Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chapter 2.5 A Christian's Christian

       Okay in the first part of this chapter, if you have not read the first part please do, we covered the name we carry and how important it is that we carry that name properly. We have seen that the name "Christian" has many things tied to it that is expected for us to carry out. What I want to do now is look at just the name "Christian" and how it relates to the church today.
       I did some research on the origin of the term "Christian" and found that it came about 40 or so years after the death of Christ. The first time we see this term used is in Acts 11:26. In this verse we see that in Antioch the followers of Christ first get this name. Acts 11:26 says and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Now, we have heard that this term was meant to have somewhat of a derogatory meaning to make fun of the followers of Christ. I see no where in this context that it meant that but do know in the years to follow that to many people who claimed that name were mocked or even put to death. So, no matter what the original meaning meant it ultimately was a term to mock the followers of Christ.
       What bothers me the most is that a term that was meant to mock the lives of the followers of Christ is now a term mocked by the lives of the ones who claim to follow him. If you do not get that then let me put it this way. The people who claim to be followers of Christ make the name "Christian", a term to mock the early church, a joke with our lifestyle. Most people know that Christian means: Christ-like or little Christ, but in most places we do a very very poor job of being anything that even resembles Christ-likeness. 
       So what does a Christian's Christian look like? Now a days it is someone who goes to church, helps out at events, maybe teaches Sunday school, maybe an usher, maybe a deacon, maybe a worship team member, or even just someone who just looks the part. Is this really all being a "Christian" is all about? Does the majority of us even care what is expected out of us in the Bible? I have realized that most of the people who claim to be "Christians" do not even have a relationship with Christ. Some people may think that I am being a little harsh here but 73-80% of people in America claim to be "Christian". If that is true then why is there only about 20% of Americans who attend church? Now, I do know that you do not have to go to church to be a "Christian", something I am about to go into in a second, but lets just say that 20% of people can not go due to some reason or does something else like a home Bible study instead that leaves us at 40% that is a far cry short of 73-80%. Most people know that not everyone who goes to church is not always a Christian so that would bring the number even lower.
       First, I want to say that going to church does not make you a "Christian" but it is encouraged in Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Simply put if you can go you should, it is good for you. So, what does a true Christian's Christian look like? Well lets look at what we as Christians should be holding up as the standard, THE BIBLE. We are told in James1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,and to keep oneself unstained by the world. I would be willing to say that most of us have failed by just that one verse alone but lets go on. In 1st John 4:7-8 it says Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In 1st John 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. I read these words and I am shaken to my soul because I know that there are many people who call themselves a "Christian" and if you asked them, "name someone who you can not stand", it would not take them longer than a second to give you a response. Is that love? We must not allow this kind of mindset to continue in the body. We must always be the ones trying to bring peace, we are called to be peace makers, that is one of the names of God we carry with us. Lets now look at Romans 1:25-32 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. I am not going to touch on the homosexual part right now, I plan to devote a few chapters to that matter. I just want you to read that and see if you fit in it anywhere. If you can say yes then again we have some work to do. See, when I read that it breaks my heart because not only are there things that I notice that I can work on but also because there are many things that I see that we allow to go on in our churches with out even batting an eyelash at. These are just three verses that I have brought up. I could go on and on with this but think that you are getting the idea. If you wonder, "well what else?" then I encourage you to go and read the Bible and let it show you.
       Now, lets look at some things that Jesus said about being followers of him should look like. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus tells us, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.This verse most of us know but most of us fail to follow through with. We sound just like Peter when we tell Christ that we will follow him anywhere but ultimately we deny him with our lifestyles. Christ also set one big standard for us in Luke 14:26-27, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." If He is love how can He tell me to hate? I do not believe Jesus is telling us to really hate people I more over believe that He is telling us that if we do not love Him first and foremost then we are not really loving Him at all. See, most of us can deal with not loving ourselves more than Christ but it is hard for us to deal with the fact that we may love our families more than Him. As a parent this is a hard thing for me to deal with but if you go back to the story of Abraham you get an idea of what is being said here. God wants you to love Him first and most but that does not mean that you must hate everything else it just means do not allow anything to become an idol before Him, something I think that we do with our families way too much.
       Okay, I think it is a good time to recap. I do not know if everyone who is reading this is a Christian so before I move on let me say this, if you do not know the saving grace of Christ Jesus I invite you to. Everything I have said may seem overwhelming but I promise you it is not. See the holy spirit will help you grow into the type of person that I have been talking about. If you are a Christian let us recap on all that has been brought up. First, we know that the name we carry comes with some things that we are meant to be. Things like provider, shepherd, peace maker, and righteous. Then there are things we should do like taking care of one another and loving all people. Finally there are things that we should not do like the list in Romans, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Revelations 21:8. Most of all though we must run our race with our eyes on the prize, the prize being the Glory of God, just like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9. As I was saying to someone who may not be saved earlier we can not do all these things by our own strength. We must be willing to let the holy spirit to work in us and through us. That does not take all the responsibility off of you and put it on God but it does show us that we need Him everyday to HELP us become the type of person that carries His name well.
       Some people may be wondering why I kept on saying "Christian". Well I did so because over all I do not believe that most people are really Christians. I think this term is thrown around just like the word love is. We have made the cost of both of those words mean so little. I believe to make God look good in this world again we must make the term Christian mean something again. I want to leave you with a story and a prayer. 
       I was talking to one of my friends the other night. This young man is a part of YWAM (youth with a mission) and he told me that when preparing for one of the mission trips he was going on they told him to not use the term "Christian" when talking to some people. Now you may be thinking that telling someone on a mission trip not to use the term Christian is crazy but there is a reason. See, he was told that in some parts of the world when you say that you are a Christian that people will instantly zone you out. He told me, "In some Middle Eastern countries, a Christian is known to a Muslim as someone who killed their family member or loved one, or a crazy right winged republican who voted to send troops over to occupy their country.. So when they send us over there we have to use the term "follower of Jesus."" WOW! If this does not hurt your heart then I do not know what will. He ended our conversation with this, "The more difficult obstacle to overcome when presenting the Gospel to unbelievers is not the presence of other religions, belief systems, or world views, but the misrepresentation and misconception of the term "Christian." The church can, at times, be its own worst enemy. This is why I love presenting the Gospel to people who have never heard it. They do not have any pre-conceived notions or a culturally-tinted view when the name of Jesus is spoken and taught. Like the story I shared with you last week of the man who had never heard, and his response to the first time he had ever heard was "That is a beautiful story." The average American hears or sees the Gospel presented 365 times a year and the average South American over 500 times a year (whether through a billboard, car bumper sticker, church sign, television, radio, etc.) But because of its misrepresentation, the story has lost it's meaning and significance." Thanks Tom Broyles I could not have said it better myself.
       I want to end this one with a prayer. God please forgive us for what we have made of Your name. Let us wake up and remember the sacrifice You made so that we could carry that name for all eternity. Please help us become the church that You died for. Help us make Your name great in this world again. We are chosen slaves to Your will in our lives and let us not love anything more than You. Allow us to move in Your will and power again. We desire to show Your love, mercy, and kindness to a dying world. Help us live the lives You created us for. Most of all help us fall in love with You again. AMEN.

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