Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Are You REALLY a Christian?


Dear Friends,

Someone asked me one time, 
“What determines if we are really a Christian?” 
What a great question that was! Let’s see...

Bob was raised by parents who took him to a Presbyterian church every so often. He can remember that at Christmas, his family sang carols and had a manger with the baby Jesus. As an adult, the only time he was in a church was ten years ago when his friend got married. He remembers a Sunday School story about Jonah being eaten by a whale. He has never read a Bible but does believe that Jesus existed. Bob says that he’s a Christian. Is he?

Gloria was raised in a loving Catholic home and her faith is very important to her. She’s survived the death of her husband and her own struggle with cancer and attributes her ability to do so to the grace and glory of God. She faithfully attends mass every morning and she prays three times a day using her rosary. She worships Jesus and prays to His mother Mary and to her patron saint, St. Theresa. She tries to love others as she believes that Jesus would. Is she a Christian?

Jim was also raised in church and he can’t remember a time in his life when he was not in a Sunday school or church service at least once a week. He accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior as a child and his father was a pastor. Today, he’s married with two children – a nine year old girl and a 12 year old boy. He’s a Sunday school teacher and an elder in his church. He believes in the inerrant Word of God and faithfully tithes 10% of his income. He says he is a Christian. Is he? Before you answer that, there’s something else I need to tell you about Jim. For two years, he has been sexually abusing his daughter. Is he a Christian? 

Julie is a single mom who wasn’t raised in church, but in college she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior at a Campus Crusade event. As a young single woman, her church was very important to her, until she got pregnant and decided to keep the baby. She was so hurt by the church’s response to her pregnancy that she hasn’t been back since. She prays every night for herself and her little daughter. She studies her Bible and uses God’s Word to guide her life. Because of her treatment as an unwed mother, she has become very guarded and cautious around other Christians. She loves Jesus but is afraid to become involved in another church. Is Julie a Christian?

Helen is an older, “spirit-filled” woman and there is not a day that goes by without her spending time with God and praying in her spiritual language. She is the leader of an intercessory prayer ministry at her church, but she’s avoided telling her pastor that at home she prays to and converses with the angels who she believes are her spirit guides. She uses crystals that she believes will heal her arthritis and has a Navajo dream-catcher with a “medicine bag” over her bed to protect her as she sleeps. Helen knows that her shamanistic New Age beliefs are non-biblical but has intermingled those with her Christian beliefs and firmly believes that she’s still a Christian. Is she?

Is it our beliefs that determine if we’re really a Christian? These five believe in the existence of Jesus, but is that enough? Our Bible tells us, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” James 2:19 The demons believe and even confess that Jesus is Lord. Luke 4:40-41 Satan and his demons are “believers” but they are definitely not Christians!

Okay. If it’s not what we believe, is it what we do? Is it our good works? We can go to church and act exceedingly religious and do phenomenal works and yet, according to Jesus, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter.. Many will say..we prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name. But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God's laws.” Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

In the ancient church established by the Apostles, the derisive term used to describe the early disciples was “Christian” – meaning a Christ follower. Acts 11:26 That’s a good definition to use. If being a Christian means “one who actually follows Jesus” then it’s more than just a biblical belief or religious behavior. Here’s how it works: With the grace of God we enter into a relationship with Him through belief in His Son Jesus. Then out of that relationship flows  a desire to follow Jesus. The biblical concept is “sanctification,” meaning the process of becoming less like us and more like Christ. It’s living out the Gospel in our own life. It is a synergistic relationship between His grace and our will to follow Jesus that conforms us to the likeness of Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 To follow Jesus means submitting our life to Him and, in all ways possible, doing what He would do. Following is not just walking on the same path; it’s journeying along closely in the footsteps of the One who is leading. 

Look again at Bob, Gloria, Jim, Julie and Helen. Are they following Jesus and doing what He would do? If some are not, what would they need to do differently? When Jesus looks back over His shoulder, does He see you closely following Him? If not, what do you need to do differently?

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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