Christian – Social identity or Spiritual reality?

Acts 11:26b “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”

I identify myself as a Christian, but have noticed that over the past years have always leaned towards further clarifying that I am a “follower of Jesus”.  As I reflected on my insistence on elaborating what kind of Christian I am, I realised that it does stem from experiences and interaction with people both within and without my family circle who identify themselves as  Christian but are far from reflecting any Christ like behaviour in their everyday life. And I found that when I gave my life to Jesus and comprehended what it means to live for Him in response to His grace and love, I did find myself always eager to ensure that I clarify there is a difference in calling oneself a Christian and living one’s life as a Christian in a biblical sense.

In Acts 11:26 we see that the term ‘Christians’ coined and used for the first time in Antioch. If we think about it, people were then known as Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans among other things that gave them some identity. Antioch, was a very diverse population, and the message of Christ’s salvation drew people to faith from all backgrounds, breaking down barriers and uniting them as one in Christ. The name ‘Christians’ was given by the society in Antioch and not by the believers then.

But why the name?  

The people in Antioch needed to identify these group of people as something and what was common for them was that they all belonged to Jesus and followed His teaching. In my eyes, what a wonderful way to be identified. But if we just take a deeper look, it implies that their ways were changed enough to warrant a new name.

Their love for God was the essence of their faith and was not in word alone but was evidenced in their actions, behaviour and their way of life to warrant a new identity.

It is one thing to be a Christian in a spiritual and biblical sense and another for your Christian identity to be only true in your life culturally and socially. Ticking the box on an application against Christian or attending church on Sunday and living the rest of the week disconnected from God or His word does not make one a Christian.

Christian – an apt name for belonging to Christ, but what does it mean to belong to Christ?

It is to be a disciple of Christ.

What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?

Lets just look at some verses that speaks in what being a disciple means.

John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 8:31 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

John 15:8 “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

Luke 14:26-27 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:33 “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Mathew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Being a disciple of Jesus is not a set of rules to follow or attributes to acquire. It is more than just accepting certain truths about Jesus or being righteous in one aspect or area of your life.

Living as a disciple of Christ is a state of being.

The very essence of Christ should be woven into the fabric of our existence that functioning separate from Him should be unfathomable. It does not mean that we are perfect all the time, but it does mean that we are constantly aware of the spirit within us, of God with us, of His voice, of what is right in His eyes, His prompting, His warnings, His disciplining, His teaching and His refining to be more like Him and to follow Him in every sense.

A disciple is one who

  • Keeps God above all else.
  • Points to Jesus.
  • Is a worshipper of Him, in word and deed
  • Gives God all the glory
  • Serves to reflect Him and further the kingdom purposes.
  • Abides in the word
  • Loves others as Christ wants us to and
  • Follows His example.

Faith is the root of a Christian life and the fruit of the spirit is the evidence of that faith. People around us see the fruit and then question our underlying faith. There is nothing like living as an occasional or part-time disciple. We are either a disciple of Jesus or not. May we reflect on that and strive to be true disciples of Jesus.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on where we are at when it comes to following Jesus?  A Christian in name alone, or a Christian who is a true disciple of Jesus embodying the real meaning of what it means to be a Christian – to live a life for Christ. 

God Bless.

77 thoughts on “Christian – Social identity or Spiritual reality?

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  1. You make some fine points here. One is either a disciple of Christ or she/he is not. I wonder how much of what passes as Christianity today is actually true to the Gospel of Christ. Many of the religious leaders when Jesus was on earth were far off track. Personally following Jesus daily is the key. Thank you. This is a good word, my Aussie friend in Christ!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I just wrote a post on this same subject from a different angle and referred back to this one. It is scheduled for next Tuesday, June 16 at 6 am (U.S. Central). Please check it out, if you like. Your thoughts inspired me!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was so pleasantly surprised as I read your post, because you said exactly what I have also been thinking lately – that I clarify that I am a ‘follower of Jesus’

    Thanks for posting. 🌷😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha 😁 great minds think alike 😜.
      It is sad to think that we feel the need to do that as the word Christian now does not necessarily point to a person who is following Christ like how we ideally should.
      Thank you Sally 😊💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an amazing and truthful lesson Manu. These truths need to be taught across the world. I love how you stated that, “The very essence of Christ should be woven into the fabric of our existence…”. So many call themselves Christian, but you never see the resemblance of Jesus in them. I don’t want to be guilty of that. Thank you for laying out these pointers on being a disciple of Christ.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I chime in here and say “ditto”, this was certainly what caught my eyes too, big sister. “…functioning separate from Him should be unfathomable.” I never want to do anything or go anywhere without my Jesus. When I breathe – He should be there. Every time I stand up or sit down, He should be there. Thank you, Manu, for encouraging us to be examples and disciples of our Master.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent points made here! “Christian” must be more than a label. It’s the state of our hearts.Thank you for your wise words here, Manu. Blessings!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I don’t know why, but I got tears reading this. I pray that we can all be followers of Jesus. I like the way you put that. I don’t ever want to have a quiet faith. I want my faith to be loud so others can hear it and come to experience this awesome relationship with Jesus. Thanks for this beautiful post. 💜

