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What makes you a Christian? How do you distinguish Christians from any good, kind, likable person? In this video, learn how to identify a Christian by four specific traits, according to clear instructions in the Bible.
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
I hope you are not offended by this question, but “Are you a true Christian?” Are you absolutely sure about your answer? And, if so, how do you know? How does the Bible define a Christian? Does it say there are requirements? And, if so, what are they? Is there more to it than repeating the “sinner’s prayer”?
Please be patient with me as I ask another personal question. Is it possible you could be deceived? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that Satan has deceived the whole world? But how can that be when the world’s largest religion is professing Christianity? And what about Jesus’ warning to beware lest we be deceived?
On today’s program I’ll be exploring, according to the Bible, what is a true Christian? Now stay with me as I’ll be right back to give you four signs of a true Christian and reveal the best one-verse description of what it means to be a Christian.
A warm welcome to all of you from all of us here at Tomorrow’s World, where we look to the Bible for answers to life’s most important questions. We also tell you not to believe us just because we say it, but believe what you see in your very own Bible. And, of course this advice applies to other ministers as well. Believe what you read in your own Bible!
On today’s Tomorrow’s World program, I’ll be giving you four signs of a true Christian, and I’ll also reveal the best one-verse description of what it means to be a Christian.
Most people have regrets over things they’ve done. They instinctively know that some things are wrong. Furthermore, they know that they are guilty of doing wrong. So how does one undo the wrongs he or she has committed?
Some turn to doing good works to erase their past—volunteering at a homeless shelter, giving money to feed the poor, or becoming a warrior against climate change. But does that make them a Christian? By that standard, secular humanists and atheists could be considered Christians. But are we saved by good works? Paul explained in Ephesians 2:8–9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8–9).
It takes more than good works to be a Christian, but is God against good works? Absolutely not! Notice the next verse:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
No, God expects good works from those who are saved through faith. Others think that they can be saved by observing ritualistic laws, such as vain repetition of memorized prayers. Again, what do the scriptures say? Breaking into a thought, Paul wrote in Galatians 2:16:
… knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified (Galatians 2:16).
There is only one name and one way that we can be saved, and that name is spelled out in Acts 4, beginning in verse 10:
… let it be known to you all… that by the name of Jesus Christ… this man [that had been healed] stands here before you whole…. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:10, 12).
Salvation only comes through Jesus Christ. Therefore, Sign #1 is:
Sign #1: A true Christian recognizes Jesus as his Savior
This leads us to our second sign of a true Christian:
Sign #2: A true Christian keeps the law of God
A misunderstanding occurs as a result of not knowing the meaning of justification. While justification is needed for salvation, justification does not mean salvation. Justification means our past sins have been forgiven. But what is sin? Dust off your Bible and look it up in 1 John 3:4…
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, King James Version).
Now let’s go back to the passage I quoted earlier in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, a verse that is often quoted by those who teach that everything has been done for us and that we no longer need to keep the law. As with other passages used to abrogate the law, this one is taken out of context. Galatians the second chapter, once again, and verse 16:
… a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified (Galatians 2:16).
Was Paul advocating the abolition of law because of grace? Not at all, as we read the verses that follow.
But if, while we seek to be justified [have past sins forgiven] by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God (Galatians 2:17–19).
Therefore, while a true Christian has faith in Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, he also recognizes that he is obligated to stop sinning and keep the law of God. Frankly, friends, the whole concept of doing away with the law of God is ridiculous. Why would anyone go back to do the very things for which Christ died to pay the penalty of on our behalf? Most rational people understand that a Christian should not murder, commit adultery, steal, worship idols, etc. What it comes down to with those who are against law, is which laws, and they have an aversion to the next sign of a true Christian.
Here it is in,
Sign #3: A true Christian walks in Jesus’ footsteps
How many professing Christians today believe what Jesus taught and walk as He walked? In other words, lived as He lived. Do you realize that believing in Christ and obeying Him are two different matters? Many people dismiss obedience. Yet, how long will someone keep his job if he doesn’t do what the boss tells him to do? Dear friend, consider this statement in Luke 6:46:
But why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46).
Lord means boss or master. The disconnect between what Jesus instructs and what people actually do is found in Matthew 5:17–18:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17–18).
Jesus then went on to show by examples how the Ten Commandments are even more binding than before. After explaining the spirit of the law against murder, He then gave this example regarding adultery:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27–28).
James, the brother of Christ, tells us that we cannot break off one commandment from the others. Notice what law, what group of commandments he refers to in this context.
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law (James 2:10–11).
Clearly, James is speaking of the Ten Commandments as a whole. You cannot break one without being guilty of breaking them all. And one of those commands is to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and that brings us to Christ’s example and whether we are going to follow it. Are we going to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, or the footsteps of apostate Christianity and that of the sun-worshiping Roman Emperor Constantine? The New Testament record shows us that Jesus kept the seventh day Sabbath. It is true that He violated some of the humanly devised restrictions the Jews put on the day, but nevertheless, He kept the Sabbath as intended by God, and as shown in many scriptures. And three times, He declares Himself,
Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28; Matthew 12:8; Luke 6:5)
Not once does He call Himself Lord of Sunday, or Lord of the first day of the week. Furthermore, we see that He observed the biblical Holy Days and Festivals of
Passover (Matthew 26:18–19)
Unleavened Bread (Luke 2:41, 43)
The Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2, 10)
The Last Great Day (John 7:37)
We’re often told that the Sabbath day was changed to Sunday and these annual Sabbaths were done away with the death of Christ. There are clever justifications, human reasonings, twisted scriptures, and scriptures taken out of context, but what is the example of Jesus’ followers after His death and resurrection?
