The word “Christian” does not mean “one who thinks highly of Christ,” or “someone who receives Christ’s blessings,” nor even “one who believes in Christ.”
“Christian” means “follower of Christ.”
Jesus became a man and left us an example
“It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed [did] no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips.” 1 Peter 2:21-22 (GNB).
How can we as human beings follow Christ, the Son of God? Well, Jesus couldn’t have been an example for people if He had stayed in heaven. Neither could He have been an example if He had come to earth as some supernatural being with special rights and advantages. Jesus gave up being the same as God and became a human being like us, in every way. (Philippians 2:5-8.) He even liked to call Himself the “Son of Man”. From His mother Mary, He received human nature (or a “flesh”) with all its weaknesses, and was tempted in all points as we are. Yet, He never sinned. Not one single time!
In Hebrews 2:17-18 it is written, “He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way … And now He can help those who are tempted, because He Himself was tempted and suffered.” In other words, He did all this for the sake of people with the same flesh and blood as He had, people with the same human nature, those who want to follow Jesus – Christians.
Sin controls people, and none of us have done God’s will as we should. Even the “best” of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have to admit that we are sinners. Think of our thoughts. Are they always so pure and noble, loving and forgiving as they should? Are all our words a blessing? Are all our deeds unselfish? Are we really following in Jesus’ footsteps?
The death of the cross
In Philippians 2 it says that when He had become a human being just like us, Jesus humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death. Humbling oneself – what does that mean? For Jesus it meant that in every situation when He was tempted, He always said, “Lord, not My will, but Your will be done.” That meant that He didn’t allow Himself to judge and find things wrong with the others; He didn’t give in to anger, discouragement, impatience or any other sin that He was tempted to!
In other words, the sin in Jesus’ own nature, which in the Bible is called the “flesh”, had to die. That is also why He said, “If any of you want to be My followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross every day and follow Me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:23-24 -(CEV). Why does He set this condition for those who want to follow Him? He says it because it’s the way He went Himself!
When Jesus was obedient to God’s will, it was “to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8. That was the “daily cross” He spoke of in Luke 9:23, a long time before He was crucified on Calvary. All of the sin that lived in Jesus’ human nature was crucified on this “daily cross”, and all true Christians do the same – they put to death the sin in their own human nature when they follow Him.
Follow Christ: “We shall be like Him”
Those who follow in Jesus’ steps will of course end up where He is. “We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:10 (CEB). Have you ever read this, really? Do you see what’s written here? The life of Jesus shall be seen in our body! If our “own life”, the sin in our own human nature, dies then an incredible miracle will take place in us. And that miracle is that God will create something completely new.
That is why Jesus took that huge risk and became a human being like us – so that He could give us a way to follow: a way out of sin and eternal death, into happiness and life, both now and in all eternity. And not only did He make the way, He also sent us His Holy Spirit to lead, help and strengthen us to walk on this way.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3 (NIV). To purify yourself is to remove everything that is not pure. And to purify yourself just as He is pure, that is true Christianity.
Maybe you have never heard of this kind of Christianity, but God’s Word speaks of no other kind. Pick up your Bible today, and instead of reading what Jesus did in your place, read how you can follow in Jesus’ steps to become like Him! Ask yourself, “Am I really a Christian, according to the Bible?” If this is the life you want, don’t wait – pray that God will give you His Spirit, and start following in Jesus’ steps. The result will be amazing!