The term "Christian" is widely used to describe those who believe in Jesus Christ. The Bible uses the word Christian only three times (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), and reveals an individual must be called by God to be considered a Christian.
In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus stated "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). In other words, only some answer the invitation to come "out of darkness into [God's] marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
We are also told what kind of people God calls: "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty" (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
Often those considered righteous can, in reality, be self-righteous. While those of lower standing are more likely to realise their inadequacy and the need to repent of their sins, appreciating the forgiveness made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (Matthew 21:23, 31-32).
Most people think God is now calling the majority of humanity, but Christ's true followers are described as a "little flock" (Luke 12:32). Even if all people classified as "Christian" were genuinely called of God, there still are far more who do not recognize Christ and in many cases have not even heard His name.
God has revealed in His Word that He has a magnificent plan through which all will ultimately come to know Him and His way of life. This plan of salvation makes it clear God is not attempting to call the majority in this present age of man. (To learn more click on the following links or order your free copy Why Were You Born? and God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind)
As Adam and Eve did, most human beings try to determine right and wrong for themselves, rejecting God's revelation. These wrong choices and decisions also extend to the way we worship God. Jesus made it clear that merely using His name does not make us Christian. "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).
Christ warned about instituting our own practices and doctrines: "...'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9). Jesus was highlighting that although God is clearly the object of their worship, since they choose to worship Him in their own way, as opposed to the way God tells us to worship Him, such worship is vain and useless.
A true Christian must truly repent. After the apostle Peter's powerful sermon on the day the New Testament Church began, many recognized Jesus was crucified because of their sins (Acts 2:37) and asked "... what shall we do?” Peter answered: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… " (verses 37-39).
Repentance is far more than an emotional experience. It is a life-changing process, requiring more explanation than is possible here. (To understand this process of repentance and conversion, click on the following links or request the free Bible study aids The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.)
After genuine repentance, Peter instructs we must be baptized (Acts 2:38). The Greek word ‘baptisma’ (baptism) refers to the "processes of immersion, submersion, and emergence" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Baptism, Baptist, Baptize").
Water baptism is a physical act designed to teach us a vital spiritual lesson. Baptism is described in Romans 6 as representing our death, burial and resurrection to new life through Jesus Christ (verses 3-13). "Baptism" performed through sprinkling or pouring fails to fulfil the symbolism of this important ceremony.
Following water baptism, God offers His Holy Spirit to the repentant believer: "... You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit enables Christians to understand spiritual things—"the things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11), in order to build godly character and show evidence of God at work in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:6-7).
It is a fantastic privilege to be a Christian in this age, but one that requires dedication and carries heavy responsibility. A true Christian must be willing to always put God first (Matthew 6:33).
The Good News Magazine