In our society “Christian” has come to mean a bigoted, narrow minded, hater. So a growing number of “Christians” are looking to rebrand themselves. I’m OK with avoiding the term “Christian” since it initially was a term used more by the pagan world than by the Christians themselves. Other than Peter’s use of the term one time we don’t see Christians referring to themselves as “Christians” in the New Testament. A term that is coming in vogue is “Christ follower” – I am a Christ follower.
I don’t want to nit pick (though I am going to anyway) but I suggest that you might not want to just be a “Christ followers”. In the New Testament that too was not a term they used. In the NT they preferred the term “disciple”. Another popular term was “servant” – I am a servant of Jesus Christ. OK, both of those words may be a little foreign today so use “follower” if you want when explaining your stance to non-believers but don’t begin to see yourself merely as a “follower”. Here is why.
When Jesus walked the earth there were thousands of “Christ followers” who enjoyed hearing Him teach. They devoured the bread and fish and loved hanging with, “following”, Jesus. Many of these followers were not believers as evidenced by the low turn out after His death and resurrection (120 – Acts 1:15). When we first meet Nicodemus in John 3 he was evidently a Christ follower but was not bound for an eternity with Him (John 3:3).
Some of Christ’s followers went on to be “believers” – those who put their hope and trust in Him for salvation. That is an essential second step in the faith walk. Jesus told Nicodemus he must become a believer and be “born again” to have eternal life (John 3:16). So we need to progress beyond following to become believers. But God’s desire for us, and true peace and joy, is not found in merely being a “believer” either.
As I mentioned, the church in the NT usually labeled themselves as “disciples” or “servants”, even “slaves” of Jesus Christ. These terms speak of action, of obedience, of one who “disciplines” himself to be more than a follower, more than merely a believer, but one who has laid down his life, his own desires, has turned and gone a different direction (repented). The disciple lives the life of Jesus. The servant obeys. Being a “Christian” is being a “little Christ” – what the term actually means.
A three stage progression in salvation is first to follow (intrigued by Jesus and getting to know Him), then to believe (not merely mental agreement but to put our hope and trust in Him alone), then to become an action oriented servant or disciple (who imitates His self-sacrificial way of living and dying for God and others).
So, while we are rebranding ourselves to the world let’s make sure we don’t simply become those who follow, nor simply those who believe but let’s make sure our belief, as all true belief does, leads to action – to obedience, to discipline, to discipleship, to servanthood. So, that is the nit I am picking on today. What are your thoughts on it?
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
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