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What is a Christian? Who are considered Christians?  Is Religion and Christianity the same thing? Often times I believe it is also time for "followers of Jesus Christ" to stop calling themselves Christians. Does that shock you? At best the term "Christian" has become meaningless, and at worst it has become an obstacle to sharing Jesus with the unreached. A Muslim for instance, may ask, "Do I have to start calling myself a Christian if I decide to put my trust in Jesus?" My response would be, "No." Does that shock you? Do you realize that the term "Christian" comes with much negative baggage in our world today. At best the term has become meaningless, and at worst it has become an obstacle to sharing the Biblical Gospel Jesus with the unreached. In our Western culture there is almost no statistical difference between those that call themselves "Christians" and those that don't. Rates for divorce, pregnancies outside of marriage, abortion, drinking and doing drugs are almost the same as the rest of the world. Let me tell you that is NOT the case with "true believers in Jesus Christ." Just like all Muslims are NOT radical and NOT all Muslims are terrorists, NOT all believers in Jesus act as many others believe. A much better, more meaningful term you may want to begin to use would be "follower of Jesus," or even "disciple of Jesus" and "believer in the One True God." These terms are not offensive and are actually more descriptive of a true follower of Jesus who has a relationship with the Lord! Often the questions of  who Christians are can be hard to answer but we will try and help you understand. In NO WAY is this topic or web page meant as a bashing towards "Christianity" but rather we want to take an honest look at what the Bible says and to also hold others religions under the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God doesn't want followers of Jesus to be "Religious", just going through the motions while they try to obey all the rules and Him somewhere in the dusty rituals. God doesn't want disciples of Jesus to be concentrating on "don'ts" while they forget to do much that matters in a very needy world.  And God doesn't want followers of Jesus to be confusing the Gospel- the Good News - with doing good works to earn enough "brownie" points to deserve salvation. The truth is, we could never earn enough points anyway. And even more important, we don't have to. 
Christianity has been called one of the world's great religions, but should a follower of Jesus be "Religious?" According to Webster's dictionary, a religion is a system of faith and of worship...Christianity is certainly that. According to Webster, a religion is the service to and adoration of God expressed in forms of worship...Christianity is certainly that, too. According to Webster, religion is devotion, fidelity, conscientiousness, an awareness or conviction of the existence of a supreme being, which arouses reverence, love, gratitude, the will to obey and serve... Christianity is certainly that...and more. It's the "more" that we need to look at. Christianity is more than religion, because every religion has one basic characteristic...its followers are trying to reach God, find God, please God through their own efforts. "Religions" reach up towards God! Being a "follower of Jesus" is God reaching down to humanity. Christianity or being a "disciple of Jesus" claims that we have not found God, but that God has found us. To some this is a crushing blow. They prefer religious effort-- dealing with God on their own terms. This puts them in control. They feel good about "Being Religious." Christianity, however, is not religious striving.
To practice Christianity is to respond to what God has done for you. The Christian life is a relationship with God, not a religious treadmill. Many Christians, however, behave like they really don't believe this, and that is another reason why "true believers" need to start calling themselves "followers of Jesus." With form, formalism, ritual, legalism, rules, systems and formulas we attempt to reduce Christianity to a Religion - a system of some kind where works are really substituted for faith and trust, where Law takes precedence over Grace. We will not necessarily admit this, but it's true nonetheless. Instead of responding to God's love in repentance for our sin, we reach out for it - neatly keep God at arm's length while we do so. But God will not stay at arm's length. When He comes into your life He demands ALL of it. Away with religious pretense and pontificating. Away with your religious game called "church" that you play so well every Saturday or Sunday. God wants all of you -- your heart, your soul, your body -- as a living sacrifice to Him.  So to answer, "Who are Christians?" we are followers (disciples) and believers in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word "Gospel" comes from the Greek word euangelion which is properly translated "good news." In ancient history, the word was given to any message of great joy. In the Scriptures, the Gospel is the "good news: that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the penalty of sin has been paid and sinful men may be saved! Of all the endeavors to which a man/woman may give himself, there is none greater than to seek to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to search out its infinite glory Ė God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself! The gospel in its glory is too deep for our intellect, too wide for our hearts, and beyond the power of any language to describe, yet within so great a mystery we find our salvation.

