The term “Christian” is something we hear often these days. It has come to mean different things to different people, inside and outside the church. To one person, you are a Christian if you go to church every week, following a few rules, trying to just be a better human being than the guy who steals and murders. To another person, someone is a Christian if they do a little more than the person who just shows up at church. They are involved in a few more religious activities and attempt a little harder to do kind things for others. Yet another person believes you are a Christian only if you are out there making people feel condemned about their lives, focusing on the point that they are going to hell. Even with all of the various perceived definitions about Christianity, as a religion, it has become a more acceptable practice in many circles of our society, as long as it kept within certain boundaries. But what really does it mean to be Christian?
In the days of the early church, the word “Christian” was a name that was given to people who followed Jesus, by those who did not. That term is hardly even seen in the Bible, and was never used by Jesus Himself. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, inviting people to become disciples within that Kingdom. Unfortunately, using the word “Christian” has helped to transform God’s intention for His people into a loosely used, watered-down concept, making it more like a club to join rather than a way of life. It’s interesting that Jesus used the word disciple when talking about God’s kingdom. The definition of a disciple is a follower, a pupil, an active adherent of a movement. That is far different than what many people think and live.
A good analogy for what being a Christian means is the example of someone who is in the military. Now, don’t transfer everything about our world’s military into the picture. To many, that has a negative ring to it. Think of a government that is of great benefit to you, bringing joy and peace, love and purpose to your life. So, you sign up. When you do, you are no longer living in the world of civilians. Everything you do is centered on how this new life is lived out, which is probably very different than your old life. You don’t go back and forth from one way of life to another. That is of no value to you, as you would be attempting to live two separate, confused lives. And it doesn’t help what you now belong to; it only hinders it. Armies that are not committed to their purpose and way of life, or loyal to their commanders, do very little, if anything at all, to advance the kingdoms they claimed to be excited for and dedicated to. Rather, if those in that military would become “disciples” of this new leader, studying how to do things, applying what they have learned, choosing to stay committed to each other and the purpose, this army could do amazing things. With this mindset, even when times get tough, or they don’t understand the reason for their commander’s orders, the army can still prevail against incredible odds.
As we think about this analogy, we have to keep in mind an important point. Jesus, the “commander” of this new army that people join when coming into the Kingdom of God, is not like earthly leaders. Picture the best earthly leader you have ever known or read about. Jesus is so far above that person, there is no comparison. And His kingdom operates on the principle of love. He loves us so much He was willing to give up His life for us, and everything He does in our lives is based on that love, even though we can’t always understand things. So, the “army,” or discipleship process, Jesus calls us to, is not some institutionalized group, but instead an organic way of life that brings life as it is founded on a love relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
So, if you are saying you are a Christian, what you should be meaning is that you are a disciple. Here are a few things to ask yourself:
–Am I even in the Kingdom of God? How do you know? Have you repented of sin in your life, believed who Jesus is and that He died for you (not just head knowledge, but belief that causes conviction to follow Him totally), and verbalized that you have given Him control of your life, making Him Lord? If yes, then you are in His Kingdom!
–Am I getting to know Jesus and choosing His ways? Being a disciple means you are now focused on Christ, your love relationship with Him, and how He says to live. You no longer think or live based on how you feel or the how the world says you should.
–Am I running from and repenting of sin daily? You cannot say you love God and are His disciple if you are living life however you want. We cannot choose sin over Jesus. If so, we love the other thing over Him. Pride and unforgiveness are big problems in Christian circles.
–Am I studying, learning, and applying His Word? How else are we going to know how to live and be able to follow our leader? How else will we be able to use His Word against the attacks of the enemy and to help others?
–Am I obeying God when I know it’s Him? The Bible says Jesus desires obedience over sacrifice. We can do a lot of things for God, but He will know we love Him if we obey Him and that means in everything in our lives.
These are just a few basics of discipleship. It is a way of life that is not always easy, but there is nothing as amazing as living as a disciple of Christ. And don’t stop with just examining yourself in this. We often deceive ourselves. So, take some time to ask Jesus to show you where you are really at. He knows our hearts better than we do, and wants to bring us to a place that will be better than anything we can do on your own. Remember, He loves you more than you can imagine; become His disciple.