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Why Be A Christian? (7)

This is a seven-part series on why everyone should be a Christian.
Click on the following links to explore the various installments:

(7) The Change In Christ

 

In this series of studies, we have explored various reasons to be a Christian.


First, we probed the matter objectively, by examining several pieces of evidence for the divine origin of the Christian faith (see parts one through four above).


Next, we began studying the case subjectively, noting that it is far more sensible to embrace the love of Christ for us and go to heaven with him (part five) than to reject him and choose to remain lost forever (part six).

Before we close this series, there is one other matter concerning the subjective case for Christianity I’d like you to consider. Becoming a Christian will have a profound impact on your life. It will change you. Forever.


Think about it this way: If Christianity truly is divine in origin, you would expect to see improvements in the lives of its adherents. After all, if following Christ is supposed to bring us closer to God, yet were it to make its disciples live like the devil, what would be divine about it?


If you are going to become a Christian, then, you must prepare for change, which — however difficult — will ultimately improve your life. Indeed, Christianity is not merely about living for the life “which is to come.” It is also about the “promise of the life that now is” (1 Tim. 4.8).


The Hughes-Bradlaugh Debate

Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was a prominent atheist in nineteenth-century England. As a critic of Christianity, he alleged that the religion of Jesus Christ hinders the progress of humanity, whereas secularism, in his view, is the only way to make society truly better.

Meanwhile, Hugh Price Hughes (1847-1902), a much-admired Methodist clergyman, was ministering to all kinds of poor folk who lived in the London slums.


Bradlaugh publicly challenged the minister to a debate over the merits of Christianity, to which Hughes heartily consented, with one stipulation.


Since Bradlaugh was a prominent attorney, Hughes suggested the debate be conducted in the style of a court case, in which each side presented concrete evidence of the merits of their teaching in the lives of others.


First, Mr. Hughes would bring 100 people who could testify to the transformation they experienced — whether from alcoholism, drug abuse, hatred, hopelessness, etc. — as a result of the teachings of Christ. Mr. Bradlaugh could then cross-examine each of them to test their veracity.


In turn, Mr. Bradlaugh would also bring 100 people “who have been redeemed from a sinful life by means of” his “atheistic teaching” (Smith, 1922), whom Hughes could interrogate. London could then decide whether Christianity or atheism tended to uplift humanity to a nobler quality of life.


The atheist withdrew his challenge.


The Transformative Power of the Gospel

Contrary to atheistic accusations, belief in a loving God who will hold us accountable for our choices inspires us to live better than mere animals.

In Jesus especially, God shows us how to overcome the carnal cravings of selfish pleasure. By his example, he expects us to become better people. More than that, the lord gives us hope for a better life beyond this vale of tears. Following him elevates us!


But Jesus elevates us more than just by philosophizing about moral improvement. As deity, he practiced what he preached—to perfection. And it is the Christian’s calling to “follow his steps” (1 Pt. 2.21); to be “holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pt. 1.15-16).


In Romans 12.2, Paul instructs us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (cf. 2 Cor. 3.18).


Let’s note a few areas in which the gospel transforms the lives of Christians.


Salvation

First, becoming a Christian changes our spiritual lives.


Before becoming a Christian, we are “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2.1). Even though physically alive (cf. Eph. 2.2-3), we can be spiritually “dead.”


Just as physical death involves the separation of the spirit from the body (Jm. 2.26), so spiritual death involves the separation of the human soul from God’s fellowship due to sin (cf. Isa. 59.1-2; Gen. 2.17; 1 Tim. 5.6).

However, becoming a Christian reverses this state of separation from God, for God “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2.5). Outside of Christ, we are “far off” — separated from God. But in Christ, we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2.13).


As a Christian, then, you will be able to “live in hope of eternal life” (Tit. 1.2) — to dwell with God forever.


Church

Second, becoming a Christian changes our religious lives.

When we are saved from our sins, the Lord adds us to his church — “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2.47).


