Part of the The Positive Message of Christianity series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 30
Title: How Do Disciples Become Christians?
Text: the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26).
Scripture Reading: Acts 11:19 - 26; Galatians 5:22 - 23
The Scriptures declare that the disciples of Jesus Christ were called Christians first in the city of Antioch, where the church was composed primarily of Gentile believers.
The inspired writer may be paying tribute to the work of the divine Spirit in the hearts of these disciples. Barnabas influenced the life and the spiritual growth of this congregation, and he is described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” A large number of people were converted and added to the church through his ministry. With the assistance of Paul, these disciples ministered to the church and taught the people, and these people experienced spiritual growth. They let the Spirit produce his fruit within them, and they began to manifest the character traits and the graces of Jesus Christ. Others beheld the beauty of Jesus Christ in them. Thus they were called Christians.
Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India, has been quoted as saying that if Christians would act like Jesus Christ, India would be at his feet. The greatest hindrance to the evangelistic effort of a local church or to the missionary effort of all of the churches is a poor example of Christianity. The low quality of life that some Christians display to the world is due to the fact that they have ignored and neglected the Holy Spirit and have even refused to let the Holy Spirit reproduce within them the character of Jesus Christ.
I. The term Christian has been cheapened, abused, and misused.
A. The term Christian has been claimed by many merely because they believe in the existence of God.
B. The term Christian has been applied to some merely because they live by a high moral code that produces respectability.
C. The term Christian has been applied by some to all who have received the rite of baptism. These labor under the impression that the rite of baptism makes a Christian out of the person receiving the baptism.
D. The term Christian has been used as a synonym for church membership. We often hear people say, “I’m a member of such-and-such church. Doesn’t that make me a Christian?”
E. Some have considered being converted and becoming a Christian as one and the same thing. You have heard it said, “Well, Johnny became a Christian last night.” The speaker actually is referring to a public profession of faith, but he equates this experience with being Christian. The misuse and the abuse of the term Christian has produced some tragic results. First, some people have the impression that the conversion experience is the sum of God’s plan for their lives. Second, misuse of the term Christian has produced a low quality of life that does not reveal the radical and wonderful difference that Christ wants to produce in the lives of those who trust him as Savior and Lord. Third, some people have a nominal Christianity that is nothing but a thin veneer of the real thing yet wonder why they are not more successful in winning the unbelieving world to faith in Jesus Christ.
Many think of Christianity in terms of cushioned pews, agreeable music, and a comfortable worship service concluded with a monotonous sermon on Sunday, and then business as usual during the week. We need to rediscover what caused the people to start calling the disciples in Antioch Christians.
II. Some observations concerning how disciples do not become Christian.
The term Christian can be an adjective as well as a noun. It can describe a quality of life rather than just designating a person as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Let’s note some good things, which in themselves do not produce Christians out of disciples.
A. Regularly attending worship services alone will not guarantee that you will be genuinely Christian in your life.
B. Regular Bible study is very profitable, but regular Bible study alone does not guarantee that one will become like Jesus Christ.
C. The habit of prayer should be formed and not broken. However, one can pray morning, noon, and night for a lifetime and not become genuinely Christian.
D. The practice of tithing can transform one’s thoughts about the value of things, but this alone does not enable one to be genuinely Christian.
E. One can exercise superior willpower and practice good habits with persistence and still not be worthy to wear the title Christian.
To be Christians, people must let the life, the mind, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ so permeate their personalities that others will begin to recognize the transformation that has taken place.
III. Disciples become Christians as they make proper responses to the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The fact that God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to the new convert has not been emphasized nearly as much as it should be. Many people who have trusted Christ as Savior are unaware that in the conversion experience the Holy Spirit took up residency within their innermost being and came to reproduce in their lives the character and personality of Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 4:6?–?7). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22?–?23).
A. These graces provide us with a verbal photograph of the person and Spirit of Jesus Christ. The apostle declares that these graces are the fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God.
B. These graces are the fruit of the indwelling Spirit for every believer. The gifts of the Spirit enable individuals to render specific ministries for the building up of the church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom. These graces of the Spirit, which Jesus Christ personified perfectly, have to do with the character of the believer. People who have these graces in their lives will reflect and manifest the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.
IV. Disciples become Christians when they make a proper response to the Holy Spirit.
There is no way for disciples of Jesus Christ to become fully Christian in their innermost beings or in their influence over others apart from the ministry and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. To become genuinely Christian, a person must make a positive response to the presence and the purpose of the indwelling Spirit.
A. We must believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning our new relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:16; Gal. 4:6?–?7).
B. We must recognize and respond to the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19?–?20). The Holy Spirit cannot do his finest work unless his presence is recognized and unless there is a personal response of cooperation with him.
C. We must listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and obey him (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
D. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he works within us (Phil. 2:13).
The Holy Spirit invites the nonbeliever to put faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit is seeking continually to magnify and exalt Jesus Christ as the Savior who alone can bring the gift of forgiveness and new life into one’s heart (John 16:13?–?14).
Trust Christ for forgiveness and cleansing, for new life, for hope for the future, for the power to live an abundant life, and for the gift of divine sonship and assurance of an eternity in the heaven of God.
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