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I so agree with you Bridget, I want a faith that is not lukewarm, but on fire for God. A relationship that is active for Him and also active in communication with Him.
      Thank you Bridget 🤗💙

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful post, Manu. So many great points to ponder. If we call ourselves Christians we must be followers of Christ, but it really is a wonderful path to follow. Not always easy, but we have His help in every trouble.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Just letting you know I have been enjoying reading not just this post but previous posts as well. I get them in my email, and they are meaty and about the right length.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good and thoughtful post. Our action, behavior, and heart must be transformed, and our heart and mind open to the Spirits guidance. We need to exhibit and shine the love of Jesus, into dark areas. 🌻🌞

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are absolutely right. It is too broad and often gets generalised to either one of two extremes, those who are terrible complacent with their identity as a Christian or those who are a little bit on the fanatic religious end.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The lifestyle of the early believer was so clear and unmistakable that the name Christian,
    “little Christs” was assigned to them because they put into practice what they had learned from Jesus. They completely achieved the mission that was given to them and to us: to represent Christ and make Him known! Unfortunately, many claim the name Christian who are not living up to their Christ-given mission and have misrepresented His name, thereby giving the wrong idea and definition to the name Christian. This makes me sad.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To represent Christ and to make Him known – yes, that is the mission given to us and it does make me sad too that there are people out there who totally misrepresent what Christ and being a Christian is all about.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Deb 😊💙.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Labels and clarifications are always important, especially as it pertains to your identity. Christian is often used in an intellectual sense, a belief that there is a God. Being a follower of Jesus involves so much more than belief! Great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I had an Aah! Moment somewhere when you said, The name Christian wasn’t given by the Christians themselves but by the people in Antioch. Wow!

    Meaning, their image&actions had changed so much so that they needed a new name or a new identity, They were nolonger like them.

    This is extremely powerful!

    I promise to trust God with certain details of my lifestyle that still stains my Christianity.

    Blessed be the name of the Lord!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Am so glad that you enjoyed this and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that we must reflect on what we reflect to others and what they see in us. Do they see faith, love, kindness etc. Like you I am definitely reflecting and working on changing details in my life too.
      Blessings to you dear friend in Christ😊💙.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is an amazing post. I really like the part that went, “Living as a disciple of Christ is a state of being.”
    Being is a present continuous verb, it goes on and on. It’s a state that does not end. That means being a follower of Jesus should not be restricted to religion or certain areas of our lives, it should be a lifestyle. Jesus should be our lifestyle! Thank you for sharing this amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I just loved your post! It is definitely good to know the difference between calling yourself a Christian and being a Christian. The word Christian means Christ-like

    It is written

    But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth].For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror;for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what he looked like. – James 1:22-24

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! You can find my blog at Stop on by if you get a chance. Don’t worry it’s not what you think Christ is the heart of my website.

        Lecrae Don’t Waste Your Life

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you .You have written TRUTH here sister. Christ died for us all. He came to save and bring HIMSELF. He did not come to bring ‘another’ religion and certainly did not come to bring denominations. He came to show us the way. Following him makes us in essence PEOPLE OF THE WAY. ie we follow Him. into eternity via the trials etc of Gesthemene. On to resurrection. Blessings and Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. He came to save and give Himself. May we look at others with that same lens that God looks through so we can have and reflect His love to all.
      Blessings to you too sister 😊.


  15. I agree with what you wrote. I am trying to transition from calling myself a Christian to calling myself a follower of Christ. Thank you for writing this and I hope you have an amazing day😁 God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Well said! Thank you for sharing some of the scriptures as well. I wrote a similar piece last week talking about some of these issues with the words we use to describe ourselves. One phrase that describes the people who call themeslves Christian but dont resemble Christ is a “Cultural Christian”. It’s what they were raised in, but it really doesn’t change how they live. This is a battle all of us must face, as we confront spiritual complacency today.

    Link to my article:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are absolutely right, there is no sitting on the fence, we are either His or not. We cannot keep one leg in his boat and one in that of the world and try to balance. We would only collapse. Both our feet have to be firmly planted in the Lord.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words Jamie. I do agree that we must stick together to spread His word. I wish you well on this journey into the blogging world and may the Lord use what you share to reach people.
      Manu 💙

      Liked by 1 person

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