The People Called Christians
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The People Called Christians
“Christian” is one of the most abused words in our language. It is often used to signify people who are non-Jewish, non-Muslim or non-heathen. It doesn’t necessarily mean, “Those who profess to believe in Christ.” All you have to do to have this hit home is to watch a news broadcast. For instance, just recently on the Today Show, the lead story on the national news was that the Miss World pageant was being moved from Nigeria to a safer location in London, England.
The move was the result of days of fighting between Christians and Moslems. The Moslems were rioting because a commentator had said that if Mohammed was alive he would have taken a wife from among the beautiful contestants. Also, they objected to the way that contestants dressed to display their figures. Several hundred died before the pageant was moved. The pictures of rioting and dead bodies were accompanied by the dialog where the combatants were described as Christians and Moslems. Actually, Nigeria is a country with very few Christians. The fighting was more accurately between Moslems and non-Moslems.
To be a Christian means much, much more than to believe in one God, to live in a so-called Christian nation, to have a King James Bible on your coffee table, or to attend one of the main stream Christian churches. Well then, what is a Christian? Let me define a Christian for you. He or she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which comes from faith. They have received the Holy Spirit and been baptized into the church of Jesus Christ at the moment they believed. That is a Christian, but we can’t stop there because there is also Christian living, which is the visible indication that change has taken place in the life of the individual.
Christian living is obedience and love: obedience to the will of God, which is found in the Word of God; and love for God and for others.
A Christian will most likely be a member of a local Church and will partake of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The individual Christians are the Church and they will do everything in their power to bring others into the Church so that they can also experience Salvation and Christian living.
Now, I hope that I don’t shock you with what I am going to say next. Many Churches have no right to the name Christian. I have read that 60% of the ministers in one of the largest denominations state that they do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. To deny the virgin birth is to deny what Christ said about Himself, and to deny the biblical record and it destroys the very foundation of Christian faith. The virgin birth is an absolute essential to being a true believer.
There are also many other things being taught from pulpits that are false. Here are just a few:
First: Salvation is by faith plus baptism, or by faith plus church membership, or by faith plus good works.
Second: The Bible is the Word of God, but so are other books such as the Book of Mormon or the Koran.
Third: There is new revelation from God. God has spoken to me or I have had a vision from God.
Forth: I have been given special powers or abilities from God. You don’t need to go to God, just come to me for blessings and healing.
Fifth: Send me an offering and you are sowing a seed that will come back to you many-fold.
Sixth: The preachers or priests of our denomination are given insight from God that normal people never get.
Seventh: Jesus was a prophet, but He wasn’t God.
Eighth: It doesn’t make any difference what church you go to; they are all the same.
Have you ever heard these statements or maybe some like them? They cause confusion and they detract from the true mission of the church, which is to proclaim the Gospel. Many non-Christians look at what the churches are doing and saying and they conclude that Christianity is nothing more than a social club. What a sad, sad state of affairs! They have observed moral weakness in some who call themselves Christians. I am not saying that Christians should live perfect lives, because I know that’s not possible. But, if they aren’t taught the truth, what hope do they have to express the truth. The problem is that they have been subjected to a weak belief that is no different from the non-Christian world, except in name.
In Acts, we are observing the New Testament church; it was strong, alive, confident and different from other religions. Our text today is Acts 11:19-26. There we read:
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
This is the first time that the believers were called Christians.
So it is a good time for us to consider two questions:
1. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
2. WHAT ARE CHRISTIANS LIKE?
Let’s begin our look at WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN, by eliminating some of the things that are not Christian.
First, any organization that denies Jesus’ deity, His Resurrection, or the validity of the Bible is not Christian. These are issues that we can not compromise on. They are basic and foundational to our faith. Jesus was God, He died and three days later He rose from the dead, and the Bible is the Word of God.
Second, just keeping a set of rules is not Christian. One person may say, “I live by the Sermon on the Mount”; and another says, “I live by the Golden Rule”; and some say, “I keep the Ten Commandments.” These are all good teachings, but they are not what define a Christian. The abundant life and freedom that Jesus brought do not come from keeping a set of rules, no matter how good the rules are.
Third, just being a sincere person is not Christian. I know many sincere people who are wrong. Let me say that I believe that most Moslems, Buddhists, and even atheists are sincere; but they are wrong.
What is a Christian then? Let me give you some simple answers:
First, Wesley said, “It is one who so believes in Christ; that sin has no more dominion over him.” Sin cannot rule the life of any Christian who is living close to God. That doesn’t mean that we do not sin. But when we sin we are sorry and we repent and our sins are forgiven. The Christian isn’t sinless; he is forgiven and he has the Holy Spirit and the righteousness of Christ to check the domination of sin in his life.
Second, a Christian has been defined as one who has a living attachment to the person of Jesus Christ. We are attached to Him by our faith. It is a living and growing relationship, which is nurtured by Christ.
Third, it has also been defined as one who seeks first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and finds to his or her surprise that everything in his or her life falls into place. John the Baptist said, “I must decrease so that He can increase.” Placing God first frees us from the hold that the things of the world can have on us. It produces a peace and joy that only a Christian can experience.
Forth, whatever else we may say, a Christian is a person who believes in and follows Jesus Christ. He is, “the way, the truth, and the life.” Remember, up until this time believers were called, “The Way.”
Fifth, A Christian is a person who has a positive acceptance of Jesus and an allegiance to Him born of deep love. We love Him because He first loved us. We love Him because He left heaven’s glory and came to earth to live as a man. We love Him because he went willingly to Calvary and gave His life to ransom our souls. We love Him because we are justified to God by the blood He shed. We love him because He has prepared a place for us in heaven, where we will spend eternity. We love Him because no one can pluck us out of His hand. We love Him, because He is our mediator, and He is at God’s side interceding for us. We love Him because His Spirit is within us; we feel His presence, and have His care.