Who Is A True Christian?
(By: Norm Rasmussen)
Founder, Precious Testimonies
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV). ABSOLUTELY TRUE! [To me, "faith" in this scripture passage can also mean to "believe" and/or to "trust"].
However - We have so many people calling themselves Christians these days that it's getting more and more difficult to understand what a Christian really is supposed to BE. Are you as confused as many others are about who is a true Christian and who isn't?
Christians came into existence when they began to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. To the people of their day, they preferred to be labeled more as disciples of Jesus Christ, though being a disciple (or follower) of Jesus Christ automatically classified one as being a Christian.
Some 2,000 years plus later after Jesus Christ resurrected from the grave, confusion reigns about who are the true Christians and who aren't. I don't want to come across as though I'm some great authority on this very controversial topic, but I believe the Holy Spirit has moved me to try to add some clarity to the matter. Having said such ... let's delve into this topic and see if what I write God may use to help some come to a greater understanding of who really IS "the real deal", and who ISN'T:
If I attend a Christian church, does that make me a Christian? No.
If I was sprinkled as an infant, and dedicated to Jesus Christ, does that make me a Christian? No.
If I was baptized in water at an older age, does that make me a Christian? No.
If I read my Bible now and then, and pray every so often, does that make me a Christian? No.
If I become a member of a supposed acceptable 'Christian' denomination or local 'Church', does that make me a Christian? No.
If I try to keep the 10 Commandments, surely THAT will make me a Christian, right? No.
Now let's take a look at some Yes's
If I say 'the sinners prayer', asking Jesus Christ to forgive me of all my sins, asking Him to be my Lord and Savior, does that make me a Christian? Very possibly YES, but that's not the end of the matter.
If I confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and that He was raised back to life and ascended into glory on the third day and now sits on the right hand of the Father, does that make me a Christian? Very possibly YES, but that's not the end of the matter.
If I truly believe that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all my sins by dying on the cross, and I'm willing to give my life if need be for believing it, does that make me a true Christian? Very possibly YES, but that's not the end of the matter.
If I truly believe that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all my sins by dying on the cross, and I'm willing to give my life if need be for believing it, and I fully believe that Jesus Christ was fully God before He came to earth as a mere man, and is now fully God and will forever be fully God, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, does that make me a true Christian? Very possibly YES, but that's not the end of the matter.
If I truly believe that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for all my sins by dying on the cross (Past sins; present sins; sins I'll commit in the future) and I'm willing to give my life if need be for believing it, and I fully believe that Jesus Christ was and is and forever will be none LESS than God 'being fully God' and I understand that now I have an obligation to show God my sincere desire to obey ALL the commands given to me in the New Testament Bible (not just picking and choosing those I like and those I don't), and demonstrate to God just how sincere I am in obeying them, by diligently PRACTICING them, DOING them, OBEYING them, though I may fall short at just how well I DO them at times, and thank God for His promise that there's mercy, forgiveness and complete restoration in our relationship with Him for when we do fall short -- See: Romans 8:1-14) - does that make me a true Christian? YES.
And here's how I believe we can confidently come to that conclusion. There's a Bible passage found in Matthew 7:21-24 that strongly indicates just how important it is for people to know the difference between true born again Christians and those who think they are true Christians, but aren't. [In other words, CINO's: Christian In Name Only]
'Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
'Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
'And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! ("Continue to practice sin without any degree of guilt that moves one to repentance [Repentance meaning CHANGE]. And perhaps more serious yet: Continue to practice engaging in teaching spiritual deception as though it is truth but isn't!")
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and DOES them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock ''
This above Bible passage clearly addresses three important areas obviously very important to Jesus Christ:
- Doing the will of God the Father.
- Obeying the commands of Jesus Christ.
- Don't be guilty of "practicing spiritual lawlessness.
In other words - habitually practicing sin without any desire to repent (STOP the sinning); and/or teaching FALSE biblical doctrine." You want a head's up on what this fully means? "Practicing spiritual lawlessness" includes telling people that there is no hell ... and/or telling people that people who end up in hell won't suffer FOREVER there for their sins against God. And/or - telling people that Jesus is just one of the ways to get to heaven, but not the ONLY way. What an insult to the Creator who gave His life for each and every one of us on the Cross when He didn't have to and demonstrating to humanity just how much He loves them and wants to rescue them from before their heart stops beating and it's too LATE to be forgiven for their sins against Him and others!!!
A logical question many would then have: 'What constitutes doing the will of God the Father?'
From Matthew 7:24, would not a logical answer to this question be, 'By obeying the commands of Jesus Christ?'
Another Bible passage would support this conclusion, it would so seem:
'If you love Me, keep my commandments.' ' John 14:15
Yet let us wisely balance out all this by realizing that "doing" cannot save us (Nevertheless - when we connect "doing" with "obeying" New Testament commands, then our "doing" is critically importance to maintaining a healthy salvation, I believe.) Believing is what saves us, and keeps us saved. Believing what? Believing that Jesus Christ paid full penalty for our sins: Past, present and future sins, and that God's pure, holy righteousness was imputed to us at the cross to make us fully justified (fully qualified for eternal salvation. Believing that when I sin, say hypothetically ten years from now, 1 John 1:9 means exactly what it says).
We are not saved by our attempted religious good works. "Good works" means we are not saved by trying to obtain forgiveness of sins and/or to attain to sinless perfection (righteousness; holiness) in this life, nor by any "religious activities." We are saved solely by the grace and mercy of God by our believing what God accomplished for us on the cross -- believing that Jesus paid full penalty for all our sins, and that God's righteousness was freely GIVEN to us ... without us trying to somehow EARN that righteousness.
Thus we are not saved by our good works, but saved (empowered by the Holy Spirit) to do good works. What would be at the top of "good works" God wants us doing? It comes full-circle. To obey His New Covenant commandments ... and I believe at the top of the very top of that list of "good works" is to make certain I am not deceived about spiritual truth, and passing it along indefinitely to others as though it is spiritual truth. If you haven't done so lately, read Matthew chapter 23, and be honest in the conclusions you come up with. Was it not the "religious" folks that Jesus was speaking of in Chapter 23 ... many of the very same "religious" bunch that were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion?
Every command Jesus and the Father has given us in the New Covenant (New Testament) to keep is GOOD for us to try to keep. What about the Old Covenant 10 moral commandments? Trying to keep the Old Covenant 10 moral commandments is greatly beneficial and wise, (and I believe God WANTS us do everything to obey them; we'll be rewarded for doing so). BUT BE FULLY AWARE! Trying to keep the 10 commandments will NOT save you, nor KEEP you saved. And the truth is ... no human being ever has kept the 10 commandments for any length of time, (other than Jesus Christ, of course). If it had been possible to secure ones eternal salvation (forgiveness, righteousness, justification) by the keeping of the 10 commandments (or God's 10 moral LAWS - exact same thing) ... there would have been no reason for Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins.
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. - Galatians 2:21 (NKJV)
For the Word clearly tells us: Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:20
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. - Galatians 3:24
Salvation (forgiveness for our sins) and justification (Christ's imputed righteousness to His followers) is NOT obtained by faith and grace plus keeping the law; in other words, the 10 moral commandments. [Don't confuse the Jewish ceremonial laws with the 10 moral laws. The New Testament - Jesus Himself - did away with the Jewish ceremonial laws when it came to SALVATION, but He never abolished the 10 moral laws] ... nor for that matter observance of Old Covenant Jewish feasts, as some Christians are beginning to deceptively teach. [A time is coming when the Jewish daily sacrifice will most likely be re-instituted, and if so, THIS will not grant forgiveness of sins nor provide justification either]. One more time ... salvation and justification are obtained ONLY by believing that by the grace of God, Jesus Christ paid full penalty for our past, present and future sins ... and that God's forgiveness and imputed righteousness that justifies us was given freely to us because it's impossible for a human to earn his/her forgiveness and righteousness and justification that meets God's demand that we be holy and righteous and justified in His sight. (1 Peter 1:15-16 is addressing sanctification; not justification)
To highlight this very important truth, if anyone after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was capable of earning a degree of forgiveness, righteousness and justification that was pleasing enough to God to save them, or keep them saved, would not that person have been the Apostle Paul?
Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say about attaining a degree of righteousness pleasing enough to God to be saved ("Saved" meaning: forgiven of sins and justified) and stay saved (stay forgiven of sins and stay justified) by obeying the Jewish ceremonial laws and trying to keep the 10 moral commandments).
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; - Philippians 3:7-9 (NKJV)
Paul goes on to tell us how he ... and we Christians ... obtain God's imputed righteousness:
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Cor. 5:21
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would ever dare to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. - Romans 5:6-9 (NKJV)
So is it futile to strive to walk in holiness and righteousness by obeying New Covenant commands? ABSOLUTELY NOT! God expects us to strive to walk in holiness and righteousness (obedience to New Covenant commands). Nevertheless -- The truth of the matter is: There is only ONE command we must keep in the Bible that gets us saved from our sins and keeps us saved from our sins and justifies us (Justify/Justifies - meaning just as though I never sinned in God's eyes). That command is to believe and continuing to believe that Jesus Christ pain full penalty for ALL of our sins (past, present and future), and that the moment we become saved ... we are immediately as Holy and Righteous (100% fully justified) in God's sight as we need to be to meet His demands on us to make it to heaven and remain with Him for eternity.
