What does it mean to claim the name “Christian?”
Does it mean saved? Does it mean sanctified? Does it mean redeemed? Does it mean that you have repented from your sin?
Well it could mean all of those…
It certainly does not mean the word perfect.
It does mean that you are making the effort to live a life that is consistent with the “name.”
It is not easy. We all “fall short of the glory of God.” Even though that is a reality, it does mean that you should never lose hope. Pastor Labberton says it is hope that “hangs on an unlikely promise. The hope is that God’s word and God’s act will be the same. The birth of Jesus renews the idea that the messianic promise will be fulfilled in the birth of a baby to be named Jesus Christ.” He came to save us from our sins.
Because we are not perfect.
What does God expect? He expects us to try. When we say one thing and do another, when we practice religion and have severe character flaws, when we are all form and no substance, when we take the name and we are Christian in name only and when we judge others and don’t examine ourselves…
We are not making a strong enough effort.
God commands a life where we do what we say. We know we are supposed to be transformed. Fellow sinners become our brothers and sisters, not outcasts. Harlots are our sisters. Tax collectors are our friends. Gentile dogs are all our brothers and sisters. Drunkards are friends and neighbors. Lepers may be disciples. Beggars are our fellow human beings, who just happen to need a hand up.
Matthew 2:5 tells us that those who actually feed, clothe and serve their brother and sister rightly, as Jesus did, are a serious contrast to those who don’t see Jesus in those brothers and sisters. Those who are acting as Jesus are reflecting the love and character of God. Matthew 15:11 says “It is not what goes into a man, but what comes out.” That tells what type of Christian a person really is.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no condemnation for those who cannot be consistent; they take the name but they don’t act the part. Maybe they will grow in their Christianity in the future. That is God’s hope. Labberton writes that there is “a multiplying effect of the inward change, when a Christian is saved and all things are made new, in which we take every thought captive to Christ, in which we are transformed by the renewing of our minds out of true worship, leading to a new way of seeing, naming and living in the world.”
This past Sunday, I taught a lesson in my adult Sunday school class on John 1. We spent the whole time discussing the Holy Spirit. We talked about the Christian who is baptized as a child. This happens with the anticipation that the child will grow into an identity that will be labeled “Christian”. The adult who is baptized accepts the idea that The Father and the Holy Spirit will begin to act on their life and they will be transformed from death to life.
Sadly, the child baptism is no guarantee that the child will really take the name Christian and live the Christian life. Sadly, the adult may be baptized and saved but that is it. Too many have the attitude that I have professed my faith. That is enough. I don’t have to do any more. They take the name Christian but they live any way they want.
What Pastor Labberton is looking for [and if I may be so bold], what I think God is looking for is for people who say they are Christian trying to act like Christians. Again, that does not mean that we are perfect. We all have that penchant to sin. That is part of our makeup. But sincere repentance of our sins can help us grow closer to God.
When we take the name Christian, are we saved?
Of course we are.
When we take the name Christian, are we sanctified?
We have that chance if we respond to the Holy Spirit who is drawing us closer to God.
When we take the name Christian are we redeemed?
You bet we are. That is what Jesus did for us. We don’t deserve it but He came to save us.
When we take the name Christian, do we need to repent?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I have a ways to go and my road to The Lord is paved with my repentance. He knows me, He knows my weaknesses, He knows my strengths. I am bound to mess up. He knows I am not perfect.
He loves me anyway.