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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

 

Aug 15, 2016

What exactly is a Christian? There are lots of opinions: someone who "believes in God", someone who was baptized, someone who goes to church. Are any of these true? What did Jesus Christ say about it? If you want to know, listen to this episode.

Here are the notes for this episode:

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What is a Christian?

Intro

There are many people who would call themselves “Christians” because of a wrong understanding of the word. (Being American, been baptized, made a “decision for Christ”, “asked Jesus into your heart”, go to church, “I believe in God”, etc.)

Just like the word “repentance” is either redefined or eliminated in modernized so-called Christianity, even so the word and meaning of what it is to be a Christian biblically has been redefined almost entirely.

Define “Christian”

The word Christian means “follower of Christ.” (Gr. “kristianos”)

So, to rightly understand that definition let’s consider the meaning of the word “follow”: “to walk after; practice; or act in conformity to”

This meaning shows that being a “Christian” is the same as being a “disciple”, which means, “A follower; an adherent to the doctrines [or teachings] of another.”

So, put it together and we get a picture of what it is to be a “Christian” according to the truest sense of the word: “One who walks after, practices, or acts in conformity to the doctrine and teaching of Jesus Christ.”

While it may seem unnecessary to be so specific, sadly it is not.

Disciples

In Acts 11:25-26 we read, “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 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.”

Notice that last statement: it was the disciples who were called Christians first.

History seems to indicate that it was Gentiles who started calling the disciples by the name of “Christians.” Certainly the unconverted Jews would not of referred to the disciples of Jesus by the name “followers of Christ” (or “followers of Messiah”)because they didn’t believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. The early disciples seemed to have been content to refer to themselves as brethren, saints, believers, or just disciples. But they adopted this name for themselves as we read in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16.

 

Since a disciple is one who follows another let’s consider the conditions that Jesus Christ Himself gave to those that would desire to follow Him.

Conditions of Discipleship

 

  1. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Mat 10:24-25)
  • The Lord indicates persecution. Indeed we’re told in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” We are to expect the world to treat a follower of Christ the same as they treated Christ. They joined Him or rejected Him.
  • Christ is the Lord and Master of Christians, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” (John 13:13)
  • We are not above Christ, or even close to equal with Him. We follow Him, and set our feet according to His paths. He leads us as His sheep(John 10:3).
  • This verse shows the purpose of discipleship also: it is to be made like unto our Lord. (Amos 3:3) We are to “grow up into Him in all things.” (Eph. 4:15)
    • John 13:15 says, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”
    • 1 Peter 2:21 reads, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”
    • And in 1 John 2:6 it says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
  • Contrary to what some teach you actually are expected to act like Jesus Christ if you’re a Christian, and being growing more like Him daily.
  1. Matthew 12:49-50 says, “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
  • Here we see that Christ, when directing attention towards His disciples, refers to them as His brethren. John 1:12-13 says that those that receive Christ are given “power to become the sons of God.”
  • We see also that His disciples are those that do the will of God the Father.
  • This shows that those that do not do the will of God the Father are not His children. (Matt. 7:21)
  1. In John 8:31-32 we read, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
  • Of all the things that the Lord tells us I believe this is one of the most neglected. Christians know, follow, and study the Word of God. It is the very thing that enables them to be His disciples. How can you repent of sin if you don’t know what God says is sin? How can you be sanctified through His truth (John 17:17) if you don’t know it?
  • The condition is stated that if you continue THEN you are His disciple. This common “if…then…” format is used in scripture regularly to show a conditional statement. So it stands to reason that if you don’t continue then you’re not his disciple. Stop continuing in the Lord, and you cease to be His disciple.
  • Also we see here the result of continuing in the Word of God is that you will be set free. From what? From sin. Not the penalty of sin only! Sin. The penalty of sin is hell, “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Christ was made a sacrifice for sin, yes, but it was not just to take away the penalty of sin: it was to change our hearts so that we may be obedient through Him also.
  1. John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
  • The love that Christ talks about here is very specific: He says, “as I have loved you.” We are to love others, especially brethren, as He does. Jesus Christ chased men from the temple with a scourge of cords called men hypocrites to their faces because He loved the God the Father. This love of Christ NEVER leads us to compromise His commandments or doctrine.
  • This commandment is very perverted today by some. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, has clarified for us in 1 John 5:2, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”

Now we’re going to get into the more troublesome conditions that the Lord has given for being a disciple.

