HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M REALLY A CHRISTIAN?
By: Norm Rasmussen
There are certain Bible passages that if not evaluated in light of other key Bible passages, one may come up with the conclusion that there is no way they can be a true Christian.
God wants you to be assured that you are a true Christian, if indeed you are.
Satan wants you doubting whether you are a true Christian, if indeed you are. He wants to keep you confused and doubtful about it.
God wants you to be assured that when you die, you’ll spend eternity in heaven with Him.
Satan wants you doubting whether you’ll spend eternity in heaven.
One of the most effective means Satan has to cause us to doubt the assurance of our Salvation is when there are one or more sins we keep committing, and we can’t seem to get victory over them.
If you fall into this category, and you have read your Bible at all, Satan will frequently bring up one of his most favorite passages. It is 1 John 3:9 (NKJV):
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.
Another that works well for him is 1 John 3:8 (NKJV):
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Another portion of scripture that works well for Satan is John 8:36 (NKJV):
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
All three of these portions of scripture need to be interpreted very carefully in light of the full context in which they are given. Pulling one scripture out of it’s intended context is one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do, and it is one of the things Satan absolutely delights that we do. (To even launch into giving illumination to these three portions of scripture in this particular writing would most likely bog down so many readers that they wouldn’t even finish reading this writing, so I attempt to be wise and move onward, sticking to the main purpose here.)
Before saying another thing, this needs to be shouted as loud as it could possibly be shouted:
“Hey! The fact that you sin after you have committed your life to Jesus Christ does not determine whether you are a true Christian or not! All it determines is that you know you need a forgiving, gracious and merciful Savior more now than ever!” We have One. His name is Jesus!
Here is something every Christian needs to grapple with, and come to a conclusion to. As a Christian believer … does God the Father just forgive my past sins because of Christ’s atoning death on the Cross?
Or ... does He forgive my past sins and the sins I commit today as well?
Let’s take it one step further. Does God the Father forgive all my past sins, the sins I might commit today, and all my future sins I might commit as well?
If God doesn’t forgive our future sins … we’re all in big heap of trouble as born again Christians!
How so? Because I guarantee you that I will commit at least one sin sometime in the future. It might not be a gross sin, or it might. (One sin of any kind will send you to hell if not forgiven by God the Father, I hope you realize).
When was the last time you read 1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)?:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
I don’t know what you see here in these above passages of scripture, but what I see is that none of us will advance into a state of sinless perfection while we are still in these sinful bodies we were born with. So … because I’ll sin (not if I’ll sin) in one form or fashion before I go to heaven and/or am given my new glorified body, what do I do about it? Let the devil try to convince me I’m not really a Christian? Absolutely not! What I do is confess my sin to God the Father and ask His forgiveness for it … and then thank Him for doing so (because of Christ’s shed blood on the Cross for me). Either we can trust His Word that His promise is good, or we can’t. (If we can’t … then may I suggest we need to do some serious seeking of God and allow Him to deliver us of my/your demonic stronghold of doubt?).
Yeah … but maybe if I commit the same sin over and over one too many times, He’ll stop forgiving me?
Where does God say that in the Bible?
“Right here in Hebrews 10:26! Read it for yourself!” exclaims the devil shouting in your ear:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.
“See! See! You can nullify God’s forgiveness if you keep on sinning after you become a Christian! It’s right there in the Bible!” the demon exclaims.
Hebrews 10:26 - I truly believe - is Satan’s absolutely most favorite passage of scripture to throw in front of us when we don’t clearly understand how God deals with Christians and sin in their life. (I’ll come back to this portion of scripture and explain it further along in this writing, putting it in its proper context).
If we as Christians did not have Romans 8:1, 8:13-14, and 8:31-39 to balance out with the scriptures I’ve already given above, I really don’t think a convincing case could solidly be made that Christians will be sinning up until they die, and every one of those sins they commit are forgiven as quickly as they acknowledge that sin to God and ask His forgiveness for it, and truly let God know they are sorry for committing it. Keep in mind, I’m lumping all Christians together when I say this. A person who has been a devout Christian for many years should certainly be committing a whole lot less sin than when they first became a Christian – hopefully anyway. Sin is deceitfully wicked stuff, and it can manifest when we least expect it in a long-time Christian.
Before launching into Romans Chapter 8, let me throw this out to you. How many times does God tell us to forgive those who sin against us? Can a point be reached where we legally get to quit forgiving them? If you believe there is, please show it to me in the Bible. All I find is Matthew 18:22 where we are told that we are never to stop forgiving someone who sins against us if they ask us to, admitting their wrong in the offense toward us.
