How to Know if you are an Actual Christian
What a strange topic for an essay one might say. Agreed, yet after fifty years as a pastor, I find that it is not so easy to tell if one is actually a genuine Christian, or as I like to say, born-again. Certainly there is no greater personal issue than this one. It is literally the difference between heaven and hell.
Here now is a list of changes in a person’s life, which taken together, or at least with several points in place, strongly suggest that the new birth has taken place.
- An interest in the Bible
Maybe you picked up a Bible a time or two and read a page or two, but like me, I didn’t get it at all. If you are like me at all, I could not even bear to hear the Bible read and I hated all those Christian movies like “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
Then though, I started reading and reading, and just loved it though it was not easy reading. And to this day, the Bible is special to me and I just love to read it. This is a definite sign of genuine conversion.
- Want to read about Jesus
I knew the name Jesus and had some kind of idea of what it was all about, but He was just another founder of a religion. Nothing more.
Then after that time when I was twenty-one, after a moment when as far as I knew then or know now, something happened. Jesus became the focus of my attention. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—read them over and over. Then when I got to be a preacher, the same, and now yet preaching and teaching these wonderful Gospels.
Real clear, only born-again types love to read about Jesus. And why? Simply because we love Jesus. Once we get it that He died for us because He loves us we in turn love Him. And, over the years, the relationship, the love, the attachment only grows.
- Not afraid of churches
There was Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Portland Blvd. in N.W. Portland, Oregon we had to pass on our way to Peninsula Park and I would not even look at it. I have no idea why, but in a way it kind of scared me.
Again, this changed after I starting believing in Jesus. No fear of those places, instead, I would walk right in and not even think of it. I felt safe in church buildings, still do.
Not such a big deal as the first two evidences, but still a big one for me at the time.
- Not afraid of Christians
The kids I knew in high school, Verdugo Hills High in Sunland-Tujunga, part of the Los Angeles School District, I stopped hanging out with them when I found they were Christians. They were not the cool kids, good folk, and I definitely did not want to be associated with them. Not good for one’s rep when you are a want-a-be tough teen ager with a duck tail haircut.
And did that ever change once I was saved. Here is the evidence for this: at midnight chow at the Travis Air Force Base Hospital, I sat with the sinners. We stole stuff out the back door, thieves and rogues we were. On the other side of the dinning hall sat Vern Hogue and Don Ethridge—we all knew they were Christians.
Days after my saving experience, I was no longer welcome with the bunch I always sat with. I don’t know how it worked exactly, but I was expelled and sent over to be with Vern and Don. How that happened, how the old bunch knew I was different I cannot say. But that is how it went.
- Want to learn about prayer
Prayer has never been my strong suit, but I did start praying. I even had a prayer list, and I still to this day have several of them. On the far left of a half-sheet of paper I would have one column with the date, then another with the request, another with the answer, and the last column was the date of the prayer.
I learned that Christianity was mostly a relationship with God and this is what was happening to me. I was a guy who for sure would never resort, stoop is a better word, to prayer. No way. But there it was. Something dramatic had happened and I never as much as thought through it all until much later on.
- Desire to talk with other Christians
Across the street from me in Suisun, California where low-class airmen lived mostly, was am airman like me. His name was Charles Davenport and was also a Christian; we even attended the same church, the First Baptist Church of Fairfield, and the pastor was Bob Lewis. He was from Lake Charles, Louisiana and he was a fairly mature Christian. We talked and talked and talked.
In the 2nd Casualty Staging Flight at the hospital, that I was a part of, there were no other Christians. I worked from 5pm to 8am, and it was a lonely time mostly.
Toward the middle of my enlistment, two nurses came to our unit. They were twins, beautiful young women, and they were real Christians. After all was quiet on the unit, I would wander up the hall, pull up a chair and talk Bible stuff with these 2nd lieutenants. It worked so that for about a year, I often had the pleasure of talking about Jesus with these nurses. Their maturity as believers was much needed at that time.
Who would have ever thought as much, but here it was, I was seeking out Christians to be with when all my previous years I had been diligently avoiding them.
Another sure sign, hanging out with those weird Christians.
- Able to admit you were really a bad sinner
At some point in our lives we begin to not only realize but reveal that we are not as pure as the wind-driven snow. This after some maturing, too.
Mostly we cannot handle it that we have flaws. Then there is our conscience, which may accuse or excuse us. Shame and guilt can crush us and we spend considerable amounts of energy, emotional, brain energy, to insure ourselves that we are not as bad as others.
Here now the Christian, who due to understanding the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, the shedding of His blood for us, that blood that covers all our sin, grasps us and we gain an assurance that we are completely forgiven.
Gone! No guilt, no shame, though the old enemy tries to accuse us and tell us how bad we are. But we know better.
Sure, we yet sin, and so we find out from the Scripture that we confess our sin, daily is best, and we know again that weird things of body and mind, are gone. No, this is not a license to sin, but a paradoxical truth. Forgiven, and daily forgiven. Best to study 1 John 1:8-2:2 on this point.
- Concern and love for others
A shift in focus comes now, little by little. Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we have an interest in the needs of other people. Normally we are caught up in seeing to our own affairs; a subtle change comes now, and a healthy one at that. Now that the only important issue is forever resolved for us, we can actually see to the concerns and cares of others.
This is where evangelism comes in. My experience has been that genuine Christians have a desire to see others come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is far and away the greatest need anyone has whether they know it or not.
For me, this was scary. I first got into personal evangelism when my pastor Bob Lewis handed out names of people, with their addresses, to visit and share the Gospel with them. I did it though I was petrified, and a several occasions I was firmly rebuffed and told to go away. In a way I still do not fully grasp, my concern, above all others, is to tell others about Jesus.
- Not afraid to talk about Jesus with others
Before becoming a Christian, well, we would never, ever, tell others about Jesus. This is a clear fact.
Now then, we find in Scripture that we are called, commanded, encouraged, to tell the world about our Savior. After a time, even timid people like me, start doing it and suddenly find a meaning and purpose for living that nothing can match.
After all these years, after even being punched in the face and slandered and screamed at, I am still at it and loving it more all the time. I say, “Bring it on!”
Okay, I am a preacher, seminary trained and so on, but all Christians get to do this. “Go” Jesus said, and we go. We never retire, never get laid off, never fired, always urged on, by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit—we keep boldly proclaiming Jesus and Him crucified.
How to Know you are not a Born-again Christian
This part is easy; none of the eight points above will apply to you.
Why am I so abrupt and seemingly uncaring by stating this?
Because it is time to face the truth about what is actually going on. This little essay is intended to wake you up. I hope you will see your true condition and not depend upon the big lies, which include the following:
Death is the end.
There is no heaven or hell.
All you have to do is be a good person.
Help others, be kind, and do good deeds.
All paths lead to God.
You will have other life times to become enlightened.
Who cares anyway; you want to be with your friends in hell.
Last word to you: Stop everything and ask that if God is real, He would reveal Himself to you. In a prayer, aloud or in your mind only, ask if Jesus is really the Savior who died for you on the cross.
When you get your answer, and you find out the core reality, get a Bible and start reading. Start with Matthew’s Gospel. Find a Christian. Find a Bible preaching and teaching church. Okay, start here and the rest will unfold.