Monday, May 20, 2013

What Exactly Is A Christian Anyway?

According to Christianity Today, as of 2010, there were 247 million Christians in the US. That's approximately 80% of the population. In other words, if I were to ask the person on the street if they are a Christian, 8 out of 10 would say, "Yes."

That sounds good, but is it really? I'm afraid many today label themselves Christian in terms that are much too loose. Some claim to be a Christian because they were brought up by Christian parents. Or because they went to church when they were children, but don't go as adults. Or because they go to church on Christmas and Easter. Or because they believe Jesus really once existed, but that's as far as it goes, without any personal relationship with Him.

Early on, those who were part of the Jesus movement, if you could call it that, were called "The Way". I love that term. I wouldn't mind being associated as one who was of "The Way".  Several times in the book of Acts this title is used. ("About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way." - Acts 19:23). After all, Jesus is the way - the way to live this life, the way to peace and joy and fulfillment, the way to forgiveness, the way to overcome the world, the way to the Father, the way to salvation, the way to eternal life.

The term Christian was eventually used widely. (The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." - Acts 11:26). Obviously, "Christian" has the word "Christ" imbedded in it,  and the word "Christ " means Messiah. So those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and who became disciples or students of Him, were called Christians.

In today's world, I see those who call themselves "Christian", in reality, actually fall into 3 categories:

1. Christ Seeker
2. Christ Believer
3. Christ Follower

A Christ Seeker
A Christ Seeker is one who is curious about Jesus, and wants to know more about Him - who He is and what His teachings are. A Christ Seeker who is truly and sincerely seeking will naturally progress to becoming a Christ Believer, especially after seeking Him through the Bible.

A Christ Believer 
A Christ Believer is one who admits that Jesus is who He claims to be - the Son of God, the Messiah, and all the truths about Him found in scripture. However, believing is one thing, and taking action on that belief is another. Some simply stop at belief.

A Christ Follower
A Christ Follower is someone who decides to associate themselves on a personal level with Jesus. It's someone who wants to listen to Him, learn from Him, follow His example, His teachings, and pattern himself after Him. It will be evident that someone is a Christ follower by the way they live. A Christ Follower is someone who wants to do life with Him.

Obviously, the term "Christ Follower" carries a higher level of commitment. But that's what we should be! Christ Followers. If I were to ask the person on the street, "Are you a Christ Follower?", I'm sure the percentage of those saying "Yes" would be much lower than 80%.

I'm reminded of the time Jesus called the fishermen, Peter and John, out of their boats. "Come follow me!" Remember what they did? They dropped everything and began walking with Him, listening to Him, learning from Him. believing in Him, having faith in Him, doing life with Him, trying to think and act like Him, and ultimately living for Him. Wow! Great examples for us. That's what we should be doing.

A true Christ Follower will naturally show signs of their commitment - a teachable spirit, a repentant heart, will have been baptized into Him, and will be trying to live righteous lives, aligning themselves with Jesus, and coming into a loving relationship with Him. A Christ Follower will still be seeking to be closer to Jesus, and have a growing faith in Him, but will be trying to live by that faith.

Personally, I much prefer to be called a Christ Follower rather than simply the general term, "Christian". If you are not yet a Christ Follower, the best way to become one is to read the New Testament, starting with the Gospels. It will satisfy your seeking, strengthen your believing, and lead you to faithfully following Him. ("Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." - Romans 10:17).

OK - so you claim to be a "Christian", but who are you really? Are you a Christ Seeker, a Christ Believer, or a Christ Follower? Actually, all are good, as long as you are progressing toward being a Christ Follower. After all, He is calling all of us, "Come follow Me!" How will you respond? It's time to get a little more serious.

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