Friday, July 8, 2011

Repost by Michael McKinley - How Can I Know I'm Not a Christian

How Can I Know That I'm Not a Christian?


By Michael McKinley
6.24.2011 Print

In II Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul commands his readers: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

OK, that seems straightforward enough. But what does it mean to examine yourself? What should you be looking for? How do you know whether or not you are "in the faith"? What is the "test" that we might fail? I wrote Am I Really a Christian? in order to try to help answer these questions.

Well, we should all hope that we pass "the test" (again, Paul's words, not mine!). And Scripture gives us a few things to look for that would indicate that in fact we are not "in the faith". A few examples:

1.You're not a Christian if you don't believe true doctrine: By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (I John 4:2-3)

2.You're not a Christian if you enjoy sin: Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (I John 2:4-6)

3.You're not a Christian if you don't persevere: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (I John 2:19)

4.You're not a Christian if you don't love others: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (I John 4:7-8)

5.You're not a Christian if you love your stuff more than you love Jesus: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

Now, none of this is to say that our obedience somehow earns our salvation. But these are fruits of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that the authors of Scripture clearly expected a Christian to be able to discern in their lives.

Next up, I hope to post some thoughts on how true believers can have assurance of faith. In the mean time, you can read the beginning of Am I Really a Chrisitan? here

COMMENTARY
Regarding the belief of true doctrine, there are a great many people posing as believers in the Christian community who would passionately deny this statement. They are convinced that doctrine does not matter. They fail to consider the reality that even their view is a doctrine that they think matters. Nevertheless, the inspired words penned by John as he was moved by the Holy Spirit stand. What is needed here is a different perspective. As reformed thinkers, we understand that God enlightens the heart, the mind, opens the eyes, takes out the stony heart and replaces it with one of flesh. We must also trust that God will guide HIS sheep into sound doctrine! Arriving at biblical truth is not simply something we do in and of ourselves. It is an act of mercy by a gracious, loving Father who brings us there.

Regarding number two, there is some unnecessary controversy. The author is not contending that sin is not enjoyable to the sin nature. He is not saying that it is not enjoyable to the flesh. He is saying that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our new natures will HATE sin. Sin always produces godly sorrow in our hearts. This godly sorrow WILL produce genuine repentance. If a person continues to walk in blindness to blatant and open sin, this is a sure indication they are not one of HIS. God will graciously open our eyes by whatever means HE chooses and pressure will be brought to bear until we repent of our sinful behavior. True Christians hate the presence of sin in their lives and they battle it every day of their life. If you are living in open sin and enjoying it, one word comes to mind: repent! If you are a true believer, God will grant you repentance which requires opening of their eyes and a desire to please HIM more than yourself.

Regarding number three, true Christians may stray for a season. They may grow cold in their walk for a short time. However, God's promise is that nothing shall pluck us from HIS hand. The true believer will always return to the hot, passionate pursuit of Christ. If they do not, then they were never really a true believer.

Regarding number four, this one has the ability to really distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. If you cannot love your brother whom you can see, your claim to love God whom you cannot see is an outrageous and scandalous lie. You will perish in your sin if do not love your brother. Of all the signs of genuine Christianity, love is the greatest. From love flows selflessness. From love flows forgiveness. From love flows gentleness and kindness. Love is the anchor for much of the rest of Chrstian behavior. Without genuine godly love in your life, you are nothing more than a modern day "Christian Pharisee" whose life consists of the keeping of rules for an outward show of religious devotion, but inside you are full of the rankest kind of sewage, contemptable in every way imaginable. Moreover, love is easily visible. Malicious gossip, slander, backbiting, grudges, unforgiveness, evil whisperings are clear indications you do not love your brother. Subsequently, these are also clear indications you do not love God according to John. If you have ought against ANYONE, the answer is NEVER to talk to EVERYONE else about it. The answer is to go to that person and be restored. Jesus said if you bring your gift to the alter and remember that your brother has something against you, stop immediately and go be restored to your brother and then come back and offer your gift. YOU CANNOT BE RECONCILED TO GOD AND UNRECONCILED TO YOUR BROTHER AT THE SAME TIME. I can't find any clearer way to say this. If you love Christ, you will love your brother. If you hate your brother, you are a despiser of Christ who commanded you to love your brother.

Regarding number five, people love their stuff. Not too long ago I spilled coffee on the floor of my car. The stain was horrible. I spent a week and a few dollars and a lot of stress trying to get it out. Along the way I realized that I was making more out of this than it deserved. We love our stuff. Sometimes, we love our stuff more than we love God. Our stuff is not just our tangible things. It can be our time. For pastors, it can be their church. Some pastors are so in love with their church that they will not shepherd the way Scripture instructs for fear it will change their church. Perhaps key people will leave because they are offended. Maybe some people are not in certain positions because they are not "yes" people. We want things to run smoothly. We don't want to have to justify our decisions to someone who is "critical." Some people are in love with their home. They spend more time on their material house than they do their spiritual house. When we love our things more than we love God, we do not actually love God. John said, "love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

There are a great number of people in the Christian community who profess to love God. They love and enjoy their sin. They are malicious gossips and slanders. They hate their brothers for all kinds of reasons. They are uncharitable and unforgiving. They hold to egregious doctrinal error. They love their stuff more than God. They do not submit to anyone for anything they really don't want to. If you know someone who fits any of the descriptions above, as uncomfortable as it may be, you must go to them and do what you can to help them see their sin. God may use you to open their eyes. They may tell you to go pound sand. Their response to you is not up for consideration. That is beyond your control. What is in your control is whether or not you will love God by loving them. Jesus said to go to your brother if you see him sin. Those who are caught up in faults need your help. It isn't up to you to decide IF you will go. That is a divine mandate. You cannot control their response. The question again is, "will you love and obey Christ by lovingly confronting them with the hope of rescuing them from their sin?" That is the question. Well, will you?

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