Is there a way that you or I can be virtually certain we are Christians, and that we have eternal life (i.e. the Lord’s presence via the Holy Spirit) abiding in us? In the following pages we will delve into this topic in some detail. My intent is simply to give the reader a sort of “gauge” whereby he or she can compare his or her life and lifestyle to that of what the Scriptures tell us about those who truly believe in God, AND in His Son, Jesus Christ. For the Scriptures clearly tell us that “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.
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 (i.e. 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, or 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 He is the Son of God — or the God-man. This is also made 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 seem 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. See also John 1:1-18 (esp. vv. 1-3, 10-14).
In this regard, in John 14:6 and 23, we are told we can only come to the Father by coming to, or through, Jesus, and that when we accept Christ as our Lord, we also 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. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
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.?
So here we see that Jesus is the Christ, or the Anointed One — meaning that He is the ONLY Christ. For we are also told in Scripture that there is no other name whereby we MUST BE SAVED (Acts 4:12). See also: John 3:14-15; 8:24; II Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:5-11, and I Pet. 1:18-21. Note also that in I Peter 1:21 we are told that it is “through Him (i.e. Jesus) … we are believers in God”, and that 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 all things in the Universe together, and that He was actively involved in the whole Creation (Col. 1:15-17). This is also made clear in John 1:1-3, 10; and Hebrews 1:1-2, 8-10.
A Changed Life
It has been said that one of the surest signs of someone who is a “born-again” Christian is a changed life. For example, let’s say that before we committed our lives to Christ we almost never went to church, had virtually no Christian friends, were into illegal drugs, got drunk on a regular basis, and engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage whenever we had the opportunity. And now we regularly attend a Christian church where the Bible is taught, have Christian friends, don’t do drugs, no longer look at porn, and we are happily married, and only drink socially or in small amounts, or perhaps not at all.
Note: The above list is only an example, and just because we are are now perhaps “happily married” does not necessarily mean that we are Christians; nor does the fact that we are in a bad marriage necessarily indicate that we aren’t. However, our ability to get along with others, including our wives or husbands, 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.
The example above is simply a “sign” of someone who is a genuine born-again Christian, but there are other signs as well.
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.”
So if someone claims to be a Christian, and yet they shy away from and/or continually criticize other Christians, rarely attend church, and have hatred in their hearts toward a brother or sister in Christ, then this is a sign of either a severely backslidden Christian, or someone who was never a Christian to begin with — even though they may, at times, talk the talk (meaning they may, perhaps, make some sort of claim of believing in Christ, or know a few Bible verses). However, if someone has a genuine love for God and His people, then this is a sign of a person who is a true believer in Christ.
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.”
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.'”
Those words literally scared the Hell out of me about 27 years ago when I first read them, in a book by Hal Lindsey. For although, at that time, I claimed to be a Christian, I was not living for the Lord, and His glory, but rather for myself, and my own personal pleasures.
So we see that the daily lifestyle we practice is also an indicator of who we are and where we are going. In other words: if we are sleeping around with women, or men, to whom we are not married, then that is a sign that either we are not walking with God, or we never got saved to begin with. If we are cheating others from the forgiveness, and perhaps apology, that we owe them — for our and their good — then we are also cheating God, and will pay the price. We are also warned in Scripture to forgive others for the offenses they have committed against us — Matt. 6:14-15. Are we cheating God out of the intimate relationship that He desires to have with us by living in sin, or holding bitterness in our hearts against a fellow brother or sister in Christ, or against anyone else? Do we love God more than ourselves, and our wives, or husbands, and even more than our children? In other words, if we are forced to choose between God and a relationship with someone whom we love, who do (or did) we choose?
Other things we may be doing that we shouldn’t include: Are we stealing personal information from someone without their knowledge or permission? This does NOT mean that we, as parents, or as a spouse, are never justified in “spying on” our kids, or our spouse; however, it does mean that we need to make sure that our motives are right and that we are thinking about their welfare as much as our own. In other words, why are we doing what we are doing? Is it because we want something for ourselves that we have no business having, and/or that does not belong to us? Are we in a relationship, that includes sex (in ANY of it’s many forms) with someone to whom we are not married, and/or have no intention of marrying? That does not justify premarital sex, but in my opinion there is no justification for having any sort of physical contact (other than perhaps a hug — in public) with someone whom you are not planning to marry. In other words, don’t even hold hands with someone whom you do not think you could marry and be happy for the rest of your lives.
Other things include: being a coward and never standing up to anyone — including those who are walking all over us, whomever they may be. Being drunk. Trying to force another person to Love you in an intimate manner. In other words, it is one thing to communicate your interest in another person, and quite another to refuse to take their NO (no matter how subtle it may be) seriously, and refuse to move on, and/or to harass them over the fact that they don’t have the same feelings for you as you do for them. Avoiding almost all contact with anything that is remotely Christian? In other words, do we ever attend Church or Bible studies? Do we ever listen to Christian radio, or television programs?
This does NOT mean that a someone who is a Christian is “sinless” (I John 1:8-10), but it does mean that, as time goes by, he or she should “sin less” and less as they grow in the Lord and allow His Spirit to rule over their lives.
My experience, and advice, is that if we want to maintain healthy relationships (and that includes our relationship with God, if we have one), then we should never do anything that we do not have an inner peace about doing. One married 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 knew what he was looking at. He has told me that “A clear conscience makes for a soft pillow,” and I agree. And in this regard, the Scriptures also tell us to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…”
This means that if our heart is pounding because of something we are doing, or thinking about doing, then that is, very likely something that we should NOT be doing, and God’s way of telling us to stop.
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.”
So we see here that someone who is on the path that leads to God, is also someone who is seeking God, and to know himself, or herself, better, and to know and do what is right in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of those who love God (i.e. His people).
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 also someone who is genuinely seeking to know the truth, and who listens to other believers. That does not mean that he, or she, must agree with everything a fellow believer tells him, or her — for none of us have a monopoly on the truth, except for the Lord, who called Himself the truth — for none of us are perfect yet; but if we challenge and or 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 Christians, or that we have become “sidetracked” in our faith and/or in our walk with the Lord.
Association with other believers: In Hebrews 10:25 we are told not to forsake (or stop) meeting with other Christians. And the context would appear that it is talking about regularly meeting with other like-minded Christians. This does not mean that we must never miss church, or Sunday School, or that we have to attend a mid-week Bible study group, but if we find ourselves not associating with other believers on a regular basis, then we need to ask ourselves why not? And in this regard Proverbs 18:1 says that: “He who separates himself seeks his own desire,” and that “He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” What this means is that, more than likely, whatever “excuse” we are using for not associating with other Christians, or for not going to church, is a shallow one, and one that is also more than likely selfish — i.e. because we want to do our own thing, and don’t have time for God, or for hearing anything that our pastor (or would-be pastor) might have to tell us.
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.
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.”
“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.”
Also 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 still live the same lifestyle of sin 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 now, after we were (supposedly) saved, we are living a lifestyle of sin, or living in sin, and it doesn’t grieve our Spirit or bother our conscience, then that is also a sign that we are not saved. See also Hebrews 12:5-8.