Last week we discussed the true definition of a Christian. So what is the criteria for knowing that someone is indeed, in the faith?
First, it is behavioral. In Mt. 7, Jesus charges, it is “not the one who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but he that does the will of the Father.” In 1 John 3:24, the apostle declares, “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments …” (John 14:15). John says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Second, it is relational. “He that loveth not,” John flatly declares, “does not know God” (I John 4:8). Love is relational. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In 1 John 4:7-10, 16, the Scripture asserts, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God” – what a bold assertion – “for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins . . . And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
UNIFYING – RELATIONALLY CATALYZING
Third, it is a matter of unity. In John 17, Jesus prays, “Father … make them one … like us … that the world might believe.” The unity of true Christians is a testimony to the watching world. The relationship of the Father and Son has infected our hearts – and we are bound together, as they are. The family here on earth, reflects the unity of the family in heaven. The early pagans were said to muse, “My how those Christians love one another.”
Fourth, is holiness. I John 5:18 flatly declares, “He that is born of God, does not practice sin!” And those who “… practice sin, are not born of God” (3:8). “If you abide in Him, you don’t practice sin” (1 John 2:5-6). “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
1 John 3:6-9 reads, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous … He who sins is of the devil … For this purpose the Son of God was manifested … that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
RATIONAL – ALTERING OUR WORLD VIEW
The fifth proof is rational. Romans 12:2 says that we are not to be conformed to this world, not to be squeezed into its mold. Rather, genuine disciples are transformed (metamorphorsis – meta meaning with/along and morpoo meaning formed or shaped). God has come alongside us, indeed, inside us, and he is reshaping our thinking. If you are a disciple, under the discipline of Scripture and Spirit, you don’t think like the world. Your world view has or is changing. Up is now down, and things that were once right are now clearly wrong. Your behavior is being influenced by radically different thinking.
Galatians 5:22-24 details the divine-like fruit that your life is producing. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Open Confession that Jesus Is Lord, the Son Of God, is another proof of authentic faith.
1 John 4:15 declares, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” Here is public identity with Christ – open, verbal identity. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation,” Jesus said, “of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart … you will be saved … the heart believes … and … the mouth confesses …” Salvation demands open confession and identity with Christ.
Next, there is evidence of life. John 5:11-12 notes, “God has given us eternal life … this life is in His Son … He who has the Son has life … if you don’t have the son, you don’t have life.” But if you have the Son, you have the Son’s life and energy – and what a difference that makes. “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). Is it really possible for Christ to live with us, to abide with us, to fellowship with us – and no one notice that there is a difference in our lives?
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).
Those who belong to Christ are also – tempered. That is, they evidence self-control, and moderation. They don’t react. They don’t break easily. The lack of gentleness and humility, the bravado among American Christians is a sad indictment. Romans 7 says that prior to our faith in Christ, we were controlled by sinful passions. The temperature of our life was set by the world. But Gal. 5:24 says that those “who belong to Christ have crucified sinful passions” – lust, anger, malice, a reactionary disposition as opposed to gentleness, peace, temperance, self-control. In their place are evidences of the fruit of the Spirit.
A common conception is that followers of Christ, disciples, are only sinners – saved by grace. The only difference between the redeemed and the unredeemed we are told is that the redeemed have been forgiven. But, they are still sinners. Still expected to sin. Not expected to live any differently than the world. Such a notion is deplorable. It is the lowest of standards. How can we expect a difference in church members with such a crippled view of the transforming power of God?
Nowhere in the Bible are men or women who have come to Christ, called sinners after their conversions. Nowhere. Never! It is not a concept that has any foundation in Scripture. Instead, they are called saints, believers, disciples, but never sinners. Even the Corinthians are called saints. And this is precisely the frustration and surprise of Paul – they are not acting like saints, but they should be!
We are not merely sinners – saved by grace! We are saints – called saints, and expected to behave in increasingly saintly ways. We may be saints who sometimes sin! But genuine saints are folks who feel holiness and righteousness from the inside-out, and if they sin, they sense immediate conviction. Remorse. Shame for their behavior.
These characteristics are seen in our relationship with God and our fellow man. Are these things coming forth from you? Are you bearing such fruit of the Spirit? Are you a saint?
Stay tuned for more markers next week!
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