That being the case … is God asking you and I to do something He is above doing - exempting Himself from doing? The God I serve has never asked me to do something that He Himself is not willing to do. If God expects me to never stop forgiving those who ask me to forgive them, how much more will God do the same thing every time I admit my wrongdoing to Him and ask Him to forgive me for it? I hope you get my point. It is very important in all of this.
Now to Romans Chapter 8. God used the Apostle Paul to write this precious chapter, as we all know. Starting from the beginning of Romans, a sort of climactic conclusion comes to a head in Romans 8.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
“Hey brother Paul - Condemnation of what; for what?”
If we bounce back to Chapter 7, we see that God is talking about this evil body of sin and death we live in. It can’t be misconstrued any other way. To take it one step further, one must conclude that even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin from time to time in his own life!
So God the Holy Spirit is telling you and I … “Look – if you have put your trust in Jesus Christ to be the One who took your punishment upon the Cross for all your past, present and future sins, and received God's imputed righteousness to you (which is the only righteousness that will save anyone!) … why are you letting the devil put condemnation on you when you blow it -- when you sin? Stop doing that to yourself! Condemnation is never of Me. Condemnation is from Satan, always. Conviction is from Me. If you fall for Satan's condemnation, your relationship with God will most likely grow more distant."
The Holy Spirit through Paul’s writing then brings crystal clear reality to us in the passages that follow. Walking in the flesh … or in other words … if we are not seeking to allow the Holy Spirit to control us … our sinful flesh will!
Then the ultimate exhortation, and I believe warning as well, is reached that puts everything on center stage about how a Christian is to focus their life in a reasonable amount of time of course. (Remember – God’s patience and grace far extends ours! The thief on the cross that Jesus promised would be with Him that same day in paradise had no time to learn how to try to subdue his sinful nature and walk in the Spirit. Satan never likes us remembering the thief on the cross!)
Therefore brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8: 12-14 NKJV).
I so appreciate God putting this example in the Bible for us to see that I’m about to address. It silences the lies of Satan quickly when we see it for all it is regarding sin in a Christian’s life.
Again, we have the Apostle Paul being the one God uses to write this passage of scripture. It starts in 1 Corinthians Chapter 5. Some brother in the local church is having sexual relations with his dad’s wife. I’m assuming she must have been his stepmother, but we don’t know for certain. Paul writes specifically that the leaders in the church are to give this brother “the left foot of fellowship” and disallow him from being able to worship with them when they assemble together. In other words, he is to be shunned. Paul then makes this profoundly important statement in 1 Cor. 5:5:
"Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
If we read II Corinthians Chapter 2, we then see where the Holy Spirit through Paul tells the Corinthian church to forgive the brother, and bring him back into the fold. Evidently he had acknowledged his wrong before God and the local believers, sought their forgiveness, and was ready to be restored back into full fellowship with God and the local church.
So here we have a Christian who has flagrantly sinned, (and we can only assume it was more times than once), yet was forgiven for that sin, and was taken back into the fold in good standing with God.
Thus we see clearly from God’s Word that a Christian can in fact sin, be forgiven, and fully restored to both God and the Body of Christ.
Thank God for saving the thief on the cross who didn’t have to deal with temptations of sin here on earth after committing his soul and spirit to Christ … and thank God for telling us about the Corinthian brother who was having sexual relations with his father's wife … yet in the end was completely forgiven for it and fully restored to God and to the local church.
Does this Corinthian gentleman sound to you like a Hebrews 10:26 Christian? On the surface, it would seem so, wouldn’t it? But it is not! What Satan does not want us doing is connecting Hebrews 10:29 to Hebrews 10:26! When you read Hebrews 10:26-29, the point God is making becomes much more clear.
In Hebrews 10:26-29 (NKJV) it is telling us that if a person has clearly heard and received the precious truth that God died for their sins on the Cross of Calvary … yet keeps on sinning as before and doesn't care what God thinks about it -- as though it doesn’t matter at all to God … God is saying that His sacrifice upon the Cross for that person is null and void if some repentance isn't eventually shown by that person. In other words, forgiveness is only granted to those who are truly sorry they have sinned against God, and shows God and the Body of Christ that they seriously want to stop sinning.
