Summary: Don't expect the demands of salvation without the demands of discipleship.
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ARE YOU A FOLLOWER?
Do you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus? You might say, “Weren’t the disciples those twelve guys who followed Jesus? I’m not a disciple; I’m a Christian.”
Perhaps you aren’t aware that the word “Christian” is found only three times in the Bible.
And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26b).
And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:16).
These three verses suggest that the name “Christian” was invented and popularized by non-believers. In Antioch they may have said, “Look at those strange people who follow that man Jesus. Wasn’t he crucified? And they still believe he is the Christ? That’s insane! Let’s start calling them Christians.” So “Christian” was originally an insulting label that was later embraced by the church (like “geek” and “nerd” today).
Whether you call yourself a “Christian” or a “disciple,” you are a follower. Why? Because “disciple” means “follower,” and “Christian” means “Christ-follower.”
In today’s world, when you talk about “following” someone, people might think you’re talking about Twitter. (For example, our Prime Minister Stephen Harper has 167,960 followers on Twitter. President Barack Obama has 10,083,001.) It doesn’t take much to follow someone on Twitter—just a click on the “Follow” button. But it is sometimes very difficult to be a follower of Jesus—a Christian (as 1 Peter 4:16 states and Acts 26:28 implies).
The earliest recorded use of “Christian” outside the NT is by the Roman historian Tacitus when he wrote that Nero blamed the “Christians” for the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Some Christians were forced to confess by means of torture, and these “confessions” led to the persecution of Christians.
…Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians…by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but, even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. In accordance, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not as much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired (Annals XV.44).