Summary: What does it mean to be a Christian in the sense that Jesus meant when He talked about what it meant to be a Christian?
Sermon for CATM – Fall Launch – Reconsidering and Renewing Faith - September 6, 2009
What does it mean to you to be a Christian? If you are a Christian here today at the start of September 2009, what does being a Christian mean to you?
Does it mean that you live in a country founded on Christian principles? Does it mean that you go to church?
Does it mean that you identify with the church in some way? Does it mean that you were baptized as a child and confirmed as a teenager or adult?
What does it mean to you to be a Christian? Does it mean that you believe in God? Does it mean that you try to do good? Does it mean that you think about heaven, that you try to do more good than bad in the hopes of making it to heaven?
What does it mean to you to be a Christian? Does it mean that you believe that Jesus died for your sins? Does it mean that you believe and have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, trusting not in works but solely in the grace of God?
I’m sure there are a number of different answers to this question that I’ve asked three times. Some of the ‘meanings’ I’ve stated probably had you nodding your head or shaking your head. Some of you perhaps jump at some definitions, saying “Yes!” that’s it.
But, you know, I’ve left out the truest meaning of being a Christian. The understanding that the earliest Christians had of the meaning of being a Christian. There was nothing easy about the lives of the first Christians.
They understood that there was a cost associated with identifying themselves as Christians. They understood that they followed a rabbi, Jesus, and that those who follow a rabbi submit themselves to that rabbi.
They discipline their lives to conform to the values and principles and beliefs of their rabbi. They seek to emulate the rabbi. He becomes for them the key life that they seek to imitate.
Those who followed the rabbi Jesus were called, what? Disciples. What does that word mean? [Student]
So a person who follows Jesus is a person who seeks to imitate Jesus, who disciplines themselves so that they mirror their teacher.
But this presents a problem.
You know, there is just a ton of stuff in the New Testament that Jesus says and does. So much so it took four authors to write four gospels to try to convey it. And if that’s not enough, St. John, in the last verse of his gospel says: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”.
So, if we want to be students of Jesus, if we want to get serious with God, to imitate the life of Jesus, if we want to even begin this fascinating journey of learning His life that we might seek to imitate it, where do we start?
If I want to really listen to Jesus and start applying what Jesus says to my life, what do I do?
There’s one time when Jesus has been teaching His disciples on a mountainside. He had traveled through Galilee teaching formally in various synagogues, doing all kinds of healing among the people.
There was quite a buzz about Jesus because of all this and so more and more people were coming to Jesus who were suffering severe pain, who were possessed in some circumstances, who were paralysed. And of course Jesus healed them.
So he was getting large crowds from all different areas coming to see him, crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the river Jordan. So he’s teaching on this mountainside and after a particularly lengthy teaching, he says:
Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
That’s the kind of statement that gets your attention, eh? Jesus talks here about living out His words, putting them into practice. To put His words into practice is to build a truly solid foundations for a life, one that’s able to withstand all the storms that may get tossed at it.