TITLE: ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
Subtitle: All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Around the world there persists a belief that all one has to do to be an adherent of a particular religion is to claim it. If, upon investigation, the tenets and beliefs are appealing—by merely adopting the minimum "requirements" and loosely adhering to them, one may legitimately claim to be a follower. And as it turns out, this is pretty much the way it works! Advancement to higher degrees within the particular system of belief usually comes via progressive knowledge of what the founder believed and taught.
The definition of "religion" as found in Webster’s "New Riverside University Dictionary" is as follows: "(1) Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power accepted as the creator and governor of the universe. (2) The spiritual or emotional attitude of one who recognizes the existence of a superhuman power or powers."
Notice that belief, reverence, and spiritual or emotional attitude are the key words where religion is concerned. To be considered "religious" all that is necessary is that onebelieve—that is, give intellectual assent to the core beliefs and tenets of a particular religion and exercise an attitude of reverence toward the object(s) of that belief. This definition more or less covers the thousands of religious systems of belief around the world, but it certainly does not do justice to Christianity as defined and delineated by the Word of God—the Holy Bible. Genuine belief in and salvation by Christ involves something totally missing in the religions of the world.
We find the missing "ingredient" in the Gospel of John, chapter three, where we find Jesus Christ Himself talking to Nicodemus, the Pharisee:
"Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person isborn again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see—know, be acquainted with [and experience]—the kingdom of God" (John 3:3, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
This "second birth" (spiritual) actually involves being born into God’s family and becoming one of His children! It also involves a total remission and forgiveness of sin—something that is absolutely unheard of in the religions of the world. Additionally, one who is born again immediately receives the Holy Spirit of God within himself, to reside forever—another vitally important and completely unique aspect of Christianity.
Therefore we must point out the obvious: a mere belief in Christ and a desire to identify with and follow Him, does not a Christian make! Acts 11:26 informs us that the followers (disciples) of Christ were first called "Christians" in the city of Antioch. I cannot verify it, but I was taught that because the early Christians made such frequent reference to the fact that Christ was in their hearts, some of the people in Antioch called them "Christ-ins" as a term of derision. By claiming this, these early followers of Christ were testifying to the fact that the Holy Spirit resided within them.
Does the Holy Spirit reside within you? If you show no evidence of the fact, then you have no legitimate right to claim the name of Christ as your own. Mere intellectual assent to the biblical accounts concerning Jesus Christ and a sincere desire to follow Him and His teachings does not make you a genuine Christian! It makes no difference whatever how much you believe in Him or how hard you try to live for Him,the validity of true salvation in Christ is determined by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
No Spirit—no life!
It’s really just that simple! One of the most deplorable by-products of attempts at mass evangelization has been the overwhelming temptation by personal workers to help people gain an assurance of their salvation. All genuine Christians want to see the salvation of precious souls and it is just human nature to want to follow up a recitation of the "sinner’s prayer" with assurance that salvation has been achieved. But only God Himself knows just how many tares have been guided into our churches because of this all-too human desire to carve another notch on the "soul-winner’s gun-handle". We should never ever try to assure someone of what has taken place in their own heart! It’s a very stupid thing to do and I should know, because I have been guilty of it! A lack of assurance can be a healthy thing, because it will drive the individual to their knees seeking the solace and comfort of the Holy Spirit—something that we cannot possibly do for them. Trying to spare them the spiritual discomfort of not being sure, is sheer folly.
I ask you again—does the Holy Spirit live within your heart? Are you sure? How do you know that He does? I don’t care how long you claim to have been a Christian or how godly your parents and family members happen to be, or were. I don’t care what church you claim membership with or the spiritual pedigree of the pastor who baptized you, or the size of the Bible you carry under your arm on Sunday—the question I am asking you is: ARE YOU APOSSESSOR?
