Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What's in a Name? -- Acts 11:19-30


If the latest polls are correct, the vast majority of those who call America home are Christians. And yet, if one continues to read through the polls, it is obvious that not all these "Christians" are working from the same set of pages.

To get a good picture of this take a look at the September 5, 2005 issue of Newsweek. It not only deals with the belief systems of Christians, but the spiritual heart of the nation as a whole.

The text from this week's section in Acts states that it was in the city of Antioch that the believers were first called "Christians." I realize that I have asked this question in numerous ways since this inception of this blog, but in light of this week's passage I ask it again.

"What does it mean to be a Christian?" Stated another way, "If this were Antioch, why would we called Christians?" What are the "marks" of being a follower of Jesus, the Nazarene? What sets us apart from the other "spiritual" people? What does it mean to "bear the Name?" How can we tell the "real" from the "false?"

I realize this may be difficult and dangerous discussion, but I believe it is one that needs to be entered into. Any takers?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it is noteworthy that it was in Antioch that they started to be known as Christians. Early believers did not (out of respect for Christ I believe) use his name in their description of themselves. It is my understanding that they preferred to be called people of “the way” or “believers.” Like John the Baptist, they knew they were not worthy to even remove Christ’s sandals. They just absolutely worshipped and adored their savior and never lost track of the fact that he was indeed their “savior.”

It’s that attitude that they cultivated and guarded carefully more than anything else I believe that distinguishes the early believers from believers of today. To know how bad our human condition is, the shame that we are born into that we could never escape except for Christ’s sacrifice – makes us so aware of what he really did for us on that cross.

Maybe the problem is that we have too many “Christians” in the United States. instead of “believers” or people of “the way.” Maybe we should be too humble to use his name to describe ourselves. What does it take to be saved? It’s that attitude that the early disciples cultivated (and guarded) always realizing that it is through no worthiness on our part, nothing that we can boast about, nothing we have ever done one single solitary thing to deserve, but by the grace and mercy of God that the lamb of God was provided as a sacrifice for our sins.

I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said every other sin is like a fleabite compared to the sin of pride. Only pride can stand in our way. It is pride that makes us rationalize or minimize some of the things we do or attitudes that we hold, make excuses so we can delude ourselves into thinking that we do some things right and have some righteousness of our own and Jesus makes up the difference when in reality all our righteousness, all our best efforts are nothing more than filthy rags. We desperately need a savior.

It is only when we depend completely upon his righteousness not our own that there is any hope for us. Which is why we need to guard our hearts carefully so we never lose track of that basic fact of LIFE.

If we have that attitude of complete reliance upon Christ, everything else will just fall into place.

But without him, left to our own devices, depending one iota upon our own righteousness, we are lost.

gentledove

Pastor Randy said...

gentle dove,

As of late I personally have worked on referring to myself as a "follower of Jesus," rather than by the title "Christian." When I do this (and it is difficult to change old habitually ways of responding) it forces me to think before speaking (which my mom told me was always a good thing to do. ;o) )

Referring to myself as "follower" has caused me to often ask, "How am I doing at following?"

I appreciate your thoughts, thanks for being an active part of this ongoing discussion. Your thoughts and musings are helpful in my own processing, thank you. Maybe one day we shall meet face-to-face. ;o)

Anonymous said...

Such an easy question to answer...or is it??? We all would agree that to be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ...to name the name of Christ without shame. The real trick comes in giving that term a "face"...one that the world will recognize as being different than the "run of the mill" face in the crowd.

