Are You Christian?

–Summer of 1997

Are You Christian?

To pose such a question as this to my readers this month will be to many the essence of folly.  I can hear some of you saying, “Of course, we’re Christian.  What else could born-again believers in Jesus Christ be?”

What is forgotten, however, is that a new creation in Christ is the embodiment of growing life, and, as such, may be retarded, stunted, undernourished, or injured.  It is possible for a whole generation of Christians to be victims of erroneous or poor teaching, low moral standards, and unscriptural or extra scriptural teaching, resulting in a life that is not New Testament Christianity.

I’m convinced that there are many in the church today who have never truly understood nor grasped what it means to be a Christian.  I worked for a lady once who smoked, drank, swore, and was consumed with bitterness and hate.  However, she felt confident in her Christianity, because, “all you have to do is just believe,” she said.  On the other hand, I pastured a lady one time who was filled with anger, bitterness, hatred, and a critical spirit.  But, she, too, was confident in her faith because “I don’t do things like the world does.”

Granted, these two cases may be extreme; but there are a lot of people who are taking too much comfort from “comparing themselves among themselves” or simply embracing a false security by accepting certain “historical facts” about Jesus.  They have anchored their confidence to the wrong thing rather than finding the Biblical norm for real Christianity.

God doesn’t leave us guessing on such important issues.  The Bible gives clear principles to guide us in determining and knowing if we are expressing a genuine faith.  One of the broadest-reaching principles that the Bible articulates from cover to cover could be stated like this: The Christian is essentially a unique and special kind of person.  This is a principle that can never be emphasized sufficiently, and nothing but tragedy will follow in the wake of forgetting or failing to understand this.  The Christian is someone quite distinct and apart.  He is a man who lives in the world but is not of the world.  He is a man who can never be explained away in natural terms, but can only be understood in terms of his relationship to Christ.  This uniqueness separates him from those who are not Christian.  It doesn’t dehumanize him, but it does enable him to live far above and beyond the natural man.  His perspective on life is different.  He lives with eternity in view.  He loves his enemy rather than seeks revenge.  He prays for those who persecute him.  He gives more than grudging obedience to the law of God, but actually delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night.  He faces life with the optimism of faith rather than the debilitating dread of unbelief.  He indeed is different.

How can he be so radically different?  He has been born from above – born of the Spirit.  The power of grace is working in his life, enabling him to be different.  Frankly, it enables him to be Christlike and this is the secret of his difference.  It is essential to the New Testament definition of a Christian that the real Christian is different from the world because he is like Christ.  The Christian is meant to follow the pattern and imitate the example of Jesus.  We are not only meant to be unlike the natural man, but we are meant to be like Christ.  If this Christlikeness is absent from our lives, we have no other way to authenticate to an unbelieving world that we are truly Christian.

The question we must ask ourselves, then, if we want to know for certain if we truly are Christian is this: As I examine the actions and attitudes in my life, and look at my life in detail, can I claim for it something that cannot be explained in ordinary terms?   Something which can only be explained in terms of a life-changing relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do I see in my life a positive difference that is not seen in the life of a non-Christian?  Can I truly say that because of my faith I am Christlike?  Am I Christian?

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