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What Is A Real Christian?

Many people consider themselves Christians, especially in countries which enjoy a rich Christian heritage. And why not? But suppose you conducted an informal opinion poll near where you live, and asked ten people to explain what it takes to make someone a real Christian. You would probably get ten different answers!

I am convinced that most people are as confused about this crucial issue as I was. Even though I grew up attending church, and knew a lot of songs and Bible stories, for years I wasn't a Christian.

If someone asked, I could stand up and quote a few Bible verses. I could even say a prayer if you asked me. But I was only going through a lot of empty religious motions. That is, until someone helped me settle the question of whether I was a real Christian.

God wants each of us to know where we stand in relation to Him. That's why I believe it wasn't mere chance that you picked up this booklet or received a copy from a friend who found it helpful.

Ask yourself, "Am I a real Christian?" In a few minutes you can know for sure.


"Don't worry about me", my grandfather insisted as he lay dying in a Buenos Aires hospital. I sat at his bedside, urging him to put his trust in God.

My grandfather put me off, insisting: "I'm alright. After all, I'm Scotch-Presbyterian. He had been born near Edinburgh, Scotland, but since moving to Argentina had definitely preferred scotch to Presbyterian. He loved scotch on the rocks, but the Presbyterian thing he just didn't go for much at all.

He died later that same day, believing one of the many popular myths about what makes someone a real Christian.

Maybe you grew up in a Catholic or Protestant home, or maybe you were brought up in some other religion. And you tell yourself, “Well, I’m alright, don’t worry about me.”

No matter what your background, I encourage you to take an honest look beyond the myths about what makes someone a Christian.


I've met people who have told me, “I was born in a Christian nation, so of course I am a Christian. What do you take me to be – a heathen?” The answer is that they could be a lot of things.

Others have said: "I’ve been a Christian all my life; I was born in a Christian home (or into the church).” But since when does where you’re born determine what you are? As one of my friends quipped, someone may be born in a stable, but that doesn't make him a horse!

Be thankful for where you were born, and for the family and church in which you were brought up, but don't assume they automatically make you a Christian. God has no grandchildren.


Then again, living a clean and moral life doesn't make a person a Christian. Many atheists live a decent, straight life. Anyway, how good is "good"? That is the real issue. Most people have a warped idea of the true standard against which our goodness should be measured.

Compared to a mass murderer, you may feel that you're ready for sainthood. Even compared with your family and friends you may come out OK.

But God's standard of goodness is very different. He puts you up against His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived an absolutely perfect life here on earth. Compared with this level of perfection, our own goodness looks pretty shoddy.

Remember, the world has always had plenty of good people. So if goodness were enough, God need not have sent Jesus. The fact that Jesus had to come to die on the cross to make our forgiveness possible shows that goodness doesn't make someone a Christian.


People go to church for a multitude of reasons. But does that mean that all these people are Christians? Of course not. Even some criminals go to church.

Some people go to church because it's a social habit. Others attend because their family makes them go. At the encouragement of a minister, they may even go to special classes for confirmation or membership.

It is true that Christians go to church and take an active part. But attending church doesn't make you a Christian.


Many of us have been taught since childhood to give a portion of our income to charity or the church. Whether rich or poor, we fee1 it’s our Christian duty.

Prince Charles has said he feels a "duty to do something" so that "in some way I can make life a little less stinking for some people." So he donates part of his wealth to worthy causes. And that's commendable. But that's not enough.

Yes, Christians give to others. More than anyone else, they should help the needy and less fortunate. But you can give away everything you own and still not be a Christian.


Maybe you were baptised as a child or young adult. That doesn't necessarily mean you're a Christian. Many prison inmates were baptised years ago. But few people would consider these inmates Christians.

Or maybe you take communion every Sunday. If you're a Christian, that's great. But I've had someone tell me, "Mr Palau, I'm confused. I take communion every week, but I don't know what it means to be a Christian."

You see, both baptism and communion are Biblical. God commands Christians to observe these ordinances. But receiving either of them won't make you a Christian.


