WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN
Greetings precious people of Alpine.
Today I would like us to consider what Godís Word, the Bible has to say about the name "Christian". People in our society as well as those around the world have many ideas of what the term Christian means and where it came from. Many from other countries consider the United States of America to be a "Christian" nation. Years ago that term may have fit our nation but not any longer, at best we could be called a "Post Christian" country. As we will see from the Bible a Christian or a Christian nation should act like the name it bears.
Many who live and were born in America consider themselves to be Christians. Some simply because they were born here, others because they are not Muslim, Hindu, or some other religion. Most that would consider themselves to be Christian do so because they have gone to church and believe in certain creeds, teachings, and doctrines. Lets take these thoughts and ideas to the Bible and see how well they hold up.
First, lets see where the term Christian came from. In the book of Acts 11:26 "So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." This term Christian was not a complementary term. It was used in a derogatory way. But it identified those that were followers of Jesus Christ with Him. For you see the root word of Christian is Christ. The word Christian actually means "Christ like", a follower of Christ. Prior to this name which has become the most recognized name given to those that are followers of Jesus Christ, various other names were ascribed. Names such as "The Way", a "Sect", "Fools", and other unkind names.
Notice from the verse previously cited what Christians were known as prior to being called Christians, they were known as disciples. The word disciple comes from the Greek word "mathetes", which means: learner, follower, student, and disciple. Listen to the qualifications that Jesus gave for those that would be His disciples. In the Gospel of Mark 8:34-38 "When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." Then in Matthew 10:37-39 Jesus tells us, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
From these Scriptures, which is only a reflection of what Jesus has to say in many others verses, a Christian/disciple is one who: believes that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; who chooses to surrender his or her life to Jesus and His will; who chooses to love Jesus more than anything and anyone else; who chooses to turn his or her back on all else that they may follow Jesus, learn of Him, and become like Him.
According to the Bible the word disciple and Christian should be synonymous. Unfortunately this is not the case in our society today. A Christian is someone that goes to church and believes (makes an intellectual accent) to some truths about Jesus, but doesnít let it affect his or her life too much. They donít become a "fanatic" about this Jesus stuff. A disciple on the other hand is considered to be quite a bit more serious. They take God at His Word, they seek to live their life by what the Bible says, they are considered to be a little radical even fanatical. God makes no such distinctions in His Word. It is a tragedy that the church has made two classes if Christianity. It should not be so.
How does a person become a Christian? It is not by certain rites, rituals, or baptisms. The Bible tells us that we are born into it. Listen to what Jesus said to a very religious man by the name of Nicodemus in John 3:3, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." In much the same way a person becomes a member of a human family (by physical birth), a person becomes a member of Godís family through spiritual birth. The Bible uses the term Born Again or Born of the Spirit.
This takes place when a person recognizes that they are a sinner (a breaker of Godís Law), acknowledges and confesses their sin to God, asks for forgiveness, repents of his sin, turns to Jesus Christ in faith for Salvation, accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It is all a matter of faith in the Wonderful Grace of God. As Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." God has done it all through His Son Jesus Christ. All you need do is turn to Him in faith. The moment a person does this he or she becomes a Christian.
For many this is far too simplistic. They say "There must be more, I must do something, I must do some kind of work, follow some rites or rituals. No! You can not do anything, only believe. I know this is a blow to manís pride and ego. We like to think that we should have something to do with it. But we canít, if we did we would for certain mess it up and it would cease to be grace. For you see grace is Godís unmerited favor toward mankind. If it could be earned, bought, or worked for it would no longer be grace. It would then be salvation based upon works and that is what "religion" is, man working his way to heaven. Heaven can never be obtained this way, because it says the sacrifice God gave in His Son is not enough. What a slap in the face of the Almighty God.
What are you trusting in dear ones? Are you a Christian today? Are you a Christian by the Bibleís standard or are you merely only calling yourself a Christian by your own terms?
In the weeks to come Iíd like us to examine what the Christian life is to be according to the Bible. We will examine the various aspects of what life is to be as a Christian. Until then may the Lord richly bless you.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine