Friday, July 20, 2007

Am I a Real Christian?

Some decades ago, when I came to know Jesus, a friend gave me a set of cards with Bible verses on them. They were headed by topics: Assurance of Salvation for example, Assurance of Guidance, Assurance of Answered Prayer -- this sort of thing.

I don't think I'd say I was naive back then -- well, maybe I would -- but things seemed simpler. Am I a real Christian? Well, let's see:
This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son. He who has the son has life; he who doesn't have the son of God doesn't have life.
1 John 5:11-12
Easy, right? Do you have the Son of God in your heart? Well, I invited him in, and he promised that he would come in, so I guess so.

But it's not that easy. Here's a different question. Consider this:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Matthew 7:21-23
The question is: How do you or I know that we won't be one of the "evildoers"? This makes it sound like these people will be surprised.

So here's the trouble I have with some of these verses: depending on my frame of mind, or my mood, I might feel like, "OK, that matches" or "Whoa, 'do the will of my father who is in heaven' -- am I doing that?" and get real nervous.

The lovely Carol said that the book of 1 John gives us some tests, some ways we can tell. She's right, as usual, but some of the tests are kind of opaque. For example, consider this:
The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:4-6
Now to what degree must one carry out his commands, obey his word, walk as Jesus did, in order to know that we are "in him"? Think back to the many who will say to Jesus, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy... drive out demons, and perform ... miracles?" Surely they must have done some of that in order to drive out demons and perform miracles, etc., but Jesus calls them evildoers! I've never performed a single miracle or cast out a single demon, so...?

So these tests aren't all straightforward.

That said, they can indicate things to us. And I do think that I can answer some of them. So here are a few. I am going to stop writing in about 15 minutes, in order to spend some up-close and personal time with the lovely Carol.

OK, so here's one of the indications:
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just; he will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:7-9
I think this is something that's not too hard to find out. If you pray that prayer from Psalm 139, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the everlasting way" then I think that's part of walking in the light. Do I want to know whether I'm right? Or is it more important to me to prove to others (and myself) that I am right about something?

If you're not sure, do you want to find out? If you're asking God to show you, if you want to do what he wants -- and nobody does it perfectly, right? -- then that's an indication that you are wanting to walk in the light. By the way, I think that holds in 1 John 2:6 also:
Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
Remember, there is no way to earn a right relationship with God. Not a single one of us will ever be good enough to deserve the right to live with him. That's not what it's about.

Here's another indication:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:15
The fact that you're reading this -- assuming you're reading it because you're interested, rather than because you want to ridicule it -- is a suggestion that you're more interested in God than in the world. If you were only interested in the world, you'd probably be doing something a lot more world-focused.

My time is up, so I'll write more on this later.

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