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What It Means to Be a Christian

What It Means to Be a Christian

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Published by Dennis Toomey
The second part of seven parts of a Christian Life Programme.
The second part of seven parts of a Christian Life Programme.

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Published by: Dennis Toomey on Aug 11, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/11/2013

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What it means to be a ChristianOpening
Sharing is at the heart of being a Christian along with loving and believing in Jesus Christ.Sharing the experiences of the Gospel, Jesus own words and our Catholic faith. Each andeveryone of us are on the same journey some say on the top deck of a Clapham omnibus guidedby Almighty God. God will never give up on us and if we persevere each and every day we shallbecome true friends of Jesus Christ.
Misconceptions or incomplete notions about ChristianityReligious System
There are many misconceptions about Christianity. One of the misconceptions about Christianityis that it is merely a religious system, a set of religious practices, rules to be followed and mattersof habit rather than the experiences of faith. A presence at Mass once a week, going to holy communion once a year, abstaining from meat atthe prescribed times and fasting as well as observing all the other rules and regulations of theCatholic church, don’t necessarily bring us closer Christ and such observances are only part of being a Christian.It is often the case that we care very much about whether or not we have observed the requiredabstentions before receiving holy communion but at the same time our hearts and minds are far from (some say a million miles away) witnessing the real presence of Jesus Christ in thesacrament of the Eucharist and thinking about receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.In being overly concerned with the rules of the Church without having the intention of GlorifyingJesus Christ we are not fulfilling our role as Christians. And so brothers and sisters merely observing the rules of the Church does not in itself make usChristians. But obeying the rules for the love and glorification of Jesus Christ certainly does helpto make us Christians.
Moral System
 Another misconception or incomplete notion is that Christianity is a moral system. Christianityembraces the highest of moral codes but Christianity is not a moral system.Many non Christians also observe high moral standards and on this subject Christians may havelittle to teach non Christians.It is not enough to claim on the one hand to be a Christian but to show by our actions and wordsthat we are no different from non Christians. All around us must be able to recognise that there issomething special about us. In all things we are the representatives of Jesus Christ and must actaccordingly.What do we mean when we talk about morals. We mean being honest, truthful, loyal, beinggenerous, treasuring peace, refusing to harm others, supporting friends, relatives andacquaintances etc. These morals are also observed outside of Christianity.However being a Christian requires much more than conforming to a moral system. We need tohave Jesus Christ always in mind and offer all of our good deeds to Jesus.People should be able to recognise in us that this person knows the life of Jesus Christ.
 
Humanitarian System
 A Christian is sometimes equated to a humanist someone who is good and kind and friendly. Tothe humanist the world is basically good, a place to be admired for its beauty, the resources of which are to be enjoyed. Man himself is essentially or potentially good, separated from the rest of the world by his reason.The humanist cause finds its way in trying to correct abuses of privilege, fighting for democracy,placing man first in all things, stressing the dignity of man and respect for the individual. Of course as a Christian we also share many of the hopes of the humanist, but a significantdifference between someone who is first and foremost a humanist and someone who is aChristian is that a Christian believes that he needs the help and grace of God to make thingsgood. A humanist does not necessarily share this view but believes that man has it within himself to overcome evil.
Escape from the realities
  Another common misconception about Christianity is that it is an escape from the realities of life.The misconception is that Christianity is a dream world of make believe, the opium of the poor.Christianity is not about escaping reality but actively participating in all aspects of life, acceptingthe joys as well as the sorrows of life for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus in his own words tells usin the gospel of 
St. Luke "If anyone wants to come with me ,he must forget self, take up hiscross every day and follow me". St. John again reminds us in his letter that our loveshould not be just words and talk ;it must be true love, which shows itself in action".
Being a Christian is the opposite of escaping from realities, we must always be optimistic andpositive in our attitude towards God and our lives.Using the circumstances of everyday life to move closer to Jesus.Being ever loyal to Jesus Christ, our family, our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ and our Holy Catholic Church and last but not least to be active Christians.
What then is Christianity
The essence of Christianity is union with God at every level of our being.
St. Therese of Lisieuxconsidered by some as the greatest saint of modern times summed up what being aChristian really means when shortly before she died she explained that her little way toheaven
 
"is the way of spiritual childhood and the way of trust and absolute self surrender to Jesus Christ"
. In her wonderful prayer she again offers inspiration on this subject when sheprays
"O my God I offer thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the gloryof the sacred heart of Jesus". Her book the
“The Story of a Soul” provides an insight into whatit means to be a Christian.Being a Christian means always trying to imitate Jesus Christ. Jesus himself says to us in thegospel of 
St. Matthew "You must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect".
Thomas A'Kempis in his compelling book" Imitation of Christ" constantly reminds us of how weare wholly dependent on Jesus for our eventual salvation. He writes this for our inspiration
" Hewho follows Me shall not walk in darkness says Our Lord. In these words Christ counselsus to follow His life and way if we want true enlightenment and freedom from all blindnessof heart. Let the life of Jesus Christ, then be our first consideration. The teaching of Jesusfar transcends all the teachings of the Saints, and whosoever has His spirit will discover concealed in it heavenly manna. But many people although they often hear the Gospel,feel little desire to follow it, because they lack the spirit of Christ. Whoever desires tounderstand and take delight in the words of Christ must strive to conform his whole life toHim".
 
The penny catechism definition of being a Christian is
"to serve God in this life and to be withhim forever in the next".
What makes us Christian is our loving, personal relationship with God and our whole life shouldbecome an expression of this relationship. As Christians we know that our lives are full of things passing we are called upon to pray for things eternal.
Some Important Truths
a) One important truth about our being a Christian is that it is a relationship initiated by God notby ourselves . God has chosen us, we have not chosen God by ourselves.
St. Paul makes thisvery clear to us in his letter to the Ephesians when he writes "For it is by God's grace thatyou have been saved through faith. It is not the results of your own efforts, but God's giftso no one can boast about it".
b) Another is that when we are truly converted as Christians we take on a new life as
St. Paulexplains to us in his letter to the Galatians when he writes "So far as the law is concernedhowever, I am dead killed by the law itself, in order that I might live for God. I have beenput to death with Christ on his cross, so that it is no longer I that live, but it is Christ wholives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me andgave his life for me".
c) Another truth is that we share in the eternal life of Christ. Our life does not end with physicaldeath. In Revelations it says
" He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be nomore death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away ".
Some of the Practical Implications of being a Christian are:
Trust
We can trust in God our Father to help us in every way to achieve salvation. Jesus in the gospelof 
St. Matthew tells us "Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when heasked for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for fish? Bad as you are,you know how to give good things to your children. How much more then will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him".Worrying
In being a Christian we ought to stop worrying. Jesus reminds us in the parable of the
Rich Fool,the futility of worry, when the man told himself I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I will store my corn and all my other goods. Then I will say to myself luckyman ! You have all the good things you need for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, andenjoy yourself! But God said to him " You fool ! this very night you will have to give upyour life; then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself? And Jesusconcluded, this is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not richin God's sight".Brothers and Sisters
We are all brothers and sisters in God's Christian family. There are real opportunities todemonstrate this brother and sisterhood as we move on to join or form prayer groups, bible studygroups, lay societies and associations, they abound in our communities. There is the chance toshare our time, our joys our sorrows, and common interest in Jesus Christ. Most of us don't findthis opportunity for sharing anywhere else.

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