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What makes someone a self-proclaimed Christian?

What do I mean by self-proclaimed Christian? And what makes someone a self-proclaimed Christian? Self-proclaimed Christian is something I started using a while back. It’s my attempt to try to differentiate someone who calls themselves a Christian, and yet, by visible appearances, doesn’t seem to be Christian.

What makes someone a self-proclaimed Christian?

Someone who seems to speak, act, and live not as a Christian, but like someone who doesn’t have things in their lives that show evidence of someone who’s a follower of Jesus.

The concept doesn’t seem to be talked about very much, if at all. And yet, it’s important.

Not everyone who claims to be Christian is actually a follower of Jesus. For that matter, not everyone who claims to follow Jesus doesn’t actually follow Him either.

And while we may not speak of it these days, Jesus certainly did during His short time on this earth. Therefore, it was important to Him. As such, it should also be important to us.

When did Jesus mention self-proclaimed Christians?

Obviously, the word Christian was never literally used in the Bible. But, the idea of being a follower of Jesus is clearly there. And that’s what a Christian truly should be. Someone who follows Jesus. At least as closely as we can in this fallen world.

Probably the best example from the Gospels of what I mean came from the sheep and the goats.

The Sheep and the Goats

The sheep are the ones who truly follow Jesus. The goats are the ones who say they follow Jesus, but they really don’t. And of course, we all probably think we’re sheep. But let’s take a look and see what Jesus said.

Mt 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Most people who say they’re Christian think they’re going to the right. But are we really all going to the right? Are we really all sheep? It appears not, since there’s going to be a separation process. But let’s keep going.

Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

First off, do we all realize that the King is Jesus? It’s not any earthly leader. It’s not some past human who some church on earth declared to be a Saint. And it’s most certainly not any earthly leader/political figure.

Here, we see the criteria. Providing aid to Jesus. At least, that’s what it says in English. But is that actually what Jesus said in the original text? You know, in the Greek language text written by Matthew?

AS it turns out, the answer is no. Jesus wasn’t literally talking about Himself. In fact, the English word “I” has no equivalent entry in the Greek text. What does exist in the Greek text is the word “me”. And in English, the translators put in the assumed/implied word “I” to line up with “me”. And that gave us good grammar.

However, it did not give us the true picture of what Jesus said. Why not? Because, simply, the Greek word we read as “me” doesn’t mean only “me”. It is more broad in its usage.

3427 ἐγώ [moi /moy/] pron. The simpler form of 1698; GK 1609; 240 occurrences; AV translates as “me” 218 times, “my” 11 times, “I” 10 times, and “mine” once. 1 I, me, my.  [1]Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

As you see, the Greek word can also mean “mine” as well as just “me”. In a moment, we’ll see why the better translation is “me and mine”. I know, it’d be nice if the translations were more complete. However, if they were, the Bible would be so large and so hard to read that it’s probably not a good idea to do it. And that’s why we need to learn more about it instead of just reading it. Like you’re doing right now.

Mt 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The righteous ones, the ones on Jesus’ right, the sheep, will ask when did they ever even see Jesus, let alone do any of these things for Him? They took the limited interpretation of “me”, leading to “I”, and knew they had never provided any of these things for Jesus.

But Jesus is about to tell them that the broader interpretation is the correct one. That “me and mine” is what He really meant.

Mt 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

And there we have it, for the sheep.

And now for the goats.

Mt 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

The goats here similar words, but with the opposite result. And somehow, even though Jesus already explained what He meant about “me and mine”, the goats didn’t get it. Because they proceeded to question their fate.

Mt 25:44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

We’re going to see in a moment, this lack of understanding and/or applying the words they heard for the sheep to themselves may very well be a sign of their problem.

Mt 25:45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Yes, Jesus said it again. “Me and mine” was the correct meaning behind what He said to the sheep.

I can’t help but wonder, did the goats even understand here? or did they just move on to their fate without truly understanding why?

In any case, both the sheep and the goats moved on.

Mt 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

An interpretation of the sheep and the goats.
The true Christian and the self-proclaimed Christian.

Earlier, I said we’d get to something to make this more clear. Here it is.

25:31–46 This teaching of Jesus on the sheep and the goats appears only in Mt. He was not teaching salvation by works in these verses. The compassion shown by the sheep shows their salvation (7:15–27). That both the sheep and the goats are surprised at their “qualifications” indicates that neither was working for salvation. Those who were punished for their failure to minister to others were so blinded by their preoccupation with themselves that they showed no compassion. The parable shows that mere profession of one’s belief that does not lead to love and concern for people is useless.  [2]Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (pp. 1449–1450). Holman … Continue reading

There are two key points in there for the sheep and the goats. The first relates to:

Those who were punished for their failure to minister to others were so blinded by their preoccupation with themselves that they showed no compassion.

Christianity isn’t about what we want. Or about ourselves. At its core, Christianity is about others. Especially, love for others. And even there, not love the way we think of it, but love as in the love God has for us.

The intense self-interest could be why the goats didn’t get the message Jesus gave to the sheep. They may not even have been listening, since it wasn’t addressed to them. And if they were listening, they may not have understood for the same reason. Too interested in themselves.

And the other point relates to:

The parable shows that mere profession of one’s belief that does not lead to love and concern for people is useless.

This is a problem for pretty much everyone. I can’t imagine how many people who, on some level, want to and think they are following Jesus, because of what they believe. The English translations of our Bible certainly can leave us with the feeling that belief is all that matters. But it’s not really the message in the New Testament.

In the early church, there was a concern about what we call “works” being all that’s needed for salvation. Do the right things, and you’re saved. So there was a lot of pushback on that. Faith was required.

The problem today seems to have flipped. Now, we need to point out that faith isn’t the only thing. It’s a combination of faith and “works”. Faith and doing things. However! However, those two things, faith and doing things, must be in the right order and for the right reasons!

Faith must come first. And then because our faith is so strong, we will do things simply because of that faith. And the Holy Spirit is intertwined in all of this.

So, we cannot be saved just by saying some magic words and proclaiming “faith”. God will not be fooled or mocked.

In the same light, faith, but nothing done because of that faith, isn’t really faith. Salvation is not forthcoming. And those are the messages we get from the sheep and the goats.

There are other passages in the Bible, things said by Jesus as well as written by the authors of the other New Testament books. I encourage you to check them out. Or go on over to God versus religion, my other site, to check out what’s over there. Its content is more about that kind of thing than what’s here in Which God saves.

Why does it matter if someone’s a self-proclaimed Christian, as opposed to a true follower of Jesus?

It matters, because people who don’t know anything about Christianity will get the wrong impression of what we’re really supposed to be like. For instance, Jesus told us:

Salt and Light

Mt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

But here’s the problem. Let’s say there are two people or two groups. Both claim to be Christian. One really tries to follow Jesus. But the other is all about promoting their own interests. But they both have these lights up, claiming to be Christian. In fact, more likely, the one who’s motivated by self-interest is likely to have the word “Christian” in really bright lights. While the one following Jesus is likely to be more humble and show Jesus’ love through their quiet and kind existence.

This matters for at least two reasons.

First, any non-Christian is more likely to come across the shiny bright lights first, and get the wrong impression of Christianity. Then, they’ll either accept or reject what they think is Christianity, but truly isn’t. Either way, they’ve moved into the group of goats. Some because they joined the selfish group. Others, because they rejected Christianity and looked no further because they didn’t like what they saw.

And second, Some people who started out as true followers of Jesus will be swayed by the selfish group and join them. They’ll leave their current church with their old beliefs, and go to a new church with the new selfish beliefs. These people have just moved from the sheep to the goats.

Either way, if they don’t get things straightened out as to what Christianity really is, and get their lives in order, their eternal lives are lost. That’s one way to look at the words from Jesus in the parable below.

The Parable of the Sower – Matthew

13:1-15 pp — Mk 4:1-12; Lk 8:4-10
13:16, 17 pp — Lk 10:23, 24
13:18-23 pp — Mk 4:13-20; Lk 8:11-15

Mt 13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

Mt 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

Mt 13:11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Mt 13:14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

Mt 13:15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Mt 13:18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Conclusion – What makes someone a self-proclaimed Christian?

There’s another parable that also covers things like what we just covered. It’s the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The entire parable is below. If you want to know more about it, I have a series of articles on the other site that go into it in more detail. It’s right after the parable, below.

The Wise and Foolish Builders – Matthew

7:24-27 pp — Lk 6:47-49

Mt 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Mt 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Yes, it’s very short. However, the meaning behind it is far deeper than what it probably seems to be. As I mentioned, there are some articles over on my other site which cover this. They’re part of a series on the Parables of Jesus. At the time of this writing, it’s still a work in process. But I recommend you check them out if you have even the tiniest interest in what you just read here.

  • Jesus told parables. Was He hiding something? This gets into exactly what a parable is and how to read them. It includes the importance of knowing the language, cultural, and religious differences between Jesus’ time and now.
  • Who is the wise one in Jesus’ parable about building? Before getting into the actual parable, we examine what was it makes someone the “wise builder” in the eyes of God.
  • The third one will cover the parable. I’m still writing it now. You can receive emails of new articles by subscribing to God versus religion over on that site. You’re welcome to subscribe here too, of course, but since it’s written over there, updates will come from there.

So what’s the bottom line?

If you’re truly following Jesus now, stay with Him.

If you think you’re Christian, but your church/friends/whatever don’t feel like they follow God’s word in the Bible, check it out. Maybe it’s time to make a change?

If you’re not Christian, especially if you’re turned off by what some have told you Christianity is about, or you’ve experienced a brand of self-proclaimed Christianity, again – check it out. Maybe it’s time to find a place where God truly reigns and His sheep there know and follow His word.


Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay


References

References
1 Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
2 Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (pp. 1449–1450). Holman Bible Publishers.

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