Real Christianity

Bible Book: Acts  11 : 20-26
Subject: Real Christianity; Salvation; False Christianity

Acts 11:20-26

I want to speak this morning on the subject, “What is a Christian?” Most of you would say, “Well I know what a Christian is,” but let’s see if you do.

In Acts 11:20-22 we find that Barnabas had come to Antioch “preaching the Lord Jesus”. Now Antioch was the third city in the Roman empire. It was a very immoral, pagan, and secular city. In Acts 11: 23-24 we read that, “a great many people were added to the Lord”.  Barnabas did not think he could handle this alone, because this was the first time the Gospel was going to the Gentiles. So, in Acts 11:25 we find that Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek or to find Saul. Having brought Saul to Antioch, in Acts 11:26  we find the first-time believers were every called Christians. Now America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries of the world are often called “Christian countries.” We have gathered together in a building this morning called a church. We call it a “Christian church.” What is a Christian in your definition? There are people all over the world (businesspeople, retired people, teachers, housewives, mechanics and engineers) that ask that question. And if I were to ask you that question this morning, I am sure you could give me an answer.

Now the early Christians did not choose this name. When Paul was converted, believers were referred to as “people of the Way.” Jesus had called his followers “Disciples.” Now these two names were used for the first few years in the ministry following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The world was trying to find a term to describe these strange people who were changed so dramatically in their beliefs and conduct. Finally, there was one name that was attached to them at Antioch in the text we read that has stuck to this day. The word “Christian”, Christ one, a follower of Christ.

You say you are Christian. All right, are you different from the people around you? Do they look at you and say, “There goes a Christian?” Someone ask George Whitfield, the great Anglican clergyman of 200 years ago, if a certain man was a Christian. He said, “I don’t know ask his wife.” Sometimes our wives or husbands or family members could answer better than ourselves.

Now while a Christian is a religious person, a religious person is not necessarily a Christian. Let’s review what the characteristics of a Christian are and what they are not.

I. Misconceptions concerning Christians

A. A person who prays is a Christian.

No, because people all over the world pray. They pray to different gods and have different methods of prayer. They may lay on some spikes or going through some torturous exercise, hoping they are pleasing their god. Listen friends, just because a person prays doesn’t make him a Christian.

B. A person who lives by the golden rule is a Christian

What is the golden rule? Even those who are not Christians can probably quote it. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Do you know anybody that is doing that? Even if you do, that doesn’t make him a Christian. I have never known what I would call a perfect person who lives up to the standards that God requires if we are to enter the kingdom of God. So, you can live by the golden rule, but that is not enough. Jesus said that if you will follow him, you are to deny self, take up the cross and follow him. You can be a moral person without being a Christian, but you can’t be a Christian without being a moral person. When you come to Christ, it changes your life, it changes your attitudes, and it changes your values and morals. The Bible declares, you become a “New Creature” or a “New Creation”. So being a Christian is more than living by the golden rule.

C. A person who is sincere is a Christian.

You can be sincere in what you believe, sincere in the way you live but my friend that does not make you a Christian. Dr. Billy Graham tells the story of when he was a boy, he got sick and his mother gave what she thought was medicine, but it was iodine, and he nearly died. Had it not been for a quick call to a friend who suggested that she give him some cream, he might have died. His mother was sincere. She thought she was giving him cough medicine to help his cough but was giving him something that could poison him.

The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right unto a man, the end thereof is death.” There are many sincere people, and many are going the wrong way, but that is not the way to become a Christian, and that is not a Christian.

D. A person who goes to Church is a Christian.

Jesus had an encounter with Nicodemus, one of the great religious leaders of the day. Nicodemus prayed three times a day. He fasted twice a week. He gave 10% of all of his income to God’s work.

Jesus said, “Nicodemus that is not enough, you must be born again if you are going to see the kingdom of heaven.”

My friend, if you will see the kingdom of heaven someday, you have got to be born anew, born from above. There has to be a work of God in your heart by which you become a new creation. Christianity is more than an activity; it is a position and change. Therefore, a person who goes to Church is not necessarily a Christian.

