What’s a Christian? (Part 4)


I read the story in Acts 10 this morning about Cornelius the Centurion and his request for Peter to come and tell them, in Cornelius’ mind, whatever Peter needed to tell them. Peter had the greatest message to tell in the history of the world and Cornelius had a chance to hear it!

Ever since I preached a sermon from Matthew 13 several months ago asking the question, can you hear Jesus speaking? Do I want to hear what Jesus has to say? I have been trying to evaluate in myself how much drive and desire I really have to hear Him. I could picture in my mind all these people who were looking for their Messiah, but when He was there, they didn’t listen; they didn’t even have ears to hear! Scary!

It seems that we are in a culture, a church culture, where few seem worried about what God says or wants, or wants to say. Even in the church I pastor, I see people who say they’re Christ followers yet their decisions on their involvement, and even church membership, seem to be made without regard to what Jesus is wanting or saying. Usually, it comes down to whether things are done the way they want or whether it’s the right program, or the right program on the right day, or the right program on the right day at the right time.

I wonder if this is just a symptom of the real problem, which is, a lack of desire to actually hear God speak through His word. I wonder if the problem is really just a matter of familiarity.

Doesn’t it seem like our human nature just causes us to want things we can’t or don’t have and think of that which we do have as no big deal?

I wonder if this is the reason it seems so many, who call themselves Christians, don’t read their Bible with regularity and don’t seem to allow Jesus’ desires and Word to factor into decisions of church attendance, membership and even worship.


As I was reading Acts 10 this morning, I found myself wanting to feel like Cornelius. Can you imagine wanting to hear God speak so badly? I don’t just mean “so badly” that he would send for Peter but Cornelius had such an expectation of what would be said that he assembled “his relatives and his close friends.” Can you imagine? Cornelius just knew that God was going to speak through Peter so he gathered everyone he knew and loved!

I want that kind of desire to hear the Word speak!

So, I want to be careful with my next answer to the question of What’s a Christian? I want to say, “A Christian is one who is driven to hear their Savior speak.” But, I know there are many Christians, who like me, at times struggle with this. So, here’s my statement:

A Christian is a person who wants to here their Master speak. This, at times, culminates in a prayer asking God to give a desire to hear Him. Lord, please give me ears to hear! A believer is someone who cares about what Jesus has to say.

“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.’” (Ezekiel 2:1)

What’s a Christian? (Part 1)

I’m going to write a blog series entitled “What is a Christian?” I almost titled it “What is a Christ follower” but I don’t want to confuse the topic. The truth is, there are a lot of ideas of what a Christian is in our culture, even in the church culture, and many of them are not biblical. I also realize there is no shortage of books, blogs and articles discussing this topic but I think another topical discussion may be helpful. I’m preaching a series now through the book of Ephesians and, along with that, a mini-series of the church called “Full Church.” Within the series, each week, I’m making statements about the church: “Church is…”

So, I want to spend some time on the blog making the same type of statements: A Christian is… I would state it like I have in the church series but it would really sound like Forrest Gump, “Christian is as Christian does, sir.”

But what comes to mind when I ask you, what is a Christian?

For me the answer begins with; a person who follows Jesus. But, what does that look like? I’m confident that what some believe defines being a Christ-follower falls short of what Jesus actually says it is. For example, a Christ follower is not someone who calls on Jesus simply when they need something. It’s much more than that. If you confess to being a Christian I probably don’t have to convince you of that but let’s dig a little deeper into the Christian.

Where do we start?

I can think of no place better to begin than Jesus putting Pharisees and Sadducees in their place. It’s always a little fun to see the religiously educated try to play a game of theological tennis with the creator of the universe. In Matthew 16:1 the Pharisees and Sadducees want Jesus to give them a cosmic sign from heaven to prove His Messiahship. (Keep in mind that at this point of the Gospel of Mathew, Jesus has nothing left to prove.)

We can actually learn something about being a Christian in the way Jesus answers their request.

Jesus tells them that though they have no trouble telling the weather, “Red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds take warning,” they can’t see what’s going on right in front of them. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “You can’t interpret the signs of times.”

Wouldn’t it be crazy to be so concerned about “God stuff” like the Pharisees are and miss what Jesus was doing right in front of you?

This can happen in the life of the modern day Christian too. I see it most when Christians define Christianity simply as where they’re going when they die. Now, I’m not stating that heaven is a bad thing to be looking for but that is not the definition of a Christian. It would be a tragedy to be simply focused on heaven, or the future, and not realize what Christ is doing in the world and in your life right now.

What’s a Christian?

A Christian is a person who can recognize that God, through Christ and His Spirit, is doing a work in front of us, in the world and in us, right now.


As I was studying and writing preparing to preach a sermon from Matthew 15, a truth jumped out at me from the text. In Matthew 15:29-31, Matthew records that Jesus, as He did many times, had a large crowd around Him full of people who needed help. I could say it this way, they were people who desperately needed their circumstances changed. This leads me to a question, however. What is the purpose of Jesus changing someone’s circumstances? 

The response of the crowd, after Jesus did all this healing and  circumstance changing was pretty awesome. Matthew records that ” the crowd wondered.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure if I brought a friend to Jesus, or I was the friend who was carried, I would be in some kind of state of bewilderment when Jesus came through and healed. When Jesus changes circumstances like that, it’s always an attention getting act!

But, why is He trying to get our attention. Well, there’s a clue later in that same verse but before I tell you that let me share this truth:

Jesus does not change circumstances simply to get you to look more favorably on your circumstances.

Jesus doesn’t step in and make life better or heal or help financially or answer a prayer that we’ve prayed asking for some kind of possession, (let me make clear that I’m not saying Jesus doesn’t answer those prayers, He does), just to get us to be more satisfied with the world around us. He’s not trying to get you to focus your attention of your stuff, even when it’s stuff He’s provided. So, what is He doing? Here’s a second truth that helps me put this into focus:

You always go in the direction in which your attention is focused.

When Jesus steps in and changes circumstances He does so to get your attention and focus it on something other than your circumstances. Notice what the crowds did when Jesus healed those who came for help, “And the glorified the God of Israel.” The Lord knows, that you will be going in the direction today in which your attention is focused, and He wants you going in His direction!

Where’s your attention focused today? That’ll be the direction that you are heading. I want to encourage you to place your focus fully on God, not your circumstances whether they’re good or bad. When your attention is on God alone, you’ll always be heading in the right direction!