Wednesday, July 6, 2022

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 only as a man. 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 her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and 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? 

Marcy regularly attends her mainline church that teaches what is known as “liberal theology.” She prays to “Mother God,” believes in the human existence of Jesus and acknowledges Him, not as God, but as a God “symbol” that shows her the right way to live her life and how she should love others. She agrees with her church teachings that the biblical stories must be filtered through modern thought and reason and that the miracles in the New Testament were not real but are important stories that encourage and inspire us. She loves how her church is relevant for her by using today’s culture to translate the scriptures into a doctrine that comports with her liberal worldview and has given her a faith that she can believe in. Marcy sincerely believes that she is a Christian. Is she?

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 six all 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? Is it our social activism? Is it our participation in our church's homeless ministry? According to Jesus, we can go to church and act exceedingly religious and do phenomenal works and yet.. “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 in His existence, church attendance or religious behavior. 

Here’s how it works: By the grace of God, we enter into a relationship with Him through belief in His Son Jesus – not just belief that He is the Son of God but that He is God the Son. Then out of that relationship flows a desire to know and follow Jesus. The biblical concept is “sanctification,” meaning the process of becoming less like us and more like Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s living out the authentic, historic Gospel in our own life. To follow Jesus means submitting our life to Him and, in all ways possible, doing what He would do. Following Jesus 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, Marcy, Julie and Helen. Each one would tell you that they are definitely a Christian. Do they believe in historical, biblical, orthodox Christianity or a contemporary version of it that's non-Christian and unbiblical? Are they following Jesus and trying to do what He would do? If some are not, what would they need to do differently? (Note: Based solely on the descriptions of the six, only two would be authentic, believing Christians)

But of course our six self-described Christians are the unimportant ones at this point. Do you believe in historical, biblical, orthodox Christianity? (If not, or if you're not sure, please email me and let's chat about it) And then if your beliefs are biblically solid.. 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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