What Makes a Christian

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What is required in order for someone to be a Christian?  Is it a prayer?  Is it a certain doctrinal statement?   Is it a particular church?  Is it a particular strain of practice?  Is it being good?  What makes a Christian?

This morning, while studying the Bible with our Social Justice students at Crown (see chalk art above), I wrestled with what God wants from people that call God theirs.  We looked at these two passages:

  • Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O Man, what is good.  And what does the Lord requires of you? To ACT JUSTLY and to LOVE MERCY and to WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD.
  • Mark 12:29-31 – "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  LOVE THE LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  The second is this: 'LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR as yourself.'  There is no commandment greater than these."

With these words in mind, we searched for God's heart.  I became convicted that a true Christian is someone who follows the LAW of God.  The Christian life is not a list of commands, not a rule-book, not a set of bylaws.  The Christian life involves the personal, practical implementation of God's commands.  Namely, God wants his people to follow his LAW.  God wants people to LOVE, ACT, and WALK.  A follower of God is supposed to love the One True God with all their being, to act genuinely-altruistically towards others, and to walk in humility in a living relationship with God.  Inherent to the Christian life is a posture of obedience, a gospel of response, and an intimacy of theological practice. 

In Micah 6, those who have identified themselves as God's people actually stand judged before God.  They are arrogant in their religious practices and passive in their response to injustice.  God doesn't want their inherited religious practices.  God wants something other the doctrine and location and words of these religious people (identified in a personal, collective sweep as "Man").  He doesn't want their arrogant sacrifices.  God wants them to follow His LAW.  If they don't, they stand judged.  Their injustice demands justice from the hands of God, even if they cry "Lord, Lord" (see Matthew 25).

In Mark 12, those who have identified themselves as God's people are infighting about doctrines and debates and end times and conjectural specifics of eternal existences (I know!).  Each particular sub group of the religious culture considers itself better than the others, more right than the others, more close to the right hand of God in the Kingdom.  They fight over who holds the truth and who stands condemned and who is the heretic.  Some reject Scriptural teachings and some place a stranglehold on Scriptural teachings.  And Jesus isn't impressed.  He doesn't want their arrogant sacrifices.  Jesus wants them to follow his LAW.  Watch out for the "righteous" who devour the houses of widows, he says.  Instead, Jesus suggests that people should give out of the poverty of their spirit, like the poor widow who gave her only coins to the Lord.  After all, injustice demands justice from the hands of God.

This challenges me.  Am I someone who lives Micah 6:8 and Mark 12:29-31… OR… am I someone who lives the other parts of those chapters?  What should I do right now, today, this week in order to better reflect the LAW of God in my life?  And am I ready to demonstrate God's true LAW living in me?  Am I ready for the impact such a life would have on others?  Or would I honestly rather want people to see my piety instead?

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

2 thoughts on “What Makes a Christian

  1. Jmh73 – Thanks for your comment! Thanks for the 2 Chronicles reference. Verse 17 of that chapter is really interesting to me…
    I had Deut 10 in mind during our class discussion this morning too. Verses 12-20.
    Blessings!

    Like

  2. I love the thesis statements of the Bible, rich with text and messages from above we can often get lost in the details … yet occasionally (the two above … 2 Chron 7:14 is another, can’t remember more off the top of my head – that in itself is telling) we are brought back to the root message.
    Infighting between Christian groups can be stopped when we step back and look at the big picture (ie – believe the same creeds / worship God / agree Christ died for our sins) … sure we’ve got differences and that’s what makes this world great …
    “birds of a feather flock together” is simple minded and it hurts because it seperates us from them in any form it takes … conversely other attitudes are more progressive “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
    thanks for the post / thought.
    jmh73

    Like

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