Many people consider themselves to be Christians. Why not? We
enjoy a rich Christian heritage. But suppose you conducted an
informal opinion poll near where you live, and asked
ten people to explain what it takes to make someone a real
Christian. Most likely, you would get ten different answers!
Most people are as confused about this
God wants each of us to know where we stand in His eyes.
That's why it isn't mere chance that you have visited
Ask yourself, "Am I a real Christian?" You can know for sure!
What Is a Real Christian?
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
To begin, let's explore what you think makes a real
Christian. Below are some common ideas about that.
in a Christian nation
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Living a Good Life Makes You a Christian
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
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
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.
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.
Going to Church Makes You a Christian
Last Sunday four
out of ten Americans 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Talking about Jesus Christ
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
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
Praying Makes You a Christian
Christians pray. But someone can pray and still not be a
Christian. Hindus pray all the time. Muslims pray five times a
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.
Reading the Bible Makes You a Christian
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
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
What Makes You a Real Christian?
You can't be born a Christian, and if thinking positively,
living morally, going to church, giving to others, receiving a
sacrament, believing in God, talking about Jesus, praying, and
reading the Bible doesn't make you a Christian, then what does?
What is a real Christian?"
Let me mention three basic principles from God's Word that
describe a real Christian. Then I'll explain how today you can
become a real Christian.
First of all, the Bible says that a Christian is someone who
has found the way of life rather than the way of death. That
way to life is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Notice that
Jesus does not say he will show you the way. He says, "I am the way!"
Jesus also spoke of a narrow road and a wide road. Many walk
on that wide road, which in the end is the way of death (see
Do you sometimes feel as though you are lost and don't know
where you are going? When you become a Christian, you have found
the way of life.
You ask, "What kind of way is this way of life?"
is the way of peace. God's peace fills your heart when
you walk in the way of Christ. Jesus said to His followers,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to
you as the world gives" (John 14:27). God's peace is a gift
available to each of us.
When you walk in the way of Christ, you experience an inner
peace--tremendous quiet in your heart. The broken pieces in your
life are put together again. Oh, the psychiatrist can analyze
you. The psychologist can pinpoint some of the problems in your
past. But only God can give you lasting peace.
way of life is also the way of purity. The Bible says,
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew
If you are fooling around with sin; if you are playing with
immorality; if you are not being truthful in your business; if
you are dishonest in your school, in your work, in your play, in
your home--then you know nothing of the way of life.
You may consider yourself a nice person, perhaps the life and
soul of the party. But you are not a Christian, because the way
of Christ is the way of purity.
When you come to Christ, He forgives your sins and purifies
your heart. That
mean you suddenly become holier than everyone else. On the
contrary, you become more conscious of your shortcomings. But
God gives you the power to live a righteous life.
The way of life in Christ is also the way of love. "By
this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love
one another," Jesus said (John 13:35). The Bible adds, "We know
that we have passed from death to life, because we love our
brothers" (1 John 3:14).
Today, the word love has been robbed of meaning. It's
used to describe a person exploiting the emotions of another for
his own satisfaction and selfishness. But that is not love. True
love wants the very best for someone no matter what it may cost
way of life is also the way of obedience. The way of the
Christian is to serve only one master--Jesus. The Bible
describes Him as "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation
17:14). The Christian lives as though this is true. Jesus
becomes your Lord, your Master, your King. What He says goes.
The servant of a king waits for the slightest hint of a
command, then rushes to obey. A soldier following the leadership
of a great commander willingly obeys every order.
Similarly, real Christians give God complete authority over
their lives. We will go wherever He wants us to go, do whatever
He wants us to do. And we do not care what it may cost in terms
of comfort or reputation.
Jesus has every right to rule like that. Remember, He is not
supreme because He inherited authority from His ancestors like
an earthly king or lord. Nor does He rule like a corrupt
military dictator, by using great power to destroy.
Jesus is Lord and King because He made us, He gave His life
for us and our sins, and He always does what is best for us.
Second, a Christian is someone who enjoys eternal life.
He has a more full and complete life. Jesus said, "I have come
that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).
Life with Christ was not only God's original design for us;
it is the way He intends for us to live today. That is
what makes life with Christ abundant.
And eternal life never ends. It goes beyond physical
death--forever and ever.
Do you have eternal life? You may say, "Well, I'm not sure."
If I asked if you were married, would you say, "I think so"?
Or suppose I asked if you are pregnant. Would you say, "A little
bit"? Of course not! These are things you can be absolutely sure
Do you know that you have eternal life? If you're already a
Christian, you know it. Jesus said concerning those who follow
him in faith: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never
perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). Do
you have that triple security?
First He says, "I give them eternal life."
Second He says, "They shall never perish."
Third, "No one can snatch them out of My hand."
What more could you want? A Christian is someone who
discovers these three things to be true.
The Bible also says, "He who has the Son has life" (1 John
5:12). In other words, eternal life is Christ in your heart. Can
you say, "Yes, I know I have eternal life. I can remember when
Christ came into my heart"?
Furthermore, a Christian is someone who has been born into
God's family and therefore has become one of God's children.
You say, "I thought everyone was a child of God. Isn't God the
Father of all mankind?"
According to the Bible, God is the Creator of all people but
not the Father of all people. Many people don't even want him to
be their Father.
