August 19, 1997
A leader of a major evangelical Christian denomination says one of the biggest problems facing Christianity today is that many members of Christian churches claim to be Christians but in fact are not Christians at all. How does he know that?
There are several ways to defining a Christian. The Bible does it this way: “To all who received him (Jesus Christ), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Scripture goes on to explain that this spiritual birth happens when the Holy Spirit gives His life to a person. Another passage explains that “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ dwelling within them does not belong to Christ.” Our question is this: how do we know if someone has actually received Christ, really believes, and has God’s Spirit living in them?
One way to know is by looking for evidence of God in their life. Since the Holy Spirit brings new life, there ought to be changes. To start with, genuine Christians will begin thinking God’s thoughts about many things, including sin, other Christians and Christ.
Thinking God’s thoughts doesn’t happen in a vacuum though. We must first KNOW His thoughts and ideas. Since the Bible is a record of His revelation to the prophets and apostles, it is our guide to the thoughts of God. When Christians read, study, and believe the Bible, their lives begin to change. They begin to think the way God thinks. The Spirit of God and the Word of God work together to produce evidence that a person really is a Christian.
If someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to what the Bible says, then they are either deceived, imposters, or ignorant of God’s Word. Perhaps this ignorance is at the root of some of the problems in Christianity. For instance, 87% of “Christians” in a recent survey say that their religious beliefs are very important in their life; however, that same survey shows there is much confusion or ignorance about what the Bible says.
For instance, 8 out of 10 surveyed feel that “God helps those who help themselves” yet this notion is a contradiction to clear biblical teaching. The Bible is filled with commands to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
Trusting God for all we need is a command, not an option or a suggestion. Ignoring this command is disobedience. How can anyone claim to follow Christ but say “No” to this most basic biblical truth?
However, Scripture also teaches that trusting ourselves is unreasonable. Compared to God, our wisdom and resources are puny at best. Instead, God helps the helpless. The sooner we realize our need of His help, the quicker we will see Him at work in our lives. . . and the more obvious it will be to others that we are indeed Christians.
Another key component of being a Christian is belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, only 70% of those surveyed said they believe it. Remember, these are people who claim to be Christians.
In contrast, the Apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ (died believing in Him) are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
Christians must refocus on Scripture. Even at that, if what we read, study and believe about God and ourselves does not affect how we live, then we must seriously question whether or not we really have read, studied or believed it.