There are so many things labeled “Christian” in our culture that many times it is difficult to know what Christian actually means.
I found out on the news that we have “Christian” militia in the U.S. I found out that we have “Christian” protests at U.S. soldiers’ funerals. At the book store you can buy the “Christian” diet. You can go on a Christian cruise. You can go to a Christian college. We have t-shirts, water bottles, natural foods, multi-level-marketing programs, music, movies, TV shows, TV networks, book stores, novels, self-help books, and every other merchandise-able item you can put a cross, dove or fish on. I am thinking about coming out with an official money changers table line for sale in church supply catalogs. (It will be out just in time for Camp-meeting season this summer :-0).
We sell our sermons, our prayer cloths, our anointing oil, magic water from the Jordan river, and every once and a while we even sell a piece of the true cross to our most committed partners ($$$). I believe a great new product for the faithful would be fragments from the tomb of Jesus with a select few signed by Joseph of Arimathea himself. It is funny (If I do say so my self), but the scary thought is one of our televangelist just got a new idea.
Sarcasm aside, what does it mean to be Christian? I would say it depends on who places the label on it. The only thing that really matters is what the Bible qualifies as Christian. What does God label “Christian”?
Deuteronomy 26:2 – …and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.
Deuteronomy 12:5 – But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there…
There are many places where we (man) have chosen to place the name of God, but seem to be void of the life of God. The habitual pattern for Christian endeavor and enterprise seems to be:
- We create a something
- We call it Christian
- We go to God
- We ask Him to bless it
This is definitely backwards from what we read in the Bible. The place where God has placed His name has key Biblical indicators:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:17-20).
Here we go:
The greatest indicator of the “Christian” label is “Christian” activity as defined by the “Christian” Bible.
How do you know a church or ministry has been labeled by God and not man?
People are born again as a result of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them.
- There is a huge difference between, “How many people answered the altar call?” and “How many people were born again?”
- Prayer lines and altar calls are awesome, they give people the opportunity to encounter the Holy Spirit and have their needs met, but salvation comes when we repent of our sins, believe in the Jesus of the Gospels and confess it with our mouth (Romans 10:9). Both are vital in the life of the believer and non-believer, but we need to differentiate between the two. God will manifest Himself and meet the needs of both the believer and the non-believer.
- The most important indicator of where God has placed His name is new Christians are born.
People who are Christians love one another
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,” (John 13:35)
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
- I don’t think it can be said any clearer than that. True love for our brothers and sisters is vital.
The measure of love is not in how many handshakes or hugs take place during the “fellowship” or “greeting” time of the service, but on how we treat one another (insert story of Good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37).
People who are Christians take care of the poor and needy
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2:14-17).
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” (Isaiah 58:6-7).
- We all know that actions speak louder than words. We are the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus. Hungry bellies have no ears. If we are truly His, we give, we care and we feed. Proclaiming love for the lost is demonstrated by tangibly loving the lost.
The congregation is involved in fulfilling the Great Commission
“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15).
“…do the work of an evangelist…” (2 Timothy 4:5)
- Jesus is the head of the body. Each of us has a different gift or gifts, purpose an office within the church, but we are all soul winners. A functional church does not rely on its leader to be the soul winner it empowers its congregation to fulfill the Great Commission.
People are filled with the Holy Spirit and manifest His gifts
- Stone me, label me insensitive or a member of the lunatic fringe, but I wasn’t the one quoted in Mark 16, “and these signs shall follow them that believe.”
- The purpose of a sign is to point to something beyond itself. The purpose of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is to confirm the word that is preached. “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20).
- Pray in tongues
- Cast out devils
- Lay hands on the sick
- These were not suggestions, but the marching orders of the resurrected Jesus Christ the church. Some would say they were for the Apostles. The logic is tragically flawed. If verses 16 and 17 were for the Apostles only then verse 15 had to be too. It makes no sense.
- God will never create a life or ministry for His church in which He is unnecessary. “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3).
- God wants to manifest Himself to the world, believer and non-believer. If “Christian” is placed upon our life or our church the signs should be there pointing to our resurrected Lord.
I could continue to list things like holiness, discipleship, strong marriages, strong families, etc. etc. etc…
There are too many words and not enough action in our day. Too many labels, categories and genres but not enough impact. When God is involved there is an impact on the church and on the world.
“Christian” means to be Christ-like. We don’t get to choose which of His characteristics we want to emulate. We are supposed to be like Him; pursue Him and manifest Him to the world.
So, while you could descend into sarcasm and skepticism at the ridiculous amount of truly non-Christians things that are labeled “Christian” you would do much better to concentrate on making sure your life has been labeled “Christian” based on the biblical definition.
I challenge you and I challenge me, stop labeling, filing and categorizing things and start living what the Book says we are supposed to be.
P.S. – I will be writing more on the gifts of the Spirit, the Great Commission, Holiness, Casting out Demons, and other exciting topics that scare the status quo out of comfortable Christians. I love you, but you need your grits stirred on a regular basis. There be thorns in this briar patch dear brother and sister.