What Is a Christian?
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
See 1 John 3:1
If you walked a city street, a county fair, or even on the beach while asking people, “What is a Christian?” you’d get many different answers. Some would say, “A person who follows the teachings of Jesus,” others would respond, “People who go to church all the time.” You’d even hear, “Crazy nut-jobs.”
Yet, you’d also get answers such as this: “Rude, angry, aggressive, self-righteous, judgmental, hateful, cliquey” so on and so forth. This is the saddest type of description we can receive, but this is what certain unbelievers have experienced from us. Mean-acting, sin-focused, religiously-devout relatives and acquaintances–those who absolutely refuse to be clear about what Jesus has done, are wrong.
These folks have tainted the world’s opinion of us, either because they just don’t understand God’s grace, or they’ve simply never known God’s grace, through Jesus. Instead, all they’ve known is religion. No relationship, just pressure-filled principles, spiritual “gift” expressions, rule-following comparisons, and brown-nosing a false deity they’ve nicknamed God so he’ll give them stuff and not hurt them like he will those other nasty people. Supposed Christians who picket with signs that read, GOD HATES AMERICA, have twisted the perception of our loving God to non-believers.
Christ came to save the world not condemn the world, so we too should express this same attitude of love (see John 3:17). Not a passive-aggressive, or sweep-bad-stuff-under-the-rug garbage, but love. This is why Jesus said, “They will know you by your love” (see John 13:35). Not by our sin-hating, not by our condescending tone, not by our ability to confess every single sin imaginable–not even by our behavior repentance. But by our love.
We, whom Christ personally indwells (see 1 Corinthians 6:19), sometimes muffle Him. Does He go away? No. He’s simply grieved (see Ephesians 4:30). Grieved does not mean angry, it means grieved. It means, “I want better for you.”
Why does grieve not mean angry? Because God’s anger has been satisfied in full at the Cross (see Romans 5:9). We now have peace with Him forever as Christians (see Romans 5:1, John 19:30). What could possibly make God angry at a child of His? Well, what’s the only thing which angers God? Sin. But Jesus has taken those all away–past, present, and future–at the Cross. Future sins too? Yes. He’s not bound by the time system in which He created. So now, He counsels us lovingly, no longer holding our sins against us (see 1 John 3:5, 2 Peter 3:8, John 14:26, 2 Corinthians 5:19).
Unlike the disciples who were following Jesus, literally, on this side of the Cross we have something so much better. We’ve become one with Jesus–His very own Spirit! We are not following Him, we are infused with Him! (See 1 Corinthians 6:17).
But we forget this amazing news quite often resulting in us not living out our true nature, which is the exact same nature as God’s (see 2 Peter 1:4). Thankfully, He never leaves us nor forsakes us when we walk in such a fake manner. Even when we think we’re faithless, He remains faithful because He cannot disown Himself. Christ is our faith, and He’s enmeshed with us permanently like iron wicker (see Hebrews 12:2, 2 Timothy 2:13, 1 Corinthians 6:17).
So the answer to “What is a Christian?” ultimately comes from you believer. How you are expressing yourself represents God to the world (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). But don’t feel pressured because you’re not. A branch is never pressured, forced, hounded, or guilted into producing fruit. It simply lives its life connected to the vine. It is the vine’s sustenance which produces fruit through the branch. Same with you, Christian (see John 15:5, Galatians 5:22,23).
Most people will never read a Bible but they will look to how we live. Sometimes we do a very poor job at expressing our true heavenly nature, and at other times we exude our Creator’s character perfectly. However, our identity is not altered in any way, shape, or form, no matter what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say. This is what makes the gospel such good news!
The gospel is about God’s commitment to us, not about our commitment to Him! Where did His commitment to us come from? The Cross! God could swear by no one greater, so He swore by Himself. The Father to the Son, and the Son to the Father. Then they sealed up that Promise with perfect blood. This is the hope which anchors our souls! Not anything we’ve done, but everything they’ve done! (See Hebrews 6:16-20).
You and I have become the beneficiaries to their promise to each other. By grace through faith we’ve inherited God’s own righteousness (see Ephesians 2:8,9, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Our supernatural identity has literally changed into celestial perfection (see Hebrews 10:14, Colossians 1:22). Again, I say, identity–not our mindsets or conduct, but our spiritual DNA–it is the same as our Creator’s (see John 1:12, 3:6,7, 1 John 3:1).
Therefore, we can always have confidence in the fact that our actions and attitudes will never alter what God has done to our spirit by faith. It is this truth which allows us to live out our authentic self more often than not. Why? Because we know who we actually are, saints. Every Christian is a saint, equally, because saint means holy. Holy means sanctified or set apart, and that is what God has done to our spirit in the supernatural realm (Romans 1:1, 8:9, Ephesians 2:6).
For me, when I don’t say or do the things I know I truly want to say or do, I can always regroup as the Holy Spirit counsels me.
“Matthew, you are still perfectly cleansed forever. That’s not changed. Here, this is how you should have responded,” and off He goes, teaching me more about who I am.
Who are we? Children of God! (See 1 John 3:1). We are holy perfection wrapped up in a perfect fleshy shell! (See 1 Thessalonians 5:23). We’ve been born of God! (See 1 John 5:4). Our spirit has been birthed into the family of the Omnipotent One and we have our Dad’s traits! (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8). We will live out who we think we are! (See Proverbs 23:7, Romans 12:2). So if we think we’re dirty, fear-filled, sinful worms–people who aren’t worthy of Dad’s love–then guess how we will express ourselves? But if we think we’re loved unconditionally, protected forever from hell, forgiven in full, favored by our Father, and blessed with every spiritual blessing? What do you think our lives would look like then?
