What is a Christian? I reckon the answer depends on whom you ask. Webster says, “A person who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Many Christians would define a Christian as, “Someone who is saved or born again.” That answer may be technically correct, but unless someone knows the vernacular, “saved” and “born again” are unknown or at best vague in their meaning. While Christians may take the story of Nicodemus as common knowledge, many others may ask the same questions Nick did (John 3:4), “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
The more people asked, the more varied the answers. “Hypocrites,” “Bible thumpers,” and in some religious circles Christians are “the infidels.”
Maybe we are asking the wrong people. What does God say?
Tucked away in 11 verses in the middle of the Old Testament is the description of the relationship between a Christian and God. This description gives excellent insight into what a Christian is.
The first two verses speak of who a Christian is – In summary, a Christian is blessed by God, one who has had their sins forgiven; God will not apply guilt to them anymore; and the Christian has a loving spirit that does not look to evil (compare the “no guile” of verse 2 with 1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
Psalm 32:3-4 shows a person’s agony over sin. This torture of the soul is something that is constant; “all the day long” and “For day and night” are the phrases used. A Christian is not someone that has a cloud of remorse hanging over them at all times, but the transformation into a Christian does not come without an acknowledgment of their sin. This burden of sin, when it leads to faith in Christ’s sacrifice for sin is when forgiveness is applied; therefore, every Christian will agonize over sin before salvation. Acts 13:38-39, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
Verse five brings the confession of sin brought on by faith, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” Verse five is the moment of salvation, the transformation into a Christian, that being “born again” mentioned by Jesus to Nicodemus. See Romans 10:9-10.
Verse six of Psalm 32 talks about a Christian’s prayer life. When “the floods of great waters” come – the Christian prays.
Psalm 32:7 gets into the meat of a Christian’s relationship with God.
“Thou art my hiding place” – While facing enemies, difficult times, and unsuspected calamities we have a hiding place in God. A hiding place – a place where we can go for protection, for security, a place where we can rest while God does the fighting and faces the struggle.
“Thou shalt preserve me from trouble” – This is the result of the hiding place, yet it is still Him. No matter how bad it gets, we can make it through without a scar because He has the scars on His hands, His feet, and all over His body.
“Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” – God’s deliverance surrounds Christians. He has delivered us from our sins. The penalty we face, he has taken. We are free because He bore the burdens and surrounds us with songs, reminders of what He has done for us.
Verse eight is God’s promise to “instruct” and “teach” us the directions in life He wants us to go. He promises never to take His eye off us and “guide” us wherever He needs us to go.
Verses nine and 10 are a warning and a promise; a warning, not of God’s wrath, but of our ability to not use the understanding God gives us. Not following godly understanding will bring sorrow, but trusting in God will surround us in mercy.
The final verse, verse 11, shows the joy and gladness of the Christian heart. Psalm 32:11, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”