Part 1: What is a Christian? Are You One? (Christian But Not series)

Hey! I thought this was going to be an easy first blog in this series. I mean, everyone knows what a Christian is, right?

Wrong.

From what I learned from the research I just did, everyone has their own idea of what a Christian is.

  1. A person who believes in Jesus
  2. A person who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus
  3. A member of a Christian church
  4. A person who exhibits a spirit proper to a follower of Christ
  5. A person who’s life exemplifies the teachings of Jesus
  6. A person who belongs to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus
  7. A person who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus
  8. A person who is born into a Christian family

Evidently a Christian, as defined by society, has something to do with Jesus. Whether it’s the family they were born in, the church they attend, what they believe, or the way they act – Jesus is the common factor.

That’s well and good. Especially if we put most of the definitions together. The only problem is – they aren’t always put together.

Some people believe to live a life following the teachings of Jesus makes you a Christian, regardless of what you believe about Him.

Some people believe to believe in Jesus as God makes you a Christian, regardless of what else you believe or what you do.

Some people believe that having a relationship with Jesus makes you a Christian, and nothing else matters.

Some people believe belonging a Christian church makes you a Christian, regardless of how you act when not at church.

Some people believe being born into and raised in a Christian family makes you a Christian by default, period.

So who’s right?

There’s only one place I know that always has the truth. And that’s the Bible. (more about this in another blog.) So let’s see what the Bible has to say.

The term ‘Christian’ was used only three times.  Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16. In Acts, the term Christian was applied to them by outsiders; in 1 Peter, Peter referred to his fellow believers as Christians. In all three places, the same Greek word was used. From Bible Hub:

Christians
Χριστιανούς (Christianous)
Noun – Accusative Masculine Plural
Strong’s Greek 5546: A Christian. From Christos; a Christian, i.e. Follower of Christ.

So, a Christian is a follower of Christ. Simple, yet still vague, in my opinion. Let’s keep digging.

The early Christians usually referred to themselves as disciples, brethren (brother), saints, believers, and in one place, followers of the Way.

disciples
μαθητὰς (mathētas)
Noun – Accusative Masculine Plural
Strong’s Greek 3101: A learner, disciple, pupil. From manthano; a learner, i.e. Pupil.

“Brothers,
ἀδελφοί (adelphoi)
Noun – Vocative Masculine Plural
Strong’s Greek 80: A brother, member of the same religious community, especially a fellow-Christian. A brother near or remote.

saints
ἅγιοι (hagioi)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Plural
Strong’s Greek 40: Set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred. From hagos; sacred.

{does} a believer
πιστῷ (pistō)
Adjective – Dative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4103: Trustworthy, faithful, believing. From peitho; objectively, trustworthy; subjectively, trustful.

The first Christians saw themselves as…

  1. A follower of Christ
  2. A learner
  3. A brother, member of the same religious community
  4.  Set apart by or for God, holy
  5. Trustworthy, faithful, believing

So a Christian, according to these first Christians followed Jesus, spent time learning what Jesus taught, identified with others who were doing the same, believed they were set apart by or for God from the rest of the world, and were trustworthy and faithful in living what they believed.

In other words… Christians believed what Jesus said, and lived lives consistent with that belief.

Do we?

We’ll find out more in my next blog.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Agree? Disagree? Confused? Let me know in the comments below.

Where is God Not?

When a person calls another person or group names expressing hatred, condemnation, and derision, God is not there.

When a person threatens another person or group with violence or vengeance, God is not there.

When a person attacks another person verbally or physically over their beliefs or opinions, God is not there.

When a person lies, repeats what they hear without checking the facts, or gossips, God is not there.

(Clarification: I know God is everywhere. So when I say “God is not there,” I don’t mean a place outside His presence. What I mean is a place where He chooses not to be involved or to abide. He says in Isaiah 1:15: “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” 1 John 4:12 says “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” To me, that implies that if we don’t love one another, He doesn’t abide in us. In other words, He’s not there.)

It doesn’t matter the label:

Republican or Democrat

Conservative, Liberal, or Independent

Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian

Gay, Straight, or Both

Male, Female, or Other

Atheist, Christian, Jew, or Muslim

White, Blue, Pink, or Green Collar

Rich, Poor, or Middle Class

Baby Boomer, Millennium, Generation X, or Z

If there is hatred, bitterness, and intimidation, God is not there.

Watching the news, scrolling through social media, and listening to people as they talk, I can see just how many places God is not in our country today.

Which is understandable with all the non-believers – not excusable, but explanatory.

But it is not understandable or acceptable for those who profess to follow Jesus. 

Jesus said some hard things when He was walking the earth – to people who were living in dangerous times. Like we are today.

Things like…

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  (Matt. 5:9) 

 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:21-22)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matt 5:38-41)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:43-48)

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:12)

Paul had some more words…

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same thing.” (Rom 2:1)

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will receive his approval.” (Rom 1:1-3)

“To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – even your own brothers.” (1 Cor 6:7-8)

Hard words. Very hard words. In our humanness, we cannot do this. But when we professed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, His Spirit came to live in our hearts enabling us to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. Enabling, nor forcing. We have to choose day by day, sometimes moment by moment, to follow His way.

If we profess to believe and follow Jesus – then we need to follow all of what He said, not just what we like or is easy. If we don’t, then how are we different than non-Christians?

Maybe we aren’t really followers at all.

Something to think about.