Also be aware that the primary audience the author of Hebrews is writing to at that time were Jewish Christian converts. All the Jews had been taught up until Jesus resurrected and the Holy Spirit was fully poured out was that the only way one could have their sins covered was by a Jewish high priest making atonement for them by killing an innocent lamb and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat. Thus the author of Hebrews is saying to his audience that once they believed that Jesus Christ was the one and only acceptable sacrifice God the Father would now accept for the complete and totaly forgiveness of their sins ... and then if they turn back to the old Jewish system again [obeying the old Mosaic Law, in other words] of having their sins covered (never totally forgiven, by the way, when the innocent lamb was slaughtered and the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat), it would be an insult to the Holy Spirit, and that would then mean that there no longer would be forgiveness for their sins, because they willfully nullified the grace of God pour out for them by the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
[Sidebar: Let's say such a thing actually happens. Is it possible for that person to admit their wrongdoing to God and AGAIN become spiritually born again AGAIN? Legally I believe it's possible, yet without the work of the Holy Spirit in that person again, I don't think it would take place, simply because Hebrews 10:29 clearly seems to be saying "It isn't going to happen, folks. I gave you the best God has and you trampled it under your feet. That's what scripture refers to as the ultimate blasphemy of the Holy Spirit".
Let's not confuse this with "back sliding", however. A truly born again Christian is someone who fully believes that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all their sins, thereby being fully acceptable to God on the Judgment Day. In due time, a truly born again Christian will also come to peace with the fact that Jesus Christ was fully God before coming to earth in the form of a mere man, but once Jesus resurrected from the grave and went back to the highest heaven, He again rejoined the triune Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as He always had before He came to earth.
I believe some "Christians" who "back-slide" may not be truly born again Christian at all (though of course many are) and have never figured that out. They may have once confessed that they believed that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for their sin, but either due to anger against God, and/or their desire to believe something else other than the full counsel of Truth ... they walk away from the Christian community. Can such a person get in right standing with God again, if they demonstrate to God that they are sorry for their past, and AGAIN want to get right with Him by obeying Truth? Absolutely!]
God's grace is never meant to be a license to sin. God's grace is extended to us so that God doesn't always punish us for our sin speedily - giving us time to come to repentance and showing our willingness to try to stop our sinning.
Even if that person turns to the Old Covenant law of trying to have their sins forgiven, which is impossible (See: Hebrews 10:4), it still will do them no good. On the Judgment Day, they will be sentenced to hell, if they don't embrace the priceless message of the Cross.
We always need to use scripture to explain scripture, and confirm scripture. John 4:36 (NKJV) reads:
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
How does one get God’s wrath removed from them so they don’t end up in hell? Romans 5:9 give us our answer:
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
Sinning after we receive the truth of the Cross is a serious matter. It should never be shrugged off as no big deal, because it is a big deal. God clearly tells us throughout the Bible to conquer sin, instead of allowing it to control and/or conquer us.
Sin has consequences. Sometimes serious consequences, depending on the type of sin and how often it is committed. Yet no matter what those consequences may be … the people of the Old Covenant never mastered sin. As a whole, they were sinning right up to the Cross. After the Cross, born again believers have something available to them Old Covenant Jews didn’t have:
1) The power and illumination of the New Covenant Word.
2) Fullness of the Holy Spirit to break strongholds of sin in one’s life.
Both of the above are given to Christians to help them overcome sin (evil) in their lives, and to walk in the Spirit of God.
Some strongholds of sin in a Christian’s life will only be broken off of them through Holy Spirit directed prayer and/or fasting, and in God's timing; not usually ours. Sometimes that can only happen by literally having one or more demonic spirits cast out that person. Other times it may just be a matter of someone commanding in the name of Jesus for demonic spirits to flee from the presence of that person due to overt oppression. (Tip: You can’t cast out the flesh, and you can’t counsel a demon).
Some strongholds of sin in a Christian’s life will not ever completely get broken off their life until forgiveness is granted for those who have hurt them from the past. Holding unforgiveness against someone who has hurt you gives the devil legal rights God doesn’t want him having over you. (And forgiving someone who has hurt - offended - you doesn't imply that we must "like" that person. As an example: I forgive Hitler for hurting and killing all the innocent people he killed, but that doesn't mean God expect me to "like" the evil monster).
It even can get more complicated than that. Sometimes we need to have the Holy Spirit help us break curses off our family line that was passed on to us at birth. You may be surprised that the sin you can’t get victory over, that holds you bound, may only get broken off your life once some major warfare gets accomplished in the spirit realm against demonic spirits assigned to you to keep you enslaved to sin in one form or another.
