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What Is A Christian?

by Julius Hovan

Transcribed from Words of Life Radio Program

Good morning to you radio listeners or maybe good evening. It depends on when you hear this broadcast, for it goes all over the world and is heard at different times. I have a couple of members in my church who tune in at six o’clock every morning on Sundays to listen to the broadcast. Maybe you are among those today.

Allow me to deal with a very simple question. Maybe you would know the answer. The question: What is a Christian? I think it is a word that is misunderstood. It is misapplied. It is yet a term that has depth. It speaks of a future and has very real meaning. What is a Christian?

Ask 10 people and you are likely to get 10 different answers. Well, a well behaved person would be a Christian. A church member is a Christian or even some one that has been baptized, undergone that religious ritual.

I suggest to you if we want to the correct concept and definition and meaning of a Christian, we go to the book that answers these kinds of profound questions and has never been inaccurate. And that book, of course, is God’s Word, the Bible.

You may not know, but you might find it interesting, that the word Christian occurs but three times in the entire New Testament Scriptures. We learn, for example in the 26th chapter of the book of Acts and verse 28 one usage: And Agrippa said to Paul, “With but little persuasion you would feign make me a Christian.”

Paul had just told his story of his experience before he became a Christian and after becoming a Christian. He told them how the love of God overpowered him and love and grace came in and changed his entire life. My friends, there is an inescapable situation. Even Agrippa without being asked, recognized that one, when they are faced with Jesus, must make a choice. And so, number one today, a Christian is a person who has made a choice. We are either for God or against God. We are on his team or we are not. What position do you find yourself in this day? This Agrippa was trying to be funny or cute about it. But Paul had made the choice. He said so in the 19th verse of that chapter. “Wherefore, oh King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. When the opportunity came, when the door opened, I came in and became a follower of Jesus.”

My friends, this is the choice we all need to make. The choice of an all sufficient Savior. I am not asking you to become a Christian by choosing a certain church. That won’t do it or even baptism. People have been baptized who just got wet and that is all, or to keep some particular religious practice or a holy day or whatever it might be. But it is the decision to choose Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Savior of the world. All else in these areas that we talked about, they will follow in their proper place. If you become a believer in Jesus you will certainly follow him into the grave of baptism and be raised. You will begin to practice religious biblical things because that is what you need to do.

Paul said he preached Jesus. He said, “I preach Jesus Christ. I glory only in Christ and his cross.” We do that as well in this Word of Life radio broadcast. The same choice is to be made in this new 21st century as was in Agrippa’s day. You are going to make a choice. There is no escaping that. You are going to stand for God or against God. Have you thought about that?

In the Alp mountains, those great, beautiful mountains, there is a great divide I am told, a stream runs across that and you can stand there and take a chip of wood and throw it to the left and it will follow that stream and the water will take it down the river to the North Sea. If you throw a similar chip of wood to the other side, to the right, that chip of wood will be carried far, far from the other one down to the Mediterranean in the south. There is little difference in the way the chip is cast, but the destination is very, very different.

It may seem like it makes little difference to you in choosing Jesus. Well, ho hum, just a small decision, a minor decision, nothing important. I will get around to that one of these days. Listen to me. The difference is the destination of where you will spend eternity – with God or apart from God. Think about that. And so Agrippa’s choice, mine and yours, my friend, choosing Christ over Satan, choosing heaven over hell, choosing eternal life and joy over torment in the lake of fire. I can say to you on the authority of the Word of God, a Christian is one who has chosen the Lord Jesus Christ to come into the heart and to guide the mind and the will.

Christian, one who makes a choice. You are aware, secondly, that a Christian is one who has undergone a dramatic change. Mere religion has little affect on our habits and on our behavior. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms us. In Acts chapter 11 we read these words in verse 26 referring to the Christians there in Antioch: And when he found him he brought him unto Antioch and it came to pass for a whole year they were gathered together with the church and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians—the first use of that term—in Antioch.

Well, what a name. Why this name change? Why tag them with this name? I suggest to you because they became followers of Jesus Christ their lives and their habits had changed. Each one had become a different person. Their lives proved the power of their choice. Choice leads to change. 2 Corinthians 5:17, if any man is in Christ he is a new creation. Jesus spoke of how this could be to Nicodemus when he said, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We learn in many New Testament passages that nothing else really matters unless we are born again. And as we are brought into the family of God, enabled to be empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures speak of newness of life.

Listen to the words of Paul as he wrote to the church at Ephesus in chapter four and we read there in verse 24. ‘You have put on the new man that after God has been created, listen, in righteousness and holiness of truth’. Not many folks that I have run into want to brag and call themselves righteous and holy and yet that is exactly the promise that God makes to those who are born again into his family.

In the book of 1 Peter we read there in the very first chapter in verse 23 these words. ‘Don’t you know you have been begotten again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible through the Word of God which lives and abides’. This person who has made a choice has been made different. He is able now to live a totally different life.

The second chapter of 1 Peter begins with this admonition, talking to Christians, ‘Put away, therefore, all wickedness and guile and hypocrisies and envies and evil speakings’.

This is what happens to Christians. They must get rid of those things that are bad in their lives and he says then in verse 11 and 12: ‘Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts. Live differently. These lusts war against the soul, having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles that wherein they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they see, glorify God in the day of visitation’.

