Q: I have always wanted to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, but up until now I feel no change in myself. I want to be a real Christian, but I fail. What advice can you give me for being a real Christian? —Yvette, from Rwanda
A: Yvette, I appreciate your honesty, and your desire to be a “real Christian.” First, it’s important to realize that of ourselves, we can do nothing. But, as Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
According to Acts 11:26, the followers of Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch. They were called Christians because they followed Christ and had committed to walk as Jesus walked (see 1 John 2:6).
In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” A true Christian has faith in Jesus as their Savior.
Secondly, it is important to confess our sins to God, and to accept the forgiveness that He offers. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Thirdly, the evidence of a true Christian is displayed in both faith and action. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). And Jesus promises, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). A true Christian will show his faith by how he lives.
As you allude to in your question, the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the life of a real Christian, because it is He who works within us to transform us into true followers of Christ. Paul writes, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). To receive the Holy Spirit, we must submit our will to His, allowing Him to transform us. What does this look like?
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22-26).
To summarize, the Bible defines a true Christian as:
- one who has personally received Jesus Christ as Savior.
- who trusts in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins.
- who has the Holy Spirit residing within.
- whose life evidences change consistent with faith in Jesus.
Finally, as you seek transformation in becoming a real Christian, I highly recommend prayerfully reading the beautiful book, Steps to Christ. Download it here. This book has touched millions of lives, leading them to a full and satisfying Christian life.