A Christian And What It means

What It Means to Be One
Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (Act_26:28).
 Good causes often suffer more at the hands of nominal adherents who praise them faintly than at the hands of sincere opposers who condemn them fiercely. Agrippa, who was “almost persuaded,” never, so far as we know, ever really became a Christian, but Saul, the persecutor, turned about and served Christ with a zeal quite as hot as that with which he formerly opposed Him.
We who have been born and bred in “Christian lands” are likely to accept Christianity as a matter of race, nation or culture, and account ourselves as Christians only because we are not Hindus, Mohammedans or Buddhists. Or we may account ourselves Christians because our parents were Christians before us and had us christened in our infancy. Or we may have been brought into the membership of the church in some “decision day” movement, and we continue to think of ourselves as Christians because we are listed as church members. Or we may base our claim and rest our hope on the fact that we have been baptized with water, or that we do sometimes partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or that we take some more or less regular part in “church work.”
But none of us, regardless of our standards, can deny the danger of being deceived by shadows and appearances to such a length that our Christianity will not be genuine, and will not do for us what we require to have done, that we may live as we should in this world and enjoy eternal life in the world to come.
Unthinking people sometimes list Christianity as just one of the great religions of the world, and make cold comparisons between it and others, as though they were all in the same class and on the same level. And in calling for toleration, men sometimes base their exhortations upon the idea that none of us actually knows, and that therefore we should be liberal with those who think they know. But this was not the attitude of our Master nor of His apostles. The attitude then was that Christ alone is Savior, and that His religion is to replace all others, and that none but His is to prevail in the end.
Then there are some, even some that should know better, who would make Christianity a thing of degrees, and would deny all definite distinctions between sinners and saints. They would tell us that all men are partly bad and partly good, and that just as no one is really a sinner, so no one is truly a saint, and that we must just take people as they are and try to make them all better than they now are.
It should not be necessary to use any qualifying adjectives in connection with the term Christian, but since there is no clear way to describe the stages and degrees of approach otherwise, let us come to the definite statement that there is such a being as a true Christian, and that this true Christian can be described on the side of the minimum approach. Jesus assured one man that he was not far from the kingdom of God, and King Agrippa was “almost persuaded,” but we have no warrant in either case to list the man involved as saved and right with God. Being close is yet not getting in, and being almost persuaded is not being altogether persuaded. There is a line over which a man from the world must pass before he can properly be inscribed as a Christian. There is no maximum limit in sainthood, for ought we know, even in heaven there will be growth and progress in likeness to and fellowship with our ever-adorable Lord.
Many times in pagan and heathen lands I have been called upon to explain simply and clearly what it is to be a Christian, and at such times I have found my task more difficult than I anticipated. Accustomed to depending upon my hearers to have about all the fundamental knowledge that is required of Christians, and being accustomed principally to exhorting men to do what they already know, I have found it an exacting task to tell those who do not know, just what it means to be a true Christian.
In our day we are very much given to maxims, and to sentence summaries. But there is always the danger that a partial truth may be taken for a whole truth, and in this light the partial truth becomes an untruth. You may describe a point with a word, and a line with a sentence, but if you have something with volume for your subject you will need paragraphs and even pages.
Suppose we undertake to describe a house. We shall need to approach that house from the front, from its sides, from the rear, and we shall need to go inside and examine its arrangements and its furnishings. Then we shall need to make for ourselves a picture in which the idea suggested from the various perspectives are all included. It is like this with anything that has dimensions and possesses volume. It is like this with Christianity. You cannot describe it with a word or a sentence. You must needs give a description that involves more than one approach.
Everyone you meet is either a Christian or he is not a Christian. There is no neutral ground, and no man can serve God and not serve Him at the same time. Every person in the world is either for Christ or he is against Him. And this is not saying any more or any other than Jesus Christ and the apostles said.
We are not speaking of maximums and superlatives now, we are speaking only of minimums and positives. What is it to be a Christian? What are the factors and functions that are ever present when one is a Christian, and never all there except when he is a Christian?
In my anxiety to be both plain and instant, I am tempted to state just a condition, like faith, and let it go at that. Jesus himself stated Christianity in terms of its condition only, one time when He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” But remember He was here simply stating conditions, and was not giving the content of results.
Perhaps we had better go back and bring up again our figure of a house. Perhaps we had better admit that we cannot describe the house which is Christianity from one approach only. Approaching it from one, the front, Christianity is a creed to be believed; approaching it from the side, Christianity is a life to be lived; entering and viewing it from within, Christianity is an experience to be enjoyed. The true Christian is a Christian in doctrine, in life and in experience, all. If we define it in terms of doctrine only, we shall define but its intellectual phase. If we define it in terms of life we shall define it only in its practical and ethical phase. If we define it in terms of experience only we shall still give but a partial description, and our omissions will despoil our definition of its value.

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