One can be a follower of Christ but follow at such a distance that they aren't really recognizable as one of His. These are "closet" Christians...they believe Christ is the son of God, they believe He died for their sins and possibly even believe He rose again...but they won't "be counted" as one of His for fear of ridicule, persecussion, demands or whatever....so they "follow" at a GREAT distance. Others are not exactly "closeted" but are still following at a distance...they may attend church...even faithfully...may even serve in certain capacities, may even give of their resources and even venture to verbalize that they are a Christian...perhaps had a childhood conversion at a VBS or such....but their lifestyle, speech and business practices betray their "authenticity" as genuine followers of Christ. I believe that these "believers" have accepted Christ as Savior but never as Lord. I know, I know we always hear the term.."accepting Christ as Lord and Savior"... all in one fell swoop...rarely do we hear the message that making Christ LORD is a willful act on the part of a believing "saved" person. That is the willful act of getting off the throne of our lives and putting Christ in His rightful place. It is the difference between a carnal Christian and a transformed one. That act of making Christ LORD isn't just a one time "event"...like Paul said he had to die daily to self....so do we...self pops up all over the place and has to be dealt with on a daily basis in order to be a "close up" follower of Christ.

Gentledove reminds us of the fact that OUR rightousness is as filthy rags....our rightousness is in Him alone...but we have to desire His rightousness and seek it with our whole hearts.....otherwise we stumble through this world living in our "old" nature and displaying the rotten fruit of our own nature instead of the fruit of the Spirit of our NEW nature in Christ.

I know I am a "dinosaur" and am not "up" on all of the "modern" and "post modern" lingo and new attitudes that seem so pervasive.... but I am personally distressed and my heart grieves when I read blogs that show the hearts of professing followers of a Holy Jesus Christ and yet they use profane language, reveal their thoughts that are so "wordly" in terms of their favorite movies/TV/music etc. Is living a holy life no longer something to be sought and lived out in an UN holy world around us? Is it any wonder that Christianity is mocked and scoffed at by non-Christians when our lives are no different that theirs? Are there no standards anymore in the "post modern" era? My personal feeling is that we...the church...those who CLAIM to be following the Lord Jesus Christ need to clean up our own act before going out to proclaim Christ to the world. If WE aren't very good examples of "followers of Christ" what will draw them to want to follow too? The prayer of my heart is that I follow closely by daily making Him not only my Savior ....but my LORD.I don't always succeed...but that is my desire. Jesus was IN the world but not OF the world. Ruthie

Anonymous said...

Ruthie,

Yea, that's why I warned you about some of the "words" in those morning bible studies before I volunteered that site.

I have no idea why a 66 year old man (man doing bible studies at that site I recommended) who has been saved for 30 something years doesn't seem to have yet outgrown the adolescent need to shock the daylights out of other people by using cuss words. I wish he wouldn't do that especially deliberately during bible studies????

It grates on my nerves (perhaps even grieves the Holy Spirit) to hear the mild expletives he uses during a bible study. At the risk of sounding even more judgemental than I already do, I wish he would grow up in Christ and lose that bad language.

But I'm sure if I exposed myself to the extent he has on line though, he could offer a few suggestions where he thinks I could grow up in Christ too.

I do think that he is my brother in Christ and the tapes have a lot of value even though if I were his mother, I might be tempted to wash his mouth out with soap (just kidding) and I do cringe every time he uses one of those words.

I wonder though even though that guy's language bugs me if there aren't worse things I could do or attitudes I could hold that could make those cuss words seem like gnats compared to some of the camels I might let slip through.

Like the fact that I would just like to smack him every time I hear one of those words come out of his mouth (ha ha). Seriously.

There are a lot of non-believers that go to that site I recommended too though (I knew it would shock you!) They don't claim to be Christians at all.

In the chat closet is more of a place to witness. Many of them don't claim to be saved.

Anonymous said...

Gentledove...I think it is sad to be so overt in one's language when he surely knows that it is offensive to some. I too know that I have a lot of "growing in Christ" to do but I'm hopeful that I don't purposely offend....like you say, that seems pretty juvenile.(the soap sounds like a good idea to me!) His is not the only offensive blogs I've stumbled on to, however. I HAVE been shocked and saddened.I'm just more and more realizing that very few seem interested in a "deeper" walk with the Lord these days but are satisfied to live with one foot in the world and the other in the church.That isn't meant to seem pious...it's a matter of concern and prayer. Ruthie

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to bear the name of Jesus? I think it means to bear his nature, to be conformed to his likeness. In the ideal sense this is to function as his reflection. Although our personal roles differ, this is an above-the-normal standard to quietly bear. And - this is important too - through our spiritual eyes we endeavor to perceive (know) Jesus' name is written on our brothers and sisters. It does shine through when persistently realized as being the truth.

