What Does it Mean to be a Christian?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 7, 2022 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

My church takes membership seriously. We ask people who wish to be members to take the classes so they would know how our local congregation does things, and the elders also do interviews with each person who fills out an application to be a member. In the application, we do not merely ask for personal information, but we ask if applicants have read the by-laws, the specific church doctrines, and to list any disagreements they have with certain doctrines that are taught. We have had members apply and upon realizing that the church’s direction and their direction aren’t aligned, they have walked away peacefully. But another part of the application is to give our testimony of how we became believers.

I don’t have a “gutter to glory” testimony of living a lifestyle of sin and being delivered from it. I grew up in the church and on the mission field. I am the “poster-child” of what it looks like to be a sound Christian by appearance. I know the language, I know the morality, I know the doctrine, and I made my profession of faith when I was seven. But as I was filling out my application, I began to think about my testimony.

A few years ago, I went through a period in which I examined myself to see if I was saved. Why would I do that? Not only is that a command to the church (we are to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith rather than assume we are saved), but I was going through a transition period. For most of my life, if I were to be asked why I was a Christian, I could give a variety of reasons, but ultimately it would boil down to “I was raised that way.” This is a critical issue I wrote about several years ago in a post titled “Don’t Ride Your Parent’s Faith.”

For so much of my Christian life, I rode my parent’s faith. I went to the same church with them until earlier in 2021. I have lived with them my entire life until literally right about when this is being posted with the only exception being when I lived at my college apartment (and still went to church with them every week). I am now at my own apartment (or about to be) as my parents are moving from Texas to Michigan. This transition began about 8 ½ years ago when I did my fencing spiritual warfare presentation for my former church and was baptized as an adult. A few months later, I began the Cadre program at the Creation Truth Foundation, and I started my time here with Worldview Warriors.

In those years, I began to transition from sharing the faith of my parents to having and claiming my own faith. It didn’t happen in an instant. Not everyone’s moment of salvation is really an instant event. Sometimes it happens over a sequence of time or is recognized in that time frame. Today, if asked why I am a Christian my answer still includes, “I was raised that way,” but it is much deeper than that now. Today, I can say, “I have studied the Bible and the claims both for and against it, and I have found that Biblical Christianity is indeed the only true religion.” That’s the one-sentence intellectual side of things. However, just knowing the intellectual side of the faith is not enough.

It is absolutely vital to have correct doctrine. If you know anything about me, I am a staunch defender of the doctrines of the faith and the integrity of Scripture. But one thing I am learning is that it is fully possible to have 100% correct doctrine and still go to Hell. When I look at what Jesus said about true and false believers, there was always something more than having sound doctrine. You still have to have sound doctrine; the Apostles would actively remove people from the church for teaching error. But having truth by itself as mere intellectual statements is nothing more than dead faith.

Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who was tortured for 14 years in Communist prison said this: “A man really believes not what he recites in his creed, but only the things he is ready to die for.” Anyone can state a doctrinal statement; that’s how so many false teachers got into the church. They proclaim to believe whatever they needed to believe to get in. But a false convert/teacher would not defend those teachings, especially when presented with evidence or a claim that seems to contradict it. They will readily question those teachings in light of what they truly believe. They will not question the false teaching for favor of the doctrines they proclaim.

One example I’ve seen recently is when I dealt with someone who proclaimed to believe all the core doctrines of Christianity including that it was Adam who brought sin and death to mankind. But he also believes that the earth is billions of years old. When I asked him how he handled human fossils dating to hundreds of thousands of years old, he danced all over the place questioning everything from the definition of a human to the definition of death, but he never once questioned the dating methods. That’s what he really believes – not so much the doctrines of Christianity, because he let his doctrine be challenged by the dating method, not the dating method that challenged his doctrine. What you believe is what you will defend. If you don’t give it much weight and if you really think they are secondary issues, you won’t take a defensive position when someone challenges said teachings.

What you believe requires action. Faith demands action. If you are going to proclaim faith in Christianity, it calls for action. Jesus repeatedly told His followers that those who belong to Him are those who obey His commands. You can’t obey commands if you have wrong doctrine. So, you must have correct doctrine so you can obey it. One of the commands Jesus gave is to count the cost. While salvation is indeed a free gift and while we cannot work to deserve it, do not think that living this life is going to come without a cost. To follow Christ means to abandon and surrender your old life to get the new life. This is not being taught in most churches today. What is instead being taught is to add “Jesus” as a final accessory to your current life. This is not Christianity. The Gospel instead teaches that to receive Jesus, we must put to death our old way of living so that we can embrace the new life.

This is an introductory post in a series I will do about what it means to be a Christian. In no particular order, I will address that the Christian is meant to be the light of the world and to be a holy people. This means we are to be unique and separate from this world. We need to stop being schizophrenic Christians – people who talk theology before Christian friends and act like secular people in front of unbelievers. I’ll look in detail about the characteristics of the “ex-Christian” based on proclamations I have heard such people give. I’ll address compromise and how to test a movement or teaching. While sound doctrine will be a key structure to what I’ll be addressing, I am going to go over much more than just sound doctrine – how we are to live out in practice these truths. As I go through this series, I want to first examine myself, then I will examine my audience, and finally, I want to examine how the Gospel addresses the issues. I don’t want this series to simply challenge you or me; I want it to change us. Will we let the truth change us?

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.