30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

July 9, 2000

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"What It Means To Be A Christian"

Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, thanking you for tuning in this morning to WAVG radio to listen to another truth of God's word. Before we get to our lesson of the hour entitled"What It Means To Be A Christian," I want to let you know about our Vacation Bible School that will be held at the Clarksville church of Christ, just one week from now, beginning on July 17th and running through the 21st. For those of you that are planning on attending this year's Vacation Bible School, but have not yet signed up your children, you need to do so this week. This year's theme for the children's classes will be "How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?" The adult class will be having a study on the "divided kingdom" which will be taught by Gary Fisher from New Salisbury, Indiana. Our Vacation Bible School will begin each night at 7:30 P.M. This promises to be one of the best Vacation Bible Schools ever and we want you to plan on attending. You can enroll your children in one of two ways. If you have access to the Internet you can enroll your children on-line at www.ClarksvillechurchofChrist.org and follow the directions to register your children. You may also call 246-1332 and someone will be available to take your enrollment information. We look forward to seeing you and your children at VBS this year! Now at this time I want to encourage you to get your Bible, pen, and pencil handy so that you can take notes on today's lesson. I once again want to thank you for listening to this morning's broadcast and hope that you are striving to know the truth and then practice the truth in your daily life. It is only the truth of God's word that can make us free (John 8:32). Every sincere, religious person will want to learn the truth in order to make sure that his call and election is sure (2 Pet 1:10).

Now to our lesson of the hour entitled "What It Means To Be A Christian." In this world of ours there are many things that demand our attention. Some of them are important and some are the worthless trivialities that go with our modern regimentation. We need therefore to come up higher in our thinking and dwell on some of the eternal principles that will prepare us for a greater usefulness in the future and an abiding home with our Lord when all earthly futures have been realized. With this in mind, I want to call your attention to ,a simple thought, and yet one that is more important than all material matters and that is: What it means to be a Christian.

When the time came for Peter to write to the children of God who were in the throws of heavy and grievous persecution, he penned these words, found in 1 Peter 4: 14-17: "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" Here Peter declares that it is an honor to suffer as a Christian, and he prefaces the four verses with this statement in verses 12-13:"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." So we can see that in the very beginning it means everything to be a Christian.

Now friends, I want you to understand this morning that I am not concerned with what it means to be a member of any denomination or party. Isn't it high time that all of the men and women who want the banner of our Captain and Conqueror unfurled before a lost and dying world, to concern themselves with Christianity and forget sectarian doctrines? To be a Christian means to be a follower of Christ not a follower of men. Now most all of man believes this statement in theory but it is an altogether different story in practice. Christianity is ALL; denominationalism is nothing. You can read the New Testament from this moment to the day of your death, and you .will never find an answer to any question relative to what it means to be a member of any denomination. The New Testament concerns itself with the answer to the meaning of Christianity and the church for which Christ died.

The only place in all this world that we can turn to find what it means to be a Christian is in the word of the living God, for it is here that the origin, work, and destiny of the Child of God is found. The apostles labored to make Christians and Christians only of lost human beings. It was for this that Christ died and was buried and conquered the grave. It was for this that God sent His only begotten Son to die that terrible death on the cross. Yes, the love of God for all humanity is embodied in the meaning of the term Christian. Unto the Christian is committed the great task of carrying on the work of redemption. To mortal man is handed the torch that was lighted by deity. His is the task of making the glad tidings of a risen Lord known to all men that they too may find the water that will quench all thirst--the bread that came down from heaven as so beautifully pointed out in the gospel of John.

To be a Christian means to be a servant. In the book of Philipplans 2: 5-8, the apostle Paul writes:"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Jesus was not just a servant to a few, but He became THE servant to ALL for good. The beautiful story of the good Samaritan on the Jericho road gave the answer as only the Savior could give to the problem, who is our neighbor. Hence, from the cloth of the Kings to beggar rags, if a man has the spirit of Christ, he has devoted the resources and energies of his life to his fellowmen. How glorious are his offices and powerful his comforts when he places his hand in the nail-pierced hand of Jesus while saying, "Where you lead me, I will follow."

Let no man think however that this can be done without sacrifice inflicted. Christ stated in Luke 9:23: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." But then, in majesty, Christ adds the victor's crown in the following verse: "For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." The glory of this sacrifice is voiced by Peter in the text, "If any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf." Then hear the added words of Jesus in verse 26: "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels."

But finally, no man can be a Christian without being loyal to the institutions that Christ died for and ordained. When, in the upper room, he instituted the Lords Supper, saying "This do in remembrance of me," it remains that no man can be his follower and be unfaithful in its observance. The early church, our model and pattern, continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread, and, as recorded in Acts 20:7, the disciples at Troas came together on the first day of the week for this purpose. People who are careless in its observance, or the creeds of men which say that three times or four times a year is often enough to remember Him, have missed the full importance of Christianity. The early church observed the Lord's Supper on every first day of the week, showing His death and burial, until He comes again. It was the day hallowed by the memories of a risen Lord. It was the day chosen for the beginning of the church.

But now, no man could speak intelligently on what it means to be a Christian without first defining a what a Christian is. It is equally impossible to define a Christian without presenting exactly what a person must do to become a Christian. Again, without question, the place to find an answer to what a man must do to be a Christian is the New Testament. We must have the mind set to let the Bible speak to us, letting us know exactly what to do.

