Recently, it has become fashionable, mainly in political circles, to talk about who is a Christian. Mostly, because of the political nature of the debate, the answer is “A Christian is a person who says he is.”
While that answer makes sense from a worldly point of view, it makes no sense from the Bible. One of the strongest words that Jesus ever gave had to do with this very subject. He said: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Luke recorded Jesus as asking: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus obviously had a different standard for who could be called a follower of Christ.
Jesus demanded that those who follow Him make a total and radical commitment to His work in the world. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8: 34).
What did Jesus mean by this?
First, this is the only way into God’s kingdom. Jesus spoke these words not to the disciples but to the crowds. This is how anyone or everyone enters the kingdom of God.
Second, Jesus expected that those who followed Him would reorient their lives. He called on the crowd to deny themselves and follow Him. The person who would follow after Christ must once and for all reject the old self and seek the new life that is in Christ. What Jesus meant is that the new follower must quit relying on self and begin relying on God.
Third, Jesus called potential disciples to make amazing decisions for Christ. Followers of Christ must take up their cross–no matter what that might cost–and follow Him.
Finally, to be a Christian means to follow and keep on following Jesus. This implies trusting Jesus, following in His footsteps, and obeying His commands.
This is Jesus’ definition of what it means to be His follower. It must become our standard for life.
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