I recall once speaking to my barber in Virginia Beach while I was studying at Regent University's graduate school. I must have tried to open a conversation about the Lord with him, and recall him replying to me, "We're all Christians, aren't we?" It's sad to say, but that seems to be the prevailing thought among so many people.
Yet the true meaning of the word "Christian" is found in the Bible. Scripture says, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Ac 11:26b). This means that "Christian" was a term used for disciples of Christ. Disciples are not merely "believers." As I explained in my article, The Difference Between Being a Disciple and a Believer, disciples are wholehearted followers of Christ who practice His teachings. When the term "Christian" was first used, it meant the same thing as "disciple," so the two terms were synonymous.
Yet today the term Christian includes the following types of people:
In the broadest sense, the word "Christian" includes everyone in the world who considers himself a Christian by name (i.e., nominal Christians). This includes those who were born into Christian families, even if their family were not practicing Christians. It includes Roman Catholics, which have many practices that are unbiblical. Such people who are part of so-called Christian religions may not even believe in God at all. In fact, I have a friend who was Roman Catholic and yet he was an atheist! You can read his testimony in my article called An Atheist Turns to Christ.
The word "Christian" includes all who were once christened or sprinkled as babies. It includes churches that embrace homosexuality as a lifestyle that is acceptable to God. Even Pope Francis Supports Homosexuality. It includes churches that teach that Christians are little gods, churches that preach the false prosperity gospel, as well as seeker-sensitive churches, universalist churches that deny the existence of hell or believe that all souls will eventually be saved, unitarian churches that deny the existence of the Holy Trinity, and ecumenical churches. It includes Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations that deny the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and eternal punishment -- all three. In fact, members of UU congregations are free to be atheist, pantheist, polytheist, agnostic, deist, theist or even satanist!
The term "Christian," as used broadly today, also includes all those in pseudo-Christian cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses, The Unification Church (of Sun Myung Moon), The Church of Bible Understanding, The Movement for the Restoration of the 10 Commandments, UFO religions such as Raëlism, The Church of Scientology, Order of the Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate, Branch Davidians (now defunct), and the Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). It also includes dangerous Korean-based cults, such as the Providence Church, also known as the Christian Gospel Mission (CGM), Jesus Morning Star (JMS), Setsuri ("Providence" in Japanese), International Christian Association (ICA), the Morning Star Church, the Bright Moon Church, Ae-chun Church, World Youth University Students MS Federation, East-West Christian Union, and International Christian Union.
The term "Christian" includes those who are apostates or corrupted Christians. These are people who may have at one time said the Sinner's Prayer or given their life to Jesus, but have since drifted away. They could be running from God. They are worldly Christians, who are friends with the world and enemies of God (Jas 4:4). They are no longer connected to the Head, which is Jesus Christ. As Peter said, "after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome." (2 Pe 2:20). They have known the way of righteousness and have turned away from the commandment handed on to them (2 Pe 2:21). They have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways (Pr 2:13). They delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil (Pr 2:14). Their paths are crooked and they are devious in their ways (Pr 2:15). They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways (James 1:8). They have an evil, unbelieving heart that has fallen away from the living God (Heb 3:12). They have turned away from Him who warns from heaven (Heb 12:25). They have strayed from the truth (James 5:19-20). They are backslidden and headed for destruction, unless they repent.
They had better heed the exhortation of James: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (Jas 4:7-10)
The word "Christian" also includes those who are sincere and devout followers of whatever Christian religion they belong to, such as the ones mentioned above. I was once a devout Roman Catholic, who was an altar boy for many years, and later a lector at mass, attending church services regularly, and yet I was not even born again, but was living a life of sin until Jesus radically saved me at age 19. Such people typically read their Bibles, pray, go to church religiously, and believe deeply in Jesus Christ. In fact, they may even say they love Jesus. But they are not born again, as Jesus said we must be. For more on that, please see my article, You Must Be Born Again.
Disciples of Christ
Finally, the term "Christian" also includes those who are true disciples of Christ. They deny themselves daily, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. They understand The Cost of Discipleship. They can truly say with the apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal 2:20). Being a disciple of Christ is the only way to eternal life.
In the Yolk and in the Yoke
As a way to demonstrate to you what kinds of people are included in the term "Christian," let me use the illustration of an egg. A chicken egg consists of three main parts. When you boil an egg and open it up, you can see these three parts in solid form -- the outer shell, the white albumen, and the yellow yolk in the center.
The nominal and apostate Christians are like the hard, outer shell of the egg, the devout observers of so-called Christian religions are the rather tasteless egg white, and the true disciples of Christ are the yellow yolk in the center. The yolk is only a small percentage of the whole egg, which represents the true, core Christians. That's who you need to be. Not the outer shell or part of the egg white, but one who is in the yolk.
You need to be a true disciple who is in the yoke with Jesus. He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30).
The Lord invited us to come to Him and take His yoke upon ourselves. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. When two animals are in the yoke together, they do not operate independently. Likewise, when you take the Lord's yoke upon you, then you have your head in one side of the yoke and you are working for Him, as well as with Him, directly under His Lordship. If He goes to the right, you go to the right. If He goes to the left, so do you. If He moves forward, you move forward, and you stop when He stops. You are no longer independent, but intimately connected to Him and His will. When we take the yoke of Jesus upon ourselves, He said that it is easy and the burden we carry is light.
Putting it All Together
As you can see, while the term "Christian" may be useful in some ways, it has become a catch-all term that includes all kinds of people, even those who are not disciples of Christ, as well as some who are actually anti-Christian. It includes countless, perishing people who are headed for destruction in eternal hell fire. If you are one of them, then repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.
Let me invite you to become a true disciple of Christ and be in the yoke with Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I hope you hear His voice today saying, "Come, follow Me." Leave the world behind, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father, except by Him (Jn 14:6).
When you are in the yoke with Jesus and in the yolk of Christianity, if you suffer as a Christian, you can praise God that you bear that name (1 Pe 4:16). For it is an honor among those of us who understand the true, biblical meaning of it, which is to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ in the household of God.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV. Image copyright Food Hacks Daily and used according to Fair Use Act.
Author's note: If you would like to become a disciple, consider enrolling in our Doulos Training School. You are invited to read The Difference Between Being a Disciple and a Believer, The Cost of Discipleship, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Separation from the World, Michael Shigaba's Encounter with Jesus, Strive to Enter the Kingdom of God, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, A Warning for Married Christian Couples, What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, Carrying Your Cross or Cross Dressing?, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part I, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part II, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Three Divine Revelations, Life Transformation Groups, Was Jesus Seeker Friendly?, and Ask for the Ancient Paths. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping