What is a Christian?

Many people wonder "what is a Christian?" In this section of our website we try to answer some of the common questions about our faith.

(With grateful thanks to Christchurch Peckham for allowing us to reproduce the text from their website.)

Pcture of baby being baptisedI was christened as a baby and have been to church a few times. Does that make me a Christian?

Being a Christian is not like being a member of a club. It is not about what you do or what you wear, or about coming to church and that being enough. Being a Christian is about what you believe and where you put your trust.

I tell the odd white lie but I am not too bad. Surely I will go to heaven?

Jesus said, "No-one is good except God alone." (Mark 10:18).

God's standards are perfection and none of us match up to that, which means that we are faced with a problem: if God's standards for getting into heaven are perfection, and we are not perfect - we can't get to heaven on our own. A Christian is someone who acknowledges that fact and, by faith, puts their trust in God for the solution.

Picture of rainbowWon't I get to heaven anyway, no matter what I believe?

Jesus Christ said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

So it is not just about having a faith in something or anything. It matters who you believe in. You will get to heaven by believing in Christ, and him alone, as the one who died to pay for our mistakes, our lack of perfection.

OK, I believe that God exists, but I am not sure what I think about Jesus. That is alright though, isn't it?

When Paul wrote to the church in Rome he said, "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." (Romans 10:9).

Jesus is God's son and he is the one who reveals to all of us what God is like. It is by trusting in him that we are rescued.

Picture of a list of rulesBut Christianity is just a set of rules and regulations. That doesn't sound like fun!

Actually, Christianity isn't about what we do, but about what has already been done for us.

Lots of other religions burden you with what you have to do, how often you have to pray, etc. We don't have to do, we have to trust and believe.

Jesus Christ, who was perfect, offered his life as a sacrifice in our place, so that we can get to heaven. We, who are not perfect, can do nothing but trust in Christ and believe that his death has rescued us.

Why can’t I do what I want now and think about this later on?

In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus tells the story of a man who has a plentiful harvest and stores up great wealth for himself. All he thinks about is how he will spend his money and further increase his wealth.

Picture of ripe wheatfieldBut God says to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20)

The man was so concerned with living a comfortable life on earth that he wasn’t prepared for what would happen so when he died - he had left it too late.

We can be encouraged that God is patiently waiting for us to turn to him, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

But none of us should leave it too late like the rich fool.

The church doesn’t have a great history, and doesn’t seem to be very tolerant. Why should I come along?

Picture of hands reaching to each otherYes, some people in the church have made mistakes in the past and we should be ashamed of some of our history. it is far from perfect because it is a human and imperfect organisation.  

The church is actually full of people who are trying to be the best that they can be; people who recognise that only with God’s help (as revealed in Jesus) can they achieve this goal.

So if you find life a struggle sometimes and would like to be pleasantly surprised as to what you might be able to do then the church is a place where one can receive support from fellow travellers. It often acts as a family where one enjoys love and care in the tough times. It is a community where you can question – yes we all have doubts that we sometimes wrestle with. Church is also a place where you can have fun and laugh because life is often funny. It is a place where you can make a difference and have the opportunity of being fulfilled.

So what is a Christian then?

God created a perfect world and created us to look after the world for him, but we were not happy with that and wanted to have his knowledge and power as well. This created a problem. Our relationship with God and with each other was broken and death entered the world.

This is a bad situation, but it is not the end of the story. Enter Jesus, God’s Son. He lived a perfect life but he was put to death; to die, like a criminal, on a cross. Why did he die when he was perfect? He died in our place, to pay the price for our rebellion against God so that we could be forgiven.

But three days later Jesus was raised to life. This shows us that death is not the end, and that we can have new life in Christ. A Christian is someone who believes and accepts this and continues to trust in Christ each day.