A Christian caught up in the cycle of sin sometimes can only get set free permanently from those sins when effective Holy Spirit led counseling and prayer is properly administered to them.
Saying it another way - if you’re a Christian - you know what you are doing is sin - you ask forgiveness from God for it, of course He grants it, but then you keep turning around and committing that same sin over and over, and the cycle just keeps repeating itself … you may need to seek out and find a competent Christian who is knowledgeable and gifted of the Holy Spirit to break demonic strongholds off your life. Trying to break your sin cycle with just your shear will-power may not always accomplish the desired goal. But … I'm now getting off the main topic here.
The purpose of this writing is to help people realize that just because you are a Christian does not mean you’ll never sin again, or that you aren’t a true Christian to begin with because of your ongoing sin. Please … do all you can to allow God to open your eyes to this reality. You'll never be an effective warrior in the army of Jesus Christ if the devil constantly has you guessing whether you're a true Christian or not.
And, let God reveal this to you where it gets deep in your mind and spirit: There is only one sin God will never forgive, and that is rejecting the message of the Cross, if one dies rejecting that message. Again … that message is: That God died for all sinners. He took all of our sin and literally became sin (Read: II Cor. 5:21) for those who would accept this precious free gift of eternal salvation, which is complete and total forgiveness of our sins – past, present and future.
The more victory a Christian gets over their temptation(s) to sin, the more God will reward them for it at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The more victory a Christians gets over their sin, odds increase that their prayers will get answered more often. Sin in a Christian’s life can greatly hinder their prayers from getting answered in a favorable manner.
Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7
(What is not written here yet is implied is that if a wife is not honoring and respecting her godly husband, her prayers can also be hindered. It works both ways. Because God has delegated the husband to be the head in that marriage, God places a higher demand - higher accountability and responsibilities - upon the husband because of the position God has given him).
The more a Christian keeps from sinning, the more difficult it is for demonic spirits to harass that individual. When we sin, we can give Satan legal right to attack (harass) us more than what we may realize.
If anyone thinks I’m implying in this writing that God doesn’t mind that a Christian sins, they are wrong. God wants us constantly striving to say “No!” to sin when we are tempted to sin. Yet if we do happen to sin, which God knows we will on occasion, He would not have given us the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12:
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
I'm going to end this by sharing a testimony. My wife and I have been called of God to go into prison and minister. We feel so privileged to be able to minister in this capacity. One evening Kathleen wasn't with me, and it was just us men together. (I've actually done this on two different occasions, in two different prisons). I addressed the issue of masturbation. I asked these Christian brothers to be dead honest with me. "How many of you struggle with masturbation?" They all raised their hands, though not quickly, as can be expected. (If anyone hadn't, I knew they were lying to me, [or too old or handicapped in some way to do anything about it]. I let them know how much I appreciated their honesty.
Men and women in prison need Jesus Christ. They need the liberating message of the Cross. They need to tap into the power of Jesus Christ working in their lives probably more than any other group of people in a society. And once they have given their life to Jesus Christ ... they don't need someone like me trying to convince them that if they masturbate one more time, there no longer remains forgiveness for that sin, nor maybe they aren't really Christians after all. I can promise you that if I would tell them that ... they would never come back to a service I am ministering at ever again. If God doesn't forgive our sin after we become Christians ... I might just as well quit wasting my time talking to prisoners, because truly ... I have nothing really to offer them that will help them keep wanting to stay a Christian.
Here is an expellant writing by Bill Keller that puts what it means to be a Christian in proper perspective:
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Falling off the wagon. You have a battle with alcohol and promise the Lord you will stop drinking; 12 days later you drink. You have a battle with prescription drugs and promise the Lord you will quit; 4 days later you take some more. You have a battle with pornography and vow to the Lord you won't look at porn any more; 17 days later you are looking at porn. You have a battle with your weight and tell the Lord no more sweets; 2 nights later you are sitting at your kitchen table eating a quart of Haagen Dazs. You have a battle with smoking and finally tell the Lord you won't smoke again; 24 days later you are having a cigarette. What do you do when you decide once and for all to take a stand over whatever bondage you may be battling in your life, to start living in victory over that bondage, and then fall off the wagon?
