Language and terminology within Christianity is really interesting. Some call it “Christianese,” a language that only long-time church-goers could ever understand. People outside of Christianity or outside of our local churches would have a hard time following some of our “Christianese” conversations. Here’s a “funny” video that demonstrates the point.
As America becomes increasingly less Christ-honoring in its culture and becomes increasingly unaware and uneducated about the Gospel and the Bible, even the term “Christian” doesn’t really hold a whole lot of weight. It kind of becomes meaningless to say you are a “Christian” if people who never darken the door of a church or who don’t hold to the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ as the ONLY way, truth and life, the only Savior and Lord, also call themselves by the name “Christian.” You can see why terms like this would be confusing to those outside of Christianity and those new to churches and the faith. But sometimes these terms aren’t just confusing… they can be dangerous to our growth and understanding of our life in Christ Jesus. It could be time to change our language… to be clear with the truth of the Gospel and the truth of Scripture… not to mention the truth of who we are in Christ Jesus. Over the next couple of posts, I want to identify a couple of terms that we may want to consider changing… two terms that I will be changing in my own vocabulary.
Gallup and ABC News polls say that 77-83% of Americans self-identify as “Christians.” WHAT?!
A new Harris Poll finds that while a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Also, while majorities also believe in miracles (72%, down from 79% in 2005), heaven (68%, down from 75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (68%, down from 72%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%, down from 70%), the survival of the soul after death (64%, down from 69%), the devil, hell (both at 58%, down from 62%) and the Virgin birth (57%, down from 60%), these are all down from previous Harris Polls.
Belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution, however, while well below levels recorded for belief in God, miracles and heaven, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.
The survey also finds that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in reincarnation – that they were once another person. Read the article here.
So, identifying yourself as a “Christian” doesn’t seem to carry a whole lot of weight or meaning. It may be about time to change the language… to be more Biblical in the way we talk about our identity. What should this look like? Here’s one suggestion… we can start talking about ourselves a being “IN CHRIST.” Crucified with Christ, Raised with Christ, Baptized in Christ, Alive in Christ… the language goes on and on in the New Testament about our identity as those who have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. John Murray wrote that “union with Christ is . . . the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. . . . It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption” (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied [Eerdmans, 1955], pp. 201, 205).
The term “Christian” in our culture seems to have no real meaning, nor does it seem to carry with it the weight of any transformational thinking or action… no real life or belief change. So, basically, it’s as if we are accepting Sunny D as real fresh squeezed orange juice… less acidic, goes down more smoothly… but, they’re not the same thing. It could be even more dangerous than that… like accepting marijuana as “real” medicine, or pornography as real intimacy… not only is it confusing, but it will be destructive. If anybody and everybody can identify themselves as “Christians,” how will we ever know the real thing? Scripture gives us evidences to look for… here are two.
NEW CREATURES: There is a real change that happens in the life of someone who is “IN CHRIST.” Death to life, darkness to light, alien to adopted son/daughter. Transformation is at the heart of our identity “in Christ.” We need our language to start identifying us as redeemed, adopted, transformed… NEW.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
MEMBERS OF THE BODY: 30% of Americans say they never/ seldom attend church services.(See article) But many identify themselves as Christians. Still others attend churches regularly yet are not involved in sharing their faith, offering their times, talents and gifts to the church, or building relationships with one another. Paul and Jesus have a little to say about this. Love and service for one another ARE the marks of what it means to be “IN CHRIST.”
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Food for thought… how will you be identified? Increasingly, being identified as a “Christian” means nothing Biblical. Can we change the language we use to identify ourselves with our Savior by the true relationship we have with Him? Can we live as those who are “IN CHRIST?” Simply put… your life of obedience by faith and love for other believers will show that you are his disciples… that you are IN CHRIST.
Next week… “I GOT SAVED…”