What it means to be a Christian
I understand now why the apostle Paul said to self-examine ourselves. Lately, I think I’ve forgotten what it truly means to be a Christian and what my baptism expressed not only to man, but to God. I’ve realized it’s so much more than calling myself one, reading His word, and being nice to people. It’s a transformation that reflects and mirrors the life of Jesus.
In Wes McAdams’ CrossTalk podcast “Why We Need to Get Serious About Our Sin,” it was said that “Christianity is a radical transformation about everything in our lives.” That cut me deeply in my conscience and made me realize it’s not just about believing in Jesus, but about that belief making a permanent and ever growing change in my life. Every decision, every thought, every word, and every action should be driven by Christ and Him crucified. Our lives need to look entirely different from the world. After listening to the podcast I started thinking about everything Paul was saying throughout His letters to the churches of Christ encouraging them and himself about leading a life rooted and built up in the Lord:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20): One of the most quoted verses in the God-breathed text. After I looked at the Greek word for “live,” the definition floored me. It’s an operative word–meaning the way Paul lived was so dedicated to Jesus that he allowed Him to control his life. The meaning of this passage based on this Greek word is defined as this: “Christ is living and operative in me, i. e. the holy mind and energy of Christ pervades and moves me.” People saw Jesus in Paul instead of his old self.
Later on in his letter to the Galatians, he reminded them of what their immersion in water meant:
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Him” (Galatians 3:27): The Greek word for “clothed yourselves” is endyō which means to “sink into.” Thayer’s definition went on to say, “to become so possessed with the mind of Christ as in thought, feeling and action to resemble Him and reproduce the life He lived.” Simply put, our baptism means that we have crucified our flesh and its lustful desires (Galatians 5:24). We are no longer supposed to live by the flesh, but after the Spirit. We are supposed to now walk in the footsteps of Jesus, mirroring who He is. Having the mind of Christ should become second nature for us the more we are putting in a day-to-day intentional effort of ridding ourselves of old habits and putting on godly ones (Ephesians 4:21-24).
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
The Greek word for “conformed” is syschematizo, which means “to adapt or fashion one’s self, mind and character to another’s pattern.”
The word “transformed” comes from the Greek word metamorpho, which means “change into another form (used of the change of moral character for the better).”
“Renewing” comes from the word anakainosis, signifying a renovation or “a complete change for the better.”
So what Paul is saying in this verse is to not behave according to the socially accepted standards of society, but be renewed through Jesus in all thoughts and deeds in moral uprightness that looks different from the world. We must change completely and live a counter-cultural life. The societal customs and beliefs should not be our own. How we speak, the language we use, the way we respond to the trials of life, our lifestyle practices, what we watch and listen to, and the way we treat others should be in conformity to Christ based on His word, not on our feelings and desires or what the world says is OK. We are being restored to the image God created us to be in the beginning: holy and righteous (Ephesians 4:24).
I’m not saying that the Christian walk is easy or that all of this happens overnight. I’m saying it’s about crucifying the flesh and carrying our cross daily. It’s about taking each and every day given to put off our old selves. It’s a struggle, and I’m still struggling with my old self, but, through my weakness, I’m letting Christ’s grace be sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul also said, “I discipline my body and make it my slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27a). The Greek word for discipline is hypopiazo, meaning “to beat, to strike. Figuratively to discipline by hardships.” Paul is basically saying, “Like a boxer I buffet my body, so that my flesh will no longer control me, but I can control it to keep from sinning.” He strove hard to not let his temptations cause him to sin, and he did not let life’s trials draw him away from Jesus. Let us learn from Paul, and not wear the name “Christian” and yet continue to deliberately sin and live like the world.
“Being a Christian is about living a life that is completely focused on Christ” (McAdams, 11). May we strive to live our lives fully devoted to the One who gave Himself for us so that we can walk in the newness of life.
“[Christianity] is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.”
— A.W. Tozer