I was reading yesterday in a new book called "Multiply," by Francis Chan. He posed an interesting thought that I had never thought about in quite this way.
When the disciples were picked Jesus said, "come, follow me." These men that He picked were the first "Christians." They weren't called Christians at first, but were identified with Christ as being his followers, which is what the idea of being a "Christian" really is.
What if, Jesus had only said, "Hey guys, I want to grow a new religion, would you mind just saying you identify with me?" You don't have to be like me or do anything other than just say, "I'm a Christ follower."
Unfortunately, in our society that is really what it has boiled down too. People don't really want to give up anything or make any changes in their life, they just want to be labeled as a "Christian," because historically it meant you were a good person. (I say historically, because in our ever changing culture, being a Christian, isn't always seen as a positive.)
While we don't have to do anything to receive salvation other than believe Christ, out of our love for Him and what He has done we are called to Repent and be different. We are to set apart for God's purposes. We are not supposed to go on living the same way we have always lived. However, we have boiled Christianity down to a "prayer" that we can claim made us different and never have to adjust our lives at all, according to many churches. We just have to identify with Christ....take His name...say that we are a follower....and we are good to go.
I say, being a follower of Christ means that we are in an ever changing state of our heart being changed. His disciples took years for their hearts to even begin to look like Christ's. Even at the end, Christ had to correct them and try to give them yet another glimpse of His heart. Out of the heart, comes action. If our heart is not changing and not desiring to be more like Christ's, our actions will reflect that and the opposite is also true.
I have a hard time calling myself a Christian when I don't necessarily want to identify with what it has become. I would much rather call myself a person who is striving to follow "The Way."