Signs of a Christian
Is there a way that you or I can know that we are a Christian, and that we have the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives, and thus God's promise of eternal life: John 5:24; I John 2:25?
In the following pages we will delve into this topic in some detail with the intent to provide the reader a "yard stick" whereby one can compare his or her life and lifestyle to that of what the Scriptures tell us about those who believe in God, and in Jesus. For "He who has the Son, has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life." I John 5:12.
A Personal Relationship with the risen Christ: Does God ever "speak" to (i.e. communicate with) us in any way, shape, or form? If not, then we need to question whether or not we even have a Personal relationship with Him. For that is what the Lord means by His statement: "I never knew you" in Matt. 7:23. Also in John 10:7-15, 27-28 Jesus said that:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep; He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." Emphasis Added
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." Emphasis Added
Our Beliefs and Confession about Jesus: In I John 4:2-3 and 15 we are told that:
"By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit (or person) that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world....Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God."
In this passage we are told that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, meaning that he literally became a man, and that there was something different about Him. This is made more clear in John 14:8-9 where Philip asked Jesus to "show us the Father...", and Jesus replied by saying: "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me, has seen the Father..." In other words, Jesus was saying that if God, the Father, had became a man, he would have been a man just like Jesus, and in so doing Jesus was also claiming to be God. See also Luke 22:70; John 1:1-3, 10-14; 5:22-24; Phil. 2:5-11 and Col. 1:15-18.
In John 8:24 and 14:6, we are told we can only come to the Father by coming to, or through, Jesus, and that when we accept Him as our Lord, we get the Father as well. That's what Jesus meant by "we" in John 14:23; and in I John 5:1-5 we read that:
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.... and His commandments are not burdensome. Emphasis Added
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.? Emphasis Added
So here we see that Jesus is the Christ: meaning that He is the ONLY Christ. For there is no other name whereby we MUST BE saved: Acts 4:12. And it is "through Him we are believers in God," (I Peter 1:21) and apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:4-5). In other places we are told that Jesus is the one who literally holds the Universe together: Col. 1:15-17. See also John 1:1-3, 10; 3:14-15; 8:24; Heb.1:1-2; and II Cor. 5:10.
A Changed Life: One of the surest signs of someone who is "born-again" is a changed life. For example, before we committed our lives to Christ we rarely went to church, took drugs, got drunk, looked at porn, and/or engaged in sex outside of marriage. And now we regularly attend church, and/or study the Bible, have Christian friends, stopped using drugs and getting drunk, threw out the porn, and are now living for God and His kingdom.
The above list is only an example, and even if we are happily married with a family does not necessarily mean we are a Christian; nor does a bad marriage, or a divorce, necessarily mean we aren't. However, our ability to get along with others -- and especially God's people -- is an indicator of who we are and where we are going, but it is by no means a surefire indicator in and of itself. Another sign that someone is "born again" is:
A Love for others and for God's People: In I John 3:14-15 we are told that:
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."
And in I John 2:9-11 we are told that:
"The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes."
And in I John 4:7-8 we are told:
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
Fellowship with other Christians: In Hebrews 10:25 we are told not to forsake meeting with other Christians. This does not mean that we never miss church or Sunday School, or that we must attend a Bible study group, nor does it meant that we must belong to a church. And in this regard Proverbs 18:1 says that: "He who separates himself seeks his own desire," and "quarrels against all sound wisdom."
So if someone claims to be a Christian, and yet they rarely fellowship with Christians, and/or avoid contact with Christians, are not involved in ministry, and/or have hatred in their hearts toward a brother or sister in Christ, then this is a sign of a backslidden Christian or someone who was never been born again. However, a genuine love for God and His people is a sign of someone who is truly born again.
Note also that "church attendance" does not mean, in and of itself, that someone is a Christian, any more than does living in a garage turn you into a car. Nor does regular tithing mean that one is doing the will of God: Mark 3:35. In this regard, Joyce Meyers has said, and I wholeheartedly agree, that God's people need to "place themselves in the offering plate ... so to speak .. and to see their whole lives as an offering to God." I.E. Their Time, their Talents, and their Money. Also, in this regard, the Lord told us to "go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in that My house may be filled," Luke 14:23. Meaning we are to go the extra mile, talk to strangers, and reach our neighborhood, town, and/or community for the Lord. In this regard, it appears to me that Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are more zealous than most people who regularly attend church: perhaps because many pastors are more interested in building their church than the kingdom of God (?), and more interested in hanging onto their "disciples" or holding them back, than they are in sending them or leading them out: Eph. 4:11-12.