It was inspiring for me to review Acts 11:27-30 where it says a prophet of God has informed the Church at Antioch: "There would be a great famine over all the world" (it probably occurred @ 46 AD). Then this Church at Antioch, instead of wisely storing up some food for the coming lean year, decided to "send relief" to the brethren who lived in Judea. This is a marvelous example of obedience to Jesus' command that his followers "Not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink" (Mat. 6:25); and "Do not be anxious about tomorrow" (Mat. 6:34). Jesus did promise, however, I recall, "No one who comes to me will ever hunger..." (John 6:35). This probably was a comforting statement for the Christians in Antioch during the great famine. It is good, I think, to have a powerful faith in the words Jesus spoke.

I also recall the story of the widow lady who put all the living she had into the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus openly approved of her giving, while those who gave more but "out of their abundance," were not seen with the same approval. This Bible story doesn't mention the widow lady's age. Was she elderly or was she a young widow? If she was young she may have had several children in her family to provide for. But still she gave it all, "all the living she had." It is God, I believe, who provides for the needs of those who have absolute faith in God's provision. If our faith, instead, is in the power of money to provide for our needs, then it seems logical that it will always be necessary for us to have a reserve of money as a means in order to acquire more daily bread. I think the widow lady when she prayed would earnestly pray, "Give us this day, Lord, our daily bread." Although this widow lady was not a Christian, per se, since the Spirit was not given until after Jesus' crucifixion, I feel her faith shows she was already "bearing his name." These are my thoughts. gentle Gary

Anonymous said...

Ruthie,

I understand. What bothers me more than the worldliness of some believers though is the condition of the “church” especially the highly visible televangists’ misrepresentation of the gospel and the unholy wars as well. Is it any wonder new babes in Christ don’t seem to grow in the Lord in that environment with a prosperity (rather than holiness) gospel being preached on national television amidst the unholy Christian wars?

Speaking of unholy wars, if Ole Anthony (the guy on the tapes) really cared as much about the televangelist’s donor pool 60% of which consists of elderly women as he claims, you would think he would at least try to provide spiritual nourishment to replace the heretical evangelists he manages to topple -- without using language that most elderly women would find extremly offensive? Go figure.

Probably just as well for those widows anyway since the more I listen, the more I wonder if he
isn't getting a little out in left field in some of his "personal" interpretations of various Bible verses.

I wish there was a place I could find all that Jewish background without listening to his chronically fatalistic messages as well. Alas, I have been to the Bible bookstore after Bible bookstore and can find nothing along those lines.

Now, I feel terrible about having been judgemental about him, but then I don't want to discard discernment either.

Thanks for your input, Ruthie



Hi Gary!

gentledove

Anonymous said...

Gentledove, Are you familiar with the work of Jews For Jesus? They have tons of written material proclaiming Christ as Messiah and yet they hold to their Jewish customs and seem to be able to "mesh" the two into a meaningful life. They have one of their "headquarters" in San Francisco...Moshe somebody (terrible to get old!) We have supported their ministry for years. Next time I hear from them I will post their address online if you are interested.When I remember them in prayer I pray for "Moshe and their ministry to Jews" and so the last name hasn't "stuck" too well...sorry.I quite understand where you are coming from regarding many of the TV evangelists....there are only two I listen to and give any credance to and they are Billy Graham and Charles Stanley....both just preach the Word faithfully and there is never a plea for funds.I believe many of the others are born again believers but $$$$ has a way of corrupting their ministries.God has promised to meet our daily NEEDS...not our daily DESIRES...there is a BIG difference there! I about flipped my wig this week when it was reported that one of the recipients of a Red Cross $1,000.00 gift card given for those evacuees that were in need of shelter and food after Katrina was reported to have gone to a store and purchased an $800.00 Louis Vuitton bag with her Red Cross "help" money!!!! When the clerk called the Red Cross to verify that the card could be used for that purchase she was told "yes" by the Red Cross."whatever they "desire"....as you say...go figure!! We humans so often get our "needs" and our "desires" confused!!! That person may not eat for days but she has her designer bag!! Enough of that...have a good day! Ruthie

Anonymous said...

