THE CHURCH IN ANTIOCH
When Stephen was killed by the religious Jews when Saul was still a church persecutor, many believers were scattered from Jerusalem. Many ended up in Antioch, Cyprus, and the region of Phoenicia. Some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch, which is in the Northern part of modern-day Syria, and preached about the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number of people believed in the Lord. The Jerusalem church heard about the news and sent Barnabas to Antioch to check it out. When Barnabas saw the grace of God was upon the believers, he was glad and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. Then Barnabas left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found Saul, he took him back to Antioch. For the first time, the believers in Antioch were called Christians, which means Jesus Christ's followers. The church in Antioch was able to help the church in Jerusalem when a famine occurred in Judea. (Acts 11:19-30).
It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were called Christians. So when we call ourselves Christians, we are saying that we are followers of our Lord Jesus, and to be followers of our Lord Jesus means to remain true to our Lord Jesus with all our hearts. True Christianity is based on our relationship with our Lord Jesus through faith in Him. Christianity is not based on any denomination or church we belong to. It is all about following the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God, the Bible. Christianity is more than going to church on Sundays. It is about living a life that follows our Lord in every area of our life. Following our Lord Jesus requires our dedication and a decision that we need to make every day. We follow our Lord even when we are being persecuted. We follow our Lord even when we do not feel like it. It is about staying true to our Lord every day.
God always looks at our hearts and not what we do because our hearts reveal who we really are. God knows if we are following Him with all our hearts, and if we are following our Lord Jesus, then God considers us Christ's followers or Christians. It is what God thinks about who we are that matters because, in the end, He is the one who judges the motives of our hearts.
Ask yourself these questions for application: (Think through these questions carefully and meditate on them while answering them, and let the Spirit of God speaks to you). What does it mean to be a Christian? Am I following my Lord Jesus with all my heart? Is there anything in my heart stopping me from following Jesus with all of my heart?
Father in Heaven, thank you for teaching me about the meaning of Christianity. Would you please help me be a faithful follower of my Lord Jesus? You know the motive of my heart and know everything about me. Please continue to change my heart to become the Christian that you want me to be. In your name Jesus, I pray. Amen.