If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
What does it mean when I say I’m a Christian? Does it mean I think I’m better than someone else? That I’m perfect? That I attend church all the time? That I don’t drink and think anyone who does is horrible? That I condemn people who disagree with me?
Taking these in reverse order, first of all, it does not mean I condemn anyone. Not for disagreeing with me or for anything else. It’s not my place to condemn anyone. I may condemn sin—in myself or others—but I don’t condemn the person who commits the sin.
Being a Christian certainly doesn’t mean I don’t drink or pass judgment on others who do. If so, I’d be passing judgment on Jesus Himself. I don’t know if they had beer or whiskey back in those days, but wine was a part of Jesus’s life. He didn’t drink enough of it to become inebriated, but He certainly did drink it.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean I’m at church every time they open the doors, either. Some of the finest Christians I know don’t attend or belong to a church at all. The New Testament tells us not to forsake the gathering together of Christians, but it doesn’t say anything about meeting in a dedicated building with a spire on top and an altar inside.
As a matter of fact, I do belong to a church, but I rarely attend the formal service. My fellowship comes from my Sunday School class, which I do attend very regularly un less I’m out of town. That close fellowship with a small group of people who all know one another is what I think the Bible means by “gathering together.” And I’ve learned much more in small groups or one-on-one discipleship than I have in massive church services.
That I’m perfect is laughable. I’m so far from perfect, I have difficulty even think with that means.
I would never think of myself as being better than anyone else, either. You don’t know my sins, but I do. Paul said he was the chief among sinners, and that’s more or less my testimony, too. I would never try to think or act like I was better than someone else.
So what do I mean when I say I’m a Christian? The simple answer is that I’m a sinner saved by grace. That’s true, but it’s incomplete. Yes, I’m saved by grace, but the moment grace stepped in to provide my salvation, God planted His Holy Spirit inside me. Having His spirit inside me gives Him a way to work in me to accomplish His goals.
A tiger can’t change its stripes, nor can I perfect myself. But if I’ll get out of God’s way, He can work inside me to make me a better person—or as He says in Romans 8, to conform me to the image of Christ. I will never attain the goal of being Christ-like in this lifetime, but I’m a little bit more Christ-like today than I was when I was born-again back in 1974. And that’s a good thing, not only for me but for everyone who comes in contact with me.
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his non-fiction Web Wisdom: Godly Inspiration from the Inbox and starting his new fiction work—a series of novellas set during the period from 1860 to 1880—using methods he and @KristenLambTX developed when they cofounded Warrior Writers Boot Camp.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @davidnwalkertx