The church of Christ is the body of believers over whom Christ is the “head” and “savior” (Eph. 5.23). As “members” of this sacred body (1 Cor. 12.12), we become part of a spiritual family — “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3.15). The Lord “nourishes and cherishes…the church” (Eph. 5.29).


In his church, we are obliged to worship God together, edify one another in our regular assemblies, as well as engage in benevolent and evangelistic acts together (for more about the church, read this series of studies).


In short, becoming a Christian means we’ll have a new home, with people who “care for one another” (1 Cor. 12.25), and a new set of religious duties that give us joy and purpose.


Morals

Third, becoming a Christian changes our ethical lives.


Christians are obliged to engage in “good conduct in Christ” (1 Pt. 3.16). We are to “pursue…holiness” (Heb. 12.14) in body (Rm. 12.1), in heart (1 Th. 3.13), in love (Eph. 1.4), and in conduct (2 Pt. 3.11).

If we apply the teachings of Christ to our lives, we will become better individuals. We will shun what is evil — fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, filthy speaking, etc. (Col. 3.5-9). And we will embrace what is good — tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, etc. (Col. 3.12ff). We’ll become less vile and selfish and more tender and self-sacrificing.


Too, we will become better in our relationships, treating others with dignity and love. In Christ, we must learn to be better spouses (Col. 3.18-19), better children (Col. 3.20), better parents (Col. 3.21), better servants (Col. 3.22-25), and better masters (Col. 4.1).


How can we expect to change the world if we do not change ourselves for the better first?


Society

Finally, becoming a Christian changes our social lives.


Christians are obliged to influence society — to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Mt. 5.13-16). We can change our world for the better! And when we improve our society, our own lives improve to bout (cf. Jer. 29.7).


Sadly, in many churches, Christians have lost sight of this larger objective. We have become complacent, living as if Christianity is just about getting saved, going to church, and keeping mostly to ourselves. Interacting with the lost is risky business, lest we become contaminated by sin.


In other circles, the opposite is true. Some Christians have chosen not to take a stand against the world, lest they offend them. Instead, some Christians want to relate to sinners by living like sinnersif we can’t beat them, join them.


Neither extreme will due. Christianity demands that it be applied to every aspect of life (Col. 3.17). While we cannot force or threaten our neighbors to change (2 Cor. 10.3-4), nor has our master called upon us to mold society through carnal policy (see “Politics: Some Things To Remember”), still the methods Christ left us to stave off sin and instill righteousness in society are nonetheless manifold and powerful — “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4.12; cf. Eph. 6.10-20).

Indeed, the Christians of the New Testament era “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17.6) with their faith. And we must do the same!


So becoming a Christian means we must teach others who God is and what he is like (cf. Jn. 17.3). We must warn others about God’s authority and the “judgment to come” (cf. Acts 24.25). We must speak out firmly against sin with the weapons of truth, patience, and love. “Fight the good fight,” Paul instructed (1 Tim. 6.12); “wage the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1.18). These instructions show that there is an inevitable antagonism between Christians and the world. Hence, we can be neither complacent (we’re in a war!), nor accommodating (we have enemies). And we must be a powerful force for good in our community, both in word and in action.


In short, becoming a Christian means we must be prepared not only to be changed but, in time, to acquire the skills to change others for Christ as well.


Conclusion

I have sometimes heard Christians claim that even if Christianity is not true, it is still the best life to live, for it changes lives for the better. But that is the one thing that must not be said. Nor is that the point of this article.


On the contrary, if Christianity is not objectively true — if Christ’s claims about himself are false — then Christianity becomes meaningless. As Paul put it,


“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor. 15.14).


Christianity is only best if true. And since it is irresistibly true, Christianity is the absolute best life to live (Jn. 10.10).


Start considering it now. The proofs of Christianity are too great to ignore; its reward, too wonderful to pass up; and the consequences of failing to embrace it are too devastating to treat with light-hearted indifference. Let it change you, and you will change the world!

 
Resources
Smith, Elias. The Herald of Gospel Liberty 114, no. 40 (1922): 23 [959]. Accessed November 20, 2023.

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