Oh, think about that, that change that is seen. You may be familiar with the name Paderewski. He was a great Polish pianist and a man, who himself was an excellent piano player, heard Paderewski play. He was thrilled at his ability to play the piano and this man said this. “For me to play like the great Paderewski I would have to be made over. I would have to be born with his talent, his heart, his soul.”

And so it is as a Christian. If we are not a new creation, if we are just like we were, if we come up out of the water of baptism with no change in our heart and our minds to live for the Lord, we cannot be labeled as a Christian. We must live the Christian life in our specific rules and regulations that regard living that life. People will not call us Christian if we are not living the Christian life, and we enter that holy union by coming to the Lord Jesus Christ and experiencing the new birth.

How great it is. Check up on your habits, on your life. Are you the same even as you were last year? If you are a Christian there ought to have been some growth as you have grown in the last 12 months or so. Let’s not be content with practices that are not becoming to the name Christian. The Bible tells us a person is a Christian by making the choice and this choice, then, makes him a new creation who can be led by God’s power to make major changes in his life. Will you think about that? Will you recognize whether or not you have made the choice?

It ought to be something you know very well and very sure. You can look at your life and see what changes have come, for God will give you power to live that life.

A Christian has made a choice. A Christian has undergone major changes in the way he lives.

That brings us to the third thing that I believe the Bible teaches about answering the question: What is a Christian? I believe Christianity has no equal regarding this third point. Choice, change, ah, a challenge. Christianity is a challenge. Many martyrs such as Stephen, all of the 12 apostles, thousands of first century Christians, many since then, and many today have undergone this persecution and death because they became Christians. They were living Christian lives. They made the choice of Christ as Savior and Lord and they were, indeed, changed. And they were in a position to accept the challenge of Christianity.

Have you accepted the challenge? I can say to you—I don’t even have to know you—that wherever you live, whatever country, whatever state, whatever place, there is a challenge for you to try to live as a Christian.

In 1 Peter chapter four the writer says this in verse 16. ‘But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in his name’.

God just takes for granted that we are going to suffer as a Christian.

And the 15th verse says: ‘For let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or evil doer or a meddler in other men’s matters’. We can suffer because of the sin in our lives. But we must not suffer if we are not suffering for the right reason. There are many ways to suffer, many things to bring this evil into our lives. We want to be shed of that by the grace and power of God. We want to, as Christians, accept the challenge and be willing to undergo the suffering as a Christian.

We don’t speak much about that, though we are aware of the martyrs of the last 100 years, maybe there have been as many before that. All through the years, many have come to give their lives because they were followers of Jesus, to undergo imprisonment and torture and suffering.

I suggest to you there is no greater challenge today than living the Christian life. To live as a child of God, to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And notice Peter says, “ Let him not be ashamed.” My friends, you need bear no shame if you are suffering because of being a Christian. Your reward will be great in heaven. We must try to be, as were the disciples of old, they counted it all joy to suffer for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to the words in the book of Philippians chapter two beginning there with verse 15 and following. ‘You are to become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of life that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain’. Paul had been responsible for the conversion of many of these different people. He was proud of their living and undergoing the great pain and suffering of the Christian life.

A Christian, my friends, what is a Christian? Do you know a little bit better, a little bit clearer? We have taken this from the only source that I think can give us the real answer, the Word of God. We conclude that a Christian is one who has made the choice of Christ, Jesus Christ. They have chosen him as Lord and Savior. Nothing else, no one else will do, because he alone provides the healing and the power.

I believe. I go to church, but my preacher says, “Have you chosen Jesus? Have you made that choice?”

If you are a Christian, you are one that has undergone change, been born again. The life of Christ in you proves that you are a Christian. People can see it and they can recognize it, cannot help but notice you have learned about the great truths of the gospel and the Word of God. You have gained wisdom and strength from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Ah, to be born again by the power of God. That is what has happened to every Christian.

The apostle Peter loved the verse. He says, “We have been born again and given the divine nature.”

Then you are one who is willing to accept the challenge. I do not doubt that some listeners to my voice this morning are in countries where you are persecuted because you are a follower of Jesus Christ, because you call yourself a Christian. It is by God’s power that you can go forth to meet the challenges, the persecution that takes place where you are living. Satan is very real. Evil is very strong. The pleasures of the world, possessions in and of themselves will take us one way, but the challenge of Christianity is to take us on to greater and better and eternal things.

What is a Christian? Are you a Christian is the key word? Have you made the choice? Have you shown the change? Have you accepted the challenge? I trust that is true, my friends. And we are thankful that you have tuned in.

As I close this broadcast this morning, listen to this brief poem entitled crowned or crucified.

I stood alone at the bar of God,

In the hush of the twilight dim,

And faced the question that pierced my heart,

“What will you do with Him?”

“Crowned or crucified? Which shall it be?”

No other choice was offered to me.

I looked on the face so marred with tears

That were shed in His agony

The look in His kind eyes broke my heart,

‘Twas full of love for me.

“The Crown or the Cross,” His eyes seemed to say;

“For or against Me, choose thou today.”

He whispered so tenderly to me;

While He pleadingly said, “Obey!”

“Make Me thy choice, for I love thee so!”

And I could not say Him nay.

Crowned, not crucified — this must it be;

No other way was open to me.

I knelt in tears at the feet of Christ,

In the hush of the twilight dim,

And all that I was, hoped, or sought,

Surrendered unto Him.

Crowned, not crucified — my heart shall know

No king but Christ, who loveth me so

 

I hope that you will enter into a relationship with this great Savior. If we may be of help, please get in touch with us.

 




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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13