Christian No More

Some church-based commercials have made their way online that mimic the recent Mac-PC commercials. One person is a Christian and the other is a Christ-Follower. These shorts challenge the “traditional” view of formal Christianity, but they are dangerous in that they encourage us to try to follow Christ in a way that fits me rather than a way that fits Christ.

Christian v. Christ Follower

The term Christian literally means, “that which belongs to or pertain to Christ.” It is used three times in the New Testament: Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16. In each of these, there is something about the lifestyle and actions of individuals that bring about the term of one belonging to Christ.

Really, the idea of Christ-Follower equates discipleship. Numerous individuals, such as Paul and Timothy, are described as disciples of Christ, and Matthew 16:24 records Jesus inviting those who would be His disciples to practice a life of self-denial.

Returning to Acts 11:26, the disciples – the Christ-Followers – were called Christians. In the New Testament (especially Acts), the terms disciple and Christian can be used interchangeably. Is there a distinction to be made? One cannot be a true Christian without being a Christ-Follower and vice versa.

Those who follow Christ are recognizable because of how they live – not because of self-branding or proclamations. Agrippa knew and believed, but he did not align himself with Christ, and he recognized this distinction. Those in Antioch recognized Christ in the disciples among them, and Peter said that our Christianity should give glory to God.

Our Application

Either to be a Christ-Follower or a Christian means the same: to emulate Christ and make Him the center of my life. Again, Matthew 16:24 makes it clear that those who follow Him are no longer self-centered. We are to conform our lives to the lifestyle of Christ.

Christ’s conduct, teachings, and attitudes stood out in contrast with those around Him. He led a life of servitude, both of others and of God. He lived to follow God’s plan, even to death. Following Christ means fitting into His plan – not making Him fit ours.

In all of these things Jesus did in His ministry, the one consistent message is, “You have to change.” Luke 5:32, John 5:14, John 8:11 – these and more record Jesus telling people to repent of their past lives to follow Him. Jesus, in Matthew 16, tells us to die to ourselves to follow Him.

Conclusion

We should not be ashamed of the name Christian. However, we should make sure we are honoring the one we claim to follow when wearing that name (I Peter 2:21-24). Our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes should reflect the One we follow. Instead of saying, “I am a Christian no more,” we should say, “I need to be more Christ-like as a Christian.”

lesson by Tim Smelser

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