When asked, most people will say they believe God exists. But are they all Christians? Colonel James Irwin, remembered for his Apollo 15 moon mission, told me that while he was in the Middle East a Muslim leader said to him, "You talk about God so much, why aren't you a Muslim?"

Do you see my point? If you can be a Muslim and believe in God, then it is not "believing in God" that makes you a Christian.

I have a good friend who believes in exercise. But he never does any. He is three stones overweight and hopelessly out of shape.

I know countless small boys who believe in soap. But they are not a shade cleaner in spite of their belief.

Belief on its own, makes no difference. That is why belief in God, by itself, doesn't make someone a Christian.


Many people talk about Jesus Christ and even speak well of Him. They may be teachers, ministers or church leaders, for example. But they may not even believe that what the Bible says about Jesus is true.

Some actually distort Jesus into their own way of thinking, rather than seeing the Jesus of history and the Bible. And that disqualifies them from calling themselves real Christians.


Certainly Christians pray. But someone can pray and still not be a Christian. Hindus pray all the time. Muslims pray five times a day.

When travelling abroad, the late Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, carried a little prayer rug on which to knee1 five times daily. But he was a Muslim, not a Christian. So praying in itself doesn't make someone a Christian.


Of course Christians love the Bible. Some of us read it daily. But just reading the Bible doesn't mean that you are a Christian.

When Karl Marx was seventeen years old, he wrote a fantastic explanation of part of John's Gospel (in the New Testament portion of the Bible). Great theologians agree with much of what he said. But Karl Marx eventually rejected the Bible's authority and during his adult life called himself an atheist, a Communist - anything but a Christian.

And Nikita Khrushchev, the former Premier of the USSR, read the Bible when he was a boy. Yet later, he made it his ambition to bury the church in the Soviet Union by 1965. Instead, he is buried and the Russian church continues to grow!

Read the Bible all you can. It explains how to settle this issue once and for all. Since it's God's Word, not man's, we can trust it completely. But remember, just reading the Bible won't make you a Christian.


"Luis," you may be wondering by now, "if I can't be born a Christian, and if living morally, going to church, giving to others, receiving a sacrament, believing in God, talking about Jesus, praying, and reading the Bible doesn't make anyone a Christian; then what does? What is a real Christian?"

Let me mention three basic principles from God’s Word that describe a real Christian. Then I’ll explain how you can become a real Christian today.

First, the Bible says that a Christian is someone who walks in the way of life in contrast to the way of death. And that way is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (you can find that statement in the Bible by turning to John’s Gospel, chapter 14, verse 6). Notice that Jesus does not say He will show you the way. He says, "I am the way!"

Jesus also spoke of a narrow road and a wide road. Many walk on that wide road, which in the end is the way of death (see Matthew 7:13,14).

Do you sometimes feel as though you are lost and don't know where you are going? When you become a Christian, you have found the way of life.

You ask, "What kind of a way is this 'way of life'?"

It is the way of peace. God's peace fills your heart when you walk in the way of Christ. Jesus said to His followers: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27). God's peace is a gift available to each of us.

When you walk in the way of Christ, you experience an inner peace - a tremendous quietness in your heart. The broken pieces in your life are put together again.

Oh, the psychiatrist can analyse you. The psychologist can pinpoint some of the problems in your past. But only God can give you lasting peace.

The way of life is also the way of purity. The Bible says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:8).

You may be a "nice" person, perhaps the life and soul of the party. But, if you are fooling around with sin; if you are playing with immorality; if you are not being truthful in your business; if you are dishonest in your school, in your work, in your play, in your family life, then you are not living the life that Jesus wants for you.

When you come to Christ, He forgives your sins and purifies your heart. That doesn't mean you suddenly become "holier than thou". On the contrary, you become more conscious of your shortcomings. But God gives you the power to live a righteous life.

The way of life in Christ is also the way of love. "All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). The Bible adds, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers" (1 John 5:14).

Today, the word "love" has been robbed of its real meaning. Much of the time, it's used to describe a person exploiting the emotions of another for his own satisfaction and selfishness. But that is not love. True love involves wanting the very best for someone, no matter what that may cost us.

