If you were asked to give a description of a Christian, and I mean by that a disciple of Christ, not a person who goes to a Christian church, what would you say? Notice I said a description, not a definition.
I think I can capture the essence of a real, born again Christian in two words: changed and grateful.
Jesus tells us there must be, and there will be a change:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-3)
I purposely did not describe a Christian as holy, righteous, loving, caring, peaceful, generous, or humble. A true disciple of Christ will become more and more like these – over time. The more telling description is that something happened, something changed. He or she may still be nervous, irritable, a tightwad, whatever; but they will be becoming less of these, and they will be changing with more love-joy-peace-patience over time.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the kind of change that sort of happens anyway as we get older: “I don’t cuss as much, drink as much, fly off the handle as much, or I’m too old to lust.” Nor are we talking about church starting to feel good: getting more involved because it’s all warm and fuzzy, cooking pancake breakfasts and having all the family at the Wednesday night suppers.
Jesus is talking about a real heart change: a heart shift. You and I know the difference, and if you are thinking, “I haven’t experienced this,” then most likely you haven’t had this real heart shift.
Has anyone saved your life … at the cost of their own? Have you been rescued from a sure death? I can only imagine how my life would be affected. Here is just one excerpt from the Columbine High shooting accounts1:
Dave Sanders was the only teacher slain. “He saved my life,” one student cried out. Another student was shot in the leg and Sanders dragged him to the side with bullets flying. “He was the one jumping over the kids, getting people out of the way. Now we’ll never see him again.” After telling students to get down, then running to help others, he was shot by the killers. He was pulled away by several students and the last thing Sanders said to them was: “Tell my daughter I love her.”
Do you think any of those students will ever forget Dave Sanders? I doubt their parents remember him only casually. Could they possible only they think of him every now and then, or when they are in trouble or have a problem – or mainly just on Sundays?
We can learn from Jesus. We can study his teachings and seek to emulate him. But is he your hero? Has Jesus rescued you?
As flawed as I am, one thing I do know is he covered my body so the bullets wouldn’t hit me. He jumped on Satan’s grenade so I could live. He marched right up to the cross, took my beating and took my blame on himself– my blame. And I’m so grateful.
Have you been changed by this realization? Do you move through life with a pervasive sense of joyful gratitude – at times overwhelming? As for me, I begin each day, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
If all this sounds extreme to you, or even foreign, then I feel compelled to say, gently but with great conviction, “You’re missing it.”
1. Heroic Deeds in the Face of Horror – Angelfire.com