19 Jul How Can Someone Know If They Are A Christian?
At church recently, a sincere young woman began chatting with me. She was struggling to know whether or not she was a Christian. She had asked various Christian friends who offered a variety of opinions which left her confused.
One of the great debates among various denominations and theological traditions is how we can distinguish between Christians and non-Christians. Various answers such as being baptized, taking communion, asking Jesus into your heart, going to church, and living a good life are often given.
The problem with each of these is that while true Christians do bear each of these marks, there are also non-Christians who do the acts without having regenerated hearts that belong to God. Such people are like the religious people God speaks of in Isaiah 29:13: “People draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” In the end, as 2 Timothy 2:19 says, “The Lord knows those who are his.” This is because he alone knows our hearts and whether the Holy Spirit has regenerated them.
The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. What saves us is not our faith, but the One who is the object of that faith.
It is important to remember that the power of salvation is not in the strength of our faith but in the completeness of Jesus’ saving work. Jesus said that even faith as small as a grain of mustard seed (Matt. 17:20) connects us to God’s power, which raised Jesus from death, giving us new life and forgiveness of all sins (Col. 2:13). Through faith we can know the truth of what Paul said, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
The three dimensions of the Christian life are confession, experience, and mission. These dimensions are like the three legs of a stool on which you can sit solidly when you want to know that you are a Christian forgiven of sin, regenerated, and adopted as a child of the Most High God.
Leg 1 – Confession
The first leg is confession. Being a Christian means that you “confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9). Ask yourself, “Am I trusting in this truth?”
Many people emphasize the moment when you prayed to accept Jesus. Some go so far as to declare that if you can’t remember the moment you prayed, then you cannot even be a Christian. But if you look in the Bible, that kind of statement is never made. Conversely, 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” It is real belief and not a magical prayer that saves a Christian. In fact, many who grew up in Christian homes never remember a time when they prayed a prayer or made a decision for Jesus, but they lovingly confess Jesus all the same.
Leg 2 – Experience
The second leg is experience. A Christian experiences life change. Practically, this means that it is important for you to prayerfully examine yourself looking for evidences of God’s Spirit-guided work in your life (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10). Do you see evidences of a new heart, a yearning to be like Jesus? Do you want to be with other believers in Jesus, as they “devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42)? Do you find that you wish you could stop doing sinful things? When you see these things, you are experiencing the fruit of “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5–6).
Leg 3 – Mission
The third leg is mission. Are you beginning to enjoy living a life in obedience to Jesus? Do you find that you want to join his rescue mission in the world? Do you want to help others to find forgiveness for their sins and healing for their brokenness? Do you want to help stop evil? Do you want to seek the welfare of the city in which you live? If so, then, as a Christian, you are becoming a missional follower of Jesus.
As new creations with new hearts we have new passions, new desires, and new purposes, which culminate in a passionate life of joy and good works. This is because, as we follow the desires of our new heart, we are also following the desires of God’s heart. At its deepest level, the new heart longs for the desires of God and rejoices in the freedom that comes in replacing old sinful longings with new holy longings that give God glory and us joy. As Psalm 40:8 declares, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
If you aren’t quite sure whether you are a Christian, it will be helpful to find someone to speak with. Prayerfully seek out someone who lives for Jesus and has a knowledge of Scripture as well as compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12) and talk to him or her about Jesus.
This blog was adapted from previous work by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.