  1. In Luke 14:26 we read, “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.”
    • It is not talking about actually hating them. What is meant rather is the same as the Lord spoke in Romans 9:13, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” The Lord did not literally hate Esau just to hate him. The Lord chose Jacob over Esau to be the inheritor of the blessing of Abraham. It indicates preference. We must choose obeying the Lord over obeying our family if the situation should ever arise.
    • We are commanded to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:43-44), this is another reason it’s not meaning literally to hate your family. You can love someone but not follow their ways. We are to love God supremely and not let anyone influence us to follow anyone else.
  2. In Luke 14:27 we read, "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
  • Matthew elaborates on this in his account, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
  • If you are a Christian your life is not your own anymore. You’ve died to your own will so that God’s will might be shown through you on earth. This is the heart of a Christian. Our will is to do HIS will. If you’re seeking your own ways and your own purpose with the life you live on earth then you are NOT a Christian. Notice: “cannot” in these verses. It’s an impossibility to Him.
  1. In Luke 14:33, "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
    • Again this is a reiteration of the last verse. There is a forsaking of your old ways, your old mindset, and your own purpose when you get converted: because you are following a different person. You’re not following the world, your own lusts, or anything else. You’ve determined to follow Jesus Christ. There is of NECESSITY a change in how you live and the ends that you seek.
  2. There is another condition of being a disciple of Christ that I wanted to save for last because it's important to focus on this one. John 15:8, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
    • Let’s look at the surrounding passage, turn to John 15:1-10: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.”
    • The word “abide” means to “continue, or remain in”. We read here that disciples "continue in" Christ, and that only by that "abiding in Him" do they bring forth fruit.
    • “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)
    • “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1Jn 3:24)
    • We know that we are abiding (or continuing) in Christ, and therefore are a Christian, when we love God and keep His commandments. This results in us growing more like Christ every day and walking just as He walked.

Other than salvation, there are privileges to being a disciple of Christ:

  1. Mark 4:34, "But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples."
    1. The Lord gives understanding to His disciples. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Because Christians have been born of the Spirit of God they are taught the things of God. (John 16:13)
  2. John 17:18, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
    1. Christians are given the privilege to be witnesses to the world in the same manner that Christ was sent of God the Father.
  3. Every promise of God is for a Christian, a disciple, a believer. (Romans 8:28; Jude 24; Heb. 13:5) No promise is given to the lost except the promise of judgment to come.

Excuses

  1. Some try to say, to make an excuse for how they live, saying that a "disciple" is not necessarily a "Christian". But Acts 6:7 says, "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."

 

  • We read in this verse that the "disciples multiplied." This is after Christ's ascension, and so if we limit the term "disciple" to mean "someone taught by Christ while he was physically on the earth" then you create a contradiction.
  • People try to make such "loopholes" to ignore conviction. There are conditions to being a disciple of Christ. If you don't meet them then you're not a disciple of Christ, and since the term "disciple" and "Christian" are equivalents then that means you're not a Christian. Therefore, you're not saved.
  • Also, to repeat it, we're told in Acts 11:26, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Disciples and disciples only are Christians because it's only someone who adheres to the teachings and doctrines of Jesus Christ that can call themselves His follower.

The Gospel is the first point of being a Christian

  1. It's clear when you search the gospels and see how many times Christ emphasized the truth of salvation only being by faith in Him:
  • "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”   (Joh 5:23-24)
  • "Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” (Luk 12:8-9)
  • "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9)
  • "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)

So being a Christian begins with denying yourself, your own false sense of goodness, and putting all faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation and LIVING by that truth: unless you have begun that then you are not a Christian.

In closing, consider Jesus Christ's words to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:4-5, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."