What is a Christian? part 4
Sometime or other, between the cradle and the grave, all who would be saved must be made alive. The words which good old Berridge had engraven on his tombstone are faithful and true: ‘Reader! Art thou born again? Remember! No salvation without a new birth.’
The Christian then is a person who has been radically changed by the supernatural power of God. This wonderful work of God is usually carried on in connection with the preaching of the Bible. I Peter 1:23, 25 reads, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.” James 1:18 declares, “Of his own will begat he (God) us with the word of truth.” Ephesians 1: 13 reads, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Romans 10:17 testifies, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I Corinthians 1:21 says, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” As the word of God is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit wings those words like arrows into the hearts of sinners. The word breaks through the high walls of sin and creates new life at the center of the sinner’s personality. He then begins to think differently. He begins to think God’s thoughts after Him. He feels differently. His likes and dislikes change so that he loves the things of God. His will works differently. He decides to break with sin, believe on the Lord, and follow Jesus Christ. He now begins to pattern his life according to the truth of God instead of according to his own opinions or the opinions of other men. All of this is the result, not of man’s own efforts, but of the supernatural power of God, who is at work in that person’s life.
Secondly the Bible declares that a Christian is a person who has become and is becoming increasingly aware of his own unworthiness in the sight of God. He realizes that he is a sinner by practice. He realizes that he has broken the laws of God and thus deserves to be condemned by God. The Christian reads of the prodigal son who wandered away from his father and wasted his substance in riotous living and he says, “I am that prodigal son who wandered away from my heavenly Father and wasted all that God has given me in riotous living.” He reads of the prodigal coming to himself and recognizing how he has grieved his father and says, “I am that prodigal who has come to the realization of how I have sinned against my heavenly Father and grieved him.” He reads of the prodigal coming to the father and saying, “I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight and am no more worthy to be called thy son,” and says, “I need to confess my sins to my heavenly Father.” He reads the declaration of John “that whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4) and he says, “I have sinned because I have transgressed the law of God. I have broken God’s commandments. I am a sinner by practice.”
But the Christian is a person who is not only aware that he is a sinner by practice; he also is becoming increasingly aware that he is a sinner by nature. He recognizes that the nature with which he was born is a nature that is in rebellion against God and which if unrestrained is capable of the worst of sins. He reads of Paul saying in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of death?” and he says, “I know what Paul is talking about, “for when I would do good evil is present with me. I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind” (Romans 7:21-23).
A Christian is a person who comes to God as David in Psalm 51 and says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” He is concerned not only about sinful actions but sinful attitudes. He is concerned not only about sinful deeds but sinful thoughts. He believes that Jeremiah was describing his heart when Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Christian accepts God’s statements about the depths, the potential, and the dessert of his sins. The Christian doesn’t know fully the depth of his guilt but he knows and senses that God would be perfectly just in condemning him to hell. Thus he comes to God not to bargain or barter but to plead as the publican in Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me the sinner.” The Christian doesn’t know fully the depth of his corruption, but he is aware that his “old nature” (the nature with which he was born) is incurably wicked and capable of great wickedness. He is aware that his carnal mind was enmity against God and could not be subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7, 8). He is aware of his need for a new heart, for a new nature. He is in full agreement with Jesus Christ who said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). The Christian then is a person who recognizes that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.” He revels and rejoices in the fact that salvation is all of grace. He has no confidence in the flesh to save or to keep himself saved. He is cast completely on the Lord and upon His mercy. (Other verses which teach that we are sinners by practice and nature are: Romans 3:9-19; 3:23; 8:7, 8; Psalm l0:4; 53:l-3; 58:3; 143:2; II Chronicles 6:36; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Genesis 6:5; Proverbs 22:15; Jeremiah 13:23; Mark 7:21-23; John 3: 19; 8:44, 34; Ephesians 2:2, 3; II Timothy 3:4; I John 1:10.)
Thirdly, the Christian is a person who believes that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh and the only Savior and substitute of sinners. In Matthew 21:10 when Jesus came riding into the City of Jerusalem on the day that we celebrate as Palm Sunday, the whole city was stirred and began to ask the question, “Who is this?” This is a tremendously important question because there has never been another person who has affected the history of the world or the individual lives of people as has the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible unmistakably tells us who Jesus Christ is. Any person who is uncertain about the identity of Jesus Christ is uncertain either because he has never studied the Bible or because he is not willing to accept what the Bible has to say about this person Jesus Christ.
Watch for part 5 soon!
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