Sunday, 26 September 2010

Who are you to say...?

Exhibit A: I was involved in some street evangelism and an elderly lady approached me and told me I would be better taking that message to Africa because we're all Christians here!  She then made her way off with me shaking my head.
Exhibit B: I was having Gospel tent meetings and a man came in (wearing a purple shell-suit!) - he told me about how he was a Christian but didn't believe in the deity of Christ, the reality of sin, the existence of hell and on and on it went.  He said, I suppose you wouldn't recognise me as a proper Christian but I believe I am.

The elderly lady thought everyone was a Christian presumably because this is Northern Ireland - a "Christian country".  The man in the shell-suit reckoned that respecting some of Christ's teachings made him a Christian.  The question then is, who am I to say that these people aren't Christians?

When this question arises, i.e. "Who are you to say...?"  The answer is, the person with the information about the case gets to say!  When we examine the New Testament information about what makes someone a Christian it is fairly simple to define.  In Acts 26 we read of Paul seeking to persuade King Agrippa to become a Christian, so this chapter will show us what a Christian is. 

We see someone doesn't become a Christian by merely believing in the truth of the Bible (although you can't be a Christian without believing in the truth of the Bible, but just believing that doesn't make you one), because Agrippa believed in the Bible (such as he had at the time - the Old Testament) but wasn't a Christian.

We see someone doesn't become a Christian by joining a church or undergoing an ordinance or observing a religious ritual, because as Paul sought to persuade Agrippa he never mentioned any of those things.

Verse 18 shows us that a Christian is someone who has forgiveness for the past: "that they may receive forgiveness of sins".  Note that this forgiveness is received.  This tells us that forgiveness isn't earned or bought, but received as a gift.  It also tells us that this forgiveness isn't automatic - it has to be humbly, gratefully and deliberately received.

Again, verse 18 shows us that a Christian is someone who has freedom in the present: "to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God".  Notice that the verse doesn't say that they will turn from the power of Satan to the power of God, but from the power of Satan to God; that is they have been set free from the dominion of an evil dictator, and brought into a living relationship with a loving God.

Furthermore, verse 18 shows us that a Christian is someone who has a fortune for the future: "that they may receive...inheritance among them which are sanctified..."  It isn't just that the Christian has his debt cancelled, but he is actually given a fortune of glory and an inheritance of paradise that he will forever enjoy but never exhaust.

Finally, verse 18 tells us that these blessings relating to the past, present and future are received by faith in the Lord Jesus, that is, it is by trusting the Lord Jesus alone for salvation that brings a person into these blessings and makes a person a Christian.

With such blessings on offer isn't it strange and sad that Agrippa was only "almost persuaded".  What about you?