"I Am Not A Christian" (September 2008)
In the Book of Ruth is a story about a woman named Naomi. She and her husband left Bethlehem with their two sons during a famine in the land and went to the country of Moab. While they were there Naomi’s husband and two sons died. She was left with two daughters in law- Ruth and Orpah. She decided to return to Bethlehem and Ruth returned with her. When she got to Bethlehem, she was greeted by the people who had known her before she left. Upon their greeting she informed them that she no longer was to be called Naomi but Mara instead. “And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20) Naomi’s name meant “my delight’, but because of her losses she did not desire to be called by that name any more, but rather be called Mara which means “bitterness”. She made the choice to no longer be called what she had been known as for all those years.
I have made a similar choice to that of Naomi. I no longer wish to be called by something that I have been known as for many years- a Christian. I no longer want to be called a Christian. I’m sure that has shocked you, but bear with me while I explain.
When I was growing up, and up until the last couple of years, if you told someone you were a Christian it meant something- just like a man’s word was his bond, and a hand shake was as good as a legal document. There was a time when being a Christian meant that others knew you were a really good person. When someone said they were a Christian, it meant that they were trustworthy, honest, had integrity, they were truthful, they went to church and they were striving to serve God with all their heart to the best of their ability. It meant something to others to know that you were a Christian. Your boss knew he could depend on you and that you would not steal anything from the company or waste time loafing. Your neighbor knew you would be there to help in their time of need. Your family didn’t have to worry that you would walk out and abandon them. Other people knew they could count on you and trust what you said. That is not the case any more. Instead, when you hear the word Christian, it conjures up all kinds of images that are anything but what a true Christian is.
The definition of a Christian has not changed. The things that I listed above are all encompassed in the definition of a Christian. If you say that you are a Christian, it means that you are “Christ-like”. It means that you are living your life in the same way that Jesus did- with a desire to love, serve and worship the Heavenly Father. It means that you love what He loves, hate what He hates, conform to His image, love your neighbor as yourself, read and apply His word to your life and make it your code of conduct. It means that you value what He values, you place priority on what He places priority on and you live a holy lifestyle. God’s definition of the word has not changed, but man’s has. Society has completely changed the meaning of the word to fit whatever they want it to mean at the time- even the church has changed it. You can live in rebellion against God, have no regard for the things He regards, say that it’s not necessary to live by God’s word and still go by the name of Christian. Now days “everyone” is a Christian- that is, when it suits them to be one. It’s just a label that some wear hoping to “fit in” with certain sects in order to be influential with them.
Often politicians claim to be Christians when they are running for office so that they can get the “evangelical” vote. While they are calling themselves Christians out of one side of their mouth, they are working diligently to bring disunity and division among the people. They make promises that they know are lies because they have no intention of keeping them- they are just manipulating the people to get something from them... another vote.
There are people in the entertainment field who call themselves Christians yet promote a doctrine that claims that “all roads lead to God” and we are “all” God’s children. They claim to be Christian yet they will star in movies that are full of sex, violence and cursing. You’ll see them in sitcoms that down rate and belittle certain sects of society and treat sexual impurity as a joke. These same ones live immoral lifestyles, fight for causes that are clearly unscriptural, and defend those who are living in direct rebellion to God’s word.
You also find a lot of people who say they are Christian but never enter the church doors- not even at Easter or Christmas. You have “Christians” who beat their wives, who gamble away their children’s next meal at the casino, who drink, smoke, curse, have nasty tempers, are habitual liars, don’t think anything about going out and getting drunk and are involved in adultery and sexual immorality.
The examples I have given are the “new and revised” definition of Christianity. You can live, do, say and act any way you want and still say you are a “Christian”. This is why I don’t want to be called a “Christian”, because when you hear the word you don’t always get a true image of who that person is because the word has been distorted and is now being associated with everything from liars to the immoral, from deceivers to thieves. The word Christian now days paints a false picture- a misrepresentation- of what it really means to be a Christian. It has been used so loosely that it no longer identifies the one who is being called a Christian with Christ.
Anyone can, and they do, profess to be a Christian but not live up to the true meaning of the name. That’s why I don’t want to be called a Christian, I don’t want that stigma on me; I don’t want to be identified with today’s version or definition of a Christian. So what do I want to be called? I want to be identified with Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord, therefore, I want to be called a “follower of Jesus”.
You see, I am a true “Christian” but according to the belief system of the day the name implies otherwise and makes me appear to be something else. So change my “name”- change what you label me and call me a “follower of Jesus”- which is what, by true definition, a Christian is suppose to be.
Now that I am a “follower of Jesus” what does that mean? There may be a lot of confusion over what it means to be a Christian, but I don’t think there can be any confusion when you say you are a follower of Christ. Sixteen times in the four gospels Jesus says to “follow Him”. The first message Jesus preached was: Repent, follow me. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:17,19) Let me define this “follow” that Jesus was talking about. It means to “come here- come behind”. In plain English, He was saying, “Come here to Me, get behind Me, watch Me and do what I do. Follow in the footprints that I leave behind. Keep your eyes on Me, walk like I walk, move like I move, imitate what you see me doing.” When you follow behind someone, you can get a really good view of what they are doing because they are in front of you where you can see them. So if I am following Jesus it’s easy to see and know what He is doing. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Here the word “follow” means to imitate. Get behind Him, watch what He does and imitate it. In a nutshell that’s what it means to be a “follower of Jesus”.
