What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?

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The world has many different views of what a “Christian” is.  In fact, the church is pretty confused about what it means as well. The title “Christian” was not coined by the Lord Himself or by His disciples. “Christian” was a designation given to the “Followers of the Way” – the first believers – by those outside the church (see Acts 11:26). It meant, “little Christs” because these people were keenly identified with Jesus by their words and actions. Not so much today.

To the culture, a Christian is someone who is filled with hate and intolerance. Strangely enough, the only ones the tolerant culture will not tolerate are true Christians.  In many churches today, a Christian is someone who shows up semi-regularly for church and throws a couple of bucks in the plate.  Oh, and they must not speak out against anything anyone chooses to do or be all for the sake of “love.”  Individually, a Christian is someone who posts Jesus memes on social media, right after posting something laced with profanity. They know just enough Scripture to prove themselves right in their own eyes.

Saying “I am a Christian” does not get you into God’s heaven. Paul said the key to heaven is a profession of faith. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

There is an important distinction between saying “I’m a Christian” and saying “Jesus is Lord.” What we are to confess with our mouth is the Name, the identity, and the Lordship of Jesus. And it’s not just words we spout, it must be a confession of our heart. I tried an experiment with this when I had to interview several non-believers for my Apologetics class. I asked each one to say, “Jesus is Lord,” and every one of them refused because they said, “I don’t believe it.” Remember what Jesus said – “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). And the heart that believes that Jesus is Lord will lead the mind and body to act like it.

Claiming to be a Christian has no saving power. Professing the Name and Lordship of Jesus Christ does. The true confession of faith is not what I am, but what Jesus is.

Don’t Forget!

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How fickle we are in our faith. How unstable and wishy-washy we can be. One day we are on fire for God, the next we act as if we don’t know His name. We thank Him for His goodness on Sunday and complain about trivial inconveniences on Monday. One day we believe, another day we doubt. But this is nothing new. All through the Bible, we see people who start great and stumble along the way. I am convinced it’s because we are forgetful.

Peter is a good example of this.  Matthew 16 records Peter’s great confession. Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The answers varied from John the Baptist to the ancient prophets.  Then He asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter boldly proclaimed, “You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God.” Jesus called Peter blessed for this heavenly knowledge. (vs. 13-17). The next account (which was probably not immediately after, but later in time) has Jesus proclaiming His coming death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders. Old Pete was not having it. “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you.’ Jesus sharply rebuked Peter – “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (vs. 21-23). Do you see how Peter in one instance proclaimed Jesus as the Son of the living God, then in the next regarded Him as subordinate to himself and worthy of rebuke? Peter forgot His great confession. He forgot who Jesus was.

I can’t condemn Peter, I have done the same too many times. I suspect you have as well. We read our Bible in the morning – great proclamations of God’s goodness and faithfulness and power and love, yet before the day is out, we are grumbling or fearful or falling into sin. Is He not the same God we read about this morning? We need to stand on the truth. We need to continually remind ourselves of what we know about God because we have an enemy who wants to distract us and derail our faith. Beloved, invest your mind in knowing God and strengthen your heart to hold fast to Him. Don’t forget who He is.