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What Is A Christian?

What does it mean to be a Christian? What’s Christianity all about? And forgive me if that seems to be a silly question to ask in church on a Sunday morning. After all, don’t we all know what Christianity is all about? What it means to be a Christian? Why, just last Sunday we talked about how Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on a cross in our place and how because of that, we can be completely forgiven of our sins if we choose to accept God’s forgiveness. The Bible tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and if we believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved. Isn’t that what it means to be a Christian? Being saved? Having eternal life? Being forgiven?

Well, yes. Accepting Christ as our Saviour does mean that we are saved, that we’ve been forgiven, and that we have the hope of eternal life. But what does that really mean? I mean, how does that affect your life right now? What difference does it make? Is Christianity merely a ‘get out of jail free’ card for when you die? Is it just a ticket to heaven? Is the Christian life about collecting heavenly airmiles by our good behavior so we can cash them in for a bigger mansion when we get to heaven? Is that what Christianity is all about?

Or does God have something else in mind? Is there something more to being a Christian than just being saved?

Well, I gotta tell ya, I am totally excited to explore that question with you this morning. We’ve been studying the book of Colossians – Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae – what we’ve subtitled – “Christianity in Nutshell”.

And so far, we’ve been discovering some great ‘nutshell truths’ about what Christianity is all about. As I mentioned earlier, last Sunday we talked about who Jesus Christ really is and what He really did for us when He died on the cross and rose from the grave. So now that we know who He is and what He did – this morning, I want to explore what that means for us. What does it mean for us to be Christians? And I think the answer might surprise some of us.

This morning we begin where we left off last Sunday. Colossians chapter 1, verse 24.

“I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”

Colossians 1:24-27

Pause here for now. This little phrase in verse 27 sets the stage for the rest of the book of Colossians. This is the secret – this is God’s mysterious plan for anyone who accepts Jesus as their Savior. That is that Jesus Christ lives in you.

Think about this for a little bit. Jesus Christ – whom we established last week, was indeed the Almighty, Everlasting God – lives in you! That’s amazing!

And do you know what makes that so incredible? Do you know why it’s so significant that Christ lives in us? The Bible teaches us that without Christ, we have no life. 1 John 5:11-12 says…

 11 “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12

It seems pretty plain and simple. If we have Christ in us, we have life. If we don’t have Christ in us, we don’t have life. Now this can be a confusing point of Christianity – all this talk of life and death, because our human definition of life and death are different than how God defines life and death.

See if you can track with me. As humans, we define death as our spirit being separated from our body. Right? When someone dies, their body is still there – but their spirit is gone. That’s death to us. Our body separated from our spirit. But God’s definition is a little different. God defines death as our spirit being separated from Him. (not from our body – from Him)

That’s why He says that the wages of sin is death – sin causes us to be separated from God – thats death.

That’s why God told Adam & Eve that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die – their sin would separate them from God – that’s death.

That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus that He had to be born again – because his sin kept him separated from God – he was dead – He would have to become alive again – born again.

God defines death as our separation from him. And of course, the flip side of that, is that life is our being together with Him. If we read a little further in Colossians – jump down to chapter 2 verse 13, we read…

 13 “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

And Romans 8:10 says very much the same thing…

“And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.” 

Romans 8:10

Death is separation from God – Life is being together with Him.

Because you have Christ living in you – you have life – instead of death. You are now with God – instead of separated from Him. And that’s why you were created. You were created to have life – to be together with God. And that’s the definition of a Christian – someone who has Christ living within them – they have life – they are together with God.

But so many people miss the mark on this one. They think being a Christian is about going to church, or knowing lots ABOUT Jesus, being a good person, doing right things. No. Those are all bi-products. Being a Christian is about being together with God – its having Christ in you. It’s having a relationship with your Creator.

Can I ask you a question this morning? Do you have a relationship with your Creator? Remember, the question isn’t “Do you do good things?” or “Do you know a lot about God?” – “Do you go to church?” The question is: “Do you have a relationship with your Creator?”

And maybe before you answer that, perhaps I should define what I mean by “relationship”. We all have many different kinds of relationships in our lives. I have a relationship with my neighbor. I have a relationship with my mom. I have a relationship with my wife. But those are all very different kinds of relationships. My relationship with Heather is much different than my relationship with my Mom – which is also much different from my relationship with my neighbor. So what exactly should our relationship with God look like?

Well, let’s finish up Colossians chapter 1 – look at verse 28 & 29.

 28 “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29

That phrase “perfect in their relationship with Christ” in the NIV reads “fully mature in Christ.” Now hold that thought and jump down into chapter 2 – starting at verse 6.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

So what kind of relationship is Paul saying we are to have with God? Clearly it is a growing relationship. A maturing relationship.

When I got married, I had my two best friends (not counting Heather) to be my groomsmen. Jerel Peters & Mark Koop were the guys. Now I had spend a good part of my life with these guys. I had gone to Bible college with both of them. I had traveled to South America with Mark. I had gone to high school and youth group and church with Jerel. These are the guys I had shared my life with. They were my closest friends.

