Saturday, October 24, 2015

What is a Christian and how can I recognize one out in the wild?

My main inspiration to tackle the definition of Christian was this blog post by Matt Walsh.  My favorite quote from his post: "it’s the only real difference between Christians and “progressive Christians.” Both groups are sinful, both groups are weak, both groups need Christ desperately, but one wants — though they may so often fail — to go Christ’s way, and the other wants Christ to go theirs."

He is right- there seems to be different types of Christians running around promoting different agendas. Some promote God's agenda as detailed in the Bible, and others seem to be promoting different versions and interpretations of God's Word; some so far away from what is in the Bible that it is incredible anyone is even listening to them.
2 Timothy 4:3 "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,"
Why is this important?  I think it is extremely important because there are a lot of "false Christians" out there promoting a non-Godly agenda but clothing it in Christianity. For someone new to Christianity, or who is considering Christianity, this can be DEADLY.  You could easily go down the wrong path and miss out on salvation if you do not discern the source of the information and understand if it is from a true Christian and thus from God or not. ETERNITY rides on this- that's why it is important.

First of all, how do you become a Christian?  You can't EARN your way into Heaven.  You can't just try to live a good life and do some good deeds and think that at the end God will say, " great job, come on in!". Why not?  Because no matter how hard we try, and some of us try REALLY hard, we are all sinners and will always be sinners as long as we are on this earth.  Many many Bible passages state this, but for the sake of brevity, and because there is a lot more to say in this post, I will quote Romans 3:23 "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard."

God hates sin, and because we can't help but sin, he sent his son Jesus Christ to take all our sin and make a way for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  John 14:6 "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." So, to become a Christian we have to accept that we are sinners and turn to Jesus as our Savior and our one and only key to Heaven.

If you understand that you are a sinner, and you sincerely desire to repent from your sins and obey ALL the commands given by God in order to sin no more; If you truly believe that Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for all your sins by dying on the cross; And, as stated in John 14:6, if you truly believe that Jesus Christ was, is and forever will be fully God and the only way through which you can enter Heaven, then, and only then are you saved.  That is how you become a Christian.

So, how do you know if someone truly is a Christian? I mean, it is one thing to know YOU are a Christian because you know your heart and know if you have accepted all of the above.  What about everyone else? How can you tell?

In Philippians 3:3 Paul says: "For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh".

So, Paul gives us 3 characteristics of a Christian that might be visible to others:
  1. Worships the Spirit of God
  2. Glories in Christ
  3. Puts no confidence in the flesh (does not go to man alone for all the answers or validation)
Paul isn't the only person who gives us guidance on this topic.  Let's look at Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one 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 drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you who practice lawlessness!"

Essentially, this passage is saying, anyone can talk a great game.  Jesus is saying that He is more concerned about our WALK, something others should also be able to see. What matters here MORE than the words we say, is that we have a personal saving relationship with Christ.  There are many people out there who claim to be Christian and proclaim what the Bible tells us to do and how to live, but not all of them truly have accepted Jesus as their Savior nor have they committed their will and obedience to Him. Just claiming something is from God does not make it so.  If someone is full of words, but you can't see it through their actions, you should question it.  A note on the last sentence. Some translations say this sentence as: "continue to practice engaging in teaching spiritual deception as though it is truth but isn't!" Enough said. When you read something claiming to be based on God's authority, fact check it for yourself and go to your Bible.

Yet another Apostle weighs in on this topic... James 1:22 says "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves".  In fact, over and over again in Scripture Christians are called to be doers, which again are things that we can all see:
  • to love one another (John 13:34)
  • to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • that our faith should be accompanied by action (James 2:17, 26) 
  • to declare his praises (1 Peter 2:9)
  • to do the Father's will (Romans 8:9)
  • to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8)
What about not being able to earn your way into Heaven as stated earlier in this post?  A lot of the above seems to speak of what a Christian DOES. Please don't misunderstand me, the 6th paragraph is what gets you salvation and assures your place in Heaven, the rest is a RESULT of your being saved.  Once saved, you should be able to recognize a true Christian because of what happens in him through the Holy Spirit because of the saving relationship with Jesus, and then becomes visible to everyone else.  If you cannot see these things in someone claiming to be Christian and sharing the word of God under that guise, be very very wary.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you."

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