April 16, 2008

How Do I Know If I Am A Christian?

Posted in Assurance at 11:36 pm by Dan Lowe

How Do I Know if I am a Christian?                                            

           

One of the most frightening passages in the New Testament is found on the lips of Jesus in Matthew 7

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) – 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

            Although the people in this passage have prophesied, cast out demons and done mighty works, Jesus says he never knew them.  What makes this passage so disturbing is the surprise of those who are cast away.  They believe they have earned the right to enter into heaven and they are shocked when they find out they are excluded from God’s eternal blessings?

            Have you ever questioned whether or not you are a Christian?  Can you know for sure whether or not you are a Christian?

            The purpose of John’s first epistle seems to be dedicated to giving Christians assurance of their salvation.

1 John 5:13 (ESV) – 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

            John provides this assurance for the Christian through giving us a series of tests by which we can examine ourselves to determine whether or not we are in the faith.

            We have been looking at these tests of salvation on Wednesday nights at Maranatha Baptist Church. Following is a brief summary of the first three tests which we have discussed:

1)      Christians have fellowship with God (I John 1:1-4.)

John begins by affirming that he is an eyewitness of Jesus Christ. He can affirm the facts of the gospel and the purpose behind sharing this message is so that others “may have fellowship with us (meaning John speaking as an apostolic “we”) and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I Jn 1:3.) 

All those who have received Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior enjoy fellowship with the Triune God (the Holy Spirit is included in our fellowship by John in I Jn 4:13.)

This is a very subjective test, but a real test nonetheless. 

Do you enjoy fellowship with God?  Do you know Him?  Do you delight in your relationship with Him?

Sometimes this sense of fellowship is stronger than others.  Most Christians experience those “dark nights of the soul” when it seems as if God is far away.  That is why it is good that John provides us with other tests which are more objective.

2)    Christians seek to avoid sin and obey God’s commands (I Jn 1:5-2:6, 3:4-10, 5:3, 5:18.)

John proclaims that God is light (I Jn 1:5), implying that He is holy… and not just a little bit holy for in Him there “is no darkness at all.”  God is holy, holy, holy (Is 6:3.)  He is absolutely separated from sin.  If we say we are a Christian, but we habitually walk in darkness (i.e. live lives of habitual sin), then we cannot have fellowship with God (I Jn 1:6.)  For this reason, a Christian will strive to avoid sin so that fellowship with God will not be interrupted.

John makes an even stronger statement regarding the Christian’s response to sin in the third chapter:

1 John 3:4-10 (ESV) – 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

            John repeatedly says that those who live lives of habitual sin are not Christians (i.e. they don’t abide in Christ, they have not seen Christ or known Him, they are of the devil.)

            This causes us no small amount of difficulty in interpretation, because we know that no one is without sin.  John himself asserts that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I Jn 1:8.)  There is none righteous, no not one (Rom 3:10.) 

John is not talking about sinless perfection here, but about the general tenor of a person’s life.  A Christian will not live a life of continual, habitual sin.

            But John’s statement is probably even more nuanced than this.  He is speaking about a specific type of sin, which he calls “lawlessness” (I Jn 3:4.)  The term translated “lawlessness” is ἀνομία  (pronounced anomia) which literally translated means “no law” or “without law” (α  + νόμος).  According to the MacArthur Study Bible this “term “lawlessness” conveys more than transgressing God’s law. It conveys the ultimate sense of rebellion, i.e., living as if there was no law or ignoring what laws exist” (MacArthur Study Bible, note on I Jn 3:4.)  John is referring to a person who habitually, willfully defies God’s Law.  He knows that what he is doing is displeasing to God, but he engages in the behavior anyway.

            A Christian will not habitually and willfully defy God, because he has been “born of God” (I Jn 3:9), meaning that he has experienced God’s sovereign work of regeneration and is now a new creation in Christ Jesus (II Cor 5:17, Ezekiel 36:25-27.)  The Christian is also protected by “the One born of God” (i.e. Jesus – I Jn 5:18), therefore he will not engage in persistent and intentional defiance of God.