Moishe Rosen. I heard him speak years ago and was so impressed. He talked about Jesus in the Old Testament. He suggested a Thompson Chain Reference Bible which I ran right out and got one and I love it too. I've been looking for a book by him in bible bookstores, but found none.

After your post, I realized that they probably have a website by now and guess what? He has written a book and I can order it.

That website www.jewsforjesus.com has a lot of other books too.

You know, it's just that I can't get all that excited about putting up a Christmas tree now that I know it originated from a pagan ritual, holly, yule tide logs and so on too. So that shofor or rams horn thing that this guy talked about in his tapes. I mean the day that Jesus was born, God provided THE sacrifice for our sins just like he provided a ram for Abraham. It would be nice to celebrate with really Christian symbols that touch my heart instead of just decorating the room with meaningless pagan symbols and help me understand the old testament prophecies better too.

I'm going to order this book to start with.

Y'shua, the Jewish Way to Say Jesus
Moishe Rosen

Description
More than 100,000 copies in print! This treasure of a book, written by the founder of Jews for Jesus, will help you understand how Jesus fulfilled each one of the Old Testament prophecies about the first coming of the Messiah. Includes appendices on "Israel and the Gentiles", "Early Jewish Christians and the Jewish Community" and more. Who couldn't use this resource?

Cool. Thanks Ruthie.

gentledove

Anonymous said...

Gentledove, I was just coming to post the name of Rosen...but you beat me to it! I thought of it late last night.

I'm not too concerned with the ancient symbols regarding Christmas trees because we load our tree with lights that remind me that Jesus is the "light of the world"...and have several ornaments depicting the manger scene....along with many angels. Our creche takes center stage on our mantel surrounded by angels.When we first married we bought a tree top star that had Soloman's "head of Christ" in the center with a light behind it...we had that for 20 some years until it got ruined in a move. I always loved it because you couldn't escape the focus of the celebration. Now we have a lighted angel.

Glad you found the website for Jews For Jesus. Ruthie

Anonymous said...

Me again....I would like to add a post script to my original post regarding living a holy life worthy of being called a follower of Christ. I have been ruminating on today's devotion in the DAILY BREAD. I would like to recommend reading what is posted on www.discoveryseries.org/q0305. Now I promise to "shut up" I've "talked" way too much this week....sorry...didn't mean to be a "blog hog", Ruthie

Anonymous said...

ooops...just saw a mistake in the recommended address... after org/ it is q0305 (NOT a small o )

Anonymous said...

something is haywire...the q0305 shows up correctly while I am posting but then it "translates" incorrectly...TWICE. After the small q the next character is the numeral zero not a small case o...clear?

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I got there okay, and it looks like a good website.

gentledove

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy,

As this blog has been up for awhile, and I've read it a few hundred times with the corresponding responses, all good, I thought I would put in my two cents worth.

Well, actually, not my two cents. There was a book that you made Jeff W. read back when we were Juniors? Seniors? It was a book titled "Mark of the Christian". More of a booklet, really, but a good one. After Jeff read it, I did, and although the author, Francis Schaeffer, was intellectually bigger than I, and it took me a few time through to get it all, the book stuck with me all these years. Here's a quote from the very beginning of the book, and I place it here because it seems to go with your blog here:

"Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks in the lapels of their coats, hung chains about their necks, even had special haircuts.

"Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, if one feels it is his calling. But there is a much better sign - a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back.

"What is this mark?

"At the close of his ministry, Jesus looks forward to his death on the cross, the open tomb and the ascension. Knowing that he is about to leave, Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come. It is here that he makes clear what will be the distinguishing mark of the Christian:

"'My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.' (John 13.3-35)"

Anyway, I thought of this qoute whenever I read your blog.

God bless, amigo,

Dan-o