What is a Christian
  What Is a Christian?
Perhaps the best way to describe a Christian is to tell about someone who became one. The person I have in mind lived in the years immediately following the life and ministry of Jesus.
The man was a jailer in the city of Philippi [in present day Greece]. We might say he was minding his own business until one day, two men were brought to his prison: Paul and Silas, both Christian missionaries. They had come to Philippi for this purpose, to proclaim that the crucified Christ had risen from the dead, and to urge people to become Christians.
Paul and Silas had been thrown in jail because they had cast an evil spirit from a slave girl. This girl had been bringing great profit to her masters through telling people’s future. When the spirit left this girl, so did her masters’ profit. Consequently the owners seized Paul and Silas and brought them before the authorities. Assumed to have done something wrong, Paul and Silas were beaten and delivered over to jail. The jailer was ordered, “Hold these men securely.”
Not taking any chances, the jailer threw them into the innermost prison, and painfully fastened their feet in the stocks.
Why do bad things happen to such good people, to those who, like Paul and Silas, had actually delivered a slave girl from an evil spirit? One answer is that these owners were filled with their love for money, and they hated the men that took their source of profit away!
Yet, Christians believe that our loving God works good for us, even in evil times. This incident, too, would bring glory to God and blessings to others, somehow!
At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. – Strange creatures, these Christians! – Suddenly, God sent an earthquake, and the prison doors flew open, and all the chains of the prisoners fell free.
The jailer woke up from his sleep. Seeing what had happened, and fearing an escape, he decided to become his own executioner. He took out his sword to kill himself. [For his superiors would take his life for him if he had allowed a dangerous criminal to escape.] But Paul shouted, “Do not harm yourself, we are all here!”
Who were these odd men, who did not curse him for binding their feet in the stocks, men who didn’t mourn their sad condition, or curse their enemies? Who were these who prayed for others and sang hymns of praise, who spoke of salvation that had been won and made ready by Jesus Christ?
We don’t see all that was going on in the jailer’s heart. But this much is clear: he came to a conviction that he was a sinful man in need of rescue, in need of a Savior.
The Bible says that all people are sinful, all have rebelled against God’s will and commandments, and so all people need rescue:
“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
This is where Christianity begins, with a person honestly and humbly admitting to God:
I have sinned and broken your commandments. I have not loved you with my whole heart. I have not loved others as I have loved myself. I am often selfish, and the inclination of my heart is often dark and evil. (See Genesis 8:21.)
God, you are holy, and I am sinful. Indeed, I deserve death, physical and eternal death, because of my rebellion. For your word declares, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a)
The jailer knew this much. He was a sinner in need of rescue. And here were men who knew the living God! This earthquake was no accident! He rushed in, fell trembling before them, and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
The answer was simple. You need do nothing. What needs to be done has already been done for you. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 17:31)
This faith in Jesus is summed up well in I Corinthians 15:3 & 4:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Paul himself had been touched by this message of Jesus. Formerly he had been a violent persecutor of Christians. But the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him, and he became a believer. Of himself he wrote,
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (I Timothy 1:15,16)
What is a Christian? First, it is a person who humbly admits his sin and guilt. But it is also a person who believes that Jesus Christ, true God from heaven, has become his Savior, has paid the penalty of our sins by His death on the cross, and has risen to life from the dead. He has declared us “forgiven,” pardoned and washed clean, no matter what our sins have been, and has sent them away “as far as the east is from the west!” (Psalm 103:12).
One last thing remains. A person who has learned this good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ cannot help but express his gratitude. Our forgiveness is a free gift of God through the work of Jesus. And for this gift we cannot help but respond in praise and thanksgiving.
The change in a person who is filled with the joy of knowing Jesus’ forgiveness is immediate, and It happens – often - without even conscious thought.
What happened to this jailer once he believed? He gathered his family to hear the word of God so that they, too, could learn about this wonderful Savior. He and his whole family were baptized.
This man, who had only minutes before sought to take his own life, now “was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God.” (Acts 17:34)
He also began to love the teachers of God’s Word. He took them out of their cell and washed their wounds. His heart was filled with love for those men who so cared for him and his family, who had shared with them the way of forgiveness and eternal life.
This marks the third important characteristic of a Christian. He is one who, in thankfulness for the gift of his salvation, seeks to live a life that is pleasing to God. God the Holy Spirit has come into his heart and, like the maid in a house, works to clean out the old and the sinful, and replace it with works of love and kindness toward God and toward others.
Perhaps you would like to have the Lord Jesus and His wonderful forgiveness. If you have come to this point, you may rejoice. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) Admit your sins to God. Then rejoice that, because of Jesus’ death for our sins and His glorious resurrection, your sins, my sins, our sins have been fully forgiven.
Now you will want to invite your family together to hear God’s word, be baptized and heal the wounds of those around you. You may now, like Paul and Silas, become missionaries for Jesus, sharing His great love with others!
For more information on the Christian life, please contact us at Trinity Lutheran Church of Broken Arrow.
(Scripture quotes are from the New International Version of the Bible.)
David R. Cloeter