Professors are a dime a dozen, but those who genuinely possess the Holy Spirit within them are relatively few! Do you doubt my assertion? Doubt if you will, but the Lord Himself said so in Matthew 7:14:
"But the gate is narrow—contracted by pressure—and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are they who find it" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
In Matthew 20:16 and 22:14 the Lord reiterates His warning by saying, "Many are called but few chosen". The principle of the "remnant" is found throughout the entire Bible—that is, those who are saved are always in the minority. We see this principle in the words of the apostle Peter found in 1 Peter 3:20(b):
"…in which a few [people], actually eight in number, were saved through water [Gen.6:8]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
In the Gospel of Luke, one of the disciples asked the Lord a question relative to the number who would be saved, and this is what he was told:
"And one asked Him, Lord, will only a few be saved [that is, rescued, delivered from the penalties of the last judgment, and made partakers of the salvation by Christ]? And He said to them, Strive to enter by the narrow door—force yourselves through it—for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house gets up and closes the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door (again and again) saying, Lord, open to us! He will answer you, I do not know where [what household, certainly not Mine] you come from. Then you will begin to say, We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets. But He will say, I tell you, I do not know where [what household—certainly not Mine] you come from; depart from me, all you wrongdoers!"(Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
With reference to the teeming masses of the world’s population, only a few have been or will be saved at any given time in history. We can wish it were not so and that the numbers would be higher, but such is the Lord’s revealed Word on the matter. To attempt to increase the numbers by means of our own good intentions is both an exercise in futility and another mechanism by which Satan can attack the church through false converts. It is sure and certain that some of this has happened and will continue to do so, but we must be constantly on our guard to make every effort to avoid it.
Since the evidence of genuine salvation is the presence of the Holy Spirit within the individual, how can this be verified? How can we be reasonably certain about ourselves, as well as others, without being guilty of judging? To answer this, let’s take our own case first—there are several "tests" that we can take to determine His presence within us: (all Scripture quotes from Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
Now that we have seen some ways to determine whether or not we possess the Holy Spirit, let’s consider the other fellow, the unsaved. Most of the time, when we even suggest exercising spiritual discernment about someone else, professing Christians have an adverse reaction to even the thought of "judging" them—mainly because they do not understand the Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, where He said "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matt.7:1, KJV). The "Amplified Bible" renders it this way: "Do not judge and criticize andcondemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves" (emphasis mine). The Word of God very definitely teaches us to exercise spiritual discernment—and that, my friend, extends to and includes those who profess Christ. The Lord’s prohibition concerns unjust judgment—acting as judge and jury through criticism and condemnation.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the apostle Paul had this to say about discernment:
"But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
To blindly accept a profession of faith by someone is a failure to exercise discernment. It hasn’t been too many years ago since it was common practice to wait a probationary period before taking someone into the membership of a local church. The convert was expected to "walk the walk and talk the talk" before being accepted as a member. This is just a common sense practice and churches today would be much better off spiritually if they adhered to it. As we have discussed earlier, one who is genuinely born again is indwelled by the Holy Spirit and the demonstration of this fact is what we must look for in a new convert—or any other individual that comes into our lives professing to be a Christian. Thedoctrine of separation requires that we exercise the utmost restraint and wariness before becoming close friends with anyone. Why? Because "birds of a feather flock together" and our personal testimony is one of the most precious possessions we have. Sinful and worldly attitudes are easily "contagious" and we are supposed to stay away from them. God made it abundantly clear to the Israelites to stay away from the Canaanites for that very reason. Should we do less?
How can we perceive or detect the presence of the Holy Spirit in someone else? Is that even possible? Yes, it is possible—but unfortunately it is not "fool-proof." The primary means we must utilize isobservation of the individual over time and what we look for is the "fruit of the Spirit" as given to us in Galatians 5:22-23, where we read:
"But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit, [the work which His presence within accomplishes]—is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness; (Meekness, humility) gentleness, self-control (self-restraint, continence), Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
Perhaps you have heard some preacher make the statement that "we must not judge others, but we sure can inspect fruit"? What this means is that the presence of the Holy Spirit within a saved individual is going to produce spiritual fruit in his life. Therefore if some individual you know claims Christ, but you cannot honestly discern any spiritual fruit, you may be wrong in your assessment—but your attitude toward that person should be one of caution! It is possible that they are so immature or backslidden that the production of spiritual fruit is lacking due to their "quenching the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). But in either case close fellowship with them is not wise. Where there is no fruit, there is no root! Jesus Christ is the Vine and Christians are His branches (John 15:1-8).
We are being bombarded with spiritual deception and it is only going to get worse as we approach the end of the age. Demonic activity is obviously rampant across the world and Christians must be constantly vigilant, because "we wrestle not against flesh and blood…" (Ephesians 6:12). We need to pray daily for spiritual discernment that we might avoid the land mines of the devil. Nice people masquerading as brothers and sisters in Christ—yet convinced that they are genuine—are playing havoc with our churches. Preachers and other leaders are themselves lost and are "blind leading the blind." Only the Holy Spirit can protect us against being deceived by these people and we must rely upon Him—mightily!
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to ourSalvation Page now.
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