You become a member of God's family by being born into it.
The Lord Jesus said, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see
the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). What does that mean?
When you and I were born into the human family, we had no
choice about the matter. That's physical birth.
But to become a child of the heavenly Father, you must have a
spiritual birth. This happens when we repent of our sins and put
our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Every year we celebrate our physical birth with parties and
gifts. But do you remember your second birth? If not, you must
make a decision. Do you want to become a part of God's family by
receiving Christ? The Bible says, "To all who received him, to
those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become
children of God" (John 1:12).
"But My Life Is So Bad!"
A few years ago, while visiting a South American country, a
World-renowned Christian missionary spoke privately with the
president of that country, a military man. "Mr. President," he
asked, "do you know Jesus Christ?"
The president smiled and said, "I've led such a hard life
that I don't think God wants to know me very much."
"Mr. President, no matter what you've done, Christ died on
the cross for you, and He loves you. If you want to know Him,
you can meet Him right now."
As they continued to talk, the missionary explained what
Christ had done on the cross, how He died to receive the
punishment that should be ours for the wrong we have done. He
continued, "Sir, would you like to receive Christ now?"
The President paused and quite seriously said, "If Christ
will receive me, I want to become a real Christian."
Right then they bowed their heads and prayed together. This
general opened his heart to the Son of God and received Christ
into his life.
He thought God would never receive him because of his past.
But when they finished praying, he stood and in typical Latin
fashion gave the missionary a tremendous hug. "Thank you," he
said. "Now I know that Christ has really received me and
What About You?
Have you decided to trust Christ yet? Would you like to know
that you have eternal life? Would you like to start walking in
the way of Jesus Christ, knowing that you are a child of God and
that you are going to heaven?
Let me tell you how you can become a real Christian--right
now, before you finish reading this page.
Joining God's Family
First, the Bible
teaches that you must admit that your sins have separated you
from God. That's what I liked about that South American
president. He readily admitted he was a sinner. In fact, he was
so convinced of the evil and rebellion in his life that he felt
God would never receive him.
Have you ever
owned up to God about those things in your life that hurt
Him--selfishness, pride, greed, immorality, and all the rest?
Have you ever admitted that you've been walking in the way of
death? You see, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
The Bible also
says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
(Romans 3:23). That includes you and me. Is it time to own up to
God and to receive the forgiveness that He wants to give you?
must believe what Christ has done for you on the cross. The
Bible says, "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous
for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
died on the cross, He conquered death so that each of us may be
forgiven. We deserve to be punished for the wrong we have done
in God's eyes. But God sent His Son to receive our punishment in
His body on the cross (see 1 Peter 2:24).
It is like a
judge finding a prisoner guilty, taking the prisoner's place,
and receiving the sentence himself. What magnificent love!
"But I Don't
You may not
completely understand how God places the penalty for your sin on
His Son. But you do not need to understand everything all at
once. God only asks you to believe.
I have been
told that no one totally understands electricity. Scientists
talk about it as a fundamental element of all matter. They can
create electrical charges and harness electricity. But as a
Stanford University scientist once told me, "Electricity in its
essence is quite unexplainable."
become a real Christian, you may not understand it all at the
beginning. But as you read the Bible and allow God to teach you,
your understanding will grow.
The final step
you must take is to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord. You
cannot inherit faith. It's not enough to say, "My father was a
fine Christian, and I was brought up in a fine Christian home."
That will not make you one of God's children.
Christ for yourself! All of us who belong to Christ had to come
for ourselves. Have you come to Him yet? Have you ever made that
"How?" The Bible says: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus
is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the
dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you
believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you
confess and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10).
The best way I
know to make Jesus the Lord of your life is to simply bow your
head in prayer, confess your sins to God, by faith open your
heart to Christ, believe in Him, and receive Him.
If that's your
decision, then tell God now--silently if you wish--right where
you are. You may wish to use this prayer:
Father, I want to be a real Christian. I realize that my sins
have separated me from You. Please forgive me. I believe in
what Christ did for me on the cross. I don't completely
understand it, but I accept it by faith. I do want to be a
child of Yours. Please come into my life, Lord Jesus, and make
me Your child right now. I'll follow You and obey You forever.
After You Become a
Have you decided
to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior? If so, you've made the
most important decision of your life!
You now belong
to God's family, and of course you will want to get to know God
better. The best way is to read His Word. I suggest you begin
with Luke's Gospel in the New Testament. Remember that God
speaks to us through the Bible. So as you read, look for
examples to follow or instructions to obey.
yourself with the Bible. Your thoughts and emotions will begin
to change as you read the Word of God daily.
with other Christians. Find a church that believes the Bible,
honors Christ, and teaches what a real Christian is. Go to
church and talk to the minister. Say, "I received Christ," and
see what happens. If the minister doesn't seem interested in
helping you grow spiritually, then find some church that can
to pray. You talked to the Lord just now. He answered your
prayer. He loves you; He's your Father. Since communication is
the key to any relationship, your relationship with God can grow
only as you talk to Him in prayer.
have truly asked the Lord Jesus to become your Savior, you have
taken the most important step in your life. You've begun an
exciting journey that only gets better!
And now, as a
fellow Christian, I want to be the first to say, "Welcome to