First, let’s define “Christian”. A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. It means more literally, “little Christ”. A Christian is someone who has made the willful and deliberate decision to follow Jesus as Lord of All and the one who secured forgiveness for them on the cross. To understand better what I mean by Christian, let me tell you what I don’t mean by the term.
An American – Many around the world assume that if you are an American that you are a Christian by culture or by birth. This is not what I mean by Christian, and besides the notion is simply false.
Church attendance or membership – Just attending a church that worships Jesus Christ does not mean that the individual truly does. Going to church doesn’t makes someone a Christian any more than showing up at regular bar association meetings makes one a lawyer.
Family – Just because my grandparents or parents are Christians does not make me one. I have to choose to follow Jesus. Membership into the family of God is not automatic. There are no legacies. Or as someone else put it, God doesn’t have any grandchildren. We must each make that decision for ourselves.
A Gentile – In New Testament times, the term “Greek” was used by Jews to refer to anyone who wasn’t Jewish, whether or not they were actually from Greece. Likewise some will refer to someone as “Christian” because they aren’t Jewish. But this isn’t true, a non-Jew could be a follower of any religion or even none at all.
A Christian is someone who has a relationship with Jesus Christ and as a follower (disciple) “… is one who, intent upon becoming Christlike and so dwelling in his faith and practice, systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end." (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines.) The reason I call myself a Christian is because one day I chose to be a follower of Jesus Christ, declared him to be the Lord of my life, and place my temporal and eternal destiny in his hands.
Second, before I tell you the reasons I became a Christian, I want to make crystal clear what reasons do not apply to me.
I am not a Christian because my parents are. Personally, I was raised in a non-Christian home. My parents had both been baptized in their respective traditions, but after they married they did not attend a church or have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And they had never made a commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Even if my parents had been Christians, this would not make me one automatically. I would still have to choose it for myself.
I am not a Christian because I was raised that way. Personally, I was not raised a Christian. But even if I had been, being taught certain things would not make me a Christian. I would have to accept them for myself. And as an adult, I choose to believe things because they are true, not because that is how I was taught.
I am not a Christian because I like what Christianity teaches. It is naïve to choose to believe something because you like it. The definition of truth is that which corresponds to the facts. Whether or not I like Christianity has nothing to do with whether or not it is true.
I am a Christian because of Jesus. It is all about him. It is not about a religion, or a church, or a system of thinking, or a culture or other Christians. A Christian is a follower of Christ. Being a Christian isn’t about following a system of ideas; it is about knowing a person. The truth I believe in is that Jesus is my authority, and because he is my authority I believe what he teaches and those to whom he passed his teachings along. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the savior of the world, and the Lord of the universe. He is these things whether I choose to follow him or not. I choose to follow him because I need him, not because he needs me. I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for my sins and he is my advocate with the Father. And because of what Jesus did, I have been declared “right-with-God” and will spend eternity with Him.
My belief in Jesus as Lord of the universe and Lord of my life is not based on “blind-faith” or human tradition given to me by a Sunday School teacher. My reason to believe is this:
The New Testament is a historically reliable document. (It is not only historically reliable; it is the most reliable ancient document ever written.)
Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection. He also claimed for himself the same authority that belongs to God alone. He also said, “I and the Father are one.” And “he who has seen me, has seen the Father”.
The evidence found both in and outside of the New Testament is so overwhelming that a reasonable person, upon examination of the evidence and without prejudice will conclude that it is a verifiable historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead. (This is similar to the kind of “proof” given in a criminal trial where the guilt of an individual is “proved” beyond a reasonable doubt. This is not scientific proof, since past events cannot be recreated in a laboratory. But this is historic proof that demonstrates through evidence that a particular event actually happened.)
Because God raised him from the dead this vindicates him and every statement he ever made. Because he rose from the dead, as he said he would, he must be who he claimed to be.
Because Jesus is God, just as he claimed, then all of his teachings and commands are authoritative. Jesus words are God’s words.
Because Jesus affirmed the Old Testament, and affirmed the teachings of his Apostles which eventually became the New Testament, that means the Bible is the word of God.
Because the Bible is the Word of God, that means I can and should believe everything it teaches.
Because Jesus is who he claimed to be, and I can trust what the Bible says is authoritative, then I know that: He is the one and only Son of God. God is just and righteous. A just and righteous God must punish sin. All human beings are sinners and deserve punishment justly. God is also merciful, so he provided a way for sin to be punished and for sinners to be rescued. That way is found in his son, Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross for my sins.
So you see, I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and the Son of God because it is true. If I ever learned that it was not true, then I would renounce my faith. Why would I choose to believe something that I knew to be false? To do so would be intellectually dishonest and foolish.
I believe in Jesus as the Son of God because he is the Son of God. But belief or intellectual assent is not the same as trust. The Bible says that “if you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Salvation comes to all who put their trust in him. And when you put your trust in Jesus, your sins are forgiven and you are adopted into the family of God. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). And a member of God’s family has direct access to him. And so because of Jesus we can walk with God in this life and the one to come. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).
So you see, Christianity is not a religion in the same way that many other religions are. And you cannot become a Christian, by joining a club or a church or by belonging to the right family or nation. You become a Christian by trusting in Jesus as savior and following Him as Lord.