How often have you heard America referred to as “a Christian nation?” According to a poll by The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, 78.4% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. This is an interesting statistic. If true, then it means that three out of for people you meet today should be easily identifiable by their actions and attitudes and by their walk and their talk.
So what does it mean to BE a Christian?
As Christians, first and foremost we should be identified in Christ Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV)
So the first mark of a Christian is to become a new creation. This means that we must have had a change in us. If I buy a new pair of jeans, the designation of new means that they are different from any other jeans I have worn before. So it is with Christ. Once I become a Christian, the old me has been replaced by this new identity in Christ.
In John 15:5, Jesus says to us,
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
The second mark of a Christian is to be intimately connected with Christ. The word abide here in this passage is indicative of this kind of relationship. The picture here is of a vine and branches. Picture a mighty oak tree. Its branches stretch and twist to the sky and on the end of one of the uppermost limbs is a small acorn. That acorn is connected to the little branch by a skinny stem. That little branch works its way back to the larger branches and all the way back to the trunk itself. The trunk sinks into the ground where a massive root system anchors that tree and provides nutrients for growth and stability. This is the kind of connection that we must have in Christ. If the acorn falls from the tree it is apt to be plucked up by an animal, ground underfoot by a passerby or rot back into the dirt. Only when it is connected to the tree can it grow to fullness.
As Christians, you and I are like that tiny acorn. When we are connected to Christ, we are fruitful, producing fruit in the form of kindness, gentleness, love, respect, etc. This connectedness to Christ forms our identity as Christians.
When we consider our identity, we must not overlook the importance of being connected to Jesus. On our own we may take His name, but there will be no lasting change in us. What’s worse, we tend to do more damage to the name of Christ when we aren’t truly connected to Him, because our sin nature kicks in and takes us places we don’t wish to go.
If you have accepted the name of Christ then remember,
It is His name we bear,
His Spirit inside of us,
His Word we study,
His will we seek and
His Cross we bear.