WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN?
Lk.14: 12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Lk.14: 25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,26 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.
Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The word “Christian” is a moniker given to early believers. It indicated that certain people reminded the lost community that they were followers of Jesus and their behavior reminded lost people of Jesus. Over the many years the word has become a catch all and has lost any real significance. If a person is not a Muslim and is an American he is considered a Christian in many circles. Even the term “born again” has fallen on hard times and is no longer used within the wider evangelical community.But let us use the word Christian in the accepted and colloquial sense just for a reference point. No one can be considered a Christian without being born again by God’s Spirit. No amount of theology, and no amount of doctrinal degrees, and no amount of original language credentials can make a person a Christian. No amount of catechism, and no amount of Biblical morality, and no amount of denominational acceptance can make a person a Christian. There is nothing a person can do that can transform his soul and make him a Christian. Only God’s grace empowered by God’s Spirit can lead a sinner to Christ and have that sinner truly believe that life changing gospel. There are many millions who actually believe the gospel with their religious and moral minds who have not really been born again. They are as lost as the heroin dealer and the gay atheist.
So when a sinner truly believes in Jesus and his heart and life is changed and the Spirit comes to live inside his being, now what? What should we expect of that sinner now? What changes should we see being made in his heart and life? It is here that even those who preach and believe the born again experience begin to deviate from the Scriptures they claim to embrace as literal and inerrant. It is here where the church has followed earthly mores rather than the New Testament teachings of Jesus. In the basic sense when you are born again you are a new creature in Christ and you know are commanded and certainly you now desire to follow Jesus. I mean that should be elementary however it has become blurred in these last days until almost all that is left is Jesus the Savior and not Jesus the Lord.
“I don’t have abortions and I do not do drugs and I am not homosexual and therefore Jesus is my Lord.” Really? Jesus actually did not deal with any of those sins. Yes, I said sins. But the church has created its own fig leaf aprons consisting of a few moral leaves and now it claims to be following Jesus. And millions upon millions of people who embrace those kinds of moral issues consider themselves Christians because they have believed and they have been baptized and they are church members and they take stands against a very small set of moral sins. But it goes much deeper than that.
I would like to use a certain Alabama judge who happens to be a Baptist as an example of what I am attempting to communicate. The judge’s name is Roy Moore and he is a Vietnam vet as well as a judge. You can read about him HERE.
He is representative of millions of evangelical Americans who have blended earthly allegiances and conservative morals with Christianity. This is no small issue and in reality it cuts to the very core of what it means to be a Christian. So many people believe a Christian is conservative on moral and financial issues, and he holds to the accepted list of orthodox doctrines that have been spoon fed by a man who knows more Bible than do they. And almost without exception they believe that a Christian is a patriot and supports America. That is regularly reinforced from the pulpit as well as testimonies from men and women of the military who also consider themselves as Christian. And in many cases the allegiance to America trumps the allegiance to Jesus as can be witnessed by the “American Sniper” man who could find humor and glee in killing and use all kinds of profanity and yet is considered a Christian based solely upon his patriotism toward America as well as his hatred for Muslims.But the standard checklist of moral issues never includes war. Most evangelical will say they do not like war but it is sometimes necessary. There are so many things wrong with that statement the foundational error would be no New Testament support as well as the belief system of the early Christians. But let us assume there is a country in which citizenship was only offered to born again believers. Let us assume that all the usual moral issues seemed to be aligned with Scripture. Then those who would take up arms to defend it might be understandable even though still not Scripturally defensible. But that is not the case here.
We live in a fallen world. And the country known as America is part of this fallen world. It is consumed with money and earthly success and makes its rock stars and Hollywood actors and sports heroes millionaires. And it legalizes abortions and marries same sex partners. It has a history of racism and it was birthed by a war over taxes. To suggest that America is a Christian nation or that is was founded as a Christian nation is both absurd and a damnable lie meant to elevate America into a divine favored status. And yet this lie is not only perpetrated among those who call themselves Christians it is celebrated.
And what has happened is that the faith commonly called “Christian” has become part of an earthly culture and has thereby been compromised, diluted, and morphed into a religious phenomenon which bears little resemblance to the words and teachings of Jesus. Does the judge in the article I linked to believe that posting the Ten Commandments on public walls will have some redemptive effect upon this fallen culture? No, he does not. His belief system is a self righteous and moralistic attempt to preserve an idol he calls America and the “good old” days he longs for.
But is that what it means to be a Christian? Think about that for a moment. How self centered and narcissistic is that? Millions of evangelical are not worried about the earthly state nor the spiritual state of billions around the world. How much money goes to the poor? How many prayers are sent for the poor? How many tears are shed form those who are one heartbeat away from a lost eternity? And yet these same “Christians” would energetically go to war in order to protect “their way of life” which means earthly life. How can you not see the utter paradox in such a position as it pertains to following Jesus and forsaking all? There is no common ground here. None.
Patriotism is a form of apostasy plain and simple. It deceives the mind. It divides the heart. It compromises the faith. And in the end it changes everything about what it truly means to be a Christian. And as I said for this article we will understand the label “Christian” as meaning a born again follower of Jesus. It breeds hatred. It breeds self righteousness. It breeds greed. And there is nothing holy or sacred or humble about any of it. It is in its entirety antithetical to all Jesus lived and taught. So the question is how did we get to such a place?
Of course it all began with taxes and the Revolutionary War and an increasing spirit of American exceptionalism. Even President John Adams disavowed the word “Christian” as it pertained to America when Muslim countries were wary of trading with America. But after the Industrial Revolution that Christian narrative became a part of the curriculum taught to children. And became ingrained and unquestioned in the psyche of each successive generation. But as America prospered greatly and the average man began to lust for money and things, and as America became a world military power, the Christ nation narrative did not have to change, but what it meant to be a Christian had to endure a facelift with the culture as the scalpel.
But when the love of money and wielding violence as a determent became an acceptable part of being a Christian because to suggest otherwise would go against the now established culture, something else must take its place in order to maintain a level of boldness which would soothe the conscience. And so a few moral issues and a few doctrinal issues were called front and center. They became the measuring rod of what it meant to be a Christian. Feeding the poor and loving your enemies and being clothed with humility and being content with food and clothing were residual and parts of a heart warming sermon. They were no longer the absolutes of what it meant to follow Jesus.
And in an incredible display of self righteous duplicity preachers would hold up a Bible and declare they believed it was literal and the orthodox crowd would applaud or say “Amen!” or nod in agreement. And yet all the while this same orthodox crowd ignored what Jesus lived and said. Most of us were caught up in that scenario. It was a great time and many of us would come away from some conference walking on air as we headed for the restaurant and with fresh tapes and books in our cars. And being filled with nationalism and moralism and sense of doctrinal pride we lived to face another day ignorant of the Spirit and of the Master we claimed to follow. And when someone mumbled a repeated prayer we could shower him with all kinds of assurance that heaven was now his home even though a few minutes ago he was a stranger.
But back to the question contained in the title of this post. What does it mean to be a Christian? The short answer is a born again follower of Jesus. But to follow Jesus is to know what He taught and then obey it by the power of the Spirit. I suggest you read the words of Jesus for many moths over and over again. I suggest you pray over them. I suggest you beseech the Spirit to open the eyes of your understanding. I have been on a post journey entitled, The teachings of Jesus” and I suggest you read all of them. This is serious business if indeed we wish to follow our Savior in word and deed. And if we truly desire to be a Christian in the truest sense then we must cast off the old wineskins and drink from the new wineskins filled with His Spirit and His words.