Chapter OneDISCUSSION ONE
Why Would Anyone
Think I'm Not
Imagine turning on the evening news and hearing the
top story: Christianity declared illegal! As you sit there
in disbelief, the announcer states that anyone who is a
Christian will be arrested and will stand trial. Special
police forces are already at work, dragging Christians
out of their homes.
You turn off the television, hands shaking. You
never identified a particular religion to follow, but you
were born into a Christian family. Is that enough to
implicate you? You think of when you were growing
up: your mother made sure you were baptized and
attended Sunday school. You were even (you shudder)
confirmed! You've visited churches several times over
the last twenty years. You also remember that at work
you've commented on your "Christian" heritage. Of
course, you also know you're as honest, good, and
kind as the next guy.
Oh no, you think. I'm toast!
You hear a sound outside. You sneak over to the
window and close the blinds just as a dark blue police
van pulls to a stop in front of your house. What will
you do? Should you hide? Run out the back door?
There's a knock on the door. You brace yourself for
the inevitable and open the door. Two police officers
show their badges. You nod. They ask for your
"Yes, we have information she is here with you."
"Um, no, she flew back to Florida two weeks ago."
"We'll need to look around," one of the officers
says as they walk in.
They quickly search through the house looking for
any signs of your mother. After a few tense moments,
they head out the door. "That's it."
They stop. "Yes?"
"Well, I just thought . the new law ."
"Don't worry. We're only arresting Christians, not
their relatives," the other officer answers abruptly.
"So you're not here to question me?"
"Like I said," the officer repeats, "we're only
In this scene, not being accused of being a Christian
would come as a relief. Yet so many of the attributes
expressed above are what many think identifies a
person as a Christian. If you're born in a Christian
family and you're not following some other religion-and
are not an atheist-then by default you must be
a Christian. Right? Especially if you have some Christian
exposure in your background. That goes double
if you've attended a Christian church with any kind of
regularity. Surely that would qualify you to be arrested
for being a Christian.
So what kind of evidence is needed to put a person
in jail for being a Christian?
OPEN FOR DISCUSSION
1. Describe an occasion when you (or someone
you know) believed you had the necessary
ticket to attend a special event but for some
reason were denied entry.
2. If you were to identify someone as a Christian, what definitive factors or reasons would you
look for to support that claim?
3. Which of the activities in the following list
qualifies someone to be a Christian? Check all
that apply and give reasons for your answer(s).
____ being born and raised in a Christian
____ being baptized as an infant or an adult
____ being confirmed
____ attending church regularly
____ observing Christian holidays
____ reading the Bible occasionally
____ serving in the church
____ donating money to the church
____ being a good and kind person
____ participating in Communion
____ being a formal member of a church
____ obeying the Ten Commandments
____ praying frequently
____ having some kind of spiritual or
4. What role do you think religious activity plays
in being a true Christian?
As soon as we start pointing to things people do as proof that
they're true Christians, we confuse what it takes to live as a
Christian with what it takes to become a Christian. A man and
a woman could walk arm in arm, kiss each other, even go to the
same home at the end of the day-but that doesn't make them
married. For that to be true, a moment must come when they
go beyond dating and proclaim unreservedly, "I do." Likewise,
people can be associated with spirituality and live out various
Christian behaviors without encountering Christ in a significant
and authentic way. It happens to people in cults all the time.
So the definitive factor in being a Christian cannot be lifestyle
oriented-it has to relate in some way to receiving Christ.
Having said that, one would expect someone who has
encountered Christ to live an obedient Christian life. But an obedient
life doesn't save the person-it is simply evidence that
Jesus is present and is making his presence known through
the person's life.
5. Do you think it is possible to have a false sense
of security about being a Christian? If you
answered yes, name some examples of false
hopes. If no, why do you think a person can't
be wrong about his or her claim to be a
The Bible warns of a kind of rude awakening that awaits those
who are counting on religious activities to get them into heaven.
[Jesus said,] "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven Many will say to me on
that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and
in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.'"
6. The people referenced in the above verses were
definitely busy doing religious things. What do
you think is the difference between an actively
religious person who enters the kingdom of
heaven and an actively religious person who
7. What is the correlation between initially
becoming a Christian and living out one's life
as a Christian?
8. Do you think a person, to be a true Christian, must be born into the Christian religion, or
could he or she be converted into it, or both? Explain your answer.
You Must Be Born Again
The Bible records a fascinating encounter Jesus had with a religious
man named Nicodemus. In the middle of their discourse
Jesus replies, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom
of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). This man was not
an atheist; in fact, he was well versed in the Bible and a
respected teacher. Jesus was certainly not telling an irreligious
person to start going back to church. Nor was he telling a hypocrite
to stop his sinful actions. He was speaking to a devout
member of a local synagogue-a leader, no less-informing
him that something was missing in his life. Jesus revealed that
this man would not be in God's kingdom unless he became
9. What do you think it means to be born again?
10. What's the difference between being religious
and being born again? Why would Jesus tell
someone like Nicodemus, who was already
very religious, to be born again?
HEART OF THE MATTER
11. In what ways are you similar to Nicodemus? How are you different?
12. If you were to encounter Jesus today, would he
tell you there's still something missing in your
life? Why or why not?
13. Why does talking about being born again
often create negative images and angry
CHARTING YOUR JOURNEY
With this session you're beginning a journey. Keep in
mind that you do not need to feel pressured to "say the
right thing" at any point during these discussions.
You're taking the time to do this work because you're
looking for answers and because you're willing to be
honest about your doubts and uncertainties. Others in
your group would also benefit from hearing about what
you'll be learning. So use these sessions profitably-ask
the tough questions, think "outside the box," and learn
from what others in your group have to say. But stay
authentic about where you are in your journey.
To help you identify your progress more clearly,
throughout this guide you will have opportunities to
indicate where you are in your spiritual journey. As
you gain more spiritual insights, you may find yourself
reconsidering your opinions from session to session.
The important thing is for you to be completely truthful
about what you believe-or don't believe-right
14. Check the statement(s) below that best
describes your position at this point. Share
your selection with the rest of the group and
give reasons for your response.
____ I still don't understand what it means to
be a Christian.
____ I don't understand the difference between
being a good person and being a Christian.
____ I understand how to become a Christian, but I don't think I am ready to take that
____ I'd like to learn more about what it really
means to be a Christian.
____ I am glad to finally understand what
being a Christian means.
____ If believing in Jesus is all it takes to be a
Christian, it seems pointless to try to be a
____ I now have a better understanding of how
the Bible would say some people are
Christians and others aren't, but I don't
____ I wish someone would just tell me what
hoops to jump through and I'd do it.
____ I am now sure that I am not a Christian.
____ I am still unclear about Christianity and
whether I am a Christian or not.
____ I am sure that I am a Christian.
____ Write your own brief phrase here: ______
Scripture for Further Study
Isaiah 55:6-7 Romans 5:12-21
Matthew 7:15-27 Galatians 2:15-21
Matthew 22:1-14 Galatians 3:6-9
Mark 1:15 Ephesians 2:8-10
Mark 4:1-9 Colossians 2:6-7
Mark 8:34-38 Hebrews 3:7-15
John 3; 15 Hebrews 11