Forgive me for being repetitious, but it bears repeating for some to grasp these crucially important truths: We do not get saved by DOING good works (keeping laws). Rather - we are saved to DO good works (keeping laws; keeping commandments ONCE we are saved ... otherwise known as Sanctification. BUT AGAIN BE AWARE! We are not saved nor justified by doing, nor do we STAY saved and justified by our doing. We are saved and justified alone by TRUSTING. If we are truly saved ... we'll begin DOING what is pleasing to God in our daily walk with Him, though we'll often fall short in the process at times, which there is always mercy and forgiveness for (See: 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1-13).
Let us conclude, then, that those who claim they are Christians but are distorting the Truth of the Word of God may find themselves being told on the Judgment Day that though they thought they were Christians acceptable to Jesus Christ and God the Father, they weren't truly Christians at all?
Sobering, isn't it?
Even more sobering is the real possibility that those Jesus labels as deceived Christians were nothing more than 'workers of spiritual lawlessness' while they lived on earth? Spiritually deceived, and passing their spiritual deception on indefinitely to others?
The New Testament Bible speaks a great deal about 'wolves in sheep's clothing.' If you consider yourself to be a 'Christian', could it be possible that you are a 'wolf in sheep's clothing', "being engaged in practicing deceptive spiritual teaching - deceptive spiritual lawlessness" ... and haven't yet figured it out?
It seems to me that we had better settle this matter before we stand before Jesus Christ and have to give an account of what we did while living here on earth, wouldn't you think?
Here is a screaming warning from God for each of us to soberly and FREQUENTLY ponder in what we are teaching others: Luke 17:1-2
I for one don't want to risk finding out that though I thought I was okay with Jesus Christ and God the Father ... yet that they found nothing in me worth truly redeeming in light of eternity ... after all is said and done.
In conclusion, let us keep in mind that God alone is the judge of who will spend eternity with Him and who won't. Two criminals were crucified with Jesus. One of them was promised that he would be with Jesus in Paradise that very day. The other wasn't given that promise. The fortunate criminal was pardoned by Jesus at the very end of his life, because Jesus was able to see deep into this person's heart, and saw something very redeemable. (See: Luke 23:39-43). The criminal didn't have time to "follow all of Jesus' commands." Time had run out for this criminal, in this life. Yet the man was found totally acceptable by Jesus.
Thank you, heavenly Father ... thank you Jesus ... thank you Holy Spirit ... that you have unfathomable grace and mercy and pardon for sinners. Only YOU know what is deep in the heart of every person! On YOU know who are truly yours, and who aren't. For those who truly are Yours, never let human nor demon steal their peace, but cement it deep in their spirit and soul until they are ushered into Your eternal, glorious, blessed presence.
Some reading this may be so steeped in sin, and/or so doubtful about what they are to believe about Christianity and the New Testament Bible that they are left with the conclusion that all hope may be gone for them to ever be in right standing with God so they can have peace about where they will be spending eternity. I personally believe there is hope for everyone to be accepted and forgiven by Jesus as long as they are still alive on this planet ... no matter what they have done in the past or are currently doing.
Afterall ... if God had sufficient mercy to forgive the CHIEF of sinners, which happens to be ME ... He can save anyone! (forgive and justify ... and keep on forgiving my future sins and justifying me, because if He doesn't or won't, I'm personally in deep trouble with God, and so are multitudes of other Christians around the world).
In pushing forward in conquering areas of besetting sin in our lives, let us never listen to the subtle thoughts of Satan trying to convince us that we are unworthy any longer to be redeemed (restored to right standing - JUSTIFIED) by God. God wants no one perishing, though the Bible clearly states that out of the masses of humanity, most will perish, because they had no love for the truth of all of God's Word wisely interpreted and wisely applied, that they might be saved and stay fully saved.
Before ending, I feel to bring to the reader's attention one MORE test that we can administer as to who is a TRUE Christian and who is NOT, which is found on the following link:
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW! Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To get to know God, to be at peace with God, to have your sins forgiven, to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity, to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life, because in Christ, it is impossible to put a value on the worth of your soul in light of eternity.
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)