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What Distinguishes a Christian From Others

By Ron Thomas

Not too long ago I was asked to preach a sermon on “What is a Christian?” The person who asked the question was not asking about what the Bible teaches on how to become a Christian, but how does a Christian distinguish oneself in this world of darkness. We will address this question from the series of questions asked.

We will begin by considering how one identifies a Christian apart from the world. To answer this, it appears to me we must be clear on what the Bible says about how a person becomes a Christian. Simply put, though it is more comprehensive than this, if one were to obey the words of the Lord Jesus in Mark 16:16, one would be a Christian. The conversion of one’s soul is where Christ reigns in the heart; physically, there is no outward change.

To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. By mere physical appearance another person cannot identify a Christian. Yet, by physical activity, one should be able to identify a Christian in this dark world in which we live. The life lived is crucial to distinguishing a Christian from a non-Christian.

Does one’s speech, dress, habits, etc. distinguish a Christian from a non-Christian? Not necessarily. Yet, each of these attributes are crucial to the Christian’s characteristic. There are many non-Christians in this world who dress conservatively and with modesty, wearing clothing that do not bring sensual attention to oneself. But this does not make a Christian. There are many fine people in this world who use language in a most positive way; they seek to build up and encourage their neighbor, but this does not make a Christian. The same thing can be said about one’s habits. But, as we have said, these qualities certainly fit the mode of being a Christian.

A Christian is one who has been set apart by the Lord Jesus; converted people will change everything about themselves from how this world would have them live to how the Lord wants them to live. This is the idea behind Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV).

This includes the idea of “going to church.” When we go to the building each Sunday, we should be going in order to worship God. God is our focus each Lord’s day morning; we are focused on the life He lived and the death He suffered. More than that, though, we are focused on His resurrection; because of this, the Christian has hope. Unfortunately, some Christians fail to understand the significance of attending worship with the saints. We need to encourage them to think differently.

The distinguishing characteristics of a Christian is seen in the what they did (“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”, Acts 2:38) and how they live (“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” Romans 6:4) and also what they do (“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” Hebrews 10:24-25).

– Ron Thomas, Sullivan, IL.