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July 18, 2010
Who Is A Christian?
The word “Christian”is often over used and misused. We hear this word used to describe nations and schools, among other things, which may or may not really be “Christian.” The word “Christian” is not some run-of-the-mill adjective used to describe a general behavior or belief, but is a very specific word which means “Like Christ” or “Of (belonging to) Christ.” It is hard to imagine an entire nation or school system being “like Christ” although that would be a wonderful goal toward which to aspire. An individual who wishes to please God, on the other hand, must try to be “like Christ” or “of Christ” to the best of his ability. We must search the word of God for our instruction. Just how does the Bible describe a Christian?
When we pursue something, we are following after it with great diligence and a conscious effort. We hear of games such as Trivial Pursuit® and hear phrases such as “... the pursuit of happiness.” These efforts may have their place, but a Christian—first and foremost—must be a diligent follower of Christ. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). Peter also reminded us that Christ gave us an example to follow, even if it means suffering (1Peter 2:21). The first step in being “like Christ” is to make a conscious effort to follow Him.
To be a disciple is to practice a specific discipline or system of knowledge. A Christian is to be a disciple of Christ and His teaching. Christ gave instruction to the apostles, while he was here on earth and they were also men inspired of God to teach Christ and His death and resurrection. Christians mentioned in the Bible were those who worshipped and continued steadfastly in the things they were taught by these men of God; today we who would be this same kind of disciple must by logical conclusion follow the same system of knowledge, that of the word of God (Acts 2:42; 11:26). Peter, in his inspired writing, instructs us that we are to grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus (2Peter 3:18).
Some “religious” organizations would list specific men or women as “saints” because of deeds done during their life. We even hear people today use such phrases as, “Oh, she’s a saint!” to describe someone’s good moral character. Christians are saints; Paul—indeed, nearly all of the writers of the New Testament—addressed Christians as saints (i.e. 1Corinthians 1:1,2). Christians are to be saints, but not “saints” as a religious title or in name only, but in their character and influence, Christians are to shine as lights in the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Christians are also called “leaven” (Matthew 13:33) and “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). These scriptures all show the importance of the Christian’s character in the world around him. True Christians are even supposed to be examples to those that believe; “... in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1Timothy 4:12b).
In Spiritual Life
When one becomes a Christian by having his sins washed away by the blood of Christ in baptism, he becomes a “new creature” in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4-6). This does not mean that we are sinless and can sin no more (Hebrews 10:26‑31), but that our past sins are forgiven and remembered no longer. This means that in our spiritual life, we must continue to grow, to try not to sin, and to be repentant when we make mistakes. We daily must add virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to our spiritual life as Peter instructs in 2Peter 1:5-11. Followers of Christ are described as branches in the vine. If we cease to grow and to bear spiritual fruit, we will be cut off from Christ and cast away for punishment (John 15:1-6). It is very important for a Christian to continue to grow in his spiritual life to be pleasing to God.
Being a Christian is not something that just happens—it takes work. It is not a one-time event—it is a continual process in which, as we grow, we help others with their needs and try to teach others the way of truth. In our service as Christians it is our job to spread the word of God, the “good news” of Jesus our Saviour. The command that Jesus gave to His disciples before he ascended into heaven of necessity applies to us as well, “... make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you ...” (Matthew 28:19,20). We are to be like sowers going forth to sow good seed (Matthew 13:3,24).
Christians will face resistance as they try to live and work for the Lord and spread the Gospel. Satan is constantly trying to cause people to be lost all the while Christians are trying to help people to be saved. He is constantly trying to cause those who are already Christians to be lost, too. Christians must learn to be good soldiers as part of their work for God. We cannot get caught up in the affairs of this world and be good soldiers (2Timothy 2:3,4). We also must put on the proper armour to protect ourselves and wield the proper weapon and know how to use it (Ephesians 6:10-17). Soldiers must not only be good fighters and protectors, but good “watchers.” In this same passage in Ephesians, Paul says, “... be on the alert with all perseverance ....” We would do well to take a lesson from the instructions Jesus gave his apostles as he went into the Garden to pray— “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Peter emphasizes the need to be diligent and alert, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8).
Who is a Christian in pursuit, in knowledge, in character, in spiritual life, in labour, in warfare? Am I? Are you?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.