What is a Christian? We use the word Christian so carelessly that it has almost lost its meaning. I heard of a man who was asked his friend, "Are you a Christian?" He said, "Yes, I am." He was then asked, "Why are you a Christian?" He replied, "I was born in America, and America is a Christian country. Therefore, I'm a Christian." The friend, with a smile on his face, said, "I knew of some kittens who were born in a bread basket, but that didn't make them biscuits."
So, what is a Christian? The word Christian is only used three times in all of the Bible? By looking at those three occasions, we can see the marks of a Christian.
Marked by Persuasion
In Acts 26, the apostle Paul was talking to King Agrippa. Paul had been arrested for preaching the Gospel of Christ and was standing before this pagan king. The first thing he did was tell him about Jesus.
Paul knew that Agrippa knew about Jesus-His death, burial, and resurrection. In verse 26 Paul said, "...the king knoweth of these things...." He even knew that the king believed in Jesus. In verse 27 Paul said, "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest." That was a challenge straight to the king. And Agrippa answered: "...Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (verse 28).
Agrippa was almost persuaded, but not altogether. There was a deep conviction in his heart. He was convinced and convicted, but he was not converted. Pride in his heart brought up a barrier that the Holy Spirit could not get through.
Now, I ask you this question: Are you a Christian? Have you been persuaded and converted to Christ? There are lot of people who believe the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who are not Christians. A Christian is someone who is marked by a persuasion that leads to a conversion.
Marked by Profession
The second time the word Christian is found in the Bible is in Acts 11. When the believers in Jerusalem began to be persecuted, some decided to move to a place called Antioch. They preached Christ there, and revival broke out. Word of that revival got back to Jerusalem, and the church leaders sent Barnabas to see if this new church was genuine. Acts 11:23-26 tells of that visit: "...when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.... And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
They were called Christians. They didn't have a vote in order to name the church. Other people called them Christians because they were living like Christ.
In ancient times, people would be called by their vocation. If a man were a baker, the family name might be Baker. If he were a jeweler, the family name might be Goldsmith. Christianity was their vocation.
Are you a Christian? Have you been persuaded and converted to Christ? Is it your profession? Is it not only what you say but what you do?
Marked by Persecution
Let's look at the third time the word Christian is used. 1 Peter 4:16 says, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf."
Did you know that you can't be a true Christian without suffering for Jesus? There's no cheap, easy, or lazy way you can be a follower of Jesus Christ.
I'm not talking about common suffering like arthritis or a lost job. Those things happen to all people. Neither am I talking about carnal suffering where you bring trouble upon yourself because of wrongdoing. I'm talking about Christian suffering.
Did you know that if you're a true Christian, you're going to suffer for it? A lot of people think if they waltz down the aisle and join a church, they have a ticket to heaven, and life will be all honey and no bees. That's not true! God uses persecution in the Christian's life to purify him, unite him with Christ, empower him, and to persuade others to believe. Christian persecution is a sure sign that we are going with Christ and in direct opposition to Satan.
Are you converted to Christ? Are you committed to Christ? Are you crucified with Christ? Has there been a persuasion? Is there a profession? And is there a persecution? These are the true marks of a Christian.