What does it take to become a Christian? Joining a church? Believing in the teachings of Jesus? Having faith? Even atheists can believe in the morality of Christian philosophy of “do unto others…”
It took me many years to understand what it is to be a Christian. I was raised in the Catholic Church but became an atheist at the age of 12. At 17 friends and teachers guided me to books that led me to God. Great Christian authors like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Felix Salten taught me Christianity through morality tales. In college at 19 a couple of Christian friends told me more about Christ, but it took me till I was 29 before I truly became a Christian.
Since then my life has been anything but rainbows and roses. As I learned after becoming a Christian that didn’t automatically remove sin from your life. What most people don’t understand is that becoming a Christian is not about leading a sinless life, it’s about being forgiven.
What does it take to become a Christian? Does joining a church make you a Christian? The answer to that simply understanding what membership means. Does joining the Army make you a warrior? They can take you in and train you to be a soldier, but it’s not until you go into battle that you discover you have the heart of a wimp or a warrior.
Does believing in the teachings of Jesus make you a Christian? Is Christian philosophy a deciding factor in making you a Christian? Believing in the Golden Rule, “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you,” is a part of Christian philosophy but not the heart of it. Jesus had two Commands; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27
Atheists believe in the Golden Rule. Anyone with any moral understanding of what is good and right believes in that. Does that make atheists Christians, too? Does living a moral and righteous life make you a Christian? Jesus said He knows His own, so even those born before Christ He will know. But does that make the opposite is true that anyone who knows of Jesus is automatically a Christian?
Jesus is called the Messiah, Son of God, and Savior who died for our sins. Does that mean that the sin of all mankind is forgiven automatically? Much is said of God’s “unconditional love” of man, but is His love so completely unconditional? As I learned, forgiveness is freely offered by God’s Love, but you have to have the heart to accept His love. The truth of this is found in what is said in the Bible:
- When Jesus was baptized God spoke and said, “You are my Son, whom I love; in you I am well pleased.” – Luke 1:11.
- Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
Having faith is more than just believing in a philosophy. As an intellectual, I had a great deal of difficulty coming to faith. Science knows a great deal about our physical universe, but it knows nothing of our spiritual hearts. The Bible, like history, is rife with contradictions. But knowledge is not the same as wisdom which must be guided by morality.
Of the many sects of Christianity that have a variety of beliefs of what is true in the Bible and what it means there is only one factor that makes the difference between being a Christian and being a Christian wannabe and that is faith in Christ as the Messiah. It’s easy to have a philosophy, to know what is right and wrong, or good and bad. But just as understanding that these are not synonymous, so, too, is the difference between intellectual Christian philosophy and Christian faith.
If you have it in your heart to love God and accept Christ as your Savior all you need do is ask Jesus to come into your heart. Like the soldier on the battlefield when faced with the reality of life and death in this temporary life, we all have the choice to make a fight or flight, of faith or fraud. And lest we forget, despite knowing right from wrong, regardless of having faith in Christ, we are all born and live our lives as sinners so be wary of becoming the self-righteous hypocrite.
There is a vast gulf between believing in the philosophy of Jesus and having faith in the Resurrected Christ as Savior.
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