Summary: Everyone is a slave to something. The NT gives us only two options--either we are a slave to sin, or a slave of Christ.
For the past couple of weeks we have been talking about beginning 2012 by refocusing our faith.
We started with the idea that we need to make sure that our focus is on Christ—not ourselves. By that I mean that the Christian Faith should never be focussed on what the Christian does so much as it should be focussed on what Christ has done. Christianity isn’t about a list of rules. It isn’t about doing good, being good, and feeling good. It is about growing in our relationship with Christ. Everything that happens in the Christian life in terms of growth and victory comes from focusing on Christ. He is the vine and we are the branches and we are called to remain in Him to bear fruit (John 15:4).
Last week we looked at exactly what we mean when we talk about a relationship with Christ. Like any relationship, our relationship with Christ is based on a commitment; not just a decision. A man who decides to get married, but who then lives like they have never been married, isn’t considered a good husband by anyone. In other words, marriage is more than just the decision to get married. The decision to get married is just the beginning of a new relationship and a new reality. But the decision to get married means nothing unless it is also a commitment to live in a life-changing relationship with another person. In the same way, as Christians, we are the Bride of Christ. We have to, therefore, do more than just decide to believe in Christ, or trust in His sacrifice for our sins. We have to make a life-long commitment to a life-changing relationship with Christ. In particular, a relationship with Christ is a commitment to allowing Jesus to work in us, cleaning us and purifying us and changing us so that we will be a spotless bride (Ephesians 5:25-26).
This week I want us to finish our refocusing series by focusing on one aspect of our relationship with Christ that we, quite frankly, haven’t had to consider very much because it really hasn’t been on our spiritual radar.
Let me ask you a question: What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?
For some, being “Christian” is mostly cultural and traditional. It is a title inherited. It is a tie to the past. Others define Christianity in terms of a general belief in Jesus, or a desire to be a good person. Then there are those who equate being a Christian with being morally and politically conservative. For those people, Christianity becomes a political force to stem the tide of liberal immorality.
Well, as we have seen over the past few weeks, being a Christian isn’t anything you inherit, neither is it just a desire to be good under the banner of Jesus and, it most certainly isn’t a political movement, conservative or otherwise—although we are called to be salt and light to our culture, but that is another sermon for another time. The vibrant, dynamic, life-changing, life-sacrificing image of the Christian we find in the New Testament is so much more than most people believe it to be today.
It is almost as if we need to come up with another name beside Christian to explain what we mean when we declare ourselves to be Christian because the title has lost its biblical power and clarity. That’s why I tend to talk about the Christian Faith in terms of being a follower of Christ.
Interestingly, the followers of Jesus Christ were not called “Christians” until ten to fifteen years after the church began. Before that time, they were known simply as disciples, brothers, believers, saints, and followers of the Way. In case you were wondering, followers of the way, is a reference to John 14:6 when Jesus declares: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The first time we find the title of Christian being connected to followers of Christ is found in Acts 11:26 when Luke records for us that, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
Given the identification that the name has with Christ, you would expect the New Testament to be salted with references to followers of Christ being Christians. But, surprisingly, the word only appears three times—twice in the book of Acts (11:26; 26:28) and once in 1 Peter (4:16).
But, there is one metaphor or title that is used more frequently than any other in the New Testament. It is a word that I am quite sure most of us will consider negative, but it is also the title that the Early Christians gave themselves. It was the title they claimed most often. The title is that of a slave.