Just re-read the New Testament and this question has been at the front of my mind. These are just a few of similar quotes that are in question:

Matthew 16:24: "Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:12-14, NASB)

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." (from Galatians 2:20, NASB)

In Matthew 7: 16-27, he makes the point:
Not everyone who acknowledges Jesus as the Lord will be saved, but those who do the will of God.

Mother Theresa and Orthodox Monks at Mount Athos are some of the very few people I can think of when I read The New Testament and actually doing what Jesus asked of His disciples.

Personally, after reading the New Testament I see that I am a good person but not worthy of Jesus.

How can anyone call themselves a Christian if they do not give up their life (similar Mother Theresa or the Monks)? It seems pretty clear to me what he is asking of us(meaning no room for interpretation), so any clarification would be very helpful.

The question is:

What is the rationale, bible passages, word of God, tradition (or anything else) that allows someone to feel confident calling themselves a Christian?

Thank You.

  • 3
    2 Corinthians 3:5
    – user23
    Apr 21, 2012 at 4:32
  • ...which says, "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." Oct 9, 2012 at 20:35
  • Grace exists for the very reasons you describe. Read Romans 1:1-5
    – eyoung100
    May 31, 2014 at 0:42

7 Answers 7


All Men Are Sinners

After Adam sinned, the human race was corrupted, and everyone born was born separate from God. (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-24, 8:21, Romans 5:12, 3:10-18, James 2:10-11) Even a man's "righteous" deeds, prayers, sacrifices, etc. are offensive to God in that state! (Isaiah 64:6, Isaiah 59:1-2, Proverbs 28:9, 15:8) NOTE: Christians generally believe that this is why Jesus had to be born of a virgin - the sinless sacrifice of Jesus was essential to God's plan. (Luke 1:26-35, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:21-23)

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NASB)

This is a major problem which earns us eternity in Hell. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Revelation 20:11-15, 21:1,10,27)

God's Redemptive Plan

God had a plan for redemption though, and immediately began reaching out to mankind, foreshadowing the coming of Jesus, and encouraging people to return to Him and trust Him for their salvation. (Genesis 3:21, Hebrews 10:1-10, Romans 7:7, Galatians 3:24, Colossians 2:16-17) In God's love, He sent His only Son to come and pay the penalty for our sin - death. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21) In fact, not only was justice served, but those who belong to Christ actually have their sins removed. (1 John 1:7, 3:5, Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 10:14) This fixes the "problem". (Romans 6:23, 8:1)

"Life in Christ"...?

There are essentially three things which define the life of someone who is "in Christ":

  • Living in submission to His Lordship (Matthew 7:21, Romans 6:22)

  • Walking in His love (John 13:35, 1 John 4:7-8, Luke 10:25-28)

  • Being led by His Spirit (Romans 8:9, 13-14)

(With some understanding it becomes clear they are all the same thing.)

"and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." (2 Corinthians 5:15, NASB)

It is important to note, though, that God's will is often different than what we think is good. (Isaiah 55:8) If God has called you to work in a factory, but you lock yourself away in an Abbey somewhere, you are in disobedience. (1 Thessalonians 4:11, Hebrews 5:4, 1 Corinthians 7:17) If God calls you to rebuke someone, but you shrink back, you are in disobedience. (2 Samuel 12:1-15, Hebrews 10:38)

Crossing Over

A life "in Christ" is the opposite of a life "outside of Christ". (1 Peter 4:1-5) So to "repent", or "convert" is to die to your old life and live for Him. (Acts 17:30, Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) This death involves turning everything over to Him. (Luke 14:27-33, Galatians 5:17,24) This is a drastic decision that can only truly be made out of sincere sorrow for our old life of offense to God. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

"For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. " (1 Peter 2:25, NASB)

Judge Yourself

It is good for us to consider carefully whether we are "in Christ". (2 Corinthians 13:5) Have I surrendered my life to the Lord? (Luke 17:33) Do I desire to do His will above my own? (Matthew 6:10, 26:42) Am I living ("dying") this way daily? (Luke 9:23, 1 Corinthians 15:31)

We all make mistakes, but God is patient and forgiving toward His people. (James 3:2, Nehemiah 9:17, James 5:16, 1 John 2:1) The question is - are we sincerely trying to follow Christ out of a serious repentance and love? (Hebrews 10:26) If we are, God will honor that. (Proverbs 24:12, Jonah)

  • I like the point that it is a complete and absolute surrender of our wills to His -- not a robotic obedience, but a whole-hearted, sincere repentance, where we feel godly sorrow for our sins and plead for His grace to strengthen us and make us whole. Thank you for a great comment! Also, kudos for pointing out that, as Mother Abbess tells Maria in the Sound of Music, "just because you love him, doesn't mean you love God less." Part of God's plan for most people is to marry and raise godly children up to follow Him, and that requires going to work every day to earn money. May 16, 2014 at 16:57

The mere fact that Jesus came in human form and not any supernatural, extraordinary form to live an exemplary life, facing worldly temptations is cause for us believe that we can truly be followers of him. When he left his men who were not exactly as perfect as He was, continued his works sharing their faith amidst trials and temptations of the flesh.

