What Does It Mean To Be A True Christian?
I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. John 3:3
Jesus laid it on the line with His followers. Unlike a lot of religious leaders today who temper their messages, thinking of their retirement benefits and the fact that their popularity with people who contribute to the church is very important, He never sugar-coated the Gospel.
Frankly, a lot of people were offended at what He said, including the religious leaders of His day, because He didn’t varnish the truth or withhold facts which might be upsetting to his popularity. Jesus defined this whole issue in terms of discipleship, which is what being a Christian is all about. Luke tells how Jesus often said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). That’s straight talk in any language! Again, He said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).
There are four marks of a true Christian, and apart from these, I would have serious doubts as to whether or not I am a Christian. Joining a church or a religious organization is not one of them. How much you give to charitable work doesn’t make the list either. Instead, these marks deal with your heart and attitudes. These marks are commitment, conversion, confession, and change.
The second mark of a true Christian, and the one I would like to focus on today, is CONVERSION. In fact, the very word means a turn-about face. Peter Marshall, the late chaplain of the U.S. Senate, described it as a tap on the shoulder when you are going one direction, and you hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Come, follow Me!” and you turn around and head the opposite direction.
One expression that the Bible uses for this is being “born again,” or as some say, to be saved. Let me illustrate with a true story.
It involves a man who was walking along a mountain road near Craig, Colorado, badly beaten, with both his wallet and his memory gone. Who was he? The only clue was a bracelet near the place he was discovered, bearing the letters S-H-E-R. The authorities tried everything to identify him: police and military records, insurance companies and the FBI. They even ran his picture in newspapers, but nothing turned up. Based on the SHER on the ID bracelet, the young man took the name Sherman and started to carve out a new life for himself. He worked as a policeman, then a driver, and eventually he held a variety of jobs. He wanted to marry, but he had this nagging fear that he might already be married.
Then it happened… After almost 20 years of uncertainty, an address popped into his mind–something about his childhood. That was the clue that allowed police to trace his true identity. In time, he discovered that he was really Robert Sheridan. What a joyful reunion as he was reunited with his family. He described it saying, “It was just like being born again!”
That is a good picture of what it means to be really born again. Here is how Jesus put it: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). There are many things in life of which you can afford to be ignorant, but this is not one of them. When God touches your life, it will never be the same, and you wouldn’t go back for anything in the world. Being “born again” isn’t an emotional experience, it is a life-changing experience that changes your future and your hope and direction!
Resource reading: John 3:1-21.