How I Would Explain What It Means to Be a Christian (in 2 minutes or less)

First of all, let me say thank you to so many of you who responded to my last blog about the minimum it takes to be a Christian. It was good to see a wide range responses.

At first the responses were primarily propositional. Believe. Confess (with the qualification that confession might be an act of obedience stemming from conversion).

But then the responses turned a little more toward a narrative of following Christ. Walking with him. Being his disciple. Love.

There also was the interesting clarification that being a Christian and becoming a Christian are really two different questions.

I am still convinced that however we define Christianity, it has to be something that works for both Jesus and Paul. Jesus says, “Follow me.” Paul says, “Here is a clearer definition of what that look alike, especially how you start following.

I also appreciate the restraint shown by not overloading conversion with all the extras, and the willingness that many of you showed in letting the Spirit work over time to bring clarity to one’s own conversion, i.e., you don’t have to know everything at first.

Okay, so what’s next? There are many directions I could go, but I like John 3:16. It is familiar, so if you use it there is a greater chance the person will have heard it. But look at the affirmations of the verse.

1. There is a God, a Creator.

2. He is a “person” in that he is personal, and he loves.

3. His love impelled him to action, to do something about our alienation from God (which needs to be extrapolated).

4. The gospel is centered in Christ, and what he means for God to have “given” him.  This is the theology of the cross and the atonement, who he is and what he has done.

5. A response is required from us, a response of believing, which means that we believe he is who he says he is (God) and that he has done what he said he would do (provide the means of forgiveness so we can live in relationship with God, in his presence. But here is the hard part: what actually does it mean to “believe”? How do we separate mental assent from a momentary feeling from a giving of oneself (in which we know from Paul includes a regeneration).

6. The result is that we will not live in judgment of our sins but will live in relationship with him for ever, both on earth and eventually in heaven.

So how to say this in two minutes Let me give a shot at it.

“A Christian is a person who follows Jesus. This is a person who has come to realize that God loves the world, and therefore gave his Son to the world, Jesus lived a sinless life and yet died as the penalty for our sin so that God could embrace his creation once again. When we decide to follow Jesus, we decide that there is nothing I can do it initiate the relationship with God, but rather God in Christ has done on the cross what I could to do for myself. When we believe this about Jesus and commit ourselves to him, including being willing to  confess this in public, we can know that we have passed through judgment to life, a life in which we walk in relationship for Jesus.

What do you think?

14 thoughts on “How I Would Explain What It Means to Be a Christian (in 2 minutes or less)

  1. Proff. Mounce

    You have presented a question that I have been taught has an answer.
    {But here is the hard part: what actually does it mean to “believe”? How do we separate mental assent from a momentary feeling from a giving of oneself (in which we know from Paul includes a regeneration).}
    This question sounds similar to John MacArthur’s Lordship salvation presentation. I think we have put the cart before the horse. We must clarify exactly what they are believing because even the demons believe (James 2:9). We must say that the demons have a mental assent and their eternal destiny is Hell. Therefore, what must a person believe?
    The belief a person must have is a belief that Jesus paid the price that God demands for the remission of sins. It manifests in a form that is hard for humans to discern. It is manifest as repentance and trust. It is a turning from their law breaking life and trusting Jesus at His word. It is also a trusting that Jesus is true to His word when He says, “It is finished.” Only God knows if someone is repentant and trusting. We can assume a person is repentant when they quit sinning. We can assume a person is trusting when they are thankful for what Christ has done on the cross, but we are not God. We don’t know the truth of someone’s eternal destination because we can’t see if they truly believe or if they truly trust.
    Why else would the summation of sermons from Jesus be “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” Matt 4:17. The believer that Jesus is looking for is repentant. Repentance is evidence of a contrite heart.
    Trusting Jesus at His word is the second half of belief. I would call the evidence of people failing to believe falls back to the Judaizer’s scenario in Acts. The Judaizers were repentant we can see that because they are good at abiding in the laws. They did not trust Jesus because they claim that abiding in the law is how one earns salvation.
    So what should we do then? If we believe, we show the world we are repentant by obeying the law. If we trust Him, we show the world we are trusting Jesus by living in a manner that Glorifies Him and not our selves. So I ask; Do people see you, or do they see Jesus? Would people attempt to insult you by calling you a little Jesus?

