Chris·tian [ kríschən ]
Believer in Jesus Christ as savior: somebody whose religion is Christianity
WEARING THE LABEL
Janelle was excited when her sister Shania got home from her senior class trip to New York. She couldn’t wait to hear about all the fun Shania and her friends had had on the trip.
“Hey, I bought these for you,” Shania said, handing Janelle a shopping bag. Inside were three sweatshirts all with the logo of Janelle’s favorite designer on them.
“Wow! What a cool gift, Shania. Thanks! Three of them? These are so expensive!”
“Not in New York City,” Shania grinned. “We found a place what was selling them for about $10 each.”
“You’re kidding!” Janelle gave her sister a big hug. The next day she proudly wore one of the designer sweatshirts to school.
Two evenings later, when she pulled another of the new sweatshirts off over her heard she heard a ripping noise. “Oh, no!” she cried out.
Janelle’s mom struck her head into the room. “What happened?”
Janelle showed her mom the long rip in the side seam of the sweatshirt. “I can’t believe it tore so easily—the first time I wore it! Their stuff is usually really good quality. Anyway, I know they have a guarantee, so maybe I can send it back to the company and get it replaced or something. I wonder if Shania kept the receipts.”
Janelle’s mom sat down on the bed and turned the sweatshirt inside out, looking at all the seams. “Janelle, how much did Shania say she paid for this sweatshirt?”
“And how much would it be normally?”
“Oh, at least 50. I’ve seen them even more expensive than that.”
Mom signed. “I think our sister got taken in, Janelle—and I don’t thin the designer will be sending you any replacement sweatshirts.”
“What do you mean, taken in?”
“Sometimes people manufacture cheap clothes and slap the label of an expensive designer on the front. It’s illegal, of course, but they often get away with it. Lots of people are just happy to have the designer label, they don’t realize they’re not getting the same quality.”
Janelle looked down at the torn shirt. She could still wear the other two—until they fell apart, which wouldn’t be that long, she realized. Everyone would see the label and think she would know different. Looking up, she caught her mom’s smile. “Just like I’ve always told you, honey—it’s what’s inside that counts.”
“So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
You’re reading a teen Sabbath School lesson. So you probably consider yourself a Christian. You’re wearing the label. But what’s inside the package?
If someone claims to be a Christian, does that him or her a Christian? If you really wanted to know whether someone was a Christian, what questions could you ask to find out?
Log on to http://guidemagazine.org/rtf to post your responses. Be up-front and honest. Say what you think. The lines below are provided as an alternative to posting. You may also wish to share you thoughts with your class later.
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: ‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
"‘The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
"‘I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
"‘On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
"‘Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
"'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
"‘So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.’
“At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’
"‘I am not insane, most excellent Festus,’ Paul replied. ‘What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’
“Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’
The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. They left the room, and while talking with one another, they said, ‘This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.’
“Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’”
“[A]nd when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
“It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. The name was given them because Christ was the main theme of their preaching, their teaching, and their conversation. Continually they were recounting the incidents that had occurred during the days of His earthly ministry, when His disciples were blessed with His personal presence. Untiringly they dwelt upon His teachings and His miracles of healing. With quivering lips and tearful eyes they spoke of His agony in the garden, His betrayal, trial, and execution, the forbearance and humility with which He had endured the contumely and torture imposed upon Him by His enemies, and the Godlike pity with which He had prayed for those who persecuted Him. His resurrection and ascension, and His work in heaven as the Mediator for fallen man, were topics on which they rejoiced to dwell. Well might the heathen call them Christians, since they preached Christ and addressed their prayers to God through Him.
“It was God who gave to them the name of Christian. This is a royal name, given to all who join themselves to Christ. It was of this name that James wrote later, ‘Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?’ James 2:6, 7. And Peter declared, ‘If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.’ ‘If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.’ 1 Peter 4:16, 14 (Acts of the Apostles, p. 157).
“It doesn't matter if people are civilized and educated, or if they are uncivilized and uneducated. I must tell the good news to everyone. That's why I am eager to visit all of you in Rome.
“I am proud of the good news! It is God's powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, ‘The people God accepts because of their faith will live.’”
Who is a Christian? Nobody seems to agree. Some Protestants don’t consider Roman Catholics to be Christians—and some Catholics don’t consider Protestants to be Christians. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves Christians, but some other Christians don’t agree. Some people don’t even think Seventh-day Adventists are Christians. Do you have to go to church to be a Christian? Do you have to believe Jesus is the Son of God? What if you think Jesus was just a good man but you want to follow His teachings? Can you still be a Christian?
It’s enough to make your head spin. Too many questions, too many definitions. There’s no board of Christianity that gets to decide who’s a Christian and who’s not. Having someone tell you, “I don’t think you’re a Christian” can really hurt. Maybe it’s not our job to put labels on people.
But what about ourselves? How do we know if we’re Christians? What difference does wearing Jesus’ label make to the quality of the goods inside?
Match the verse with the text.
Jesus prayed this prayer just before He was betrayed. He was praying for His followers. Read this prayer, and answer the questions at the end of the lesson.
“Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it's time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.
I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world;
They'll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).
“Now I'm returning to you.
I'm saying these things in the world's hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn't join the world's ways,
Just as I didn't join the world's ways.
I'm not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I'm consecrating myself for their sakes
So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.
“I'm praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you've sent me and loved them
In the same way you've loved me.
“Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me
Long before there ever was a world.
Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.”
Maybe you’ve wondered, Am I really a Christian? Sure, I go to church—maybe I’ve even been baptized—but can I really call myself a Christian?
First, relax. It’s not about being “good enough.” Or believing a complicated list of doctrines. If you love Jesus and want to follow Him, if you’ve asked Him to forgive your sins and come into your heart, you can be confident that you’re a Christian.
But the Bible does tell us that Christians are different from other people. When you become a Christian, you begin a new life. It’s not something that happens overnight—it’s more like starting out on a journey. At first your surroundings may be familiar, but as you keep traveling, things begin to change. The Bible—especially the story of Jesus—paints us a picture of what this new life is like. If we wear Jesus’ label, we want to live as He lived. That’s why it’s important to read the Bible—we need to know what the original is like if we want to copy it!
Maybe we can go beyond asking, Am I a Christian? Perhaps we need to ask, How am I letting Jesus change me? Am I following Him?
All through this week’s lesson we’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Christian. It’s natural to want to apply that to other people—can we tell who’s a Christian? What about people in other churches? What about people who claim to be Christians but don’t act like it?
But it all comes down to one BIG question: what about ME? Think back over what you’ve learned this week about being a Christian. Look over the Bible verses in Wednesday’s lesson. Then circle the phrase that makes the statement below correct, and complete the next sentence with a few thoughts of your own.
I (am, am not) a Christian. I know this is true because
If you circled “I am a Christian,” take a moment to talk to God and thank Him for the gift that made it possible for you to be part of His family. Renew your commitment to Him today.
If you circled “I am not a Christian,” where do you want to go from here? Is there a “next step” you need to or want to take? Talk to the Lord about it, then find a trusted Christian friend or family member to talk to, as well.