I call myself a Christian. But that title doesn’t mean the same thing to all people. To some, it’s a traditional or cultural identifier. To others it is a religious label portending rules, rites, and recitations meant to somehow bring yourself closer to God. Still others see Christians as members of a repressive, man-made institution meant to transfer power from ignorant fools to religious leaders.
However, since the word Christian translates from the Greek (Christianos) as “follower of Christ”, it only makes sense that Jesus Christ be the only authority to define what that is. In John 12:46 Jesus laid it out like this: “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
Again in John 3:16-18 Jesus said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Did you catch that? Whoever believes in Jesus is saved from judgement and has eternal life with him. So following Jesus or becoming a Christian is not about being a good person (Jesus said there are none who are good), or doing the rights things, or saying the right things, etc. It doesn’t matter what churches you have attended or what schools you were educated in.
Read through the four gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read the book of Acts. You will see example after example of men and women who simply believed that Jesus died to pay the debt of their sins against God, and that he rose from the grave to defeat death itself. When you read something in the Bible about morality and rules for living, it is always in reference to those who have believed in Christ and are therefore indwelled with his Spirit which gives them the capability to resist sin. Without true belief in Jesus it’s impossible to live the life of a Christ follower.
To be clear, there’s not one single, solitary thing you can do to make yourself right with God. There are no deeds good enough, no penance austere enough, no morality high enough. You can’t vote, buy, beg, or fight your way into eternity with God. Jesus Christ made things right between you and God through his death and resurrection. He did it out of love, for free, with no requirement other than truly believing it in your heart.
A Christian is simply someone who believes in Jesus; believes that our sinful nature has separated us from God and that Jesus’s sacrifice of death and subsequent resurrection did away with that sin and restored us to a right relationship with God. This is the relationship we were created for. This is the meaning of life that so many people search for in other futile ways. This is the only way to find peace in a world falling apart. This is the true meaning of becoming and being a Christian according to the Bible.