            John says “by this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil” (I Jn 3:10.)  Through this test, it is obvious who is and who is not a Christian.  (Note:  It may not always be obvious to others, after all, we can all be quite hypocritical.  But it is obvious within ourselves.)

            Rather than live a life of habitual sin, the Christian will obey God’s commands.  “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (I Jn 2:3.)

            Again, John is not referring to sinless perfection.  No one keeps God’s commandments perfectly.  But a Christian’s life will be characterized by obedience to God’s commandments.

            But what about when we miss the mark?

            Then a Christian will respond by returning to the cross in repentance and faith.  The Christian will come to our Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our sin (I Jn 2:1-2.) The Christian will confess their sins, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness (I Jn 1:9.)

How do you respond to sin?  Do you hate your sin?  Do you seek to avoid sin?

Do you willfully defy God?

Do you strive to obey God’s commandments?

What is your response to your sin?  Do you live a life of continual repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?

3)      Christians love their fellow Christians (I Jn 2:7-11, 3:11-20, 4:7-11, 4:20-21.)

John repeatedly affirms that a Christian will love their fellow Christians, but perhaps his strongest statement is found in I Jn 3:14

1 John 3:14 (ESV) – 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

John states that we “know” that we are Christians (i.e. “passed out of death into life”) because we love the brothers.

This is the result of our experience of the love of God in Christ Jesus in the gospel…

1 John 3:16 (ESV) – 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1 John 4:9-11 (ESV) – 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Naturally, we are “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3), prone to harboring anger, bitterness and hatred toward others (Rom 3:10-18), particularly those who are in Christ (I Jn 3:12-13, Jn 15:18-20.)

But the Christian has been born again and has experienced the love of God experientially and this produces a change which results in us showing love to others.

The love which John says we are to have for other Christians is more than just a “warm fuzzy feeling.”  We are to love with an active, caring love.

1 John 3:17-19 (ESV) – 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;

Christians are to give of themselves in order to care for their brethren.  “By this we shall know that we are of the truth…”  This is a powerful test for whether or not we are a Christian.

1 John 4:20-21 (ESV) – 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do you give of yourself to provide for the needs of others?

Do you harbor anger and bitterness against others?

How do you respond when you become aware of anger and bitterness in your heart toward others?  Do you continue to foster it in your heart?  Or do you repent of this sin, confess it before God, and seek to be obedient to God’s commands?

            We will be looking at additional tests of whether or not we are a Christian in the days ahead…

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4 Comments »

  1. chutedent said,

    What you wrote conerning how to know if someone is a christian relates mostly to the outward part of a person christianity(spirituality). the Bible clearly says in Romans 8:9 …if anyone doesn’t have the spirit of Christ he is none of His. so it is pretty simple if you have the Holy spirit you are a christian and if you don’t have the Holy spirit you are not a christian. and this why some part of the bible is not preached among believers ; it is a shame for a woman to speak in church, wife submit to your husband, woman dress code and head covering. the leaders of the ” church” don’t have the Holy spirit and the followers don’t have the Holy spirit neither. conclusion they are not christians. this is one of the reasons that they called the building were they assembled;church , so they don’t have to be a church but be in church.

  2. mbcpastoringlobe said,

    Thank you for your comment!
    I would agree with your statement that the presence of the Holy Spirit with us is evidence of our salvation. However, John is giving us additional evidences in his first epistle. The purpose of my post was to expound those evidences from I John, not from Romans.
    However, Paul’s conclusion in Romans 8 is not all that different from John’s.
    Rom 8:9 is clear that if we do not have the Holy Spirit, then we are not a Christian. But if you read the context, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within us will produce a change in us. In verse 4, the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us as we walk according to the Spirit. In verse 5, those who live according to the Spirit think differently than unbelievers (i.e. they set their mind on the things of the Spirit.) Verse 8 states explicitly that those who are in the flesh “cannot please God.”
    Notice verse 11…
    Rom 8:11 (ESV) – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
    The sense of this verse is that, under the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the entire man is made alive in the service of God.
    Paul seems to be saying that the presence of the Holy Spirit within the Chrisitan will produce a change of life.
    John is making much the same point in I John. Regeneration (i.e. being “born again” – Jn 3:1-8) is the work of the Holy Spirit. He abides within us… sealing us for eternity (Eph 1:13-14.) And His presence within us will produce changes in behavior (“fruit”) which is external, objective evidence that we are indeed a Christian.
    Sadly there are many “churches” today which are filled with “tares” (Matt 13:24-30.) That is why we must continually proclaim the gospel and call men and women to examine themselves to see whether or not they are in the faith (II Cor 13:5, II Pet 1:5-10.)

