Who is a Christian?
As you read and study what has been written here, do not just blindly accept it. Please check the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you His truth. The Scriptures quoted are from the King James version with the words of Jesus in red.
Do you consider yourself to be a Christian?
The answer many people would give in answer to this question is A yes, I do consider myself a Christian. Most of them would be very sincere in believing they were a Christian because they were born and living in a A Christian Nation or they were raised by parents in a Christian home. Before we can really answer this question truthfully, we must define the term Christian.
There are, however, many different definitions for the term Christian in common use today. Unfortunately, most of these definitions do not conform to the Scriptural use of the term nor do they fit the dictionary definition either.
The College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language defines A Christian as follows:
Noun: 1, A person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ, or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus; 2, The main character in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678); 3, A decent, respectable person. Adjective: 1, Of Jesus Christ; 2, Of teachings of Jesus Christ; 3, Of or professing the religion based on these teachings; 4, Having the qualities demonstrated and taught by Jesus Christ, as love, kindness, etc.; 5, Of or representing Christians or Christianity; 6, Human, decent, etc.
A disciple is defined by that same dictionary as a pupil, follower, or adherent of any teacher or school of religion, learning, art, etc. and also an early follower of Jesus, especially one of the twelve apostles.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary has the following comments about the term A Christian.
an adherent or follower of Christ....In each instance, the word Christian assumes that the person called by the name was a follower of Christ...In modern times the name Christian has been somewhat emptied of its true meaning as a follower of Christ. To some today, Christian means little more than a European or American who is not Jewish, while others have sought to make its proper use the name of a particular denomination.
There are only three Scriptures that use the term Christian. They are all in the New Testament; Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. In each of these cases, those to whom the term is applied are followers or disciples of Jesus.
Acts 11-26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
1 Peter 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
During the nearly 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth as a man the term Christian has taken on a much different meaning for many people. The meaning of the term Christian and its application is much different depending upon whether you are inside or outside the church world. And even within the church world there is not uniformity of application of the term. There are many today who identify them selves as Christians but are not followers or disciples of Jesus. This practice is in keeping with today's common application of the term to any who are not of the Jewish faith or heritage. Many others have identified themselves as Christians because they are either members, or regular attendees, of some church organization. They honestly believe that automatically makes them A a Christian ; meaning they are a follower or disciple of Jesus.
In a report issued June 25, 2001 by Barna Research entitled Religious Beliefs Vary Widely By Denomination they cite some shocking statistics about the born again constituency. Barna Research Group of Ventura, California is an organization that surveys and reports bi-weekly on American culture and faith. Their above cited report states in part:
"Among the 12 largest denominational groupings in the country, the number of individuals who can be classified as born again - not based upon self-report but upon their beliefs about life after death - ranges from a high o f 81% among the Assemblies of God to a low of 25% among Catholics. There was a clear-cut pattern within the data: adults who attend charismatic and non-denominational (Protestant) churches emerged at the top of the continuum, while those attending Catholic or mainline churches ranked at the bottom. The types of churches that have the highest percentages of born again believers, after the Assemblies of God, were other Pentecostal churches (80%), non-denominational Protestant churches (76%), and Baptist churches (67%)."
It is interesting to note these people surveyed were church attendees, not just a cross-section of the American public. In a report they issued December 17, 2001 where they identified the years most intriguing findings from their studies they said the following:
"Forty one percent of the adults who attend Christian church services in a typical week are not born again Christians - meaning they have not embraced Jesus Christ as their savior."
The common practice of using the term Christian to identify anyone who attends church makes it easy to believe these groups consider themselves to be A Christians even though these Barna reports did not actually say that. When there are so many different meanings applied to a single word it becomes difficult to communicate without honest mis-understandings.
As a follower or disciple of Jesus, who is The Christ or The Anointed One , it is perfectly normal and proper to call yourself a Christian. This would be in perfect agreement with the primary definition according to Webster's dictionary. It also would be in perfect harmony with the Scriptures.
Scripture uses other terms for those who were followers of Jesus. They were identified as those of the way , disciple or Jesus' disciple , and the sect of the Nazarenes. However, hardly anyone today would understand what you were talking about if you were to use any of these terms to describe those who are followers or disciples of Jesus.
