It is important to understand that a person is not necessarily a Christian because he was born into a Christian nation, culture or home. Nobody in this world is naturally born a Christian. Even though a person may associate with or approve of Christian principles, that does not make him a Christian. There is no way that anybody can be a Christian by his own strength of character, willpower, knowledge, talents, sense of righteousness, or sensitive feelings.
Corrupted by sin
The human race is by nature completely corrupted by sin. These sins are known to every human on earth, Christians and non-Christians alike. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander, magic arts, impurity and many more. (Mark 7:21) All people are bound by these sins to a greater or lesser degree. Because of these sins, man is not acceptable to God; we are enemies of God because of it. A Christian, then, is somebody who has come to an understanding of the seriousness of being an enemy of God. For how can anyone living in sin be well-pleasing to the Almighty?
With this understanding, this man or woman has repented from their former life and has become a Christian. In other words, a Christian is somebody that has been converted. “Being converted,” or “giving your life to Jesus” is not just an expression; it means something real. We are converted from something to something. For example, from ignorance to understanding, or from “wasting time” to “doing useful work,” or from self-love to loving one another and doing good to one another. So being converted is to turn away from evil, to do the will of God.
A Savior is needed
The heart knows its need for a Savior, somebody to rescue him/her from this indwelling sin. The submission to God, or as we have said before, conversion, becomes an act of faith. Faith that God will free a person from the power of sin so that he may live a life here on earth that is well-pleasing to God. The person that has made such a commitment has become a “Christian.”
So a Christian is saved from something—from something evil to something good. This does not happen in one moment. A Christian may receive the forgiveness of sins in one moment, but that is only the beginning of a constant work of salvation thereafter. After conversion, he is saved little by little from more and more of all the sin that clings so firmly to him. He is therefore constantly growing and increasing in salvation. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, lived a life here on earth which was well-pleasing to God. In fact, in God’s power, He conquered all sin common to man. Thereby He became our Savior. As He lived, so we too can now live in victory over sin. To this end, He has given us the power of His Holy Spirit, who guides and strengthens us to overcome that to which we are still bound, even though we are a Christian and have been converted.
Christian versus being religious
The word “Christian” means “like Christ,” or “to be like Christ.” It is therefore something totally different from being religious. Being religious is the same as being interested in religion, or having religious inclinations. There are many different religions and many kinds of religiosity, even among those who read the Bible.
However, being a Christian means to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ and to be as He was in this world. The emphasis here is on doing, and not being hypocritical. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21. Here we see that we do not enter the kingdom of God solely on the grounds that Jesus Christ, the Just One, died for us. Faith in Him must also result in doing righteousness in our personal lives. (2 Timothy 2:19,22)