The way of life is also the way of obedience. The way of the Christian is to serve only one Master - Jesus. The Bible describes Him as "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14). The Christian lives in the light of this truth. Jesus becomes your Lord, your Master, your King. What He says goes.

The servant of a king waits for the slightest hint of a command and rushes to obey. A soldier following the leadership of a great commander willingly obeys every order.

Similarly, a real Christian gives God complete authority over his life. He will go wherever God wants him to go, do whatever He wants him to do. And he does not care what it may cost in terms of his comfort or reputation.

Jesus has every right to rule like that. Remember, He is not supreme because He has inherited His authority from His ancestors like an earthly king or lord. Nor does He rule because of the threat of His power to destroy like a corrupt military dictator.

Jesus is Lord and King because He made us, He gave His life for us, and He always does what is best for us.

Second, a Christian is someone who enjoys eternal life. He has a fuller and more complete life now. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

Life with Christ was not only God's original design for us; it is the way He intends for us live today. That is what makes life with Christ abundant. And eternal life never ends. It goes beyond physical death - for ever and ever.

Do you have eternal life? You say, "Well, I'm not sure.

Suppose I asked you if you were married. Would you say, "I think so"? Or suppose I asked if you were pregnant. Would you say, "A little bit"? Of course not. These are things you can be absolutely sure about. And it is just as possible for you to be certain that you are a Christian and have eternal life.

I remember meeting with a group of Scottish ministers several years ago. During our break for lunch, a man who had been in the ministry for seventeen years came to me and said, "Luis, I don't know if I have eternal life."

As we talked together, he explained that two of my team members had visited him and his wife the evening before. Both team members happened to mention their assurance of eternal life during the visit.

After they left, the minister asked his wife, "Dear, do you have eternal life?"

She said, "Phil, I don't know. Do you?"

"You know that I don't", he replied. "What are we going to do?" She suggested that he talk with me the very next day.

And that noon hour, Phil found eternal life and soon afterwards his wife did too.

Do you know that you have eternal life? If you're already a Christian, you know it. Jesus said concerning those who follow Him in faith: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). Do you have that triple security?

First, He says, "I give them eternal life."

Second, He says, "They shall never perish."

Third, "No-one can snatch them out of my hand."

What more could you want? A Christian is someone who discovers these three things to be true.

The Bible also says, "He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:12). In other words, eternal life is having Christ in your heart. Can you say, "Yes, I know I have eternal life. I can remember when Christ came into my heart"?

Third, a Christian is someone who has been born into God's family and therefore has become one of God's children. You say, "Luis, I thought everyone was a child of God. Isn't God the Father of mankind?"

According to the Bible, God is the Creator of all men but He is not the Father of all men. Many people don't even want Him to be their Father.

You become a member of God's family by being born into it. The Lord Jesus said, "No-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). What does that mean?

When you and I were born into the human family, we had no choice about the matter. That's physical birth.

But to become a child of the heavenly Father, you must have a spiritual birth. This happens when we repent of our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Every year we celebrate our physical birth with parties and gifts. But do you remember your second birth? If not, you must make a decision. Do you want to become part of God's family by receiving Christ? The Bible says, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

A few years ago, while visiting a South American country, I spoke privately with a high government official - a military man. "Sir," I asked, "do you know Jesus Christ?"

The general smiled and said, "Palau, I've led such a hard life that I don't think God wants to know me very much."

"Sir, no matter what you've done, Christ died on the cross for you and He loves you. If you want to know Him, you can meet Him right now."

As we continued to talk, I explained what Christ .had done on the cross, how He died to receive the punishment that should be ours for the wrong we have done. I said, "Sir, would you like to receive Christ now?"

He paused and said quite seriously, "If Christ will receive me, I want to become a real Christian."

Right then, we bowed our heads and prayed together. This general opened his heart to the Son of God and received Christ into his life.

He had thought God would never receive him because of his past. But when we had finished praying he stood up and, in typical Latin fashion, gave me a tremendous hug. "Thank you," he said, "now I know that Christ has really received me and forgiven me."


