“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Acts 11:26 NASB.
A Christian is one who is a follower of Christ, who has realized they are sinful and in need of a Savior, and has received Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their savior. “Born again,” refers to the change in the life of a believer in Christ after they have received Christ into their heart. The process of growing in relationship with Christ begins after a person receives Christ into their heart and begin to drink in the milk of the Word. The “milk of the Word”( 1Peter 2:2) is the food that is found in the Word, and time has to be spent taking it in. Without the Word, a Christian cannot truly grow in the knowledge of Christ. Without food, a newborn will die. The Word feeds us truth. Jesus said “My word is truth”. It is the very Spirit of God. To God, religion is an empty thing, and most people don’t like “religion” either. It is the Word of God that causes us to know Him, and changes us from the inside out.
Wait, you didn’t think that religion was empty ? Well, consider what Jesus himself had to say about the religious leaders of His day. In Matthew 23, Jesus was talking to the people about the scribes and Pharisees. He said, “Do not do according to their deeds; for they, (the scribes and Pharisees), say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move (the burdens) with so much as a finger. They do all their deeds to be noticed by men,” Matthew 23: 2-5. Now that is a pretty scathing description of religion. Jesus told the people, in verses 11-12, of Matthew, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. “ In verse 27, he called them “whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. In verse 28 He said, “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Not to mention, these are the very ones who crucified Jesus.
That’s enough evidence to prove religion is is pretty empty. Having a relationship with Jesus and being filled with His Spirit, is what being a Christian is all about. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” Romans 8:4. It is so easy to take what we think is right, and hold it up as a measuring stick to see if others are good Christians; or we may use our stick to decide if others are Christians at all. Measuring by our standards causes more injury in the body of Christ than anything else. People feel judged and may leave a church, or if the offense has been bad enough, they may leave Christ. The only standard is the Word of God. We cannot deviate from the written Word of God.
The Word of God says in Col. 3: 12-17, ” So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:12-17. “ Whatever you do.” Each one of us lives before Christ. “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” It was worth repeating.
A Christian should live in close relationship to the Lord and His Word, and trust that God is able to finish what He has started. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6. Of course there are times when we, or others around us may need encouragement, but encouragement should be just that. We should pray, believing in the power of prayer. When we try to make someone else change their ways to do what we want, by manipulation, or condemnation, it is just plain wrong; we are usurping control. In effect we are not trusting the Holy Spirit to move in the lives of the ones we are concerned about. That isn’t what any of us were called to do. We have to remember we have been called to be Christians, those who follow Christ, and live in relationship with Him while we allow others to do the same thing.