We can enjoy our lives because of this truth. Truth matters. The truth is we’ve been reborn in the spiritual dimension just the same as we were once born in the physical dimension. This is why Jesus said, “Don’t be surprised at me saying you must be born again” (see John 3:7). He was talking about Nicodemus’ spirit. He was talking about my spirit and your spirit. He used the example of birth because birth is unchangeable. Birth is final even when our poor choices and off-putting thoughts want us to believe it can be modified.
James said we all stumble in many ways (see James 3:2). We all mess up but we are not mess-ups. I never feel more like myself than when I make a mistake and then talk to God about it, “I’m sorry. Please help me with this.”
But although I’m asking for guidance I know I’m still holy, blameless, and complete (see Colossians 1:22, 2:9,10). I have been sanctified in full–my identity–but my words and decisions are being sanctified over the course of my human lifetime (see 1 Corinthians 6:11, 15:50, Philippians 1:6, 1 John 3:2).
This isn’t causing me to be reborn again and again because Christ would have to die again and again, because only blood forgives sins, only forgiveness redeems, and only redemption gives us new spiritual life (see Hebrews 1:3, 7:25, 9:22, Titus 2:14, Colossians 3:3,4, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Galatians 2:20).
Instead, this conversation with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is leading me into learning more about who I really am as a heaven-ready person, so I can walk it out. I’m being counseled, not convicted. Conviction is only for the unbeliever (see John 16:8). I’m being coached, not condemned. Condemnation is not for those in Christ (see Romans 8:1). God isn’t dealing with His children on the basis of our sins, but on the substance of our perfect spirit.
I’ve learned to not beg Him, because I don’t need to (see Matthew 6:8). I’ve learned to not ask for forgiveness, because I’ve already been forgiven in full once and for all time (see Hebrews 10:10). I’ve even learned to not stay focused on my mistakes, which would induce and inflame a debilitating sin-conscience. Instead, I simply move forward knowing that my mistakes don’t define me. Jesus does (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 10:27).
Satan, his demons, and the power of sin want us to believe that what we do or don’t do defines us. It does not. For example, the person who struggles with alcoholism, we are influenced to believe we are alcoholics–but we’re not. What misery would it be for me to say that I am something sinful, but then have to deny who I really am for the next 50 years? Sounds like cruelty. Sounds demonic. It definitely doesn’t sound freeing, which is what the gospel is supposed to be (see Luke 4:18).
The truth is, I am a holy saint who struggles with the tendency of getting drunk all the time, but I am not a drunk. I’m a heavenly spirit. I am not my tendencies. I am sealed up in perfection with God forever and nothing can break this seal–not even my repeated sins. The power of God’s grace is much greater than the power of my sins and it always will be. The shed blood of Jesus Christ was presented for my sins in heaven one time. I am good with God forever (see Ephesians 1:13, Romans 5:20, Hebrews 1:3, 7:25, 8:5, 9:23, Colossians 2:17).
Knowing this graceful certainty is what empowered me to turn from this particular sin, among others (see Titus 2:11,12). I only got sober once I realized who I really was. But even if I got smashed today I’d still be just as holy because Jesus isn’t dying over and over in heaven for each sin I commit, which is necessary to cause a person to become holy. He’s resting just fine (see Hebrews 9:28, 10:12).
If we look at this subject even deeper, if I was an alcoholic, I should be drinking. Just the same, sinners should be sinning. But if I’m not an alcoholic, if I’m not a sinner, but if I’m a self-controlled saint, then no liquid on earth has the ability to override my hand putting a beer up to my mouth (see Galatians 5:22,23, Ephesians 5:18).
For the person who has a tendency to believe their non-stop dedication to church, mission trips, or Bible study–or “never” making a mistake–dark forces are at work in their minds too. Me, just bringing up this topic, will infuriate those who find their worth in doing this stuff. Not that anything is wrong with it, but identity can never be found in it–not for a Christian.
Legalism, not licentiousness, is what the Jewish race was steeped in before the New Covenant was put into place at Calvary. Before He gave His life, Christ didn’t come for the heathens. He came to set the most well-behaved people on the planet free, in their minds (see Galatians 4:4,5, John 8:36).
His Spirit does the same for us on this side of the Cross.
So today, my friends, know this: If you’ve believed Jesus has forgiven you of your sins, you are a Christian. This word, Christian, is a noun not a verb. Christian is not what we do–good, bad, or indifferent–it is who we are. What is a Christian? We are saints! We are holy people! We are free! We are new creations, spotless, and blameless! We are coheirs with Jesus Christ! We are children of the Creator of the universe! So live life, and enjoy your life!
A prayer for you: Dad, thank you for giving me this life. This short trip is flying by and the older I get the faster it seems to go. You’ve taught me to enjoy the little things, not just the big, and I like that. I know each day is a gift from you and I’m so grateful. As your son, you’ve taught me many things, but I have to say that contentment might be the best lesson you’ve given me. Contentment in my triumphs, contentment in the mundane, even contentment in my crippling pain. You ARE my contentment and I’m thankful! Thank you for making me your child, a Christian, through Jesus! Thank you for my identity! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Father, so many of them have been lied to about who you’ve made them to be. For the distraught believer who’s been beat down verbally, unjustly condemned and shamed, let them know you’ve been with them the whole time. YOU never did this to them, the enemy did. People influenced BY the enemy did. Rejuvenate their soul by teaching them more about who they actually are, your cherished child. And for the unbeliever, let them know Christ wants to make His home in their spirit. First, by giving them a new, perfect spirit–and then by joining their spirit for good. You are knocking. You want to be invited in so you can give them life, Christ’s life. You, dear reader, can become a child of God this moment. You can have a brand new Christian identity. Just believe Jesus can forgive you, and He will. If you choose this today, I’ll see you in heaven, friend. Amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Check out my other bestselling books here!