In my previous post, I painted a scenario: if you had the opportunity to open up one simple Bible passage, and briefly explain to someone what it meant to be a Christian, where would you turn?
I would turn to 1 Thessalonians 1, verses 8-10:
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
And with all the boldness, fluency and clarity that I wish I had in real life but only ever have in scenarios, I would read the passage with my new friend, and then say something like this:
"This part of the Bible is a letter written by one of the early Christian teachers (named Paul) to some people who had become Christians after he had shared the Christian message with them. And as he writes to them, he reminds them exactly what they did to become Christians. So it gives us a very neat summary of what the Bible says it means to become a Christian.
"It basically meant doing three things.
"The first thing that these people did was to turn away from their religion and culture. They used to worship idols — fake gods. But then they turned their backs on all this. Becoming a Christian requires you to turn away from your old life, from all the things that are not really god that you used to worship and live for.
"The second thing follows on from the first. They stopped serving and living for false gods, and started serving the true and living God—the one, real and true God, who made everything and who is in charge of everything. To become a Christian is to put yourself at God’s service; to acknowledge that he is the one and only God, and that you are one of his servants.
"But there’s a third aspect. Even if they turned back to God to serve him, why would he accept them? After all, they’d been worshipping the opposition, ignoring him, sinning against him. He would have every right to be angry with them. So why should he accept them back? Because of what it says there in verse 10: God’s Son Jesus died to deliver them from the anger that was to come (that’s what ‘wrath’ means).
"That’s what it means when Christians talk about Jesus ‘dying for our sins’. It means that when we stand before God at the end, and give account for our lives, we don’t have to fear God’s anger or judgement, because Jesus died to deliver us from that. So these guys were waiting confidently for the end, for when Jesus would return, knowing that he would rescue them and save them when they stood before God.
"So there you go—a quick summary of what the Bible says it means to be a Christian: turn your back on the false gods you used to worship, start serving the true and living God instead, and put your trust in Jesus who will rescue us from God’s anger."
"Now when you said to me before that you were a Christian, is that what you meant?"
Tony Payne is an ordained minister who serves as the Publishing Director at Matthias Media. He has authored or co-authored numerous books, Bible studies and resources, including The Trellis and the Vine, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face and Six Steps to Reading Your Bible. Tony is also a regular contributor to The Briefing, and lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife Alison and their five children.