E. A person who keeps the 10 Commandments is a Christian.

No, a person could try to keep the 10 Commandments, but no one has ever done it. The scripture says that if you keep all the commandments and break in one point, you are guilty of all. That makes all of us guilty. The Bible declares in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no not one.” That includes both you and me. All of us are guilty.

I am convinced that thousands of people were baptized, confirmed, and live a good life. They are moral people, but they have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They don’t spend time in prayer each day with Him. They don’t read their Bibles daily. They don’t live for Christ daily. Perhaps they even go to church weekly, but it is more than that, God’s Word says, “You must be born again”. Have you been born again? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?  Do you talk to him daily?

Has he changed your life, values, attitudes?

It is extremely important in our age to find out what it means to be a Christian, because the salvation of your soul depends upon it. Each of you here has a body, but living inside your body is your soul, the real you. That is the part that will live forever and ever. Your soul will live according to the Bible in either Heaven or Hell. The decision you make today may well decide your eternal destiny.

II. What is a Christian?

A. A person who Believes that God exists.

The Bible says, “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is”.  Listen, my friends, out there and here, and throughout the universe there is an eternal everlasting God who has no beginning and no end. An agnostic and atheist cannot be a Christian because the primary element of the Christian life is belief in God.

B. A person who believes that God is Love.

A Christian is a person who believes God loves Him unconditionally. The Bible teaches in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Yes, God loves you. Say it with me. “God loves me”. Amen!

Perhaps you are here today, and you have a hard time believing that God loves you. Bill Gaither wrote those wonderful words in a song which can be prayed to God, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief”.

Listen, my friend, you are important to God and God loves you. It doesn’t matter how many sins you have committed, nor does it matter how bad you are or have been. God loves you! No matter what kind of hypocrite you may have been, God loves you. Join me in saying that affirmation, “God loves me”.

C. A person who knows that they have sinned against God.

You may not feel sin or think about sin, you may not know that some things you are doing are sin. The Bible says, “In sin did my mother conceive me”. We may not be conscious of it, but we are sinners even at birth. The Bible declares in Romans 3:23, “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

At some point we reach the age of accountability, and from that point we become sinners by choice and practice. The Bible convicts us. The Holy Spirit convicts us. Every single one of us has come short of God’s standard, and we come under the threat of judgement. The judgment is death.  That includes natural death and spiritual death–separation from God.

The Bible says, “Let the wicked man forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him and unto our God for he will abundantly pardon.” Who is the wicked? He or she is the sinner. My friend, that includes both you, and me, we must forsake our way. We must also give up our evil thoughts. We must return to the Lord and he will have mercy upon us. God through the death of his Son Jesus will abundantly Pardon!! When God forgives, he does more than we do when we forgive, he forgets.

If you receive Christ this morning as your personal savior, He will forget that you have ever sinned. The old gospel song shares it so eloquently, “My Sins are all covered by the blood.” I am so glad God can erase the pages.

D. A person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God

Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the father but by me.” There is only one entrance to the kingdom of Heaven, and that is through Jesus. Don’t let yourself be mistaken that there are two, three, four ways. There is only ONE! Jesus said, “I am the way”. Jesus laid it out, he spelled it out, and some find it difficult to accept. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Friend, today, I ask you to believe that Jesus can save you.


It is so simple; many believe it is difficult. The simplicity of the Good News makes it so hard for many to accept intellectually. Perhaps today the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart. You may ask, “what do I need to do”?

Believe in God
Believe that God loves you
Admit that you are a sinner
Believe that Jesus the Son of God died for your sins.

Pray a simple prayer of repentance:

“Lord, I am sorry for my sins, I turn from my sins, I receive Christ as my Lord and Savior.”

  • Becoming a Christian involves your intellect – I could believe, as a step of faith, even though I don’t understand it all
  • Becoming a Christian involves your emotion – You need to look at the cross and say “I love Him because He loved me.”
  • Becoming a Christian involves your will - It is up to the Will to decide. “I will receive Him; I will trust Him.”

What are you going to do with Jesus Christ today?