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A Case For Christianity

A Case For Christianity
By Kevin W. Presley

Published in
The Christian Informer
April  2006

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Perhaps no other word is as misapplied and abused as is the word Christianity.  The root word Christian first appears in the New Testament in Acts 11:26.  It only appears three times in the entirety of Scripture!  The application in each reference is concise and pointed; however, the term Christianity has since been generalized to describe almost anything that is religious.  It is often erroneously used as an adjective (Christian schools, Christian charities, etc.) but is actually a noun, delineating a certain classification of people.  Merriam-Webster's dictionary gives the following as a standard definition: "The religions derived from Jesus Christ."  But the term is much more specific and meaningful when used in its originally intended sense.  Christianity is the permeating lifestyle that results from one's relationship to Christ.
Those who embrace Christianity exemplify a definite relationship to the object of the religion Jesus Christ.  The first people to wear this name lived in the ancient city of Antioch and were citizens of a spiritual kingdom known as the church of Christ, which was established after the reported resurrection of their crucified Messiah.  Their induction into this organization came about through their believing the teachings of Christ to the point of heeding them in repentance and baptism.  The thesis of the Christian movement is the New Testament, which clearly states that those who are baptized upon their faith are added to the church.  This suggests that to be added to the church through baptism also includes being placed into a new relationship with Christ that was not enjoyed before that point.  Furthermore, church, a connected term, means "the called out."  According to the Bible text, those who are in the church have been called out of the world into a new relationship with Christ.  Simply attending church services or ritualistically engaging in the acts associated with Christianity does not give us the right to wear this name.  Only those who sustain a spiritual relationship to Christ can claim the identity of a Christian.
Another marked feature of the system of Christianity and its adherents is its strict discipline of commitment.  Faithful observance of the religion calls upon one to be wholly committed.  In his epistle, the apostle Paul said, "If any suffer as a Christian..." (1 Peter 4:16).  Additional references are made in the New testament to the certainty of adversity and trial coming upon true followers of the movement.  The familiar saying concerning a ham and egg breakfast comes to one's mind: the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.  When John documented the apocalyptic vision he received on the Isle of Patmos, he prefaced the warning of coming persecution by saying that the only way Christians would receive the object and reward of their faith was to be faithful even to the point of martyrdom (Revelation 2:10).  First-century Christians were known for their unwavering dedication to their cause.  Countless members of the early church spilled their blood in allegiance to the faith they had embraced.  This is quite a contrast to the modern masses that claim to wear the same name but casually attend worship on "Easter Sunday" and think little about spiritual things at other times.  Christianity is not a little niche in one's life that needs to be filled on Sunday but rather the pervading thought and influence of life.
With all of that said, the greatest defining synonym for Christianity is discipleship.  The primary reference in the Scriptures to the name Christian defines it as being a disciple.  Disciple means a student and follower of another person and their ideology.  A great distinction is to be made between learning about an individual and actually learning from and following him.  For example, a man may be intrigued by a study of the life of Adolph Hitler.  He may choose to learn about his past and what formed his psychological framework, leading to the atrocious acts he committed.  However, this certainly does not make him a disciple of Hitler.  To be a disciple, one must adhere to another's doctrine or teaching.  This divides the sheep from the goats in Christianity.  Someone may quote impressive amounts of Scripture.  He may be able to articulate and well-defend the various doctrines that surround Christianity, but he is not a Christian until he employs those Scriptures and teachings to his daily life.  Christ himself said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).
With a multitude of theologies present in the world today, the lines that set apart Christianity from other religions are becoming blurred.  Christianity differs from all other systems of belief in that it is grounded wholly in the New Testament.  Christ, its founder, invites every man to come unto him and resign his heart and will to his reign and rule.  In so doing, he is privileged to wear this notable name.  One must understand that though the world speaks of Christianity in an abstract fashion, it is actually a type of lifestyle that is defined by some very specific demands and expectations.  So much so that Christ said that many who think they can lay claim to the name Christian in reality cannot: "Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" Matthew 7:21).