Sometimes as we trudge through this life, we experience words that seem to beg for further clarification. Our reading and speaking vocabularies are varied, leading us to not fully grasp what we are reading or what is being said.
The word Christian comes to mind as one of these words. What is a Christian? A dictionary definition of a Christian would be something similar to “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus.” We find that the original followers of Jesus Christ “…were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26 King James Translation), because they followed him, in their behavior, activities, and speech.
A recent poll indicates that most Americans call themselves Christian, but when they were asked to explain what makes them a Christian, almost 30 percent of them said that they weren’t another religion; thus, Christian by default or by association, some even by ethnic or national identity. The word Christian has lost much of its true meaning and is often used to describe someone with good moral values who may or may not be a true follower of Jesus Christ.
We read, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, KJV).
Now I can only speak for myself, but before I believed in Jesus, I didn’t see myself described as scripture portrays the non-believer: dead toward God, cut off from God, ignorant or under judgment. There was no robbing of banks in my past, nor murders or pillaging villages; I never considered that I had a heart hardened against God. Actually I thought of myself as a decent man, not a Christian necessarily by definition, but a good person who was good enough to buy me a ticket to heaven. I’m ok and you’re ok and we’re all of us good people are on our way to heaven. In other words, entitlement—God owes me, I’ve got it coming!
That was quite a few years ago, when I truly believed in entitlement, that because I was a decent person, heaven couldn’t be denied to me. That is the gospel of self. Scripture says “(8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).
When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are accepting the responsibility to be and act as a disciple, to become a Christian, living responsibly for Jesus Christ. The gospel can’t be preached that isn’t the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of self is not the Christian gospel. I may not have seen myself as on the way to hell, but the word of God tells me that before I believed on Jesus Christ and had a personal relationship with him, I was destined to be eternally lost.
A true Christian is a person who has put their faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including his death on the cross as payment for our sins. There is no justification of sin before God except through the shed blood of Christ. The substance of preaching and teaching is that we will come to a relationship with our Lord and continue to grow in our knowledge of him. Christians hear the voice of Christ as we study his word. Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20 KJV) Are you hearing him speak to you?
Pastor Dick Nichols
Cedar Creek Community Church
2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta