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Vol.  10  No. 4 April 2008  Page 17
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Robert Johnson

A New Testament Christian

By Robert Johnson

    What does it mean to be a Christian? How would you define the term in our modern era? While the word is found in Scripture (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16), it’s sorely misunderstood today. Christianity overall, and being a Christian specifically, are such ambiguous concepts they can mean almost anything. In today’s environment, you can call yourself a Christian, no matter what you believe or what you practice.

    Consider a letter sent to a denominational publication about the concept of hell. The person asks, “What kind of a God would ask, even command us, to forgive seventy times seven in a day and to go the second mile, while He Himself is willing to forgive mankind only in this short span of life?” The answer is, of course, the God of Scripture, where He writes, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). In this life God forgives us so many more times than the seventy times seven. The depth of His forgiveness isn’t shallow, as He sent His Son in the flesh to die for our sins.

    However, forgiveness is a matter for this life, not eternity. The Hebrews writer reminds us, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Paul speaks of judgment as the time when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Notice, he says the deeds done in the body, in this life. In this life, we can seek God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness, but after this life comes judgment, where we are held accountable for the decisions we made in this life, for eternity. This side of eternity is where we find forgiveness, not afterwards. We are reminded of the “great chasm” that separated the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:26), from which one could not pass over to the other. Where one spends eternity is, well, eternal.

    The person who couldn’t conceive God condemning people to hell is not familiar with the God of Scripture, or Scripture itself. Such is the modern persuasion of trying to make God into our image, rather than allowing ourselves to be conformed into His. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

    The name Christian means “a follower of Christ.” To follow Christ, one must follow His Word (John 8:31-32). Just to wear the name Christian, then, doesn’t make it so, as the above example reveals. How do we distinguish ourselves as Christians, compared with its use in the world around us? With such distorted concepts, we should identify ourselves as New Testament Christians. Such a phrase separates itself from the conflicting views of society, and focuses attention back where it should be, back on Christ and His revealed will. As long as the name Christian is used indiscriminately, there will continue to be confusion and problems in society. Are you a New Testament Christian? Do you live as a New Testament Christian?

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