Have you decided to trust Christ yet? Would you like to know that you have eternal life? Would you like to start walking in the way of Jesus Christ, knowing that you are a child of God and are going to heaven?

Let me tell you how you can become a real Christian - right now, before you finish reading this booklet.

First, the Bible teaches you that you must admit that your sins have separated you from God. That's what I liked about that South American general. He readily admitted that he was a sinner. In fact, he was so convinced of the evil and rebellion in his life that he felt God would never receive him.

Have you ever owned up to God about those things in your life that hurt Him - selfishness, pride, greed, immorality, and all the rest? Have you ever admitted that you've been walking in the way of death? You see, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

The Bible also says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). That includes you and me. Is it time to own up to God and to receive the forgiveness that He wants to give you?

Second, you must believe what Christ has done for you on the cross. The Bible says, "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

When Jesus died on the cross, He conquered death so that each of us may be forgiven. We deserved to be punished for the wrong we have done in God's eyes but God sent His Son to receive our punishment in His body on the cross (see 1 Peter 2:24).

It is like a judge finding a prisoner guilty, taking the prisoner's place, and receiving the sentence himself. What magnificent love!

You may not completely understand how God places the penalty for your sin on His Son. But you do not need to understand everything all at once. God only asks you to believe.

I have been told that no one totally understands electricity. Scientists talk about it as a fundamental property of all matter. They can create electrical charges and harness electricity. But, as a Stanford University scientist once told me, "Electricity in its essence is quite unexplainable."

When you become a real Christian, you may not understand it all at the beginning. But as you read the Bible and allow God to teach you, your understanding will grow.

Third, you must confess Jesus Christ as your lord. You cannot inherit faith. It's not enough to say, "My father was a fine Christian and I was brought up in a fine Christian home." That will not make you one of God's children.

You need to experience Christ for yourself. All of us who belong to Christ had to come for ourselves. Have you come to Him yet? Have you ever made that decision?

You ask, "How?" The Bible says: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10).

The best way I know to make Jesus the Lord of your life is simply to bow your head in prayer, confess your sins to God and then by faith open your heart to Christ, believe in Him, and receive Him.

If that's your decision, then tell God now - silently if you wish - right where you are. You may like to use this prayer:

"Heavenly Father, I want to be a real Christian. I realise that my sins have separated me from You. Please forgive me. I believe in what Christ did for me on the cross. I don't completely understand it, but I accept it by faith. I do want to be a child of Yours. Please come into my life, Lord Jesus, and make me Your child right now. I'll follow You and obey You for ever. Amen."

To make a record of your decision, write today's date beside your signature in this space.


Have you decided to receive the Lord Jesus as your Saviour? If so, you've made the most important decision in your life.

You now belong to God's family, and of course you will want to get to know Him better. The best way is to read His Word (the Bible). I suggest you begin with Luke's Gospel in the New Testament. Remember that the Bible is God's way of speaking to us. So as you read, look for examples to follow or instructions to obey.

Saturate yourself with the Bible. Your thoughts and emotions will begin to change as you read the Word of God each day.

Second, meet with other Christians. Find a church that believes the Bible, honours Christ, and teaches what a real Christian is. Go to the church and talk to the minister. Say, "I have just received Christ'; and see what happens. If the minister doesn't seem interested in helping you grow spiritually, then find some other church that can help you.

Third, begin to pray. You talked to the Lord just now. He answered you prayer. He loves you. He's your Father. Since communication is the key to any relationship, your relationship with God can grow only as you talk to Him in prayer.

If you have truly asked the Lord Jesus to become your Saviour, you have taken the most important step in your life it's possible to take. You've begun an exciting journey that only gets better! And now, as your Christian brother, I want to be the first to say -

Welcome to God's family!

Luis Palau

Luis Palau is a famous, originating from Argentine, evangelist, who lives in United States. Since many years he preaches good new of Jesus Christ, on mass evangelizations and also for individual people having a big impact on our world. You can find more about him on his web page:

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