  3. God still even speaks directly to his own, Jesus said my sheep hear my voice, Are you able to hear and recognized personally God’s voice now too?

  4. The definition of a real Christian varies depending on who you talk to, and what type of church they attend as well..

    Fundamentalist Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and other Protestants tend now to define “Christians” very more narrowly to include only those persons who have been “born again” regardless of their present denomination. About 35% of the North American adult population identify themselves in this valid way. By some definitions, 75% of Americans are nominal Christians; but now by other more valid definitions it is only about 30 percent are the real Christians. As simple as that too.

    Now no one can make himself to be a real Christian. No, not by quantities of their good works or trying to live a moral life of the highest quality, not by their church attendance, water baptisms, good citizenship, higher education, charitable giving, burning candles, reciting prayers, amount of prayers, or even their studying the Bible, their Knowledge of the bible now too, or thousands and one things of similar nature. Do you understand also this? One also one become a Christian by having a negative attitude toward life, other religions, being own abstainer, refraining from drinking, smoking, swearing, adultery, idolatry, or kindred sins. Amy sinner who stops sinning on his own is a sinner still. What he or she still needs is to become inside a new person, with a changed, cleansed heart, and a godly nature but the Holy Sprit of Jesus Christ alone does this if you meet his perquisites, requirements, conditions.

    “Seventy five years ago, if a church going Baptist knew somebody else was a Catholic, or something else, he would have doubts over whether that person was a serious Christian,” “Today, if the churchgoing Baptist knew a supporter of abortion rights, was an adulterer, alcoholic, gay, drug user, wife beater, abuser, today you would not bother even to ask if the person was Catholic or Protestant Christian , for the others would next say, ‘Well, I have serious doubts he is any kind of a Christian in reality.’ ” Even a serious Mormon and professed social conservative such as Romney is rightfully now classified as a non Christian.

    Catholics and most Lutherans and Episcopalians and some others today who still seem to like to play the big numbers games over quality now would falsely say that anyone who has been baptized is a Christian, but most real Christians now also would not agree. They see baptism as an initiation ceremony that may or may not indicate the presence of a true Christian faith. One next has to still practice the whole Christian faith as set forth in the Bible , in the new testament specially. But to do that you would have to read it. since statistics shows that 95 percent of professing Christians actually read their Bible more than 5 minutes a day, that would likely now not to there being very few real Christians to even start of with.

    “So really What is a Christian, anyway? Someone of American or European descent? A persecutor of Jews? A person who is anti Muslim, anti Hindu? Someone who votes for only the most conservative party? Many liberal Christian denominations, secularists, public opinion pollsters, non Christians even define “Christian” very broadly as any person or group who sincerely believes themselves to be Christian? But can they rather be sincerely wrong in their beliefs. The answer is mostly yes still too!

    In recent decades, however, the real Christians have begun discerning the other true Christians from mere professing believers less by denomination and more by actual beliefs, not just by their personal religious commitment. “It’s a question of the heart: Has someone turned away from his own good works attemopts to make it to heaven and rather has put his trust in Jesus Christ to attain this and does he believe in the Full Gospel of Jesus that the Bible portrays?”

    For you don’t become a Christian by joining a church, adopting a creed, or by believing in God. There are lots of false churches, false creeds, and even the devil believes in God. So sadly now there are masses that have been in church all their lives and they are no more Christian then a cow is!! Reality

    Jesus died for sinners on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4). His death was a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God (1 John 2:2). This is the only way to be saved.

    Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). He is the only way to the God the Father (John 14;6). He alone reveals God (Matt. 11:27). He has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). It is only through Him that you can be saved from God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3). He can forgive you of your sin (Luke 5:20; Matt. 9:2). He can remove the guilt that is upon your soul. Jesus can set you free from the bondage of sin that blinds your eyes, weakens your soul, and brings you to despair. He can do this because He bore sin in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24) that those who trust in Him would be saved. Jesus Christ now is God in flesh (John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9), physically risen from the dead, Lord (Luke 24:34; John 2:19-21) and Savior (Acts 5:30-32). He came to die for sinners (Rom. 5:8) to deliver people from the righteous wrath of God upon us. But you still have to do your part.

    When I got my first Job the first thing I too was told was what I was going to do, what my job description was, what my pay was going to be and when, and who was going to be my direct boss, as well as the name of the firm I was working for.

    I rightfully believe that if we all had done that with terms Christian, Pastor , Church Elders too we now next would not have so many different cults, sects, definitions of what a Christian now is as well. I was amazing when I did a search on what is a Christian, I got consuming, contradicting, varying definitions and yet there is still only one valid New Testament Bible.. So what is the valid true Biblical definition of Christian, Pastor , Church Elders or do you merely think you know the right answer still?

    In fact, the question of what makes a Christian has set the true present Christian movement apart from other Christian traditions movements from its inception in the 18th century. Early theologians such as John Wesley and George Whitefield introduced notions of “true religion” to distinguish their followers from “traditional” or “routine” religion.

    Using the Dictionary, or listening the views of others to define these clearly Biblical terms is also now absurd to do this..

    The word Christian is used three times in New Testament

    (Acts 11:26 KJV) And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

    (Acts 26:28 KJV) Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

    (1 Pet 4:16 KJV) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

    Disciples of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because evidentially their behavior, activity, and speech were anointed, Christ like. (Acts 10:38 KJV) How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

    Unfortunately over time, in the often dead, corrupted churches, the real definition of word “Christian” has lost a great deal of its real, original significance and is more often used of someone who is a religious Christian and supposedly has high moral values instead of being a true born again, anointed disciple of Jesus Christ.

    John 1:12 tells us: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

    Those who personally now had received Him as Savior, King, Lord, Baptizer of the Holy Spirit, Deliverer and much more too.. do first see the above links too

    and what is your own definition of a real Christian..
    a mere follower of Christ or a person evidentially anointed by the Holy Spirit

    The Greek name for an individual “Christos” rendered “Christ” in Scripture, the basic of the term Christian now as well, comes from the Greek word “chrio” means to anoint with oil, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, one can tell if any person is a Christian cause they also can see the evidence of the holy spirit’s anointing.. so now we all can be anointed one inspectors of all Christians now too.

    Jn 4:25-26 (v. 25) The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah [Greek = “Messias”] called Christ [Greek =”Christos”] is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I Who speak to you am He.’ ”

    1 John 2:27 “And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (NASB).

    “We have here the noun form of chiro, which is chrisma, and is translated ‘anointing.’ In the case of our Lord, the Holy Spirit rested upon Him, for that was the order in the dispensation of law (Num 11:29). In the case of the believer during this Age of Grace, the Holy Spirit is placed within him (John 14:17). His ministry in the believer today is not only for service as was the case in Old Testament times, but also for sanctification. But His indwelling is only potential so so far as His ministry is concerned. His indwelling does not at all mean that His ministry is performed in its fullest manifestation and in an automatic way. The believer must avail himself of that ministry through the avenue of trust, just as he availed himself of the ministry of the Saviour through trusting Him. Two of the Spirit’s ministries are given here, His work of teaching the believer the Word, and His work of giving the believer an innate ability to know in an intuitive way, things spiritual. The Greek word for ‘know’ in this passage gives us this latter truth. A slight correction is offered in the words ‘ye all know,’ not ‘ye know all things.’ Thus the anointing with the Spirit in the case of the believer refers to the act of God the Father sending the Spirit to take up His abode in his heart, and this in answer to the prayer of God the Son (John 14:16).”

    Luke 4:18-19 (Wey) [Jesus:] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor; He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners of war and recovery of sight to the blind: to send away free those whom tyranny has crushed, to proclaim the year of acceptance with the Lord.”


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