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What Does it Mean to Be a Good Christian?

Clarence L. Haynes Jr.

What does it mean to be a good Christian?

If there ever was a term that you could say is a loaded term, good Christian just might be it. After all what does it mean to be a good Christian anyway?

I am sure when you hear that term there are some images that come to mind of what this is or should be. Honestly, I don’t even know if this is a term that has origins in the church or if it comes from the world.

To me the term good Christian speaks to one thing: expectations.

Right or wrong, being a good Christian requires you to live up to a definition of what this looks like, whether that is fair or not. Today I want to consider this from a Biblical perspective and let’s see if you have what it takes to be a good Christian.

Where Does the Term Christian Come From?

Even though the use of this term Christian is quite common now, this was not always the case. The first converts were not immediately called Christians but were called either believers, of the Way, or followers of the Way. Here are some examples.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. – Acts 2:44 (emphasis added)

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. – Acts 9:1-2 (emphasis added)

However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets. – Acts 24:14 (emphasis added) 

The term Christian didn’t even begin with believers. It wasn’t until the church was formed in Antioch that this word was first used. Many believe it was initially used more as a derogatory term than a term of endearment.

The word Christian is also barely used in scripture only appearing three times in the entire New Testament. Here is where this term appears in case you were wondering.

And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. – Acts 11:26

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian? – Acts 26:28

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. – 1 Peter 4:16

What Does it Mean to Be a Good Christian?

Let’s now get to the question of what does it mean to be a good Christian? Here is the definition of these two words using dictionary.com.

Good – morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, and pious

Christian – a person who believes in Jesus Christ and who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ.

If you put these terms together a good Christian is a morally excellent, virtuous person who follows Christ and who lives out the teachings of Christ in their life. 

Is the Term "Good Christian" a Biblical Concept?

When you study the scriptures, I don’t think the term good Christian is really a Biblical concept. The reason why is because if you are striving to be a good Christian than much of that effort is dependent on you. The mindset is often let me do my best so I can make God happy.

When you think this way, it is very easy to slip into legalism where you are trying to earn God’s approval. The problem with this type of thinking is that you can’t earn God’s approval because God’s desire for us is not to be good but to be perfect. Is there anyone among us who is perfect? Outside of Jesus, the answer is no. 

If this is the case, then as a Christian what should we be striving for? The answer is simple.

Our goal should not be to be a good Christian our goal should be to have the character of Christ formed in us.

If Christ’s character is formed in you, then by default you will be a good Christian. The reason this is a better choice, and a more attainable option is because you cannot form the character of Christ in your life by yourself. It is impossible. God must form the character of Christ in you, and he does that by his power through the Holy Spirit that resides in you.

This takes the emphasis from you trying to be good, which traps you in the law and focuses your attention on allowing God to do the work in you, which leads you back to grace. In other words, God’s character is not formed in you by achievement but by agreement. You agree to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in you and God will form his character in your life.

Two Scenarios

Scenario 1 - Here is what life is like when you try to be a good Christian. You wake up and you set your mind on being a good Christian. You set out to do and say everything right and you are going to make sure that God is happy with your life throughout this day. However, it usually doesn’t take long to discover how difficult and virtually impossible this is in your own strength.

Scenario 2 - You wake up and you ask the Holy Spirit to work in your life today. You ask him for his strength to overcome the challenging areas of your life and you give him full permission to lead, direct, and flow through your life today. You soon discover how you can live and react in ways you never could before because of his strength.

I hope you can see the difference between the two and which situation is the better option.

The Christian life was never designed for you to muster up enough strength and will power on your own so you can be good. It was designed for you to be dependent on the Holy Spirit so he can change you and make you good, which again is having the character of Christ formed in you. Without his help this is nothing more than an exercise in frustration.

A Suit vs a Skin

If you are striving to be a good Christian, that is a noble effort, but too often it becomes like putting on a suit.

You put it on when you leave the house, you keep adjusting it throughout the day, so you keep looking good, especially when everyone is watching, then as soon as you get home you take the suit off. However, if you are going to be a good Christian, which we defined as having Christ’s character formed in you, that is more like your skin than a suit.

Regardless of where you go, your skin goes with you. You don’t have to put it on or take it off because it is a part of who you are. This is the work the Holy Spirit does in you if you will allow him to.

Remember it is by agreement not achievement. If you are striving to be a good Christian on your own, then you are focusing on changing the outside. If you are allowing the Holy Spirit to form the character of Christ in you then he is focusing on changing the inside and this is how you will do and be the good that God wants you to be.  

Don’t Be Good, Be filled

As you think of what it means to be a good Christian, I want you to focus on one thing. Don’t try to be good, focus on being filled. Here is what Galatians says.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

The real key to being a good Christian is not about being good but about being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. Since he is God, and God is good, he will help you live the good Christian life that you want to live.

The best part is that it won’t be a result of your own effort but a result of his power living in you. So yes, you can be a good Christian today it just won’t be a result of your strength but the result of his.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Hydromet


Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.