I Am a Pastor, But Don’t Call Me a Christian. Here’s Why.

I will confess that the title of this post is designed to get your attention. I am a Christ-follower, not a Christian. This is much more than a matter of semantics.  Let’s look at the times Jesus said “Follow me:”

Matthew 16:24 ESV

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 9:9 ESV

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 4:19 ESV

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 19:21 ESV

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Matthew 10:38 ESV

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

John 10:27 ESV

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

In Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 4:19, Jesus is calling some of His disciples; Matthew, Simon Peter, Andrew, and John and James to follow Him.  In the other passages, He is calling us. What does it mean to “follow Jesus?” For His disciples, it meant immediately walking away from the life they knew. It means the same thing to us. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean giving up our current profession (although it might). It means that we follow Jesus so closely that nothing gets between Him and us. That we surrender our spiritual selves to Him as He surrendered Himself for us. What does that look like? Oswald Chambers called it “co-eternal life:”

“Eternal isn’t about time—it is the life Jesus lived here on earth—we are not to ‘copy’ that life. Rather we are to receive it. It is not a gift from God. It is the gift of God…The Power is not a gift from the Holy Spirit. The gift is the Holy Spirt.’ (emphasis mine).

So, following means oneness with Jesus Christ the person. How is that different than being a “Christian?” I found two dictionary definitions of Christian that are helpful:

relating to or professing Christianity or its teachings.

a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Christianity.

Those definitions are more about religion than relationship. Believing in Jesus, knowing His teachings, and even receiving baptism, don’t make us followers of Jesus. Author Paul Tripp says those things can lead to a “Christless Christianity:”

“If you’ve forgotten who you are in Christ, what are you left with? You’re left with Christless Christianity, which is little more than a system of theology and rules. And you know that if all you needed was theology and rules, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. All God would have needed to do was drop the Bible down on you and walk away. But He didn’t walk away; he invaded your life as Father, Savior, and Helper.”

You can argue that Satan is a Christian. He knows Jesus personally and knows Scripture backwards and forwards. But he certainly doesn’t follow Jesus. What about you? Are you a Christian or a Christ-follower? Are you about rules and rituals or about an intimate relationship with Jesus. I leave you with a bit more from Paul Tripp. What’s below is the difference between a Christian and a Christ-follower. And it’s all the difference in the world:

“So if you’re His child, ward off the fear that knocks on your door by remembering who God is and who you’ve become as His chosen child. And don’t just celebrate His grace; let it reshape the way you live today and the tomorrows that follow.”

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