Fast forward ten years: Today, my relationship with those two guys is quite a bit different. As life happened and as our paths went off in different directions – we got married and all had families of our own and moved to different places – we ended up not spending as much time together anymore. In fact, in the past five years, I’ve probably only seen them maybe five times each. Now I still like hanging out with them – I still have a relationship with them. I read their newsletters and facebook updates, but we don’t really have growing relationship anymore.

And I this illustrates the difference between what our relationship with God should be – (what Paul’s talking about here in these verses) and what too often it actually is.

God desires to have a growing relationship with us. He wants us to share our life with Him. After all – he does live right inside us. He wants to be right beside us as we go through the ups and downs of life. He wants to be our closest friend.

But far too often, as Christians, our relationship with God looks more like the “ten years later” pictures. We hardly ever talk to Him anymore. Maybe we read about Him in the Bible or in church we hear about what He’s been doing – but we don’t have a personal growing relationship with Him anymore.

But that was never part of God’s plan. He didn’t die on that cross so that you could know ABOUT Him! He didn’t take the punishment for your sins so that you could hear what He’s been up to. He did all that so that He could go through life together with you. He wants to have a growing relationship with you!

And what a privilege that is for us! You know, most of us probably know a small handful of people in our lives that just amaze us. People that have enriched our lives so much over the years. People that we consider it an honor just to know them. Well, if we feel so privileged to know people like that – even though they are sinful, imperfect people – what a greater privilege it is for us to have a deep, growing relationship with the God of the Universe.

That’s why Paul says in Philippians 3….

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Philippians 3:8-11

Paul understood what life is about. He understood what it means to be a Christian. That is to know Christ. That’s our purpose. That’s why we were created – to know God. And that’s why Paul writes to the Colossians:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

We have to pursue our relationship with God. That’s the most important thing in life.

You know I told you earlier about my two best friends from ten years ago and how our relationship kind flatlined. We stopped growing – we drifted apart. Well, let me tell you about my  relationship with my other best friend from ten years ago. That was Heather.

We got married. We committed to going through life together. And we have. Shortly after we got married, we spent four months working at a camp in Australia. That was both an exciting time – but also very difficult time for us – but we did it together. We came home and started working for Camp Little Red. We spend our summers together at camp and our winters together running youth groups and discipling kids. We’ve now got three kids of our own – and of course that comes with great joy and great trials. But we’ve gone through it together. In the past ten years we’ve gone through a lot – but we’ve done it together. And because of that, our relationship has continually been growing, and changing, and maturing as we get to know each other in every circumstance of life – through good times and bad times.

And today, my relationship with Heather has gone just the opposite of my relationship with Jerel & Mark. With Jerel & Mark, we’ve kinda stopped sharing our lives together and we’ve drifted further and further apart. But with Heather, we share every part of our lives together and  through that we’ve grown closer and closer together.

I think that’s a picture of how God wants His relationship with us to be. He wants to share every part of our life with Him – (not just 15 minutes in the morning and an hour on Sunday) He wants us to share every moment of every day with Him and through that, through the good times and the bad times, we grow closer and closer together. Our relationship deepens and grows stronger.

So to close this morning, I want to give you this challenge: I’ve told you what God’s desire is.  He wants you to be with Him. He wants you to share your life with Him. He created you. He loves you. He died on a cross so that He could be with you. He wants you to have life. That’s His desire.

What’s your desire? Do you want to know your Creator? Do you want to know Christ? Do you want to share your life with the Almighty God? If you do, here’s my advice:

#1. If you have no relationship with God today, you can start right now. Christ’s death on the cross paid the price for your sins – so there’s no reason why you can’t be forgiven today. No reason why you can’t invite Jesus to come and live right within you. You can start your journey with God today. And by the way, if today is the day that you want to start your journey with God, I would sure love to hear about and help you in any way I can. Feel free to talk to me after the service or call me up sometime this week.

My other advice is this: If your relationship with God has grown distant in recent days – maybe you know about God, but you don’t really KNOW GOD… If you’re only sharing your life with God for an hour on Sunday instead of every moment of every day… If Christianity has just become your ticket to heaven instead of a growing relationship with your Creator, then maybe you need to make some changes in your life. Maybe you need to work at your relationship with God. Because after all, all relationships take work. And all relationships take time. Its not going to happen over night. But if you’ll commit to getting to know God (not just knowing about Him) but knowing God – going through life together with Him – I guarantee that your relationship with God will change. It will grow. It will deepen.

And next week, when we start to look at Colossians chapter 3, we’re going to look at what sort of practical things we can do work at our relationship with God – and how, when we do those things, God changes our lives. It’s gonna be really cool – so make sure you show up again next Sunday. But for now, I encourage you just to make the decision in mind that you want to get to know your Creator. You want to share your life with Christ. Make that commitment today.

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