Sin is deeply engraved in our genes making it seem impossible to reach that standard that Jesus requires of us, but the Apostle Paul faced similar challenges when he said "For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Romans 7:18 From 2 Samuel 12, despite his faithfulness to God, David was severely punished for taking his subordinate's wife even after fasting and pleading to Him.

But with Christ's death, as a bridge or ladder linking us to God, we can climb back at where we fell short of He glory. On this ladder, some are almost at the top, some at the middle while some have just taken a step. Others have seen and unwilling to climb whiles others are searching for it. Whatever level we are

"...If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s." (2 Corinthians 10:7).

My understanding from the above is that noone can produce more proof of 'holiness' (I may be corrected if wrong).

Some face death because of their faith, others do not. Some have been abandoned from families and societies due to their faith, others have not. Not all of us will face the troubles and evils of the world like the first Christians did but surely we will not find it easy.
Believing that Christ is our Saviour may not be enough, we will need to live the life. Living the life might not be enough, we will need to preach to others as well, and on it goes.

"And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. " (Mark 10:18).

My eagerness, will power, readiness and deeds to follow Christ, whatever level I am on must manifest that God is really with me, that I'm are on the right path.

"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. " (Matthew 7:17-18).


Confidence does not come from what we do, but rather what Christ has done. In Philippians 3, Paul points out that if anyone should be confident in being saved by what they do, it is him. He is the one that has followed the law as much as humanly possible, yet in 3:7 he says:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7, ESV)

He goes on to say that his salvation is based completely on what Christ has done, and gaining a righteousness from God that depends on faith. Paul is confident that it doesn't matter what he does or doesn't do, what matters is that he is right with God only through faith

This however doesn't mean that Christians can do whatever they want. Jesus does call us to give up our lives and follow him. In James 1:22 it says:

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves (NIV)

If we have faith in Jesus' death and resurrection for our salvation then this should lead us to doing "good things". It's important to note though that these good things don't save us, they come after salvation.

But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18, ESV)

Even if you give up your life to serve other people (like Mother Theresa) your works will not be enough to save you, you need to have faith. If you do have a genuine faith that Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised again to give you a righteousness with God, then you can be confident that you are a Christian and should be confident in calling yourself one.


The question is - "What is the rationale, bible passages, word of God, tradition (or anything else) that allows someone to feel confident calling themselves a Christian?"

I'll answer for myself.

A Christian is one who continues in the word of Christ (John 8:31). He who continues in the word of Christ also abides in Christ (John 15:4). He who abides in Christ bears fruit (John 15:5). The disciples and non-disciples of Christ shall be known by their fruits (Matthew 7:20-21). Some bear 100% fruit, some 60, some 30 (Matthew 13:8). But as long as I am bearing fruit, I can know that I am a Christian.

So even if I may have not reached the level of Mother Teresa (for example) in bearing fruit, I still bear fruit and so I know I am a Christian. "You shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:20).

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22).

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    Can you clarify "bearing fruit" here? May 28, 2012 at 5:18
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    @MarcGravell Done. May 28, 2012 at 5:21
  • 1
    Thanks. It is interesting (to me) that I know many people of other faiths, and none, who bear the same fruits, and yet have very little to do with Christianity. May 28, 2012 at 5:24
  • 1
    @MarcGravell Yes, Christianity however ties many of these fruits in direction relation to God. Therefore, love primarily implies love for Christ (John 14:15), joy refers not to human joy but the joy that comes from the Spirit (1 Thess 1:6), peace refers not to worldly peace but the peace that comes from Christ (John 14:17) and so on. May 28, 2012 at 5:32
  • So it's just in our head about how we think of things that is the difference? May 29, 2012 at 23:58

What is the rationale, bible passages, word of God, tradition (or anything else) that allows someone to feel confident calling themselves a Christian?

A number of Christians see the record of having everything in common described in the first church (assembly) in Jerusalem in the book of Acts and see a pattern to follow. This has been tried many times throughout history (even the Pilgrims tried it) and it always seems to fail. It puzzles many as to how the first church could seem so godly and all other attempts fall short.