A Hatred of Sin: In I John 3:7-11 it says:
"Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him (or her); and he cannot (live a lifestyle of) sin because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." Emphasis Added
And in Matthew 7:21-23 we are told that:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you: DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'" Emphasis Added
Those words literally scared the Hell out of me about 29 years ago when I first read them in a book I was reading by Hal Lindsey. For although, at that time, I claimed to be a Christian, I was not living for the Lord, but rather for myself.
In Ephesians 4:30 we are told not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God," by whom we were "sealed till the day of redemption." In other words, if we are able to live the same sinful lifestyle that we did before we were saved, and it doesn't bother our conscience, then that is a sign that we were never saved to begin with. Or perhaps after being " saved," we are living a lifestyle of sin, and it doesn't grieve our Spirit or bother us in the least bit, then that is a sign that we are not saved. See also Hebrews 12:5-8.
In other words: if we are sleeping around with others to whom we are not married, and it doesn't bother us to do so, it is a sign that we are not saved: 2 Tim. 2:19; I Cor. 6:9-11. If we are cheating others by holding grudges, or refusing to apologize if, or when, we offend, then we are cheating God, and our prayers will be hindered, and we may be set on the shelf by the Lord: John 15:4-6; I Pet. 3:7.
We are also told to forgive others for the offenses they commit against us -- Matt. 6:14-15. Are we cheating God out of the intimate relationship that He desires to have with us by our actions or by holding bitterness in our hearts against a fellow brother or sister in Christ, or anyone else? Do we love God more than our wives, or husbands, or children, and ourselves? In other words, when we are forced to choose between God and someone else whom we love, who do we choose: Matt. 10:34-39; Mark 8:34-39; Luke 14:15-24; 18:28-30?
Many things can grieve the Holy Spirit, such as: stealing, lying, excessive alcohol, drugs, pornography, premarital, and/or promiscuous sex, addiction to TV and/or violent entertainment (Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5), malicious gossip, or refusing to speak when we know we should. We also need to look at our motives, and above all "Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts," Col. 3:15.
Other things that may also grieve the Holy Spirit include: refusing to take a stand against evil or to speak out against it when we see it: Ps. 9:17; 94:16; Prov. 24:24-25; 29:25; Matt. 23; Isa. 58:1; Rev. 21:8.
This doesn't mean that Christians are sinless (I John 1:8-10), but that, as time goes by, we stumble less and less and allow the Holy Spirit to reign over every aspect of our lives: 2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 12:1-2; James 3:1-2; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; Rom. 6:12-14; I Cor. 15:34.
My experience, and advice, is that if we want to maintain healthy relationships, then we should never do anything that we do not have an inner peace about doing. One man I know, who has been married for over 30 years, has told me that he never goes anywhere that he would be ashamed to take his wife, nor does he look at or read material that he would be ashamed of if she saw him looking at it. He has told me that "A clear conscience makes for a soft pillow," and I agree. And in this regard, the Scriptures tell us to "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..." Col. 3:15.
This means that if our heart is pounding because of something we are doing, or thinking about doing, then it is likely something that we shouldn't be doing, and our lack of peace is simply God's way of telling us to stop doing it, or go about it in another way.
In John 3:18-21 we are told that:
"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."
A Teachable Spirit: In I John 4:6 we are told that:
"We are from God; and he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
Here we see that someone who is seeking God, or right with God, is someone who is genuinely seeking to know the truth, and who listens to other believers. That does not mean he, or she, must agree with everything a fellow believer tells them: for the only with a monopoly on the truth is God. But if we challenge and disagree with the things that are clearly written down in the Scriptures (that mature believers are acquainted with), then that is a sign that we are either not right with God, or are "sidetracked" in our faith and/or in our walk with the Lord.
A Humble spirit before God: In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said that "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." This is a warning to all that, when it comes to getting right with God, we need to forget about our (foolish) PRIDE and be willing to humble ourselves before God, and admit our NEED of His salvation, by faith in His Son and what He did for us on that Cross, AND to make amends with whomever we may have offended over the years, and to ask for their forgiveness, or offer ours if need be. This also means that we admit to God, and others that we are sinners, and in need of God's help. Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:8-9; I John 1:8-10.
Service to God: God's word is quite clear on this: i.e. that those who know Him and love Him will also demonstrate it by their dedication and service to Him and His kingdom. For example, we are told in Mal. 3:18 that God makes a distinction "between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him." Jesus also said in John 12:26 that: "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be..." and that "if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him." We are also told in Acts 5:32 that the Holy Spirit is given to "those who obey" God.
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