    1. You say, “We can assume a person is repentant when they quit sinning.” But then is anyone every truly repentant, since none of us ever stops sinning?

  2. “We start out in love, love goes out from us. Eventually as part of the maturing process we (some of us) realize that our love goes beyond Mother, family, home; that our love embraces the entire world, flawed though it may be, and this is the first great thing that we do as humans. Even atheists get this far easily, often using words like “beautiful” “awe” “amazement” rather than “love”, but with the same sense.

    “The essential point is to realize that the universe is loving us back. We experience the inflow of what we call Grace. Realizing that we are loved, we desire to love better, and this is what Jesus was sent into the world to show us how to do. What his church, rightly functioning, always teaches: to love “the world” – “all that there is” – that which loves us – by loving what is under our noses. We “follow Jesus” by doing as he did: healing; comforting; sharing food; unbinding from captivity to circumstance; accepting necessity. Once we start to love and attend to the small broken things all around, we find that inside ourselves which actively aids us. A voice our own but not our self that guides. Grace flows not just inwards to us, but outwards from us; and we have begun to live a Christian life.”

  3. Here’s a question that came in by email: “when you say “not overloading with all the extras” and “you don’t have to know everything at once” are you talking about repentance?”

    1. No, I mean that people are willing to show a try to get to the minimum and not require a lot of things of people in conversion. And certainly repentance is part of the minimum, both acknowledging your wring thinking and turning your behavior.

  4. And here’s another email comment:

    Could we not simply say – a Christian is a person for whom the Jesus of the Bible is the King of their whole life?

    King carries with it the idea of a kingdom, national identity, To say some who just follows Jesus doesn’t carry the idea of obedience, lordship, etc. etc. and the whole character of who Jesus is and the whole of a Christians purpose, thinking, actions and so on are defined by the Bible.

    Or is that too simplistic?

    1. I fall in the Lordship camp — hopefully without the legalism — but I would not say this is accurate for conversion. How many of us truly submit all we are to our King? None I would venture. None of us are perfect. So if we user “King” type language, we need to define it. Something like surrendering ourselves to God as Savior and King.

  5. Your entire blog, especially the 2-minute part, is right on target. I do have one tiny editorial comment, though. When you said “…Christ has done on the cross what I could to do for myself…” I presume that you meant “… what I could NOT do for myself…” Sorry for being picky!!!

    Many other world religions preach either a vengeful deity that is waiting to hammer wrongdoers for their action, or they place so many steps to their paradise or “heaven” that it cannot be reached. I think that we should also stress that God sent Jesus not to condemn us, but to save us. Christians do not have to jump through hoops, or cower waiting to be struck. We just have to believe. Once we believe, we have fellowship with God who loves us.

  6. Bill – If the person to whom you are speaking is not familiar with Christian terminology, then will they understand what sin is? I wonder whether your two minute presentation isn’t somewhat incomplete …

    I’d tend to present what a Christian is in this sort of way …

    A Christian is someone who believes that there is only one God who created everything that we see. That God created mankind to live in a joyful relationship of trust in and dependence on Him, ruling over the world on His behalf. But our first parents chose independence from God and disobeyed Him placing themselves under His just condemnation and judgement. But God had already determined to save men from this judgement by giving His own Son, Jesus, in their place. Jesus entered creation, became human, lived a life of perfect obedience to God and then died, an innocent man, in the place of everyone who trusts in Him. So a Christian is someone who confesses that he has sinned against God and is worthy of His judgement, who places his trust only in what Jesus has done and who, with Jesus’ help turns away from sin and towards a life that pleases God. A Christian is a person who is restored to a right relationship with God, adopted into His family and assured that he will live with God forever.

    (And that only takes just over a minute!)

  7. A Christian is a person that God has restored to fellowship with Him according to His terms.

    Everything or anything else is just filling in the blanks.

    1. I like it, except that our conversations on evangelism would need to fill in some of the blanks. But the basic thrust is excellent I think.

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