I feel compelled to define, if only for myself, why I am a Christian and what difference it makes to my life. Maybe because there are so many notions and voices presented with a Christian label, I want to bring clarity to what it means to be a Christian.
First, I want to declare that, by being a Christian, I am not better than other people, no matter their religious or philosophical persuasion. In fact, ever since I had a supernatural encounter with Christ, I see my own failures, my deficiencies, my hypocrisy clearly, and I am grieved by my heart condition. Before Him, I thought I was "good", my reputation untarnished by murder, or sexual misconduct, or some audacious conflict. Before Him, I was blind- blind to the pride that "steps" over other people, blind to the grief my words brought, blind to the wounds my lies were effecting on myself and others. A that moment, when I looked in His eyes and His love flooded every atom of my being, I could see, for the first time, how utterly depraved I was and how much I needed His righteousness. He is God, and I am not - and I needed Him to save me and give me a new beginning.
Being a Christian does not mean that I am perfect. In fact, for as long as I live, I will struggle to choose between what I want -often what is easy, self-pleasing and void of sacrifice -and God's higher calling. He calls me to die daily -not physically, of course -but die to the pleasures that seek to ravage my soul and to ultimately separate me from the One I now love. I have discovered no greater joy than the nearness of His presence, no greater delight than the truth of His law. He is the pearl of great price, the treasure worth living and dying for - and the peace He gives transcends earthly afflictions.
Being a Christian means living a supernatural life. It means that, in my strength, I cannot live a life that honours God, because the enemy that I am fighting is much stronger than I. It is only as I remain connected to Him, drawing upon His strength and the fellowship of His presence, that I can rise above the call of my self-seeking, self-gratifying nature, and the invisible foe that seeks "to steal and kill and destroy" (John10:10).
Being a Christian means I have a new roadmap for my life, the Bible. The day I invited Him into my heart, I willingly surrendered the throne to the One in Whom all the treasures of love, beauty, and wisdom hide. I have relinquished my perceptions for His truth, my world view for His absolute, my shack for His kingdom. I gave Him the broken pieces of my life and He gave me life eternal, laughter for my tears, joy in my suffering. Knowing Him has been the greatest gift of my life.
Being a Christian means loving the kind and the unkind and blessing the ones who seek to hurt and malign me. It is because I am called to imitate Him - a loving God who died for the ones that tore and shred His flesh, and marred His face beyond recognition. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good", He says -and today, as millions of Christians are forsaking retribution and vengeance, their children are beheaded, their homes are burnt, their lives turned into often irreversible upheaval.
Being a Christian means I have a permanent home beyond the confounds of the grave.
Death after a life of seventy, eighty years is not the end, but the beginning. This life is not the destination, but the journey to my permanent residence. For this reason Christians have been able to endure inexplicable tortures in their refusal to forsake Christ, because "they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one", a country worth pursuing to the point of death (Hebrews 11:16). In God's economy, they are the winners, the ones whose names will never be forgotten and whose sacrifices bring true riches: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor 4:17).
Being a Christian means being rescued from my sin and from an eternal destiny of hell. Sinning against God is no small thing, and the punishment is no small slap on the wrist. A holy God must punish sin, otherwise He would be unjust. A loving God took my punishment-and the whole world's-upon Himself, and His forgiveness makes me a citizen of heaven.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life " (John 3:16)