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Sunday, November 13, 2016 am                                            Christian Index

 

What it Means to Be a Christian (1)
What is a Christian?

 This morning we are beginning a series of lessons addressing what it means to be a Christian.  The following topics are scheduled to be presented:

·         What is a Christian?

·         Becoming a Christian – obeying the gospel and the benefits of being a Christian

·         What hinders me from becoming a Christian?

·         What hinders me from growing as a Christian and staying faithful?

·         Growing as a Christian – some things we can do to help us grow as we ought to

·         The Christian and the body of Christ - How important is the church to me?

·         The Christian and others – we need to remind ourselves that being a Christian is not just about me

·         Am I done yet?

 NOTE: These topics are broad and can easily be expanded.  Because of time constraints, we will only be able to mention a few points with each topic.  Clearly more can be said on each subject.    It is important that we understand what it means to be a Christian.  So let’s get started.

 I.         What is a Christian?

a.       The word Christian is a somewhat misunderstood word in our world today.  Often, anyone who professes belief in Jesus is described as a Christian.  Our nation is described by some as “a Christian nation”, though we are not such in any form.  But because our founding principles are supposedly based upon the Bible and a majority who believe in Jesus, much of the world would call us such. (But that doesn’t make it so).
Others, will use it in an adjective form (as a descriptive term) and thus we often hear of “Christian homes”, “Christian church”, “Christian behavior”, etc.
Still others us it as a hyphenated description – i.e. Baptist Christian, Methodist Christian, and (today) Catholic Christian.  Such usages unwittingly describe their divisive understanding of the church.
BUT, in the Bible you will NOT find the term “Christian” used in these ways. 

b.       Our English word is actually a transliteration of the Greek word Χριστιανός (Christianos).

c.        Properly defined, a Christian is – One associated with Christ.  A believer in and follower of Christ! (LN 11.35)
BDAG – one who is associated with Christ, Christ-partisan. 
TDNT in reference to Acts 11:26, “It denotes Christ’s adherents, those who belong to Him.”[1]
Simply stated, a Christian is one who has accepted Jesus as our Savior AND done what is necessary to be added to His number (i.e. to become a Christian).  I.e. He has obeyed the Gospel and is a TRUE follower of Jesus based upon His plan of salvation.

 II.       Called Christians

a.       3 passages in the New Testament that use this word

b.       Acts 11:26 – “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”  I am convinced this is a name given by God for us to wear.  First, in Isaiah 62:2, speaks of the Gentiles seeing the righteousness of the new Jerusalem.  Then we read, “You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name.”  While the overall point is, there will be a new people (the saved), I am convinced this includes being called Christians.
The word “called” found in Acts 11:26 is a word that means to designate something.  The word is used 9 times in the New Testament and almost always has reference to a message from God (8 of 9, For example – Matthew 2:12, the wise men, “Being divinely warned” return to their home a different way.  Matthew 2:22, Joseph returning from Egypt went to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem because “being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside” to Galilee.
Luke 2:26, Simeon when he first saw Jesus at the temple prophesied.  The text says, “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before…”
Hebrews 8:5, Moses was divinely instructed to build the tabernacle.
Hebrews 11:7 – Noah was divinely warned, etc.
NOTE: IF it is a divine name, it means those who are called Christians need to be designated as such by God Himself.  That means HE gets to define who a Christian is.  And we need to respect His will as we apply this word to others.

c.        Acts 26:28 – where Paul is giving a defense before King Agrippa and appeals to him about believing the prophets.  Agrippa responds, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”  It is a text in which the gospel is rejected and he refuses to become a Christian.   BUT, worthy of note is that in vs. 29, in response, Paul does NOT reject that name but instead declares a desire that all who hear might become as he was (i.e. a Christian) except for the persecuting chains. 

d.       1 Peter 4:16 – if anyone suffers as a Christian.  A text calling us to be faithful, even when facing adversity from an ungodly world.

 III.     A Christian is:

A.       First let us notice that a Christians NOT:

                                                               i.      One who merely believes – many believe but are not Christians,

                                                             ii.      One in name only – calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make it so, etc. 

                                                            iii.      Just someone who is good and moral – while such is the character of a Christian, it within itself doesn’t make one a Christian

                                                            iv.      Just being religious or “spiritual”- like morals, becoming a Christian will involve being religious (James 1:27) and spiritual (Romans 8:1, Galatians 6:1)

                                                              v.      Someone who just goes through the motions as he follows the steps of salvation

B.       One who has obeyed the gospel – we will address this as part of our next lesson.  He has put on Christ.

C.       Convicted! – The word convicted can mean one who has been found guilty of something, OR it can mean one who stands genuinely and firmly behind what he believes.  Both apply to the Christian. 

                                                               i.      First, he realizes he is a sinner and guilty and needs forgiveness.  Think of the Jews on the day of Pentecost who were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).  They knew they needed to do something.  Some 3000 obeyed the gospel that day (Acts 2:38, 41)
The Christian, as he receives forgiveness, he genuinely appreciates it and acts accordingly.  I think of Paul who in 1 Timothy 1:12-15 described his unworthiness, but the grace of God forgave him anyways.

