Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is a Christian?

Confession time -- I am short cutting this morning. I did so on my walk, I skipped going to the church mail box (I am going out later and will check it then), and I am taking a short cut for the blog this morning.

I posted on FaceBook (Sunday - I think) that I was preaching a sermon about what is a Christian. I friend (who also reads this blog) asked about the sermon and suggested I adapt it to the blog so she could read the sermon. This morning that seemed like a good idea, so I share with you and abbreviated version of my thoughts that came from a variety of sources.

What is a Christian?

There is in our world what I call "Christian Confusion." If you read the papers and magazines or watch news outlets you get the idea that there are a variety of definitions or ideas concerning what or who is a Christian.

Many in our world equate being a "Westerner", esp. U.S. citizen, with being a Christians. If you are from the Western Hemisphere or if you are a U.S. citizen to much of the world you are a Christian. I have an issue with that definition simply because it is not true. There are many people in our part of the world who are not Christians. Some are atheists and even in my rural Alabama county I have friends who are Muslim. This definition will not work.

Others consider any good moral person to be a Christian. While I hope and would think that all who claim to be Christians are good moral people, not all good moral people are Christians. I go back to my Muslim friend and some atheists I know. They are morally good, and regretfully some are more moral than a few who claim to be Christians. We can scratch that definition.

An adherent to a “church" is another common definition. I first understood this concept when I was in the U.K. in the mid 1980's. I met a man and we began talking about my accent and where I was from in the "Colonies" as he put it. The conversation turned to my being over there to assist in a Christian Mission effort. He said, I am an R.C. (around here that's a type of "Coke;" there and RC is a Roman Catholic). I asked about Mass and he informed me he had not attended in years, but was still a Christian because of his adherence to the Catholic Church. I have since come in contact with adherents to many denominations and non-denominational groups that have the same idea. But simply adhering in this since is not enough. That would be like someone saying they were an avid fisherman, but does not own a pole or hasn't fished in years.

Some get closer to truth and claim a Christian is a believer in Jesus. This is partially true. Christians are believers (we'll discuss this later), but there is more to being a Christian that simply stating mental acceptance. I believe that Gandhi was a good man and a leader of his people, but I am not a follower of Gandhi. One can believe that Jesus was real and even that he was Christ, but if he/she does not allow Christ's teaching to change his/her life are they really a Christian?

What I want us to discover is this: Who does the Bible say is a Christian?

Acts 11:26, "At Antioch the disciples were first called disciples." - A Christian is first a Disciple. By definition a disciple is: 1) A learner, 2) A follower, and 3) An Adherent. Specifically a Christian is a disciple of Christ (cf. 1 Jn 2:3-6). A Christian is to follow Christ's teaching, learn from His doctrine, and adhere to what he learns from Christ. A Christian follows in Christ's footsteps, learns from His way of life, and adheres to the example He left for us.

In Acts 26:27-29 Paul tells Agrippa that he knows the king believes, the king responds telling Paul in so many words, that he is close to making a Christian out of the king. Agrippa understood our next observation: A Christian is a Believer.

This belief is not simply acceptance but it is saving faith. A faith that is like the faith of those in Hebrews 11 that acts with confidence. Of each of these characters one might easily assign to them the statement assigned to Abraham in Jas 2:23, that "he believed God and it was imputed (accounted, credited) to him for righteousness. James point and the Hebrew writer's point are the same. Faith that does not obey in action is not faith. Belief that is only a verbal statement is not belief. to be a real faith, belief must be reverent, obedient, and trusting.

A Christian is one who obeys the Gospel. Rom 1:16 says the Gospel is God's power to save. 1 Cor 15:1-4 teaches that the Gospel is the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Thessalonians in 2 Thess 1:7-9 that the Lord will take vengeance on those who do not obey the Gospel. When one obeys the doctrine of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus he is set free from the slavery of sin (Rom 6:17-18) and becomes a servant of righteousness. One obeys the death burial and resurrection when they follow Christ in a death burial and resurrection like his (see Rom 6:3-6). For reference sake take a look at theses conversions to Christ in the book of Acts (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36; 10:47-48; 16:14-15; 33)

When one obeys the Gospel becoming a Child of God (Gal 3:26-27), God then adds that person to the number of His own people -Acts 2:47. A Christian is the a member of the household of God (1 Tim 3:15), he is a citizen not of this earth but of heaven (Phlp 3:20). She becomes a living stone in a living temple (1 Pet 2:4-5) and is set apart for God's noble use (2 Tim 2:20-21).

Peter in 1 Pet 4:14-16 describes the Christian as a patient sufferer. Paul says that all who follow Christ will suffer (2 Tim 3:12). How we suffer and what we learn from suffering is what James discusses early in the book of James.

According to our quick look at the Bible; A Christian is: A Disciple and Believer who Obeyed from the heart the Gospel that set him free from sin, adding him to Christ's Church, and enduring through Suffering awaiting the reward of the faithful.

Now for the ultimate question; Will you be one? Read Acts 22:16.


David Courington said...

Glad you posted this good article Scott. I wrote a lesson last week on this subject with the idea of doing a series of lessons for church and making camp material for this summer. The first lesson was "What is a Christian- Character." I'm planning one on Salvation, relation to the church, as a learner, etc. I sure I will "borrow" some of this material.

Scott said...

Borrow away, and in the words of Charles Hodge, don't give me credit, because the fellow I stole it from might be listening.

John said...

Great job, Scott. That's a good beginning. We are pretty confident in the church that we know how to become a Christian. And, I believe we are correct.

That said, there is another, a 'continuing', way to look at what is a Christian. A Christian is also one who lives the teaching of Jesus on a daily basis. I fear we have too many in the church who confess the plan of salvation and then deny the Christian life. I also fear that we have too many in the church that think its ok to deny the Christian life since they confess the plan of salvation. They wont say it with their mouth, but they say it with their life. I believe that if we had more who would confess both - the world would pay more attention to Christ's message of which we are stewards.

Jump from Romans 6 to Matthew 5-7 and then to John 6 and feed us with that. See if the audience response is the same.

Keep up the good blogging. I more or less quit mine after about 4 months in 2006. I read four months is the average life of a blog. Knowing that someone actually reads your thoughts is a great encouragement. We need some blogs by our brotherhood that address substantive,read 'meat', Biblical matters.

Preach on, my brother.

Scott said...

John, thnx for the encouraging word. Your thoughts about continuing to live as a Christian are spot on. I may address that as time goes by, it is one of my favorite topics.

As for the blog, right now I am enjoying 4 or five days of writing. Writing is something I needed to do more of. I may slow down a bit as the newness wears off, but who knows. being by nature a social person and a talker I may be able to keep going for a while. Thanks again.