Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is a Christian?

To some the term “Christian” simply means, “I’m not a Muslim.” To others it means that’s my religion. For others it’s a culture thing or traditional thing. For some it even might be a political thing, but what does it mean to be a Christian?

The Word “Christian” is only found three times in the Bible, Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16. Each time it appears it seems to have a negative connotation. Acts 11:26 tells us that the followers of the crucified Christ were first called Christians at Antioch and it seems that it was a term given to them by the world around them. The word actually means “little Christ” or “Christ like.” To the Jew the idea of a crucified Christ was a stumbling block and to the Greek it was foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23).

To be a Christian is to be a whole hearted follower of Christ. As the Lord Himself said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” It demands allegiance to Christ as we read in the following verses:

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:26).

When we call ourselves a Christian we are declaring that we are a follower of Jesus Christ and we are proclaiming that “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). 

But what is a Christian? The Bible uses many other terms to describe us: aliens, strangers of God, citizens of heaven, lights of the world. We are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, members of His body, sheep in His flock, ambassadors. We are compared to athletes, soldiers, branches, and so much more. But there is one more word that the Bible uses that we really don’t like to use to describe ourselves, it is the word SLAVE!

But this is a term that many of the early Christians used to describe themselves (Rom. 1:1, 1 Cor. 7:22, Gal. 1:10, Eph. 6:6, Phil. 1:1, Col. 4:12, Titus 1:1, James 1:1, 1 Peter 2:16, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1 and Rev. 1:1).

We really don’t hear much about this concept of being a slave of Christ, but in the early church history they equated being a follower of Christ with being a slave of Christ and according to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 this would be right on the money. There Paul reminded us, “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a] and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

I suppose in our society today this word slave is not politically correct. In many of our translations we have actual soften the word and translated it as servant or bond servant. I suppose that takes the sting out of the word. But the actual word for slave (doulos) appears 124 times in the New Testament and about 10 more times in a compound form. There is a major distinction between a servant and a slave. Servants are hired and have an element of freedom. A slave is owned, he is not his own, he has no rights and no independence.

According to 2 Peter 2:1 there are those who actual deny that they were bought. We boast in many things today, our position, our knowledge, or our heritage. But James, the half-brother of our Lord could have boasted about being the half-brother of Jesus. Listen to how he identified himself instead, “James, a bondservant (slave) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jm. 1:1). Tie that without he writes later in James 4:13, 15, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” He reminds us that as slave of God and of Christ we ought to spend our lives following after what our Master desires and not as we desire!

This term slave is not for some kind of lower level Christian. It is a term that is synonymous with being a Christian. Along with Paul and James, Peter, John and Jude all called themselves slaves (2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1, Rev. 1:1). A slave’s life is one of complete surrender, submission and service to the Master. Listen to what the Master, the Lord Jesus requires of those who follow Him: 

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Mtt. 10:38).

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mtt. 16:24).

The Lord Jesus is to have exclusive ownership over every aspect of our lives. Spend some time looking up these verse and ask yourself what areas of my life our not completely His? Is there any area that I need to surrender today (Romans 5:18-19, 6:14, 1 Corinthians 7:23, Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 Peter 1)?

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