Christianity is described by the world in many different ways. Some call it a religion, others call it a lifestyle, and many call it irrelevant. Still others call it hypocritical, dangerous, and even subversive. It is not surprising that the world is confused about what it means to be a Christian. What is surprising is that many people who attend church and many churches themselves seem just as confused as the world.
Acts 11:26 tells us “,,,It was at Antioch that the believers* were first called Christians.” The term, which means “little Christ”, was first used as a derisive term. The people of first century Antioch observed that believers were acting like Jesus, and therefore labeled them as Christians. The label stuck, but became a badge of honor for believers who began to refer to themselves as Christians. The first believers did not belong to any denominations or go to church in buildings directed solely for that purpose. They met daily where they “….continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
THE CONFUSED CHURCH
As the church began to grow, there was no confusion about what it meant to be a Christian, because believers lived differently than those in the world around them. They lived their lives “in the world”, but were not ‘of the world.” They were aware of Jesus prayer to the Father in John 17:15-16 “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” In the first century, there is a clear dividing line between Christians and non-Christians. It was evident not because of their adherence to religion, but because their behavior and attitudes were different than the world. There could be no confusion: Christians acted like Jesus.
The world today is confused about Christianity because the church is confused. In an attempt to attract unbelievers to services, we often find ourselves becoming more and more like the world and less like the Christians described in the book of Acts. If we truly want to bring people into a relationship with Jesus, then we must draw closer to Him and His Word in our behavior and attitudes. If we look the same as the world, having no victory over sin, sickness, poverty, rejection and fear, and define worship solely as a multimedia experience, what incentive exists for unbelievers to change their lives? Why should they become like us, if it seems that we only want to be like them, living defeated lives sometimes cloaked in religion. We should live by faith, with the blessing of God so evident in our lives that the men and women of this world insist on knowing how they can become like us!
A LIFE THAT WORKS
So how do we win the world? How do we encourage those who do not know Jesus to enter into a relationship with Him? The answer is given by Paul in Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” Our lives must be focused on Jesus and His Word so that our lives are different enough to attract attention. When the world sees that the Christian life actually works, they will come to Jesus. When they do, our highest priority must be to teach them to live by faith. There is only one way to develop faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing and hearing and hearing the word of God. (Rom 10:17).
When the church puts to an end confusion over what it means to be a Christian and accepts the Bible definition, then those in the world will see that Christianity actually offers something that is different than what they have. Not a religion, but a relationship with a Real Person who will change their lives forever. His name is Jesus, and we should strive to be like him, and not the world. Think about it!