                                                             ii.       A true Christian is one who genuinely believes and his life proves it.  He knows this is a way of life and not merely an act.  He is serving God out of a pure heart – Hebrews 10:22 calls for us to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…
Furthermore, he fully trusts in God - 2 Timothy 1:12 – “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep…

                                                            iii.      As we go through this study, we will see how this conviction changes our lives and affects both our thoughts and our conduct. 

D.      A new creation – 2 Cor. 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Romans 12:1-2 – he is transformed – meaning he has changed.
He has put to death the old man of sin – Romans 6:2, 6; Ephesians 4:22 – you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man and his deceitful lusts.
The point is, becoming a Christian means that you have CHANGED!
And this change should be noticeable – 1 Peter 4:3-4 – they think it strange that you no longer run with the world.

E.       A Child of God

                                                               i.      One of the blessings described in scripture of the Christian is how we now belong to the family of God.  When understood that is genuine blessing and a motivator.   Think about, I BELONG TO THE FAMILY OF GOD!  I belong to the ruler and creator of this universe.  He who holds its destiny and mine in His hands.

                                                             ii.      1 John 3:1 tells us, Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

                                                            iii.      Romans 8:16-17 – tells us because we are the children of God, we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. 

                                                            iv.      As a child of God, this means I must submit to my heavenly Father – James 4:7 says this, “Therefore submit to God.”
For example: Matthew 5:44-45 tells us to love our enemies, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…”
2 Corinthians 6:18, in a passage calling for us to be separate from the world, in so doing, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.

                                                              v.      This also means that we have the privilege of approaching Him in prayer – 1 Peter 1:17 speaks of calling on the Father.  We will address this more in a future lesson.
1 Peter 3:12 tells us His ears are open to the prayers of the righteous.

F.       A disciple – a follower or adherent to someone.  It also entails one who is a learner of that one he is following.  And it is not just about knowing about him, but seeking to learn FROM him.  We are disciples of Jesus. 
Matthew 28:19-20 – the “Great commission” was given to “make disciples of all nations” (teach all nations – KJV).  Jesus observed that a disciple is one who 1) obeys the gospel and 2) one who observes all things commanded (a mindset). 
This necessitates that we continually seek to be learning.  A Christian is one who is ever striving to be more like his Master!  In this life he is never done.  We will address this in greater detail in a future lesson.
Note again Acts 11:26, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”

G.      A partaker of His divine nature – 2 Peter 1:4 – this is an interesting description.  In context Peter is describing how we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”  (vs. 3)  In this we enjoy “exceedingly great and precious promises” whereby we may be partakers of the divine nature.  The idea of this statement is that as we are growing as Christians, we are becoming more and more like Him.  We seek to understand the goodness of God and we seek to imitate that in our lives.  Partaking of His divine nature does NOT mean we become deity.  We do not and will not possess the qualities that are the essence of deity – e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, etc.  BUT, there qualities about Him that we can seek to develop and imitate. 
In scripture, we are called upon to be imitators of God and Christ – Ephesians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 11:1 (cf. Philippians 2:5, 1 Peter 2:21, etc.).   We learn about genuine love from Him (1 John 4:8), holiness, humility, etc.  A quality of a genuine Christian is one who is seeking to imitate His character in life. 
NOTE: In this we are seeking to be like our Creator.  And who knows better HOW we ought to be living than He????

H.      Forgiven – our final observation this morning is that as Christians we are forgiven.  The world has a sin problem!  And even greater than that is a failure to understand how to deal with sin and how to be forgiven.  Christians KNOW what true forgiveness is about. 
Forgiveness is not something we earn, but something we receive through God’s grace and our faithful submission to His will in these matters. 
It is one of those qualities that explains why we are here. 
Christians have obeyed the gospel and thereby had their sins remitted (Acts 2:38, 22:16)
But even as Christians, when we sin we need His forgiveness – just as Simon the magician was told, we need to repent and pray that we be forgiven (Acts 8:22).
1 John 1:7-9 speaks of walking in the light which brings fellowship with Him (and one another) and cleanses us of our sins.  Vs. 9 calls for us to confess our sins (to Him) and be forgiven. 
This is a privilege the Christian has and one that he must cherish dearly. 
There is so much to say about forgiveness!  We summarize by noting that while the Christian is not perfect, but he takes care of his sins and therefore he is forgiven.   

These are some of descriptions of what it means to be a Christian.  There are many more we could look at.  For example in 1 Peter 2:9 we are described as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and His own special people.  We are here this week, because we realize we need to be Christians – not just in name, but also in our lives.  May this study lead to a better understanding of this, provoke us to examine ourselves and as we apply these things, draw us closer to God.  Think about these things!



[1] Kittel, Gerhard, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological dictionary of the New Testament 1964– Vol. 9, Pg. 537. Print.