I identify as being a Christian and so do many of my friends and family members, but what does it mean to be a Christian?
What does it mean to be a Christian?
Does it mean one who does good works, seeks social justice for all, and dedicates their life to serving others?
Does it mean following rituals, traditions, and specific orders within the church?
Does it mean disassociating oneself from mainstream “Christianity” and following your own “simpler” form of “worship”?
Does it mean preaching at everyone you meet?
Does it mean living as free from obvious sinful practices and associations as possible?
Is Christianity about what we do?
What does the name Christian actually mean? It means little Christ.
In other words, it means a follower, family member, representative of Christ. Simply, it’s one who believes in Jesus and as a believer in Jesus follows and represents Jesus to others.
2 Corinthians 4:5
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.
The above verse talks about what Christians do.
As Christians, it’s easy to confuse what should be a product of being a Christian as defining what a Christian is. In itself, this doesn’t sound bad, but it is dangerous if you define who you are by what you do.
Rather, who we are should define what we do. Stay with me… I will try to explain this a little better.
Why is this dangerous?
It is dangerous because you can confuse Christianity as being about what we do rather than about our relationship with God. We can do things that define a Christian without actually ever coming close to God Himself and facing what we believe about Him.
You see, Christianity is truly about what we believe about Jesus Christ/God Himself. Until we face that question, we actually are not true Christians. We may be religious and morally upright or socially just but can still be lacking an intimate walk with the Lord.
In fact, we can hide behind our religious practices, traditions, social work, moral uprightness, equality, and tolerance to avoid facing the ultimate question: “What do you believe about Me?”
Self-righteousness is the ultimate expression of selfishness and pride. Rebellion hides within its folds.
I am not advocating ignoring how we live or abandoning all Christian traditions. What I am challenging us to do is to examine our relationship with God and our belief in God.
Church services, tithing generously, community service, religious books are not a legitimate substitute for a relationship with God Himself. In fact, all of the trappings and practices of religion are simply an empty shell without the Spirit and Presence of God indwelling.
May I note that it is the empty shell that is the cause of why so many “Christian” youth are leaving the church in droves. They saw the shell, but the shell crumbles under pressure and offers no sustenance to the spirit of man.
It is the Spirit of God and His love that fills a church body and His people with life-changing, soul-stirring, and spirit-reviving power!
Focusing all of our attention on the traditions or distinctions of our church practices can be an easy distraction from dealing with the pulse of an individual’s heart and relationship with God.
We can focus so much attention on the distinctions that set us apart, on our ministries, programs, and stained glass windows that we forget that Christianity isn’t about “temple-gazing” but about “King-seeking” (words in quotes are taken from the Community Bible Study Mark Lesson 15 study).
13 Therefore the Lord said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
What a powerful exhortation that above verse is!
I would like to end with the following quotes taken from the Community Bible Study Mark Lesson 15 study. In Mark 15, we were studying the Pharisees and religious leaders’ responses to Jesus. In their day, they were the religious elite, the “righteous ones,” the rulers, and the compromisers with the local Roman government. Yet, Jesus reveals the emptiness of the souls and spirits of these religious people.
In light of the following quote, may we all examine our hearts as to what we are truly pursuing under the title of “Christianity.”
“Is it possible to build a temple and forget the One it was intended to honor? Had the religious community become so enamored of the temple and its traditions that they failed to see the King?
We, like those 1st-century Jews, must not put our trust in the trappings of our religion [or churches or programs].
…Buildings, programs, and traditions are important, but they are temporal. God and His Kingdom are eternal.”