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)
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:24-26)
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. (Acts 19:8-9)
Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. When Lysias the commander comes, he said, I will decide your case. (Acts 24:22)
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. (Matthew 27:57-58)
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. (Acts 24:5-6)
What is involved in being a A Christian ?
The short answer to this question of being a Christian is to be a follower or disciple of Jesus. It would, among other things, mean you are a student of the teachings of Jesus. This would include learning what those teachings are and becoming an adherent of them by incorporating those principles into your way of life. Becoming a member of, or regularly attending a church, will not in itself, make you a Christian or disciple. It may provide information, instruction, and encouragement to help you become a follower or disciple of Jesus. Only you, through the urging and power of the Holy Spirit, can make that continuing effort necessary to become a disciple.
Once the Holy Spirit has put the desire in your heart to follow Jesus you must be born again. You have been born of the flesh from your mother's womb but you must be born again of the Spirit. This is done by believing on the Name of Jesus while repenting of, and confessing, your sins and asking Him to take control of your life.
Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Jesus explained to Nicodemus, one of the ruling Pharisees, how you become a Christian by being born again. He said you have been born a natural man but you must also be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. This idea of being born again was a great mystery to Nicodemus and also to many today.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:1-17)
Now that you have made the determination that you really do want to follow Jesus and become a disciple, you must answer the question of how committed you are to that decision. You have been granted eternal life with Jesus by being born again but becoming a disciple requires more than just attaining future residence in heaven. Becoming a disciple will require you to study the Bible to learn about Jesus and the way of life He expects you to live.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:15-16)
Your teacher should be the Holy Spirit. Ask God, in prayer, for the Holy Spirit to reveal His truth as you read and study Scripture. Most often this is the method by which you will gain understanding but it is not the only way. God, through the Holy Spirit, may speak to you in prayer, by another person or in some other way. It is imperative, when you receive from these other means, that it witnesses with your spirit AND is in agreement with Scripture.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:25)
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him (1 John 2:27)
It also would require you to pray for the Holy Spirit to help you have a better understanding of the Scriptures.
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, (Luke 24:45)
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
You who have been born again of the Spirit are now a child of God. Becoming a child of God affords you both rewards and responsibilities. God has covenanted to provide for and protect those who live according to His Word. A partial list of those provisions and protections include salvation, forgiveness, peace, mercy, grace, strength, guidance, faithfulness, and healing. One of the Scriptures which promise salvation (Romans 10:9-10) has already been discussed. There are many Scriptures which could be quoted for each of the other provisions and protections listed above but only one of each will be listed here. I encourage you to search out not only these Scripture references, but also the many additional ones related to them.
Salvation (also Saved):
Mark 16:16, Luke 19:9-10, John 3:16-17, Acts 2:21, Acts 4:11-12, Romans 1:16, Romans 10:13, and Ephesians 2:4-10.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)
And Jesus said unto him,This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:9-10)
Acts 13:37-38, Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:8, and Colossians 1:14.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)
John16:33, Romans 5:1, Romans 8:6, Romans 14:17, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 2:14, Phillipians 4:7 & 9, Colossians 3:15, and 2 Thesalonians 3:16.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Ephesians 2:4, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 4:16, and 1 Peter 1:3.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)
Acts 15:11, Acts 20:32, Romans 1:5, Romans 3:24, Romans 5:2, Romans 5:15-16, Romans 6:14, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Galatians 2:21, Ephesians 2:5-9, Ephesians 4:7, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 4:16, 1 Peter 4:9-10, and 1 Peter 5:0.
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. (Act 11:23)
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. (Acts 3:6-8)
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
Faithfulness:Psalm 40:10, Psalm 89:1-8, Psalm 143:1, Isaiah 25:1, and Lamentations 3:21-23.
Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. (Psalms 36:5)
Healing: Matthew 9:35, Luke 9:6 & 11, Acts 4:22, Acts 10:38, 1 Corinthians 12:9,
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
When you becomeborn again you have entered into a covenant relationship with God. The enjoyment of God's provision and protection are His part of the covenant He has with the born again believer. Our part of that covenant is obedience to His Word. We are told in 2 timothy 2:15 to "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The study of God's Word is necessary for us to know how we are to live our lives. The Bible contains directions for what our thoughts and actions should be. As we learn these we are expected to follow them to honor, or fulfill, our part of the covenant between God and ourselves.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:22-25)
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Hebrews 5:32)
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
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? (Galatians 3:1)
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:5-9
There is a cost to become a disciple of Christ. When you choose to walk with Him, you will be out of step with the world. The closer you walk with the Lord, the more pressure you will feel from those of the world. You are apt to lose your friends because they will want you to do things which you no longer want to. They will probably tease or ridicule you. You may find the environment when you go to school or work suddenly becomes difficult for you to endure.