Paul kept the Sabbath day with Gentiles (Acts 13:42, 44)
Paul also taught the Gentiles of Corinth to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:7–8)
Jesus’ followers kept Pentecost (Acts 2:1)
The Day of Atonement was a time marker for Luke, who wrote the book of Acts (Acts 27:9)
These are only samples and there are many more scriptures supporting this. The point is that Jesus’ followers walked in His footsteps. They kept the same laws that Jesus kept. That is why Jesus’ beloved apostle John tells us in chapter 2 and verse 6 of his first letter:
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked (1 John 2:6).
We read in Revelation 12:9 that Satan has deceived this whole world, and that includes the majority of what is thought of as Christianity. And that should not surprise students of the Bible, as that warning comes from Christ himself, as well as Paul, Peter, John, and Jude.
As we’ve seen,
Sign #1: A true Christian recognizes Jesus as his Savior
Sign #2: A true Christian keeps the law of God
Sign #3: A true Christian walks in Jesus’ footsteps
Now we’re ready for another important sign to look for in true Christianity. This sign is similar to the previous two, but it needs to be emphasized as it will determine eternal life or eternal death.
As already shown, sin is the transgression of the law. That is the Bible definition of sin as shown in 1 John 3 and verse 4. Of course, the very term sin is a term originating in the Bible. Our second sign of a true Christian is that he keeps the law of God, but let’s take that one step further. We know that there was only one human being who lived perfectly, and He gave His life to pay the penalty for our sins. Through faith in Christ’s shed blood we DO have that forgiveness, but does that mean we have it made, that we really don’t have to overcome the pulls of our nature?
Sign #4: A true Christian must overcome sin
When a young man came to Jesus asking what good thing he could do to have eternal life, what was Jesus’ answer? Read it in Matthew 19:17:
But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17).
Notice that He did not tell him to acknowledge the commandments, but to keep them. Why is it then that some believe, by their actions, and some by their words, that overcoming the pulls of our flesh, and of the mind, are not necessary for salvation? Forget the clever justifications. What does the Bible tell us? Note this stern warning from the Apostle Paul to the Church of God at Corinth:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).
The next verse shows that some in Paul’s audience HAD these problems before coming to the truth:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Notice, that Paul says that such WERE some of you. In other words, they were no longer caught up in those behaviors. They were overcomers. Notice also, that they were justified—their past sins had been forgiven through Jesus Christ. They were washed, as it were, by the blood of Christ. And they were therefore sanctified or set apart.
At the very end of the Bible, God explains that unrepented sin would keep one out of the Kingdom and condemn him to the second death. Again, these are not sins of occasional weakness that are sincerely repented of and covered by the blood of Christ. But, we must nevertheless, with the help of God, overcome our weakness, as Revelation 21 tells us, beginning in verse 6:,
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega…. He who overcomes shall inherit all things” (Revelation 21:6, 7).
Notice that. This is not something we can remove from the Bible. It is,
He who overcomes [that] shall inherit all things…. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:7–8).
Yes, the Alpha and Omega—that’s Christ according to Revelation 1:11— and He says we must overcome sin if we want to be in His Kingdom. This is not easy, and we don’t overcome all at once. But Christianity is a way of life, of overcoming and following in the footsteps of Jesus, so let’s not come up with clever excuses, reasonings, and arguments around obedience to God’s law! Instead, for example, someone addicted to pornography must become un-addicted—he must overcome it.
This admonition to overcome is found in the letters to all seven of the Churches mentioned in Revelation the second and third chapters. Let’s notice just one of them—the Laodiceans are mentioned there in chapter 3, verse 21:
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21).
Before closing this program, I want to reveal what my former college professor, and my predecessor in this Work, said is the best one verse description of a true Christian found in the Bible. But I want to first read a scripture that sets the stage. Paul explains baptism in Romans 6, verses 3 and 4,
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–4).
Yes, baptism pictures a death. It shows us what Christ did for us and reminds us of what we must do in response to His sacrifice—put to death our old carnal self. We must figuratively die, be buried in a watery grave, and then come up a new person. Now here is that single defining verse of a true Christian—Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20, King James Version).
We are crucified with Christ at baptism—that’s what baptism pictures. Nevertheless, we live, yet it is not our old sinful past that comes up out of the water, but Christ living in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is given by the laying on of hands. And it is the faith of (not in, but the faith of) the Son of God that we live by. It is Christ living in us that makes us a true Christian.
If you found this video helpful and want to learn more, be sure to get your free copy of our study guide What Is a True Christian? Just click the link in the description to order. It’s that easy.
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We here at Tomorrow’s World want to help you understand this world, through the pages of the Bible.
Thanks for watching! See you next time.
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