There is much confusion among the general public, as well as the religious community, concerning what it means to be Christian. We are not referring to “getting religion,” or “joining a church,” or “believing and reciting correct creedal doctrines.”
In one sense, there is nothing anyone can do to become a Christian. It is only by the grace of God through Christ that the opportunity of becoming a Christian is afforded to mankind.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). There is no human performance or effort that can affect the spiritual reality of becoming a Christian.
Being a Christian is not a matter of external physical attachment to a church nor is it affected by mental assent to historical or theological tenets of belief. No initiation, no payment, no merit and no proving of worth is required. What is required is a heart willing to accept the gifts of grace and salvation God has opened to us.
Trusting God implies an honest confession that we are unable to save ourselves. There is nothing we can do, even good deeds to convince God to accept us. Jesus’ finished work on the cross is the only acceptable atonement for our sins. Unless we accept God’s free gift of salvation, we cannot receive Christ. Hence, we can’t identify ourselves as Christians.
In the same way, trusting God indicates a life honest enough to admit to the sins we have committed, and to acknowledge Him, not just as our Savior, but as our Lord as well. Trusting God is about giving Him all that we have, allowing Him to rule over us as sovereign in every aspect of our lives. Trusting Him means believing that whatever He does will always be in our best interest.
Living the Christian life is not comprised of going through the motions of repetitive religious rituals. Emotional experiences do not make one a better Christian. God is “not served with human hands, as though He needed anything” (Acts 17:25). Paul credited Christ for everything in his life and ministry, when he wrote, “I do not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Rom. 15:18).
Ultimately, what it means to be a Christian is Christ. A Christian is one in whom Jesus Christ lives by His Spirit, and one who allows the life and character of Jesus Christ to be lived out through his behavior, in order to function as intended to the glory of God.
Christians follow Jesus through study of the Scripture. They abide by His teachings and live a life in accordance with His will.