WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
Scripture: Acts 11:26
Preached in Penticton FPC, April 22nd, 2018.
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“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,” Acts 11:26
Here in our text is the origin of the title which all true believers wear with honour. It can be seen immediately that the name Christian is that used of those who before were referred to as disciples. A disciple is one under instruction, a learner. A disciple of Christ is one who, having met with and obeyed Christ is now under His direction and tutelage.
While that may explain the meaning of the terms what we want to discover is what is a Christian? There is no title more abused and misused today. I believe that it is likely that 99% of those in this world who claim to be Christians are very sadly mistaken! “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” Matthew 7:22-23. I recall the parable of the lost sheep in which one sinner repented while 99 deemed repentance unnecessary! “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” Luke 15:7. Please recall that these remained in the wilderness wasteland, verse 4!!
I am going to give you three things that a Christian is.
I. A CHRISTIAN IS NO LONGER WHAT HE USED TO BE
What the Christian used to be many still are. “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” Ephesians 2:3. This gives us the likeness of what the believer used to be like. “He was a child of wrath even as others.” He was a sinner under condemnation of God’s holy law for his breaking of it repeatedly.
But he has been changed, wonderfully changed since then.
1. No one is more aware of this change than himself. “He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see,” John 9:25.
Paul’s testimony: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities,” Acts 26:9-11.
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul which so long I had sought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
2. This change has been seen by others also. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” 2 Cor 5:17. It would hardly amount to much if others did not see it. “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men,” Matthew 9:8.
3. Above all, there is a change in God’s eyes.
No longer condemned but forgiven. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” Rom 8:1.
No longer an enemy by wicked works but reconciled. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled,” Colossians 1:21.
No longer a stranger but a citizen of heaven. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” Ephesians 2:19.
No longer afar off but made nigh. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” Ephesians 2:13.
No longer unclean but washed. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Corinthians 6:11.
II. A CHRISTIAN IS SOMEONE WHO IS NO LONGER TRAVELLING THE ROAD HE USED TO
There has been a complete turn about, a change of direction. That is the meaning of “repentance”!
1. He is travelling in the opposite direction. He is moving against the stream of this world. He finds himself in contradiction to the views, ideas, delights, pleasures and ambitions of this world. He can no longer agree with those with whom he formerly sped down the road of sin. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you,” 1 Peter 4:1-4.
2. He is travelling to a different destination. Not for him the city of destruction. Now he is going to the Celestial city. Abraham, “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” Hebrews 11:10.
3. He is travelling in new company. There is a people which are called his people, his own company. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts,” Psalm 119:63. “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them,” Acts 4:23. “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,” Ruth 1:16.
Here is where the Christian now feels at home.
III. A CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO HAS ETERNAL RICHES WHERE ONCE HE HAD NOTHING BUT POVERTY
1. How poor the unsaved man is. “But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God,” Psalm 40:17. Spiritually we are only beggars!
2. The discovery of such riches is through the gospel. “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me,” Acts 26:17-18.
3. Such riches are not subject to decay or loss. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” 1 Peter 1:3-5.
4. He has a title and an estate to go with his riches. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together,” Romans 8:16-17. “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” Colossians 1:12-14.
A crown. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing,” 2 Timothy 4:8. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” 1 Peter 5:4.
A Throne. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne,” Revelation 3:21. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years,” Revelation 20:4.
Do you meet this description? Do you have grounds for calling yourself a Christian.