The question has been asked so many times. “Are you a Christian?” In today’s world it has become nothing more than an inquiry into a person’s religious practices and statements. The term, “Christian” has been horribly abused and misunderstood throughout history, but in the modern world it seems more trampled in the dirt and falsely worn than ever. Do we really get what being a Christian means? Do we understand the ways that this term can become a useless label, and how to clarify its significance? We must rightly handle this title we are given as followers of God, and realize that not all who claim to be sheep are the real thing.
The Prayer of a Child
If you grew up in a Christian home, the chances are good that you “got saved” at a young age. You probably told your parents that you wanted to “accept Jesus into your heart,” or something along those lines. Your parents might have asked you to repeat a prayer which consisted of confessing sin, believing that God sent His Son to take your punishment on the cross, and accepting His free gift of salvation. After that you probably went along in life like you did before, answering, “Yes” when someone asked if you were a Christian. This is all well and good, but I wonder how many of us actually take the time to think back and ask ourselves, “What is this, really?”
Many of us heard the Gospel story so much as a kid that it’s become commonplace. But when you really start to think hard about what the Gospel claims and what following Jesus means, you start to see just how important it is. It’s not just family tradition. It’s not just a set of beliefs. It’s not abiding by certain rules depending on how “serious” you want to get. It’s radical, it’s real, and it impacts eternity.
Jesus Christ Died for You
Jesus Christ died for you. Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1, 8:58, 10:30, Isaiah 9:6, Titus 2:13, etc). Therefore, God died for you. Think about that. God, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things… died. And He didn’t just die. He died for you to save you from your sin, in order that you might glorify Him for eternity. There is no greater gift given. There is no greater honor given. There is absolutely nothing greater than what God did for us, and what He calls us to do. The best, most generous gift you’ve ever been given on this earth cannot compare to the supreme nature of the gift God gave you on the cross. The most noble cause humanity can present you with is completely meaningless next to the commission God gives us today. We need to understand this if we are to call ourselves followers of God by saying, “Yeah, I’m a Christian.”
True Christianity vs. Worldly Hypocrisy
Men who receive an incredibly loving, well-thought-out gift express sincere happiness. Men who fight for a country they genuinely believe in do so with love, determination, and loyalty to the point of death. But rarely in today’s world do we see a Christian show the greatest joy attainable, and fight dogmatically for the greatest cause in existence. And yet this is what the man who calls himself a Christian proclaims. When we state that we are “Christ-ians,” we should bear the fruits of utmost joy in and devotion to this divine Man whose name we attach to our identity. Instead, what many so-called, “Christians” display is fascination with the world’s form of entertainment, perpetual secret lust, unattended selfishness in relationships, and idolizing worship of other individuals. This is the life of an unbeliever, and yet thousands who call themselves Christians are doing these things every day. Of course, no one is sinless, and even the most committed followers of Christ throughout history sinned in the course of their journey through life with God. But continual, unrepentant, and blatant sin is unacceptable in a true Christian’s life; literally. No true Christian will ever “keep on sinning” as described in 1 John.
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” – 1 John 3:6
This verse does not mean that because you sinned again today, you aren’t really saved. This verse means that continual, repetitious sin is not possible in a genuine Christian’s life, and is the mark of an enemy of God. Think about it. If you are broken by the reality of your own sin through God’s grace, are you going to continue on in that same sin without a thought, not caring that you’re spitting in the face of the One who saved you? Of course not. You’re going to reject that sin, hitting it back down whenever it attempts to spring back, fighting it relentlessly by the power of God. This is the mark of a real Christian; not perfection, but sanctification.
This simply won’t be the case in an unsaved person’s life. They’ll tolerate, nurture, and love sin, holding back in their more obvious sins only for fear of a bad reputation, because of peer pressure, or in order to accomplish a selfish goal. Many of these people claim to be Christians. They go to church, use the same vocabulary, and even bring up theological ideas and observations as a way to falsely solidify their “relationship” with God. They are the wolves among sheep.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:15-20
Don’t accuse a fellow believer of being “judgmental” just because they don’t instantly accept someone else’s profession of faith. If the person in question is in continual rejection of God, then I’d say there’s good reason to think that they aren’t a Christian, and are simply trying to wear a sheep suit as well as they can. Yes, I understand that only God knows the heart, and that critical analysis of another’s life, when performed selfishly, is wrong. But Jesus tells us that we will know those who are false by their fruits, and that we are to avoid these people! And yes, we are also commanded to go in among them and love them that they may be saved. But never are we told to ignore their continual disobedience to God and accept them without discrimination. That’s political correctness and stupidity.
The Sunday School Days
So, was that prayer that you said when you were a little kid a genuine commitment to follow God? Was it real? Was that truly when you were saved? For me, the answer is no. I said a prayer when I was 4 years old, but I never lived the Christian life. I went to church with my family every Sunday, I prayed at dinner every now and then, and I heard about the Bible all the time. But I never really cared about God. I was a sinful hypocrite. I only started truly following Christ in 2011, when He opened my eyes and I first became a Christian. I reject any of my previous statements of faith, because now I see that it was all fake until God called me to Himself at the age of 14.
If you made a profession of faith as a child, I would strongly advise you to look back on what your life was like after that. Did you change at all? Were you more interested in your Bible, or more inclined to let God help you show kindness to your siblings? Was the topic of Jesus a delight or a bore? Did you notice an increasing distaste for sin? These are very important questions we must ask ourselves if we are to stake our eternity on a prayer we said when we were little.
Are You a Christian?
So, were fruits truly evident in your life after you got saved as a child, and do they continue to mature today? Did you change? If you weren’t saved until later in your life, do you show undeniable and genuine spiritual growth right now? If so, then I would say that you have little reason to question the authenticity of your salvation. On the other hand, if you realize that you didn’t really change much after you said that prayer, and that works of the Spirit of God aren’t visibly evident in your daily life, then don’t wait any longer. “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Although we are ultimately saved by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8–9, Romans 3:28), the presence of fruit in our lives is still an incredibly essential part of determining salvation (James 2:14, 17).
Don’t assume that because your family is Christian, you’re a Christian. Don’t assume that because you said a prayer in AWANA, you’re going to Heaven and can stop worrying about where you’ll find yourself after you die. Take a serious look at what following Christ means, and you’ll understand just how important it is that you make a definitive choice as to whether you’re on God’s side or not. There’s no sitting on the fence when it comes to salvation. In fact, a fence doesn’t even exist. Whether we want to think about it or not, every one of us on this earth is either for God or against God. And no magical words can make you right in the eyes of Jesus. You can’t get into Heaven by reciting a prayer. The only way you can be a child of the Most High God is if He calls you to Himself, and you joyously run to Him, bowing before His throne and offering up everything you are to His purposes and His glory.
So whether you grew up in a Christian home or not, take a serious look at your life today. Ask if affectionate love and genuine desire for God are evident in your daily routine. Pursue God’s gift of salvation, because there is absolutely nothing more important on this earth. God’s glory is unavoidably the center of all history, and you must choose whether you will fight for it or against it. You have one simple, life altering choice before you. You or God? Choose this day whom you will serve.