Graceful Perseverance: Christian or Christ-Follower? - 8/2/20
Welcome to this week's blog. Today let's focus on defining a Christian, side-by-side with the definition of a Christ-follower. This comparison will lead us to discovering the difference between being a Christian, and being a Christ-follower. Is there a difference, indeed there is?
First, what does it mean to follow Christ? It is the decision in one’s life, a fundamental change of one’s lifestyle, where we choose to seek the kingdom above all things. What do I mean when I say “all things?” All things in the Bible is referencing all things in this world, worldly belongings. What are worldly possessions? Just to name a few, money, home, cars, status, recognition, awards, trophies, praise, famous in the eyes of man, seeking royalty, and material things that only can bring us short term gratification. All of these things are referenced in the Bible as worldly treasures that will someday vanish, with only short-term gratification, and bring no spiritual value to one’s eternal life.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33 (NIV).
What Matthew is telling us in this scripture, is follow God’s Kingdom, and His righteousness first and foremost, and all of these other things, AND MORE will be given to you in Heaven, your eternal, everlasting life with God. Matthew is warning all of us that do not be brain washed, memorized or sucked in by things of this world, because everything is temporary. Where God’s promises that if we seek Him first before all of these other things, we will not perish, but have everlasting life with Him. The oldest cliche still applies, especially to those who horde money, and choose not to help the poor or gather and keep hold of material stuff here on earth…you might as well spend it - money, because you can’t take it with you. If you’re planning on going to Heaven, you won’t be taking a U-Haul with your earthly belongings. Truly I tell you, God is very clear in letting us know that none of what’s here on this earth is forever, but temporary. He’s also very clear on warning us to not save up our treasures here on earth, but learn to save up our treasures in Heaven, where we will receive the true reward.
Following Christ is painful, and will cost each of us, but as Jesus told Simon Peter in Matthew 19:28, who had just claimed he had forsaken all, Jesus said to them, Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The definition of a Christian is broad. If you claim to others you are a Christian, please realize you may be talking about a “religion.” There are over 4,300 religions around the world per www.theregister.com. There are 12 major religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Judaism, Confucianism, Baha’i, Shinto, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. Here are the percentiles of the top five major religious groups around the world.
1. Christianity (31.2%)
2. Islam (24.1%)
3. Hinduism (15.1%)
4. Buddhism (6.9%)
5. Folk religions (5.7%)
6. Judaism (0.2%)
So, you can see by defining yourself as a Christian, as opposed to calling yourself a Christ-follower, has widely different implications. When we refer to ourselves as Christ-followers, we are more specific then saying we are of a certain religion – Christian or Christianity, which includes Catholics, Lutherans, Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Methodist, Protestant, Orthodox, Baptist, and Episcopal, etc. So, when you say to others you are a Christian, it's such a broad answer because you could be talking about any of these “religions.”
I believe it is better to refer to ourselves as believers or Christ-followers than to refer to ourselves as Christians (a religion). Yes, to be a Christian is to be labeled as a believer, but this word is so generic today almost anyone can claim to be a Christian. But to be a Christ-follower is much different because we do more than claim to be a Christian. We claim to follow Christ, and seek His will, wherever He may lead us. He may lead us into some very difficult trials and circumstances. And many times, we may or may not understand the why at the time. But as Christ-followers, we believe - if He brings us to it, He will see us through it. When Jesus lived among the people 2,000 years ago, He never approached them and said, “You must open your heart to me or else,” but rather, Jesus desired the people to show their love for Him first. He gives us free will to come to Him when we are ready. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus says to the people, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” and then they followed Him.
I have not come across any biblical references where Jesus, or the apostles forced people to accept Jesus. Accepting Jesus, and letting Him into your heart is not by means of a religion, forced to follow their doctrine, pray their prayers or confess your sins to someone in a confession booth. Being a Christian is a religious practice of a set of rituals where the people believe they will be saved if they walk down the aisle, come forward and take communion, the communion of saints then leads to the forgiveness of sins. And it is only by this way your sins can be forgiven. Therefore, people repent at the alter in front of a congregation. And somehow this religious practice is considered to be the means by which a Christian will be saved.
We do not receive salvation because we are members of a congregation, a community of Christians where we confess or repent of our sins in the presence of other believers. No religion or doctrine can guarantee or promise we will be saved if we follow their beliefs and practices. We can only be saved when we personally approach God. It is then that God grants us repentance, and we put all of our trust in Him. None of which must be practiced within the boundaries of a religion, and their practices. Nowhere in the Bible does God instruct us to put our trust in a religion or religious practice or ritual or approach the altar, as the means to becoming a Christian, and then receive salvation. No religion or religious practice can claim salvation. Salvation is only by the work of God! Therefore God, and only God, deserves the glory. Not a religion or religious practice or institute can claim rights to God’s glory.
If you want to be born again, and receive salvation, this can only be accomplished by an act of God, and the Will of God, not man. This is how we are born again. Being born again is an act of God, the will of God, not through a priest, pastor, minister or pope. This is what it means to be a Christ-follower, as opposed to calling yourself a “religion.” Christ-followers trust in the Lord with all of their heart. Through private prayer, we repent of our sins, and wrongful acts. It is when we repent of our sins that we are forgiven. Knowing, understanding and believing who God the Father is, is a true Christ-follower. The true definition of a Christ-follower is not that of a certain religious practice, but that of a very intimate, private and personal relationship with Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. A Christ-follower is not memorized or naive to worldly religions that have rewritten God’s word, the Bible, in order to create their own doctrine, beliefs and practices.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ – John 3:3-7 (NIV).
After doing my research, and getting better clarity on the difference between calling myself a Christian, as opposed to calling myself a Christ-follower, I’d much rather declare to the world I am a Christ-follower. I do as He instructs, and commands in the Bible – “FOLLOW ME.” I follow, obey, and practice His 10-commandments. I have a deep-personal relationship with Christ. I go to Him for everything, and in return He brings me safety, peace and trust that I am His child, knowing and believing He is forever protecting, and guiding me through this life. I need or want not anything else.
As I mentioned earlier, to be a Christ-follower is hard, it’s against the current of this world, and it has costed me dearly. But for the Christ-follower, the reward isn’t here on earth, but in Heaven. That’s God’s promise to all who follow Him. Remember, Jesus said to them, Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Matthew 19:28 (NIV).
In closing, in simplest terms, this how I, a Christ-follower, obey God's plan for my life.
Always be in Prayer
Stay in His Word
Follow His Commandments
Seek and Obey His Truth
Blessings until next week,
Debra M. Pauli
Scripture Quotes: Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV) / English Standard Version (ESV)
Digital Assets: U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index, Section 107
Archived Blogs: https://www.thewitnesstoday.com/blog-archives
Copyright © 2020 by Debra M. Pauli @ Pauli Publishing House (PPH) disclaimer: All rights reserved. No part of these writings may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission from the author.