To all the members of this radio audience this morning, I want to suggest that every person must hear the gospel before he can be a Christian. There is not a remote possibility that a man can be a child of God before he hears the gospel of his salvation. In the almost 2000 years that have passed since the day of Pentecost, every soul that has been translated out of darkness into the Kingdom of God's dear Son has had to hear the full gospel, exactly as it is written. The apostle Paul states in Romans 10: 13-14: "For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" They can not believe until they hear, Paul declares, and to hear they must have a preacher. This explains 1 Corinthians 1:21: "For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Hearing, then, is a part of the plan of God in saving men and women and making them what God would have them to be. Paul further states that all do not accept the gospel that they hear, and hence it became a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. He adds this statement in verse 24: "but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." The meaning is clear. Christ has the power to save, and that salvation comes through the preaching of His word.

But of course it is not enough to hear. There are untold millions who have and will hear the gospel who will never be saved. The gospel that is heard must be believed. The apostle in Hebrews 11:6 says: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." The preaching of the cross is only a power to save from sin when it is believed. It was to this end that the miracles were performed and the New Testament written. Hear now the apostle John in John 20: 30-31:

"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Only then, states John, when men believe, can they have life through His name. Thousands of the preachers of our time say that this is the end of the matter and that now we have the answer. Men and women are made Christians when they believe in Christ. Friends, let us examine this doctrine closely in the light of the Holy scriptures. If this is what the Bible teaches, then let all accept it. I am not the author of the eternal truth that I preach. The preachers of the church of Christ have no creed except the New Testament. No man or group of men tell us what we have to say and what doctrine we are to proclaim. Let the word of God be true, and accept its principles. Does the Bible teach that when a man believes he becomes a Christian? Listen now to what is stated in John 12: 42-43: "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." The chief rulers believed but would not confess him. Could any man say that these men, who loved the praise of men more than the praise of God, were made Christians on the strength of their belief? Why the answer is as dear as the noon day sun. They believed on Christ, that is, they believed that he was the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and yet their belief profited them nothing. It could not benefit them because they were not willing to act upon it. Thousands of men today are in this very position. They believe that Christ is the son of God but they are not willing to do one thing required by our Savior.

This brings us unerringly to this conclusion: Not only must a sinner hear the word and believe the word, but every individual must obey the word. All men who obey not the gospel are condemned in God's sight, and one day will be subjects of the vengeance or judgment of the Almighty God of Heaven and earth. Listen to the stern warning of the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1: 7-9 "and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." It is not within the power of finite man to make it any clearer than this language just read. Christ and mighty angels will execute judgment, the judgment of condemnation, on those who have NOT obeyed the gospel of Christ. Now the question arises, what does man do to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We have heard from the pulpit, over the radio, and in the pages of the press what men think about it; now hear what the Bible says about it. Peter closed his sermon on the day of Pentecost, recorded in the second chapter of Acts with these words, verse 36: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ." The multitude was then moved to ask the question, what must we do to obey the gospel? This is what is recorded in verse 37: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" And here is the answer of Almighty God as found in Peter's mouth, by the Holy Spirit and recorded for posterity in Acts 2: 38: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Friends this is God's answer to the question, what must we do to obey the gospel of his Son. Simply, repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of your sins. They had heard the word of truth, they believed the preaching of the cross, they understood that they were to obey, and repentance and baptism are commanded. Why would it not be just as easy to preach these simple principles, that are infallibly right and safe, as it is to meet in religious conventions and. revise creeds time and time again, to work and preach to make men and women members of organizations that are unknown to God's word, and insist they be peculiar in name and doctrine from all others who want to be children of God?

When the judgment curtain comes down on the stage of this world, and we all stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, what answer will we have for telling humanity to do anything in this world to be a Christian, except to hear the gospel, believe the gospel, and obey the gospel by repenting and being baptized for the remission of past sins? What other answer can any man give and be true to the Book that is to survive time and live through the extent of eternity?

Friends, we have traced step by step the means by which man becomes a Christian; now let us give our attention to the nature of the Christian life. Consider the duties that are incumbent on those who are washed in the blood of the lamb.

First, to be a Christian, man must be Christ-like, which means to be just like Christ, to mold and pattern his life after the life of Him who was the perfect example for all mankind. Let me suggest to you with confidence that the only way one can know about the perfect life of the Master is to read about it in the Word of God. The four greatest biographers of all time: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, took up the errorless pen of inspiration that we might have the flawless account of Him who was without a single flaw. An example of the stainless life of the Messiah cannot be found in the street or in the halls of the mighty. After 20 centuries have passed, we are still studying with awe the conduct of Him who was reviled and reviled again and again. Listen to the account of Peter in 1 Peter 2:21-23: "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously." Among the many things it means to be a Christian, it means a full appreciation of the Lord's Supper and of the Lord's Day.

I would like to add this one other thought. No man can be a Christian without paying the fullest loyalty to the church for which the Savior died. The Lord's house, the church, was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and, as the bride of Christ, it wears His name in pride and reverence. No man can neglect her without neglecting Him who bought her with such an awful price, and washed her with water and the word. All Christians are in her fold for she is the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

Let me close the lesson this morning with this appeal: Friend and neighbor, let us be Christians and Christians only. Let us wear His name in glory and honor, realizing that it was given with His own shed blood, through suffering on our behalf. Paul states in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"