Maybe you were raised in a Catholic or Protestant home. Or maybe you were brought up in some other religion. And you tell yourself, “Well, I think I’m all right. Don’t worry about me.” No matter what your background, I encourage you to take an honest look—beyond the myths—about what makes someone a Christian.
To begin, let’s explore what you think makes a real Christian. Below are some common ideas about that.
Myth #1 Being Born in a Christian Nation Makes You a Christian
I’ve met people who have told me, “I was born in Christian nation, so of course I am a Christian. What do you take me to be, a heathen?” The truth is that they could be a lot of things.
Others have said: “I’ve been a Christian all my life; I was born in a Christian home” or “in the church.” But since when does where you’re born determine what you are? As one of my friends quipped, someone may be born in a stable, but that doesn’t make him a horse. Nor does being born in an airport make someone an airplane.
Be thankful for where you were born and for the family and church in which you were reared. But don’t assume that automatically makes you a Christian. God has no grandchildren.
Myth #2 Thinking Positively Makes You a Christian
Some people also think that if you give a hearty handshake, pat others on the back, smile, and ask, “How are you doing?” that you’re somehow a Christian.
Now, normally a Christian is cheerful and excited about life and genuinely cares about others. A Christian also understands that he or she is valuable in God’s eyes because He made us and loves us deeply.
But you could develop a certain sense of well-being and self-worth apart from knowing what God’s Word, the Bible, teaches us about thinking right in an unright world. So thinking positively about life in general and about yourself in particular doesn’t automatically make you a Christian.
Myth #3 Living a Good Life Makes You a Christian
And, then, living a clean and moral life doesn’t make anyone a Christian. Many atheists live a decent, straight life. Anyway, how good is “good”? That is the real issue. Most people have a warped idea of the true standard against which our goodness should be measured.
Compared to a mass murderer, you may feel that you’re ready for sainthood. Even compared with your family and friends, you may come out okay.
But God’s standard of goodness is very different. He puts you up against His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived an absolutely perfect life here on earth. Compared with this level of perfection, our own goodness looks pretty shabby.
Remember, the world has always had plenty of “good” people. So if goodness were enough, God need not have sent Jesus. The fact that Jesus had to come to die on the cross to make our forgiveness possible shows that goodness doesn’t make someone a Christian.
Myth #4 Going to Church Makes You a Christian
Last Sunday four out of ten Indian went to church. But does that mean that all these people are Christians? of course not. Even some thieves go to church. Some people go to church because it’s a social habit. Others attend because their family makes them go. At the encouragement of a minister, they may even go to special classes for confirmation or membership.
It is true that Christians go to church and take an active part in church life. But attending church doesn’t make you a Christian.
Myth #5 Giving to Others Makes You a Christian
Many of us were taught since childhood to give a portion of our income to charity or to the church. Whether rich or poor, we feel it’s our “Christian” duty.
Even Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, says he feels a “duty to do something” so that “in some way I can make life a little less stinking for some people.” So he donates part of his wealth to worthy causes. And that’s commendable. But that’s not what makes somebody a Christian.
Yes, Christians give to others. More than anyone else, they help the needy and less fortunate. But you can give away everything you own and still not be a Christian.
Myth #6 Receiving a Sacrament Makes You a Christian
Maybe you were baptized as a child or young adult. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a Christian. Many violent inmates in penitentiaries were baptized years ago. But few people would consider these inmates Christians.
Or maybe you take Communion every Sunday. If you’re a Christian, that’s great. But I’ve had someone tell me, “I’m confused. I take Communion every week, but I don’t know what it means to be a Christian.”
You see, both baptism and Communion are biblical. God commands Christians to observe these ordinances. But receiving either one won’t make you a Christian.
Myth #7 Believing in God Makes You a Christian
Eight out of ten people in America say they believe God exists. But are they all Christians? Colonel James Irwin, remembered for his Apollo 15 moon mission, said that while he was in the Middle East, a Muslim leader said to him, “You talk about God so much–why aren’t you a Muslim?”
Do you see my point? If you can be a Muslim and believe in God, then it is not “believing in God” that makes you a Christian.
I have a good friend who believes in exercise. But he never does any. He is forty-five pounds overweight and hopelessly out of shape. I know countless small boys who believe in soap. But they are not a shade cleaner in spite of their belief. Belief, on its own, makes no difference. That is why belief, by itself, doesn’t make someone a Christian.
Myth #8 Talking about Jesus Christ Makes You a Christian
Many people talk about Jesus Christ and even speak well of Him. They may be teachers, ministers, church leaders, or “just plain folk.” But they may not even believe that the Bible’s message about Jesus is true.
Some actually have a distorted view of Jesus that fits their own way of thinking, rather than seeing the Jesus of history and the Bible. And that disqualifies them from calling themselves real Christians.
Myth #9 Praying Makes You a Christian
Certainly Christians pray. But someone can pray and still not be a Christian. Hindus pray all the time. Muslims pray five times a day.
When traveling abroad, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat carried a little prayer rug on which to kneel five times daily. But he was a Muslim, not a Christian. So praying in itself doesn’t make someone a Christian.
Myth #10 Reading the Bible Makes You a Christian
Of course Christians love the Bible. Some of us read it daily. But just reading the Bible doesn’t mean you are a Christian.
When Karl Marx was seventeen years old, he wrote a fantastic explanation of part of John’s Gospel in the New Testament portion of the Bible. Great theologians agree with much of what he said. But Karl Marx eventually rejected the Bible’s authority, and during his adult life he called himself an atheist, a communist–anything but a Christian.
Nikita Khrushchev, the former premier of the USSR, read the Bible when he was a boy. Yet later he made it his ambition to bury the church in the Soviet Union by 1965. Instead, he is buried, and the Russian church continues to grow.
Read the Bible all you can. It explains how to settle this issue once and for all. Since it’s God’s Word, not man’s, we can trust it completely. But remember, just reading the Bible won’t make you a Christian.
What Makes You a Real Christian?
If I say “the sinners prayer”, asking Jesus Christ to forgive me of all my sins, asking Him to be my Lord and Savior, does that make me a Christian? Very possibly YES … but that’s not the end of the matter.
If I confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and that He was raised back to life and ascended into glory on the third day and now sits on the right hand of the Father, does that make me a Christian? Very possibly YES … but that’s not the end of the matter.
If I truly believe that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all my sins by dying on the cross, and I’m willing to give my life if need be for believing it, does that make me a true Christian? Very possibly YES … but that’s not the end of the matter.
If I truly believe that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all my sins by dying on the cross, and I’m willing to give my life if need be for believing it, and I fully believe that Jesus Christ was fully God before He came to earth as a mere man, and is now fully God and will forever be fully God, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, does that make me a true Christian? Very possibly YES … but that’s not the end of the matter.
If I truly believe that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all my sins by dying on the cross (Past sins; present sins; sins I’ll commit in the future) and I’m willing to give my life if need be for believing it, and I fully believe that Jesus Christ was and is and forever will be none LESS than God – being fully God – and I understand that now I have an obligation to show God my sincere desire to obey all the commands given to me in the New Testament Bible (not just picking and choosing those I like and those I don’t) … and demonstrate to God just how sincere I am in obeying them, by diligently PRACTICING them – DOING them – OBEYING them – (though I may fall short at just how well I DO them at times, and thank God for His promise that there’s mercy, forgiveness and complete restoration for) – does that make me a true Christian? YES.