The first church practiced Christian "communism" because they had no alternative. They were under siege. To become a Christian was to be cut off from family and employment. We can see in the description of the man born blind that to run afoul of the religious leaders was to risk much.

Christ is our example of perfection. We start out imperfect and strive to become mature, complete, and perfect as we grow in our faith. There is no way we can accomplish this without the Spirit of God working in us. The letter to the Christians at Galatia shows what happens when Christians who are starting to mature get diverted into a false path.

Galatians 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Paul greatly understood the problems that interfere with Christian maturity.

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Romans 7:14-15 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

Paul wrote the Galatians in such strong terms because they were starting down a path that leads to where the Pharisees were, self-justification. This is a particularly dangerous path because it leads to the blindness of self-sufficiency.

Luke 18:9-12 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Christians who get off track are not uncommon;

James 4:1-4 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

In the realm of those who call themselves Christian are those who are mature, those who are immature, and those who are deceived in thinking they are Christian at all.

Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

It is very confusing to Christians themselves and many make great effort to measure and declare who is a real Christian and who is not. I can imagine how confusing it looks to those who are not Christian.

The confidence one has to call oneself a Christian can come from various sources. For most the criteria established by a denomination such as baptism and is the basis for their confidence. For some others like Paul it is the closeness to and knowledge of their Lord;

2 Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.


God gave us rules not that we could ever follow all of them, but to convict us of our sin. And, I think the best example of someone that was 'almost' perfect was Moses. He did everything perfectly until the very end when he stuck the rock. HE STRUCK A ROCK and that kept him out of the promised land. After leading all those ungrateful people for 40 years (the first generation died and ended up with the second generation).

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Living up to Jesus' standards- No one can and we are all unworthy in themselves. No one is good on their own and each man, woman and child is worthy of, and on a trajectory for, only one thing-hell, until God changes that for us. That is why it is only through God's great mercy that anyone is saved. Nothing we can do on our part can save us (Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:4-5). This is grace . We go from being his enemies to his beloved (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:1-13). We cannot wrap our minds around how a Holy and Supreme God could want to dwell with sinners. He is perfect, we are not. No sin will ever enter his kingdom. This is why we need Jesus. God became a man and through faith, we are justified, or declared righteous (i.e not guilty of our sins) forevermore (Romans 8:1). The Spirit of God then dwells in us to conform us into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). We have a part to play in that we must read and study Scripture, train ourselves and pursue godliness (1 Tim. 6:11), and pray, but it always a work of the Spirit within us that does the work. To the degree that we do the former, the latter will occur in us. We will never be perfect this side of heaven but we don't have to be because Jesus was (although this should be our aim- 1 John 3:7). When anyone trusts and receives him into their lives as Lord and Savior (John 1:12, Romans 10.9-10) they are saved and his perfect record is imputed, or given to them as if it were their own. There is a legal transaction that takes place (imputed righteousness/ justification). The Holy Spirit then comes to live inside of us and we are spiritually re-born. When we stand before him on judgement day, which we all will as soon as we die (Hebrews 9:27, 2 Corinthians 5:10), even though we will sin many more times, it is his perfect record that is seen in us, not our own. This should cause us to exalt God in our lives and live for his glory, not our own. We must pick up our cross (i.e, die to our own selves and our sinful life and cease being the ruler of our lives) and submit or follow Christ by obeying his commands (John 14). Living by the flesh means staying in our sin. If we are truly Christians, we should abhor sin. As the Holy Spirit lives within us, he will move in us to love what he loves and hate what he hates. But we must ask God for this. Ask for holiness, godliness, faith, love, and conformity to Jesus. He came to be an example for us. The bible is absolutely clear that many who "profess" the name of Jesus will never enter his kingdom (Luke 6:46, 13:24). But that is because it is just a "profession" and not a "possession" of faith. No mere act, sacrament, tradition or words save anyone. Hell is filled with "good people" who went to church their whole lives. But believe God's promises and there will never be anymore guilt. Of course we should reflect on our past sins and strive not to sin but when we do, stop right then and there and confess it to God. Christians are always, always forgiven for every sin (Psalm 103:10-12, Ephesians 1:4-8) and forgiveness is never tied to the confession of them. They can't be because there are so many sins we commit that we don't even know about (i.e. sins of ommission-James 4:17). "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" Acts 16:31; "He saves to the uttermost, those who draw near to God through him"- Hebrews 7:25. It is not just a verbal assent but a whole heart given over to his Lordship, and as Savior. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1. Amen and hallelujah!

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    Whoa! Please edit this to add some paragraph breaks!
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 22, 2015 at 4:16

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