According to my friend The Rev. Canon Richard Tanner, being a "Christian" means being,
"Committed to Christ"
"Committed to the Body of Christ"
"Committed to the work of Christ" and
"Developing your life in that order."
Other people suggest equally useful definitions such as, "Becoming a Christian encompasses God's initiative to call, equip, and send us." This is also true. But at the same time, being a Christian requires our response and hence a further definition,
"Being a Christian is to bow to Christ,
to join the Body of Christ
to engage in the work of Christ."
When these three elements combine in a person, we expect spiritual maturity. The Christian life involves all three aspects. A good definition of a Christian is especially important for all of us who lay great stress on individual response and personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.✞
Being a Christian means first of all to be
"Christ-centered." We need to be "converted" or "born again" and experience the forgiveness of sins in our hearts and lives. Being "born again is a Biblical phrase meaning "spiritual rebirth" or "regeneration" and is used by Jesus in speaking with Nicodemus in John 3.3-5. "Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." "Born again" means "born from above." 1 Peter 1.22-23 confirms this, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."✞
Second, being a Christian means being "Bible-Based." Being Bible-based involves modeling all aspects of our Christian life on the complete and authoritative Word of God. The phrase "Word of God" encompasses the whole of the Bible called the Scriptures, which Christians believe is accurate, authentic, and reliable. Saint Paul emphasizes this in 2 Timothy 3.16-17 when he writes, "God inspires and gives all scripture, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." It is the last word from God. It is our handbook for life!✞
Third, being a Christian means being "people orientated." Christians need to seek to reach others to share the Good News with them in every way possible. We are encouraged to strive for spiritual maturity. We need to eat solid food rather than just drinking milk. In Hebrews 5.13-14, the writer explains, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Saint Paul adds that everything a mature Christian does should be out of love. In Philippians 1.15-16a, he writes, "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love."✞
To the question, "What does being committed to the Body of Christ mean?" Blaise Pascal (1623-1662 AD), a French philosopher and devout Christian, writes, "To be a member of the Body of Christ is to have neither life, being, nor movement, except through the spirit of the Body and for the Body." In the Christian life, everything we do, think or say is through and for the benefit of Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ! Christ's indwelling in the Christian happens through an infusion of Jesus into our human nature. Without Christ's indwelling, there can be no part for the individual Christian in the Mystical Body of Christ. The Body of Christ can not exist for sects that deny Christ because Jesus is not present in individuals there. No Christ means no Christian! No Christian means no Body of Christ! Communion is actual for a Christian prisoner of conscience in a frozen Siberian labor camp because, and only because Christ's indwelling is burning in the warmth of that person's heart. Archbishop Michael Peers (1934-present), the former Anglican Primate in Canada, said insightfully, "When I am by myself, I am the entire Body of Christ." Here is a great truth for all Christians!✞
The solitary individual believer who shivers in a dark prison cell and two thousand worshippers in a cavernous cathedral know Christ's indwelling! When this personal indwelling happens in someone's heart, that person will never be the same again. A spiritual implosion destroys the old to create the new! God's chain reaction detonates atomically in our cells when we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Dr. Paul Brand (1914-2003) was a medical doctor and surgeon and a leader in developing tendon transfers for leprosy. He was a great Christian man of God who toiled to make life better for the most severely disabled. He echoed Jesus' compassion in his own life. He suggests, "As a result of this stuff-exchange, we carry within us not just the image of, or the philosophy of, or faith in, but the actual substance of God."✞
Believers bear the Christian self-image when they receive Christ as Savior and experience a transformation inside. The Christian thinker and Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) discusses the Christian self-image in "Man in Search of a Soul," in which he writes, "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed." Jung's work convinces him that life has a spiritual purpose. He is a counterbalance to another leading psychologist Sigmund Freud (1865-1935.) Freud once said to a friend, "I can't do it better than Jesus." Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the Danish philosopher and theologian, adds to this, "God cannot make a person his equal without transforming that person into something more than a person." Kierkegaard is interested in an individual's relationship to the God-Man Jesus Christ, which comes through faith. What does the self-image mean for the Christian? Is it perhaps Christ's transforming personality that distinguishes Christians from other humans and animals? In being drawn into the Mystical Body of Christ, a new self-image irresistibly changes human beings. Just look at your reflection in the mirror. A son may be the image of his father. Adam was one hundred and thirty years old when he became the father of Seth. The Bible in Genesis 5.3 describes Seth as "a son in his likeness, according to his image."✞
Similarly, a daughter may have the same facial appearance as her mother or father and may display his or her mannerisms or idiosyncrasies. The "image" therefore means more than appearance, maybe similarities of gestures, even "like thinking." A Christian's image denotes an association between a person and God. Saint Paul describes the destructive results of idol worship on people. He explains in Romans 1.22-23 that they "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." An idol-image here replaces the Christian image that marks the relationship between a human being and his or her Creator. People should have a special self-image but often, unfortunately, develop an idol-image by being sucked by an overpowering attraction into something other than God. God gives the divine image likeness to Adam and Eve. They receive God's very nature but not his divine qualities like omniscience, omnipresence, or omnipotence. The divine image is created in individual human beings so that they are "god-like." However, they often try to make God like themselves that is in their likeness to control and influence him. Some people are more comfortable when God is like them, for he will not shock them by his non-human and godly reactions. A group of ordained Anglican clergy at a conference described the characteristics of God, the Supreme Being. Virtually all of the distinguishing features they named were human qualities, even anger. The divine attributes, such as omnipotence or unlimited power, were not mentioned even by men and women of the cloth. Omniscience means knowing the thoughts and actions of all human beings at the same time or "an all-knowing mind." They didn't mention omniscience, meaning the ability to be in all places at the same time. Even God's eternal nature was not listed.✞
People prefer a God-like themselves whom they can relate to but without any of his "super-qualities." To be honest, we hate God interfering in our lives because he is so unpredictable. The divine likeness incorporates human beings into God's community. In Genesis 1.26-27, the Creator says, " 'Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them." "All the wild animals" is rendered in the Masoretic Text as "all the earth." God made humans in his "image" but without his super abilities. Although in our modern language, "man" is derived from an old English word, "mann" has come to mean "male," in this context as in early English generally, the word "man" includes persons of both sexes, both male and female. The writer explains in Genesis 9.6, "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."✞