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-34)
The more serious you become about following the Lord Jesus the more you are apt to encounter persecution. Jesus tells 3s in Matthew 5, verse 11, that we should expect persecution because of Him.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness'sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
Scripture tells us to expect it. Jesus himself, in the parable of the sower, tells us tribulation and persecution will arise because of His Word.
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (Matthew 13:18-21)
Don't be surprised when some, if not most, of the persecution you experience comes from within the Christian community. We are given a description of the persecution inflicted on the followers of Christ by Saul, who was at that time part of the recognized formal religious community.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:1-3)
Saul, who became known as Paul, after his encounter with the Lord suffered persecution often from the religious community.
But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. (Acts 13:50)
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Scripture tells us these who were persecuted, suffered because the Jewish religious community would not accept the reign of Jesus as the Mesiah. A look at the history of the church reveals a re-occurring picture of persecution of the followers of Jesus. Almost all of this persecution directed against those who were serious followers of Jesus has come from the established religious organizations because their traditions of man have been ignored. During the past 2,000years, Christians that have stood outside the Protestant-Catholic tradition have had to endure persecution. John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, George Fox, John Bunyan, George Whitefield, and John Wesley are only a few of those Christians who were persecuted by the established religious order as they brought back some of the truth known and practiced by the early church.
About the third century Constantine combined the church and the State into one. Becoming a A Christian was politically proper because by so doing one had the protection of the State against those who would try to persecute you. Many became Christians, in name only, to escape the persecution but did not develop into believers. This practice has continued even until today. The reason for doing this is different today but the A churched ones are still populated by large numbers who are Christians primarily to be accepted rather than a belief that a relationship with Jesus will change you. These are the ones who willingly give an hour of their time on Sunday morning if it doesn't conflict with something else they consider more important.
Surveys tell us that large numbers of main line denomination members, including clergy, don't believe the Bible is God's Word to us describing how we are to live. Many of these same people have never read the Bible or even have a clue about its contents. It is interesting, however, that within these same denominational churches there are also many who have a rich everyday relationship with the Lord Jesus. Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew this would occur when He was speaking about the one who sowed seed.
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:3-9)
Jesus explains to His disciples what the meaning of the parable is. Verses 22 and 23 describe the two types of believers so prevalent in the church today.
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:22-23)
Many in the Christian community today are sensing a mighty move of God is about to occur. There have been numerous prophecies uttered which have proclaimed this as eminent. Only time will reveal whether or not this is a A word from God or just too much pizza talking. Everyone agrees we are nearing the day of Christ's triumphant return. Scripture tells us Jesus will return for His Church which will be without spot or wrinkle.
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27)
There have also been many prophecies about the condition of the church and the need to become holy again. Many of these have spoken about fire, earthquake, wind and rain destroying what is not of God, but that which remains would be the purified righteous and holy Church. Many of these prophecies have declared that those ministries and organizations raised through man's work will be destroyed while that which was built by the Holy Spirit will remain standing. God is displeased with those institutions and ministries raised up in His name but not by Him, according to these prophecies.
Contained within these prophecies have also been messages of a remnant, or seed group who have walked in righteousness that will spring forth and flourish to bring quick growth to the Church without spot or wrinkle. May we who read this, and many others, diligently seek the face of God to become part of that preserved seed group.
As we follow hard after our Lord Jesus and experience the persecution we must keep in mind what we are told in Hebrews 13:5-6, "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
We also need to keep in mind the fact our Lord knows the temptations we face and will provide a way for us to be able to bear it.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In the 8th chapter of Romans we are told the sufferings of this present time, or world, are not worthy to be compared to the glory which we shall yet see.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:16-19)
Whatever persecution we face, whether merely ridicule, or the surrender of your life for the cause of Christ, spending eternity with the Lord Jesus is more than worth it.
January 27, 2002
If you desire additional information you may contact me: Bill
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