When you fall off the wagon, you feel like a failure. You are consumed with guilt and shame. You can't believe after you did so good you fell. You are disgusted with yourself for being so weak. You know in your heart you not only let the Lord down, but broke your promise to Him. On top of all of those feelings and emotions, here comes your old buddy the devil to pour salt in the fresh wound. He reemphasizes what a failure you are, how you lied to Jesus and now He wants nothing to do with you, that whatever goes wrong in your life is God punishing you for falling, how the Bible is a lie, otherwise you would have been delivered from this bondage; that it is OK to give in to your carnal urges; God really doesn't expect you to be perfect, and oh, yes, the best of all, you aren't really saved or you wouldn't sin like that.
WOW, are you still with me, or are you about to shut me off?
The fact is, EVERYONE needs to hang in there and get through this message since EVERYONE has bondages that we fight throughout the course of our life. Just so you know, lying is as much of a bondage as drugs. Gossiping is as much of a bondage as homosexuality. Anger is as much of a bondage as alcohol. Being mean to people is as much of a bondage as pornography. The fact is, we all have bondages in our life. Some people may not be fighting the more visible and popular bondages, but anything that is keeping you from being like Jesus and living in obedience to God's Word is a bondage!
Since we all fight different bondages during our life, it is critical to talk about what happens when we fall off the wagon or fail, since that is part of the battle. Let me say right up front, when you fail it doesn't mean you don't love the Lord or aren't really saved; it simply means your flesh is weak. Paul summed up this classic battle between our flesh and the Spirit in Romans 7 when he stated that, "He did the things he didn't want to do and didn't do the things he wanted to do." My friend, we are men and women of flesh and blood. Our flesh is weak. Failure is part of the human experience.
Does that make is OK to sin? OF COURSE NOT! Is it an excuse to sin? OF COURSE NOT! Does it mean we are doomed to failure? OF COURSE NOT! It simply means that in the course of battling with whatever bondage you may be dealing with, you may have a moment of weakness and fail God. What I want to do today is share with you how to respond to your failure. What do you do when you fall off the wagon?
The first thing you do is go to God and ask Him to forgive you. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. After you go to God and confess your sins, asking Him to forgive you, the next step is to go back to living in victory over your bondage as you were before you fell. It is the old adage of when you fall off a horse get right back on. Don't ever forget, you have an enemy that wants to see you fail, that takes delight when you fail. If you do fall off the wagon, ask the Lord's forgiveness and then get right back to living in victory and freedom over your bondage.
This is where your faith has to take over and becomes so important. You have to realize that even though your bondage is in the natural, what you are really fighting is a spiritual battle. While you need to have the practical day-to-day pieces in place to live in victory, things like being accountable to others, staying away from people, places, or things that could cause you to fall, working hard to keep from being in a position to be tempted, you also have to work on the spiritual aspects of walking in victory. The Bible tells us that our battles are NOT against flesh and blood, but they are spiritual.
That is why we have to be praying every day, all throughout the day. We have to be in the Word of God every day, taking time to study and meditate on His Truth. We have to be part of a local church to be fed and grow spiritually, to have fellowship with other Believers, to serve the Lord.
These are the basics we have to be doing to stay connected to the Lord each day and stay strong spiritually. We already know our flesh is weak, so we can never lose sight that it is a constant daily battle to live in victory.
We can never take for granted that we have won and are safe, since the second we stop doing the things necessary to keep our faith strong, that is when we will fall.
Today's anchor verse from 1 Corinthians is the key. We can never stop doing the things we must do to stay strong spiritually or we will fail God. I know in my own life as I have worked to overcome different bondages in my life, to try to become more like Jesus each day, when I am not praying as hard as I should, or when I am not reading and studying the Word like I should, or when I am not doing all the things to stay strong spiritually that I should, that is when I fail God. When you stop doing all the things you need to do each day to stay strong spiritually, that is when you will fall off the wagon.
Everyone reading these words today knows what it is like to fight some bondage in your life, get victory for a period of time, then fail. That is part of life my friend. The Book of First John was written to Believers and tells us that if we say we don't sin then we are a liar. God doesn't stop loving you or caring about you. His promises didn't change, they are still true. YOU ARE MORE THAN A CONQUEROR IN CHRIST JESUS! My word for you today is that when you are in the battle over some bondage in your life and fall off the wagon, go to God and tell Him you are sorry and then get back on that road to victory!
Don't waste precious time having a pity party and being discouraged. Don't sit there and listen to Satan lie to you. Get back to doing the practical and spiritual things you need to do in your life each day and start enjoying the great feeling it is to live your life in obedience to God and His Word and in victory over those weaknesses in your life. God has much work for you to do, so the quicker you get back to walking on the road of victory, the quicker you can get back to fulfilling your purpose in this life which is to serve and glorify Him!
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