I think I was 8 when my mother told me that I had been adopted at birth. Until just recently, I didn’t know my true biological heritage. Sure, I had an Italian last name, but did that make me Italian? No, it didn’t. Thanks to DNA, I now know my genetic nationality. There is more to being Italian than just a name. Similarly, simply calling oneself a Christian does not make one a Christian. There’s more to being Christian than merely a name. Please read more.
My parents who raised my brother and I from birth were wonderful parents. I never had a burning desire to discover the identity of my biological parents. With that said, my wife and children and I often wondered what nationality I came from. So, just before Father’s Day a few years ago, they sent my DNA off to find out.
When Father’s Day arrived, my children presented me with various wrapped presents. Each gift represented a country in ascending order based on the percentage of my biological heritage. It turns out that I am mostly of Irish and Scottish descent. Finally, they carried out one very large box. I opened it, and removed lots of tissue paper. The box was empty. They all laughed and said, “Dad that is what percentage Italian you are.” It turns out I don’t have a drop of Italian in me.
I tell you all of this to make today’s point. It takes more than calling oneself Christian to truly be a Christian. The first time the title “Christian” is found in the Bible comes in Acts 11:26. It has been used ever since. So, what does it mean to be Christian? The Bible answers that question for us.
In Acts 2:38 Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.”
In John 13:35 Jesus says, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In John 14:15 Jesus states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
Jesus states the following in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
In Matthew 7:21 we hear this from Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
In Matthew 25:31-46 we find the story of the sheep and goats. Jesus speaks of the day of judgement. Here He tells us that if we did not feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the ill and imprisoned, there will be consequences. He says, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
In our modern culture, many people have concluded that merely going to church occasionally and calling themselves Christian makes them a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that this is not true. A Christian not only professes his or her belief in Jesus and places their faith in Him, but they also act in accordance to His teachings and commands.
Billy Graham once put it this way, “A Christian is a person who is trusting Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation and is seeking to follow Him in their daily life. To put it another way, a Christian is committed to Jesus as both their Savior and their Lord (or master).” He went on to explain, “There will be love in your heart for your fellow man if you are in Christ.”
An article on the Focus On The Family website states this, “To say this another way, we don’t necessarily believe that a “Christian” is simply anybody who claims to “believe in Jesus” and to “follow His teachings.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that baptism is the defining mark of a Christian and it goes on to say that Christians are all those who belong to any and all of those churches where a Trinitarian baptism is performed. Catholics believe that Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians. The Catholic Church teaches that “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.” The Catholic Church also teaches that Christians are justified by faith and they are incorporated into Christ through Baptism.
Some Christian denominations don’t believe that Baptism is a necessary part of being Christian, but they do believe that to be Christian one must repent from sin and believe Jesus. Therefore, while there are some differences between denominations when it comes to defining the prerequisites for calling oneself a Christian, I think it can be plainly stated that to “be a Christian” requires more than being a follower of Jesus in name only.
To be a Christian involves having a faith that is both proclaimed and lived. As adopted sons and daughters of God, we are called to participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church. As followers of Christ, we are expected to live and love like He did, and we are called to share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
My biological DNA is proof positive that I am not Italian. In fact, as stated above, I have zero percent Italian DNA. I am mostly Irish-Scottish. Hopefully my attempt to live and love like Jesus offers proof that I am a Christian. Regardless of what your biological DNA reveals about you, my sincere hope is that your spiritual DNA, in other words the way you live clearly reflects that you are a Christian too!
Heavenly Father, I have placed my faith in your Son Jesus. Help me to always live and love in a way that makes it clear that I truly am the Christian that I profess to be. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
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