Christian? Are you sure??
I have a high school friend who started his own business offering wilderness tours in Alaska. As part of his commitment to excellent customer service, he surveys each client for their level of satisfaction. As you can imagine, he’s gathered a myriad of comments on how to improve each tour moving forward. In a recent e-mail, he shared some of those comments with me… “too many bugs, leeches, and spiders… please spray the trails to get rid of these pests!”… “the coyotes are so noisy, they kept us awake… can’t something be done?”… and “trails need to be redone so there aren’t so many uphill sections!”
Clearly, these comments indicate individuals who didn’t fully understand what it means to stay in a wilderness area! I wonder what more my friend could have included on his already descriptive website about his tours… “when we say wilderness, we mean it!”??? Do we now exist in a world where words really aren’t taken as seriously as they need to be? Or is this a problem that has been an issue dating back to Jesus’ time? To the clients who offered the creative comments listed above, they read wilderness, however, this word was interpreted as convenient and comfortable, not truly wilderness in the truest sense of the word as intended.
In a similar way, I fear that this is the essence of the discussion of Biblical discipleship. In Luke 14, Jesus uses clear language to describe what it means to be one of His disciples. Jesus’ words are strong, speaking of turning away from everyone and everything known, even one’s own life in order to be a true disciple. And while most of us have not chosen this life, many of us have chosen to live the life of a ‘Christian’… or have we? I say this respectfully that while many have proclaimed to be followers of Jesus, these same individuals choose to do so on their own terms and not according to His way. Living life according to God’s plan is certainly not for the faint-at-heart; it is hard as it goes against the flesh and it is not easy or popular as it goes against our contemporary disposable lifestyle. But Jesus promises that He will provide for all our needs and that alone should be enough for us. But that requires a deeper faith. Going to church, reading the Bible, attending Bible studies, expressing a profession of faith, or even providing offerings do not make a Christian. It is in our actions, as a result of our faith, that speak more of the Christian that Jesus spoke about throughout His ministry.
Jesus Himself describes a disciple as a true follower. I believe that the term Christian means disciple, and as such, if we are a Christian, we are disciples of Jesus Christ. However, the contrary is also true… if we are not a disciple of Jesus Christ, we lose the right to call ourselves Christians. Therefore, I would suggest that these two terms, disciple and Christian, mean the same thing in much the same way as the terms spouse and wife mean the same. The terms disciple occurs 269 times in the Bible, while the term Christian three times! The Book of Acts references “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26)”, thus providing Biblical support for the terms being interchangeable. As such, it clarifies the seriousness of what Jesus was saying when He spoke in verse 27 stating “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Or, said another way, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be a Christian.” This particular phraseology to me demands more attention and clarifies the seriousness of the issue or subject Jesus was teaching about.
The new ‘light’ version of Christianity might be easier and more convenient to follow, but Jesus is not in the compromise business. Our Lord is a jealous God and wants all of us, fully in! In this Easter season, we, as Christians, just celebrated the complete and total sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. In order to honor our Lord and Savior, we need to understand what a Christian is according to how Jesus defined it. The question should not be “Am I able to follow Jesus completely?”, but rather “Am I willing to follow Jesus completely?” As humans, we will fail in our commitment to our Lord. But what Jesus, I believe, is confronting here is not our abilities, but our willingness to follow Him with our whole heart. For Christians and non-Christians alike, it is important to understand what following Jesus really means before making the commitment to do so. Not to erodes at the foundational principles of Christianity and into the realm of hypocrisy; one of the five sins that Jesus despised.
Lord Jesus, I can see that You are seeking to bring us farther along the journey by stirring in our souls the very essence of our faith. The fall had us moving towards a dependency on ourselves rather than on You. Yet, You continue to love us and lead us. Lord, I call upon You to help me follow You faithfully. Forgive my sins of willfulness and selfishness. Forgive my grasping at the things of the world and my excuses. Restore to heart to be one more aligned with Yours. Help us to remember that we can come to the well that never runs dry, You, source of living water to be restored and refreshed, to strengthen our faith and revitalize our commitment to be called Christians… Your disciples… Amen!
gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)