Are you a Christian? This is a very important question. To honestly answer this question we first need to understand what it means to be a Christian.
The term “Christian” was coined to describe a 1st century group of people living in the near east city of Antioch. When believers in Jesus living in Jerusalem began experiencing strong persecution, they took the message about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection to other cities. One of those cities was Antioch. As these believers shared their faith with the folks there, great things happened. The Bible describes it this way:
… and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. — Acts 11:21 (NIV)
The citizens of Antioch noticed positive and radical changes in the lives of these new believers. They knew that something wonderful had happened to their family members, friends and neighbors, and they linked the changes to their newfound faith in Jesus Christ. And because of this, they were given a name. They were called “Christians.”
… The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. — Acts 11:26 (NIV)
The Greek word translated “Christian” is “Christianos,” and it simply means “a Christ follower.” The name identified people who were dedicated, convinced followers, students, disciples of Jesus Christ. The Bibles says ” … The DISCIPLES [emphasis mine] were first called Christians at Antioch.” The term “Christian” was connected to a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus.
The word “disciple” is not commonly used in today’s culture. The concept of discipleship is unfamiliar to most people. In the New Testament, and particularly in the Gospels, the term and concept of discipleship is found a lot. Jesus used it frequently. He clearly defined what it means to be one of His “disciples.”
According to Jesus, His disciples are those who have committed themselves to Him, believing that He is the true Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world. They have also committed themselves to live under His authority, to continually learn His ways and follow in His footsteps, obeying His Word.
Jesus distinguished between casual listeners to His message or observers of His miracles and those who truly committed themselves to Him. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, thousands gathered to listen to Him teach and watch Him perform miracles, but a much smaller group was considered to be disciples.
Jesus regularly defined the requirements for becoming a disciple. Take a look at what Jesus said:
Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” — Luke 9:23 (NLT)
The Apostle Paul told us how to start our journey as a disciple:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that your are saved. — Romans 10:9. 10 (NLT)
When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun. — 2 Corinthians 5:17 (TLB)
Being a disciple of Jesus — a “Christian” — involves heart-level faith and a life commitment to Jesus that radically changes the way we think, speak and act. It involves becoming a daily follower and serious student of Jesus. A “Christian” is a committed “Christ follower.”