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Who Truly Is A Christian? (1)

In every society or civilization, there comes a time when the people who once were young become old, and another generation comes to take the place of the older generation. At such times, if the older generation does nothing about telling and re-telling the stories of happenings in their own days, many of the values of such a society or civilization would be lost on the younger generation. For instance, in Nigeria, there is a generation that does not know that the entity called Nigeria once fought a bitter civil war between 1967 and 1970, which claimed some two (2) million lives. There is also another generation which experienced the civil war first hand, for they lived in the enclave (the area now known as the South-East and the South-South Zones of the country) where the war was fought, even though they were not old enough to engage in the war. These innocent children, experienced first-hand, the devastation and destruction of war; they grew up, not as normal children would grow up playing with toys, but as children in a war zone, chasing after lizards and rats to get something to eat. Then there is the generation, who at the time of the civil war, were teenagers or young adults, who were directly involved in the civil war either as fighters themselves, or as victims. So, those who never experienced war in Nigeria are presently 42 years old and below; those who lived in the war zone, and who were caught up in the war as innocent children (either born just before the end of the war or were at least 15 years old towards the end of the war), are presently between the ages of 43 and 58; and finally, those who participated in the war either as soldiers or survivors would be 58 years and above. This distinction is important, because as we see actors on the stage of politics getting involved again, in the same things that led up to that bitter civil war, we cannot but wonder if these people understand the history of Nigeria, and that two million lives were lost fighting a bitter civil war! Many children of that time who lived in the war zone would never know what it is to be a child playing with toys!

If we stretch our argument a little further, we would discover that there are Nigerians today, in the corridors of power, who were not even born, when in 1976 an enigmatic Head of State, by the name of General Murtala Muhammed, whose photo is on the twenty Naira note, was brutally assassinated as he was driven to work without the use of sirens and a detachment of soldiers before and after his car. In fact, his killers were able to get at him, because his car was one of the vehicles stopped by a traffic warden at the Ikoyi Secretariat junction that sad Friday morning of February 13 by one Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka. Then there are those who may never have known of another living retired General, and one time Head of State of Nigeria, whose effort at sanitizing the Nigerian society, with his War Against Indiscipline, and fight against corruption yielded results, when, for the first time, Nigerians actually queued up at bus-stops, post offices, banks, etc. There was no rushing, no shunting, no struggling, no driving against traffic, no asking for or giving of bribes, no foreign exchange difficulties, and so on. This is one reason why historians have a major responsibility to accurately document the history of a people, and have its citizens read it in schools as children, to avoid the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, history always repeats itself, because people seldom learn from history.

But our discussion today is not about Nigerias history, but about the state of Christianity. This is because, many people who claim to be Christians do not know what Christianity is all about, which is why we are having so many people in our churches today, laying claims to being Gods children, who look nothing like God intended when He sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to come and die for man. Also, before we can begin to talk about the first principles of the Christian faith, we need to understand what Christianity, and being a Christian, is all about.

Some people define Christianity as a belief system set forth by Jesus Christ. Some other people believe that it is a way of life or a lifestyle which Jesus Christ symbolizes and exemplified while He was here on earth. And yet some others, especially, the modern age people, see Christianity as a means to wealth, health, and the good life. The truth is, Christianity is much more than a means to a worldly end, a way of life, or, a belief system. Christianity is life itself, and not just any life, but eternal life. In John 10:10, Jesus Christ said, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. The life being talked about here by the Lord is not the worldly life of pleasure and selfish desires, but the life that culminates in eternity with God. So, Christianity is not a means to wealth and health, but the way to eternal life through believing in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all of mankind. And this belief is not a head belief, but a heart belief which is made manifest as a person lives out what he believes on a daily basis. Such an individual is one who can truly be called a Christian! Long before the word Christian was coined, those who followed and lived out the teachings of Jesus were simply known as Disciples of Christ. These were not people who tried to copy Jesus lifestyle while He was on earth, by their effort; but people who had first undergone a spiritual rebirth through faith, and so, divinely enabled to live the life which Christ exemplified effortlessly!

In John 8:30-59, the Lord Jesus, addressing certain Jews who had believed on Him because of the words He had spoken to them, said in verses 31, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed We can liken these believing Jews to todays church attendees who claim to believe in Jesus. The Lord was saying here that, it is one thing to claim to believe in Him because of what you have heard about His words and teachings; but it is an entirely different thing to actually be His disciple. A similar incident also occurred as documented in John 2:23-25: Now when He [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man. Here, we see Jesus response to those who laid claims to believing on Him because of the miracles He performedHe did not commit Himself to anyone of them!

We can therefore make some deductions about who a Christian is not:
1. You are not a Christian, just because you believe in the words which Jesus preached and taught as recorded in the Bible. You must believe in God, and in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, the Messiah or Saviour; the One who can, and will save you from all your sins. Any belief contrary to this will make you no different from those who believe and applaud the writings of philosophers, and therefore, you cannot be a Christian! There are people who are in the habit of copiously quoting from the bible to make a point to their advantage, yet they do not for one second believe in the God of the bible nor in His Son, Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:13-19, Jesus asked His disciples, who people though He was; and then He asked them who they thought Him to be. It was Simon Peters confession of Him as the Christ (i.e., the Messiah, or Saviour of mankind from sin), and the Son of the living God, which the Lord said is the basis for a person to become a part of the Church, and thus be called, a Christian! In John 17:3, the Lord said, And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent. Eternal life (which is the goal of Christianity and of any Christian for that matter), is not attained by trying to be good or copying Jesus by human effort, but by ones intimate knowledge of God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son! This intimate knowledge begins when we believe and trust in Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection, as being sufficient for our salvation from sin, and deliverance from Gods judgment which is to come upon all those who reject Christ and refuse to put their trust in Him. Your ability to quote scriptures, like a Sunday School teacher, is not a guarantee that you are a Christian, any more than quoting Shakespeare makes you a literary mind! Eloquence and style in preaching does not make you a Christian either! It is faith in Jesus, and living by His word which makes you a Christian!

2. You are not a Christian, just because you believe in the miracles of Jesus, or have received a miracle performed in the name of Jesus. The bible tells us of a certain ruler of the Jews, named Nicodemus, a Pharisee (a religious leader of Jesus day, who probably was one of those who believed in Jesus because of the miracles he witnessed), who came to Jesus by night and said, Rabbi [meaning teacher], we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. But Jesus response to Nicodemus confession of belief in Him based on the miracles he did, is the now classical statement recorded in John 3:3, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The Lord told Nicodemus, as He is right now telling all those Nicodemus out there, who may be attending church services regularly; who may be leaders or elders, sitting in the front rows in their churches; or, who may even be deacons serving in their various churches: The issue is not whether or not you believe in my miracles; the issue is, have you experienced the spiritual rebirth? And when Nicodemus pressed further by saying in John 3:4, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be born? the Lord answered him in John 3:5-8, saying, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. The Lords response to Nicodemus question, and to yours probably on this matter of being born again, is that there is a spiritual transformation which takes place when the new birth happens. The new birth is a spiritual reality; not a physical re-entry into ones mothers womb! Just as a lion does not give birth to a cat, but to a lion cub; so also is anyone born of the Spirit of Godhe does not have within him, the genes which makes him seek fleshly or carnal desires, but those which make him seek after God and do the will of God! Friend, being born again is not about believing in the words of Jesus, believing in the miracles of Jesus, becoming wealthy and enjoying a good life here on earth, being a member of a well-known denomination, or even being a powerful church leader; being born again has everything to do with the occurrence of a spiritual transformation in your life, which is visibly seen by a changed life, that is not fashioned along the lines of worldly standards, but one which is lived according to the word of God!

This was why John the Baptist said to the many people who flocked to his baptism in the wilderness in Luke 3:8-9, Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. What a statement to make to people who have left their homes to come to your church which is not even located nearby! But that is exactly what John the Baptist did! And in Luke 3:10, the people asked, What shall we do then? John the Baptists response to the peoples question, was as follows as recorded in Luke 3:11-14, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. You cannot lay claim to being a Christian, and kindness manifest not from your heart towards another human being, regardless of his or her race, colour, tribe, ethnicity, or even religious belief.
To the publicans (those people who were engaged by the Roman government to collect taxes, and who did their job with harshness and covetousness, taking more than what they were supposed to take officially, and thus loading themselves with ill-gotten wealthpretty much like todays Customs Officers, Immigrations Officers in the Passport Office and airports, Local Government tax collectors, Licencing Office employees, etc.), John the Baptist said, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. That is, do not take more than the official levy. You cannot claim to be a Christian, and yet, as a Customs Officer you are making it very hard for people to clear their goods from the Ports, as a pretext for collecting bribes. You cannot claim to be a Christian and as an Immigrations Officer you ask people to pay more than the official passport fee for a Nigerian passport. You cannot claim to be a Christian, and, as a Licencing Officer, you charge more than the official amount for licences, or you ensure that no one can make direct payments to you, except they go through touts who are in your own employ.
To the soldiers (people we can liken to todays military and para-military personnel, like Policemen, traffic wardens, Road Safety Officers, etc.), John the Baptist said, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. You cannot lay claim to be a Christian, and as a law enforcement officer, you are in the habit of falsely accusing people so that they can settle you or you treat them harshly so that they are at your mercy, and then you can spring a demand of a bribe on them to enjoy leniency. You cannot be a Christian and not be content with your pay. This is why we continue to maintain that the modern day preaching about money and materialism, as though they are the object of Christianity is contrary to the teachings of Christ! There are those who claim that the Lord Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject in the bible. Let us set the records straight: whilst the claim of the percentage of teachings devoted by the Lord to money is itself questionable, the issue here is, What did the Lord say about money? You will discover that among many other things, Jesus warned people to beware of falling in love with moneyLuke 12:15: Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a mans life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. He warned us not to make money a major subjectMatthew 23:23, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone And, He warned us not to make money an object of worshipMatthew 6:24, No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. and Mark 10:24, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God

The crux of the matter in Christianity is that you are not a Christian just because you go to church, carry about and read the bible, belong to a large denomination, do good deeds, believe in the miracles of Jesus, or even in Gods ability to make you wealthy and healthy; rather, you are a Christian because, you believe in, and have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world from sins, particularly yours; and, you are living your life for Him alone! Can you say this about your Christianity? It is about time you reassess what you are calling Christianity. And if you admit that you are a sinner, and desire to be saved from your sins and the judgment that is to come upon all sinners, and desire to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then you need to come clean today. Open up your heart to God, ask Him to forgive your sins, and make up your mind from today, no longer to live a life of sin.

Let us pray!