Spirit as well as the function of Jesus Christ, who was also among unholy people, served separate functions of the Godhead. Just how complicated is that!
From my perspective I have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, receiving the gift from God for the forgiveness of my sins that I cannot totally resist by my will power alone. Having accepted God’s gift I willingly submit to the Holy Spirit that lives in me knowing that my sins are fully exposed as I go through this lifetime transformational process. Yes, it continues throughout my natural life. I welcome and relish this because God’s Spirit is the One that is guiding me as I turn over my life to Christ.
Even though my desires are to live according to the teachings of Christ, perfection does not live in me… in fact; I am an imperfect being guided by the sin-nature that lives in me. I am guided by the carnal mind that is of this earth and compelled or attracted to things that appeal to my flesh. Even if or when I do not wish to fall into such temptations… by my willpower alone, I cannot always resist the draw. This is where my Helpmate comes into the picture to assist me… to pick me back up when I fall short. It is all because of the gift from God knowing who we are, what we are, and what is required of each of us individually to be shaped into Christ-likeness. By the way, Christ was fully human and fully God so He lived the challenges that we face as mortal beings.
In my search, I just found this interpretation of our Helpmate. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in action, His active force. God sends out His Spirit by projecting His energy to any place at any time to accomplish His will. That is a logical, rational explanation of a complicated subject and it makes sense to me as well.
God’s Will — God’s Timing
As Creator over all things, it is God’s will that ultimately controls the final outcome of all things. Since God is omnipotent that means that God is infinite in power, with no restrictions other than His own. God is also omnipresent, which means that He is present everywhere simultaneously. God is in all and is the ALL; everything is within God’s creation so there is no going around God. God sees time forward or backward; He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. God created time for us because it is irrelevant or otherwise not necessary because it does not restrict God. (My opinion?)
A thought was recently revealed to me that because of God’s immeasurable and infinite power He can sat at the end of times and look backward to the beginning. Therefore what mankind requires was placed in, when, and how it was needed. God has always been orchestrating His creation in a manner for the good. God does all things for the good. If only we could conceive or understand what and who God really is we might have a different manner of relating to Him… one of more reverence and respect?
The human mind cannot totally understand the totality of God because it is limited in capacity and ability as to what God allows us to grasp. Even to vaguely understand this much knowledge about God reveals that we are mortal beings with our current limited abilities and divine purposes. Our completeness is not during this phase of our existence. Since the mind belongs to the mortal flesh its limit is restricted to the capacity and purpose that it currently serves. The spirit that lives in your mortal body is governed by a different set of measures set by God. You are not of this place only in it.
We do not control anything in reference to God. Our will power is all we have but God already knows the choices that you have yet to make. Ultimately we’re restricted by the time moving forward, while God is not restricted by anything other than Himself. Therefore, regardless of how your mind imagines things to be, God’s will prevails in absoluteness. We are either for God or against God’s will but we cannot alter it in any manner.
A prudent person would totally submit to God’s will if they truly understood his totality. But as you well know that is not always the case. The main issue for many of us is our willful defiance and disobedience. Some of this could be because of ignorance. God knows this as well and has laid out a plan, which goes back to the Trinity of God that compensates for our ignorance and willful defiance. By manifesting in the form of Christ, the Messiah, God deposited the Holy Spirit, our Helpmate. Now we have access to the full power of God if we so desire. It would be God’s will that all mankind conforms to the likeness of His Son, but He already knows those who will not make such a choice.
Even though God’s will supersedes our will, God’s timing extends His love for us because we are His precious creations. For example, I am only allowed to perceive what I perceive because I responded to God’s draw. I wanted what God offered so doors were opened to me that were once obstructed. I was blind but now I can see. Everything was already there but the blinders were taken off allowing me to see what was and has always been there. It was because of God’s timing that I was given time to respond to Him. It is because of God’s timing that all are given the opportunity to join Him, but all souls will not respond positively towards God. It is not that God does not love us, but that many do not desire God. The bottom line is that every knee shall bow before God. This leads us even deeper into God’s will.
God’s Power and our will
When I sat down to write this message I had no idea where it would ultimately lead. Even though I have personally made my decisions and commitment to God I am careful not to become the message. I yield to God and to His divine power. Even though my intent is to share what I have learned, God has the power to intercede or to interject with my willful surrender to Him as Lord. Having offered myself to God His power can freely operate within me through the Holy Spirit so therefore the message that apparently goes beyond my ability comes through from a higher place. My task is to become available for God’s usage and allow His will to flow through me. If that sounds like some sort of legal disclaimer, then take it as so because the last thing I wish to do is lead people astray who are genuinely seeking God. I know how challenging and complicated this has been for me so I only assume that others feel likewise. I yield unto God Almighty.
This is what it means to me to be a Christian. It is not something that I did but a Power that was present with a possibility, one that I surrendered unto. It was God’s Almighty and His grace. He only required me to say yes and the rest was in His capable hands. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long to say yes to God. God knew the exact place, date and time when I would say yes to Him so even though I wish I had said yes earlier, it was not yet my time. Fortunately for me, God was looking back through time and had already seen my choice.
As I look back over my life I am not sure what could have been different. Perhaps I would not be what I became if I had not gone through what I experienced. Maybe it is like that for each of us. God allows us to go through what is necessary in order to achieve His will and purpose in our lives. Knowing what I have learned my desire would be to share my views and experiences with others who might be trying to straddle the fence when it comes to surrendering their lives to God. If you could only see what you are surrendering to it should make all the difference. To surrender to God is to surrender to the Maker of all things on earth and in heaven… that includes you. If you have a problem with that then so be it. Perhaps your time has not yet come? Selah!