 

So what is the Gospel?  (1 Corn. 15:3-4)

In accordance with the Fatherís good pleasure (Glory), the eternal Son, who is equal with the Father and the exact representation of His nature, willingly left the glory of heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, and was born the God-man Ė Jesus of Nazareth. As a man, he walked on this earth in perfect obedience to the Law of God (a sinless man). In the fullness of time, he was rejected by men and crucified. On the cross, he bore manís sin (personal sins against God), suffered Godís wrath (punishment we deserved), and died in manís place. On the third day, he was raised from the dead. This resurrection is the divine declaration that the Father has accepted His Sonís death as a sacrifice for sin, that the penalty for manís disobedience has been paid, the demands of justice satisfied, and the wrath of God appeased. Forty days after the resurrection, the Son of God ascended into the heavens, sat down at the right hand of the Father and was given Glory, honor and dominion over all. There in the presence of God, he represents His people and makes requests to God on their behalf. All who acknowledge their sinful, helpless, estate, repent, and throw themselves upon Jesus Christ will be fully pardoned, declared righteous, and be reconciled to God.

This is the Gospel (the good news in short) of God and of Jesus Christ His Son!

Salvation

Godís plan is to save his people from their sins Ė and to bring His people fully and finally to Himself for His Glory sake (Matt. 1:21; 2 Tim. 2:10). Christians experience salvation in this life in both a past and present sense, and we anticipate salvation in a future sense. Christians have been saved from the penalty of our sins; we are currently being saved from the power of sin; and one day, when Godís plan of salvation is complete and we are with Christ, we shall be like him, and we shall be saved even from the very presence of sin.

So if God has done this in Christ, what are we to do to be saved? We must turn to God in Christ, which entails turning back from sin? If we repent (decide to forsake and turn from) our sin (as best we understand it) and trust in (believe) Christ as a living person, we will be saved from Godís righteous wrath against our sins.

Turning to God necessarily implies our turning away from sin. The whole Bible OT & NT clearly teaches that to repent is to "acknowledge [Godís] name and turn from [our] sins" (1Kings 8:35; 2 Corn 7:14; Jer 36:3, Ezek 14:6 Acts 3:19, 8:22, 26:18; Rev.2:21-22; 9:20-21; 16:11). We cannot start to pursue God and sin at the same time. Christians in this life still sin, but against our deepest desires and better judgment; our lives are not guided and directed by sin as before. We are no longer enslaved to sin. Though we still struggle with it (Gal 5:17), God has given us the gift of repentance (Acts 11:18), and we have been freed from sinís dominating power.

Our response to the "good news" of the gospel is to believe and trust Godís promise in Christ, and to commit ourselves to Christ, the living Lord, and his disciples (follower). Among Jesusí first words in Markís Gospel are "repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). The obedience beginning with repentance, is to result from the faith and trust we have in him and his word (Jos. 22:16, acts 27:25). Thus sins are sometimes called breaking faith with God. (Ezra 10:2). Having faith in Christ, which seals our union with him through the Holy Spirit, is the means by which God accounts Christís righteousness our own (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:17-21; Gal. 2:16). Such saving faith is something that we exercise, but even so it is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). Godís gift of salvation has been given to Christians, but the evidence of that salvation is lived out in the continual work of Godís Spirit. We can deceive ourselves, and so Paul encourages his readers to "Examine yourself, to see whether you are in the faith Test yourselves." (2 Corn.13:5). Peter encourages Christians to grow in godliness and so become more confident of their election (2 Peter 1). We donít create our own salvation by our actions, but we reflect and express it and so grown in our certainty of it. Because we Christians are liable to deceive ourselves, we should give ourselves to the study of Godís Word to be instructed and encouraged in our salvation, and to learn what is inconsistent with it. Jesusí descriptions of his followers (Matt. 5-7), or Paulís list of the fruit of the Spiritís work in us (see Gal. 5:22-23), act as spiritual maps that help us locate ourselves to see if we are on the path of salvation.

 

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