The primary purpose of any follower of Jesus is to worship the Lord. The term Christian means “little Christ”, and in modern terms we use the term to identify someone who practices Christianity. What I find confusing ,though, is that in other religions, like say Buddhism or Islam, no one is being called “little Buddha” or “little Mohammad”, yet Christians since the earliest years have been referred to as “little Christ’”. What is the difference from a follower of Taoism or any other world religion and a Christian. The simplest answer is the most obvious, a Christian identifies with Jesus Christ, and the other religions do not. But beyond the elementary level we see that someone who practices a world religion is seeking to follow a set of guidelines, rules, laws or commands. And the basic premise of a Christian is to love God, follow Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Basically to have an intimate and personal relationship with our triune Creator. He is both awesome and terrifying. He is infinite and omnipotent. And He is in love with you.
If we are all honest, each of us can look back into our own lives at a moment of indiscretion, an accidental failure, or an outright rebellion against our parents, our teachers, our bosses, ourselves. All of us have a blackmark on our “permanent record” whether real or perceived. And yes, while some of us have a handful of small blackmarks, others of us have multiple storage sheds packed full of some very large and daunting blackmarks. But the key to note is that every single person has blackmarks on their name. And as any person running for political office r applying for a college scholarship will tell you, your record follows you wherever you go. This holds true in the supernatural world as well. God created us, and He made each of us unique and different. And He longs for a loving, two-way relationship with each person. But He did not create us as robots who were slaves to programming. He did not force Himself on us, but gave us the ability to choose to worship and know Him. But because of our blackmarks on our record, we are not fit to be in the presence of our Creator. He is holy, perfect, and supreme. We are not. And so we have prohibited ourselves from enjoying the one thing we were made to do. And just like most of the things we thought about ourselves at the beginning of this section, there is not a good, clean way to remove those blackmarks from ourselves. In the rarest of cases some agency or person in authority over us or our situation can clear our record. But again, it is only for one or a few of our many blackmarks with one agency. The same holds true in the supernatural. Only by God’s authority and agent can our blackmarks be wiped clean. Enter Jesus.
“And who do you say that I am?” Matthew 6:15
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:1-5 ESV (emphasis added by author)
*Side note: Christ is not Jesus’ last name. It’s actually the Greek word for messiah. The messiah is the prophecied person of God who was to come into the world, pay the penalty for our sins, and reunite us with Yahweh, Jehova, The Lord God. So Jesus is his earthly name, given to Him as a representation of His fully human identity. And we call Him Christ as a means to acknowledge His fully God, messiah identity.
And much to our surprise, and gratefulness, God knew we would gather blackmarks and He had a plan to restore us for His presence all along. His Son, Jesus, also called the Christ, came to earth and lived among us. He had no supernatural blackmarks, he was and is the agent of the authority of heaven. And during his 33 years on earth he also was tempted as we all are, but He never gathered a blackmark. So he presented himself, as agent and accused before God, and took upon himself our blackmarks. He won back the privilege of being in a relationship with our Creator once more. But He remains our agent of record, and we can only gain access to the throne room through Jesus.
So, now that we have identified in simple, quick terms why Jesus, lets now cover some of the tenets of Christianity. While there are no laws or rules which exactly govern the life of a Christian, one who has identified with Jesus Christ and has an on-going relationship with Him, there are many guidelines, disciplines and thoughts concerning how a Christian is to live. The church I attend has done a pretty good job of identifying a few key elements of a Christian’s life. Among them is the idea that small groups help create a sense of biblical community as seen in Acts 2:42-47. By meeting on a regular basis, sharing triumphs and struggles along with sound biblical teaching and encouragement, small groups turn any size church into a spiritual family. Along with small groups, they also suggest a serve team of some sort. This is a place where a believer can regularly help out the church, the community or some other ministry. From preparing coffee and serving donuts to building shelters or going to locations to assist the homeless, everyone can do something and no one person should do everything. And lastly they seek to see an increase in worship. This is a combination of things, but boiled down they would amount to church attendance, regular tithing or giving to the work of the church, and discipleship. While we will dive deeper into some of these items later on, just know that these are not an exhaustive list of what happens at my church or are they a prescriptive list of what a believer is to do. The litmus test then becomes this, are you making more and stronger disciples of Jesus Christ who are making more and stronger disciples of Jesus Christ?
Dr. Peramangalam Job wrote Why God, Why? and in this book he tells of a story of Welsh missionaries in northeastern India. The customs of these tribes at the time were to collect the heads of enemies in order to woo a bride. And into these dark conditions these missionaries were able to find a husband and wife, along with their two children, who accepted Jesus as their savior. And immediately the chief of the tribe called the entire village into council in order to make this family renounce Jesus or face execution. As the 2 sons were killed first, the husband and wife would not reject Jesus declaring “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.” As the husband watched his wife fall next, he is quoted as having said “Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back.” And as he was being plunged with arrows himself he sang “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.” And in the midst of this horrible persecution, the chief of the village was moved by the family’s faith. He thought to himself why would these people die for the name of some stranger thousands of miles away who lived almost 2000 years ago if there is not something supernatural involved. And at that moment he declared his faith in Jesus Christ, and the village followed suit.
“…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two…”
Philippians 1:20-23 ESV
At this point, if you have not come to a place of confession, or agreement with God, that you have many blackmarks which you cannot remove from yourself and have not asked Jesus to step in as your intermediary, or agent, before God, then do so. This is called your conversion, or transition, from being a sinful human to redeemed follower of Jesus. That is the first of many steps. The next for you is to become a disciple of Jesus. That is, a student apprentice who learns from the master. And starting from this point of conversion going forward, you’ll be experiencing what is called sanctification. This is just a fancy way of saying you’ll becoming more and more Christ-like with each new discipline, dropped sin-pattern, and each adventurous step on your walk of faith with Jesus.