Have you ever thought about what the word “Christian” means? It comes from a Latin word. It means “partisan for Christ.” When you come to Christ, you take sides. You take sides with Christ.
Partisans are never neutral. They never play it safe. They never sit on the fence. They’re never spectators of the struggle of their times. They commit themselves.
What is a Christian? I believe a Christian is three things: A Christian is a person who has made a choice, a person who has accepted a challenge, a person who has been changed through the new birth.
Originally, the word Christian was used in derision. It was a term of reproach. Many people today have a wrong idea of what a Christian is. They think a Christian is someone who prays, or lives by the Golden Rule, or is sincere, or goes to church, or keeps the Ten Commandments. But even if you did all that, you still wouldn’t be a Christian. It’s more than that.
You make a choice. You come to the cross of Christ, and you choose Him. And you say, “Lord, I’m a sinner. Please forgive me. I’m sorry for my sins, and I come to the cross where You shed Your blood for me, and I receive You.”
Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, and that’s why we have so much trouble in the world today, because they handed down the disease of sin from generation to generation. And that’s what’s wrong with our world today.
You pick up a newspaper or watch the television news, and you see all that’s going on in the world. It’s a result of sin. Until we tackle the basic problem of sin, those other problems will continue.
What choices are you making now that will shape your character and determine your destiny? I’m asking you to choose Jesus, to come to Him and make your commitment to Him and say, “Jesus, I want to follow you.”
Moses, the great Hebrew leader, said, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Joshua, the great military leader of Israel who helped the people take over the country that God had promised to give them, said to all the people, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
He said this day. Now. Don’t wait. Choose now.
Elijah, in 1 Kings the 18th chapter, came to all the people and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him” (verse 21). If Jesus is who He claims to be, follow Him. Give your life to Him.
Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He claimed to be the embodiment of all truth. He was either a liar, or He had a tremendous ego, or He was who He claimed to be.
As a teenager in Charlotte, N.C., I made the decision by faith—I couldn’t prove it—by faith I said, “I receive what Jesus said as the truth.” And it gave me life, and it changed my life, and it’s still changing it this very day.
Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). He said there are two ways of life. There’s the broad road. Most people are on that road. That’s where the glamour is, that’s where the drugs are, that’s where the sex is. You can go that road if you want to, or you can go the road that follows Jesus, which is narrow and tough.
It’s not easy to follow Him. He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). We don’t like that. When He said, “Take up a cross,” that would be like saying today, “Take up your electric chair and come after me,” because a cross was a place where criminals were executed. He said you have to pay a price if you come.
Somebody asked me, “What is the greatest surprise of your life?” I said, “The greatest surprise of my whole life is the brevity of life—how short it is.” It seems just yesterday that I was in high school. And I’m glad that one night in Charlotte a preacher preached the Gospel and told me that I needed to repent of my sins and receive Christ. And I did, and He changed my life. And now I know if I die, I’m going to Heaven. I know that.
A Christian also is a person who makes a change in the way he lives. If you come to Christ, you’ll have to change some things. Are you ready to pay that price? It’ll cost you. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Scripture says that you have to change your mind. You have to change your will so that you say, “I will follow Christ. I will believe in Christ.” It affects your total person.
Freud, the great psychiatrist in Europe, said that people change by renewing their fixations; Adler said that people change by renewing their goals. But that’s not it. People change when they come to Christ, because Christ changes them and makes them a new creation, a new creature. Changing from a defeated, problem-oriented person will depend upon first changing your mind and your heart by receiving Christ.
And then, third, a Christian is a person who has accepted a challenge. Will you accept the challenge of Jesus? He challenged the people of His day to come and follow Him. Some fishermen out fishing left their nets, left their fishing, left their businesses and followed Jesus. Jesus would walk down the streets of His day and say, “Follow me,” and they would follow Him. Many of them quit following Him, however, when they learned that He was going to die. You can’t be neutral.
Many people during the Civil War in America tried to be neutral. I read about one man who put on a blue coat and gray trousers because he was not going to take sides. They shot at him from both sides.
You have to make a choice. You have to accept the challenge. And it will cost you. I remember when I received Christ. I went to school the next day and things were different, but I couldn’t tell you what was different. I couldn’t tell you what had happened to me. I knew something had changed, but I didn’t know what. At school, one of the teachers made a remark. She said, “I hear we have a preacher in our midst today.” And several people looked around at me, including a girl I liked a lot. And I knew that I was paying my first price.
You may not be the most popular guy when you take your stand for Christ. You hear some of these great football players and some of these great athletes and some of these great stars talk about knowing Christ. They pay a price that you don’t even hear about, but they’re willing to follow Him and live for Him. Some things will drop off, but other things will come that will last for eternity.
I’m going to ask you to make a decision. I’m going to ask you to say yes to Christ. Say right now, “I’m willing to change my whole life if that’s what it takes. I am willing to follow Christ. I am willing to be His follower.” Come to the cross and say, “Lord, I’m a sinner. I’m sorry for my sins. I believe that You have been raised from the dead and that You are alive, and I give my life to You now.’”