Not too long ago, I was preaching at a funeral service, and one friendly person came up to me after the service and said with what seemed to me, a little bit of tongue in cheek, "I'm almost a Christian." Perhaps his comment resulted from my attempts to persuade those in the audience who were still alive, to turn, and accept Jesus Christ as the only true hope for eternal salvation.
Is it really necessary to be a Christian? The word Christian only appears three times in the New Testament: (1) The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26b NIV) The book of Acts begins with the disciples of Christ waiting in Jerusalem for God to empower the apostles for the great task of taking the Gospel message to all people in the world.
The apostolic message was first preached in Jerusalem to an audience made up primarily of Jewish people. Peter boldly persuaded them about Christ from their own scriptures. In addition, he told them very plainly that they had crucified their own Messiah with their own hands. He said; "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36) Some of these Jews were convinced by his preaching, and sincerely desired to know what to do to be saved.
Peter answered them that they must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Their obedience to this command of Christ would assure them of the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. The church comprised of Christians began this way. All those people who believed in Christ, repented of their sins, and obeyed Christ in baptism, were saved and added to the body of Christ. (Acts 2:41,47)
After the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, the followers of Christ came under heavy persecution, and left Jerusalem in large numbers, and went all over that part of the world proclaiming their faith in Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah or Christ. The word Christian designates people who by their own volition follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. This proper name has survived through the centuries as the best possible word for those who willingly follow Jesus Christ as Lord.
(2) Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" (Acts 26:28 NIV) The apostle Paul was being persecuted because of his powerful teaching regarding the truthfulness that Jesus of Nazareth is in reality, the Christ, Son of the Living God. Paul wanted to preach the Gospel in Rome, so he exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed his case to Caesar. It was from a prison in Rome that God inspired him to write many of his now famous epistles for the church then and today. He appeared to King Agrippa who was a grandson of Herod the Great. Paul told Herod Agrippa the story of his dramatic conversion to Christ. Agrippa must have been deeply moved by Paul's powerful testimony. However, appears from the text that he only almost became a Christian.
(3) However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:16 NIV) The apostle Peter is writing to the early church and encouraging believers in Jesus Christ to be strong and faithful to their confession even under persecution. They were persecuted because they were known as Christians. It is even the same way in some dictatorial countries today. Some of these despots have the idea that people devoted to Christ, will not be good citizens. That is the exact opposite of what Jesus and the apostles taught the followers of this Way. Christians are specifically commanded to pay taxes and obey the rulers of the land as long as laws do not conflict with God's higher law.
Once while browsing some old arrest documents for people sentenced to the gulags under the tyrannical regime of Stalin, we came across orders sentencing one particular Christian to an additional fifteen years in a Gulag prison camp thousands of miles away from his family. His crime on this second arrest was that immediately upon his release after fifteen years of so-called rehabilitation, he went to be with some people who "met secretly in a home and sang songs praising some other God than Stalin or Lenin."
Why be a Christian? You can be sure that you are an heir to a home in Heaven which is under preparation by Christ Jesus for all those who faithfully obey Him as Lord. If I do not want to be known as a Christian, it most likely means that I am receiving more satisfaction and hope from this material world. How can there possibly be a better name than the one that honors our Lord, Jesus Christ?
Why not repent of your sins today, and boldly confess that you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Obey Christ in baptism and wear the name of Christian with the hope of being with all the saved of every generation in Heaven. There is absolutely no better life on this earth than the life of a Christian. All spiritual blessings are in Christ. If you are outside of Christ you are missing all these wonderful blessings.
You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Write me with any questions or comments David Binkley, Sr., P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail.