|Matthew 4: 19|
It isn't a popular thing to be a Christian...unless you are among actual Christians.
What is a Christian as opposed to another term?
Where did the term “Christian” originate and in what context was it mentioned?
… The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
- Acts 11: 26bAs the Gospel spread throughout both Jewish and Gentile neighborhoods and regions of that time's empire, the outsiders would come up with names and labels for those adhering to the teachings of Him who is called Christ.
The Gospel message is foreign to those who are not touched in their hearts by Him who is from Above.
The Acts 11 verse may be the earliest historical mention of the term.
A second mention is found later in Acts in chapter 26:
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
- Acts 26: 28Agrippa was an earthly Gentile king, and becoming a Christian was not a popular thing...especially for a man of wealth, power and position.
Being a Christian was seen from the outside as a stigma contrasting society's popular tastes.
A third mention is found in this context:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?
- 1 Peter 4: 12-17To bear the brand of Christ was, and still is, to invite insult, ridicule, contentment and possible death.
Today, Christians are still being put to death, not for being rebellious or criminals, but simply for what they believe in and how they live their lives.
Persecution was promised by Christ to His followers, not as a test from Him per-say (although this is evident), but also as a warning.
Imagine a flame atop a candle in a dark and windy world.
The wind can be viewed as constantly attempting to put out the flame.
That wind can also be seen as blowing wildly and doing as it has always done; whipping up storms, dust and trouble for all who feel it.
The darkness, in contrasting the light, always desires to envelope the light.
It is the nature of darkness to stay dark, and attempt to snuff out the light.
So when Christ says to His followers the following, consider what is being spoken to your heart:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
- Matthew 5: 14-16It is no surprise, then, that a Christian realizes hate when they succeed, or judgment from those who have their own definition of righteousness, when the Christian is actually called to let their light shine.
Talents, gifts, abilities while confessing their humanity and glorifying God for His love, grace and forgiveness.
We see that the disciples were called Christians...so let us look at what a disciple of Christ is.
Another definition of “disciple” (aside from being a follower of Christ) is simply a 'follower' and/or 'student'.
So when looking at what a disciple of Christ is, we are looking at students, followers and imitators of Christ.
Christ is the Great Teacher, and His students are always learning about Him, about the world He created and our role in the image He made for us.
Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.
- Matthew 16: 24-27Part of being a student and follower of Christ is to deny oneself and carry one's cross.
We see why: “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it”.
What do you suppose it means to deny yourself?
Is it denying oneself of what is honestly and purely good?
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.
- James 1: 16-18Perhaps it means denying oneself the corruption (and being corrupted) by a depraved and fallen world:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
- Romans 12: 1-2What are some specific things one must deny themselves of in order to bear their cross?
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
- 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11You can see that God accepts those who repent, deny themselves and carry the cross of their past sins when it says “and that is what some of you were”.
It is very possible, for those who have received the Spirit of power from Above into their lives, to overcome the world and its dark desires:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Yeshua before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Yeshua, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
- 2 Timothy 1: 6-10Suffering is not due to being a rebel, or an insubordinate to the order of life on earth, but in aiming for perfection as He is Perfect.
The suffering is not only overcoming the weakness of the flesh, but the intimidations of wicked men who, for some dark ethereal reason, dislike with great hatred the righteousness the chosen exemplify as they imitate and follow their Lord and Savior, Yeshua Christ.
The wicked, who are moved by the darkness and winds of this world, use their religions, philosophies and contemporary ideas in an attempt to stamp out what God has established on the earth.
All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me.
- John 16: 1-3But we have a promise that is greater than any suffering, any earthly title and accolade that awaits us in full while being experienced in part:
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
- James 1: 12Being a student, follower, imitator and thus disciple of Christ is what God has called all mankind to be and become.
THIS is the purpose that God had in mind when He created you...to be just like He is.