Those who are followers of Jesus hold His word in high esteem. This is the difference in those who are “modern day definition Christians” and those who are the real ones at heart. His word governs our lives, our conduct, our actions, our speech, our reactions, our behavior, our opinions. It molds and shapes our values. It plainly defines the character we are to possess, our morals, our integrity. There is a higher level that those who are followers of Jesus are to live on. I am not talking about a “holier than thou” attitude. But God calls His followers to rise above the selfish, nature of the flesh and live a life that is clean, pure and without reproach. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Cor. 6:17) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1,2)
When we come to Christ in true repentance there is something that takes place. It’s called the “new birth”. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Our spirit man comes back to life. When God created Adam, Adam had no sin. He was a perfect person in right relationship with God. When he disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, several things happened. Sin came into the world and it came upon all mankind. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Because of sin man died spiritually- he was alive before he disobeyed. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) Because he died spiritually his whole nature changed. Before he had the nature of God residing him. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” (Genesis 1:27; 2:7; 3:7) Now he not only had a new nature- a sinful one- he also gained a knowledge of evil to go with it. Everything that he does now comes from that sinful nature. This sinful nature is selfish, lustful, disobedient, hateful, jealous, bitter, etc. His whole nature changed- he became the opposite of what he once was.
Jesus Christ came into the world to forgive our sins, bring us back into right relationship with God, give us eternal life and also restore our fallen nature. That’s what it means to be “born again”. Our spirit man which died when Adam sinned is brought back to life when we accept Christ as Savior and Lord. When we are born again, our nature changes back to one that was made in the image (glory) of God. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:17,18b) When this happens we aren’t the same person that we once were. This is why Peter said, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16) We are a brand new person because we have a new nature. We now want to do those things that please God and not the things that we used to do that did not. This is the proof that we are now followers of Jesus- we desire to follow Him and what He wants.
I know that there are those who call themselves Christians and they are genuine. They love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind and it shows. There is nothing pretentious about them. You can see the love and light of Jesus in them- in their speech, their actions and the way they carry themselves. They are what a Christian should be by true definition. They truly are living lives that are to the praise and honor of God. But more often than not, “Christian” is just another label to some folks that means nothing at all. The examples below are what I am talking about- today’s loosely, over used definition.
Let me explain the difference between “so-called” Christians and followers of Jesus. Followers of Jesus don’t cheat on their spouses- Christians do. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) Followers of Jesus don’t agree with or support abortion- Christians do if they can find a “justifiable reason”. “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13) Followers of Jesus don’t cheat on their taxes, they pay their tithes, they help a fellow human being that is hungry- Christians cheat on their taxes, give God what they want Him to have, hoard their resources to spend on themselves. (Too many scriptures to list here.) Followers of Jesus don’t manipulate others to do their will- Christians do. Followers of Jesus pray, read their Bibles, attend church- Christians don’t. Followers of Jesus worship Him in spirit and in truth- Christians don’t spend time worshipping the Lord, even the song service at church is too long for them. Followers of Jesus hold to the absolutes of truth- Christians hold to situational ethics. Followers or Jesus believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead- according to a survey poll 57% of professing Christians don’t believe in the resurrection.
I’m not saying that true followers of Jesus are perfect, don’t have weak moments or don’t make mistakes- they do- but even when they fall they get back up and continue following. Their love for Him compels them to continue to seek to follow His commands. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) They love Jesus so they are striving to do what is right in His sight by putting His word into practice in their lives. There are “distinctives” that distinguish followers of Jesus from the world and from those who just say they are Christians. “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20) Some of those distinctives are love and forgiveness instead of holding grudges; kindness instead of being mean and hateful; they bless others and don’t curse them when their back is turned; they chose to obey God above men even at the risk of rejection. Why do they live like this? Because it’s the example that they see in Jesus as they are following behind Him watching what He does.
Let me give you a couple of Biblical examples of those who were followers of God and how their lifestyle, their choices and values differ from the vast majority who call themselves Christians today. The three Hebrew wouldn’t bow before the idol even when given a second chance to safe their lives. Daniel did not stop praying when threatened with death if he didn’t. Moses left Pharaoh’s palace and all it’s luxuries to obey God’s plan for his life. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son at God’s command. Joseph, though he had opportunity to sleep with Potaphar’s wife and get away with it, would not because he did not want to do that evil in God’s sight. Noah didn’t stop building the ark even though he was the laughing stock of the whole town. Paul would not take the opportunity to escape with his life when given the chance because he knew he was in the will of God. David volunteered to go out and face Goliath because he could not bear he thought of that wicked Philistine cursing the name of his God. Even at the end of time, the Book of Revelation records that there are a group who “love not their lives unto death” because of their testimony for Christ. (Revelation 12:10)-- these are true followers of Jesus.
Let’s sum it up. There are certain things that I cannot and will not do, say, conform to, agree with, be involved in, endorse, support, sponsor or participate in; unlike those who simply use the name Christian. Why? Because I am a follower of Christ. So, before we end, now that I have explained myself, I have to ask you a question, “What are you?” Are you a Christian in name only, not knowing that the name represents the character of the person who calls himself by it? Or are you a true, born again (Christian) “follower of Jesus”- exhibiting a lifestyle that is pleasing to Him, following His will, His commands, His plan, allowing Him to sit upon the the throne of your heart and giving Him first place in your life? “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. Do you not yourselves realize and know [thoroughly by an ever-increasing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you--unless you are [counterfeits] disapproved on trial and rejected?” (2 Corinthians 13:5- Amplified Bible)