“A Christian is someone who reads the Bible, believes in God and goes to church.”
“I was born a Christian, and I have been one all my life.”
“Christians are people who try to tell everyone else how to live and what to believe.”
“Conservative Americans. Conservative Americans are Christians.”
Well, actually, all of these answers are wrong. Again, a Christian can be anyone. So just how do we tell who is and who isn't a Christian? I'll tell you. Are you ready? The answer is … we don't. It isn't our responsibility to say who is and who isn't a Christian. That responsibility belongs to God and no one else – with one exception. Ourselves. We can take a simple test, ten short questions, and we will be able to know if we are or are not a Christian. Take the test. What have you got to lose? Here are the questions:
1. Do you verbally confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, God Incarnate?
1 John 2:23-25 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us —eternal life.
John 1:1-3,14 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. ...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1 John 2:22 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
1 John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.
1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
2. Is your life changed? By that I mean your attitude, your character, your behavior. Have these things changed since you became a Christian?
John 15:1-8 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:9-11 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
1 John 3:19-24 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
4. Do you love other Christians just as Jesus loved us? With an active sacrificial kind of love?
John 15:12-17 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
John 14:15,21,23-24 15 [Jesus said] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. 23 ...If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.”
1 John 3:16-18 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 2:3-6 6 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 2:7-11 7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
6. Have you placed Jesus and serving Him at the top of your list of life priorities, or, do you still have worldly things and pursuits in your life that are still your top priority?
1 John 2:15-17 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[c]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:29 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
1 John 3:7-10 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
John 15:18-25 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
9. Do you live a life patterned by sin?
1 John 3:4-10 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
1 John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
John 3:21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
1 John 1:5-10 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 2:1-2 2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 5:10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
What is necessary for salvation? Well, actually, it is pretty simple really.
Someone once asked me about the “Thief on the Cross” (Luke 23:33-43), and how could he have been saved without saying the “Sinner's Prayer.” I gave a two part answer. Part one was that is exactly what he did.
Romans 10:9-10 says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This is all that is necessary for salvation. Just two things.
1. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.
2. Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.
Do those two things and you will be saved.
Now, back to the thief on the cross. He said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) In that statement the thief did two things.
1. He confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord. He did this when he acknowledged that Jesus was coming into His kingdom. (A note on the use of the word “Lord.” The Greek word used here is Kurios (koo'-ree-os), and refers to a sovereign, one who possesses sole ownership. A master. It was used by the apostle Thomas in John 20:28 when he recognized that Jesus was and is God. After that usage, with the exception of only Acts 10:4, and Revelation 7:14, there is no record of any believer ever using the word kurios to address anyone other than God and Jesus.)
2. He believed in his heart that God would raise Jesus from the dead. By making the statement he made, the thief knew with complete certainty that Jesus would not just die and stay dead, but that God would raise Him up and He would enter His kingdom.
That's it. That is all that is necessary for salvation. Now on to part two.
I need to point out that no where in the Bible will you find “The Sinner's Prayer.” No where in the Bible will you read a verse or passage that says, “Ask Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.”
I am not saying they are not true, and I am not saying they are necessarily wrong, but, some people believe that if you say a prayer or “ask Jesus into their heart,” then by doing these “things” they will have salvation, and that just is not Biblical. If, however, when they pray the “Sinner's Prayer,” or “Ask Jesus into their heart” they are truly confessing/sincerely believing aloud that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, God Incarnate; and if they truly and sincerely believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then they will be saved.
You see, it is not so much the words that are said as it is the sincerity of your heart. Salvation is not some form of “fire insurance” that you get just to avoid hell. Salvation is a commitment to God. A commitment to live for Him, to obey Him, to love Him. So don't go into it without first knowing what it truly is.
Also, if one truly and sincerely believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, God Incarnate, and truly and sincerely believes in the resurrection of Jesus, then they will experience a change in their way of thinking, their way of living. They will repent of their sin, they will obey the Word of God, they will obey Jesus, they will live for Jesus.
Now, naturally, the thief on the cross did not have either the time or ability to do all of this, however, he did repent. You see, the word repentance, in Greek, is metanoeó which means to change one's mind. With regard to becoming a Christian, it refers to changing your mind about Jesus. This is what the thief did. He changed his mind and no longer thought of Jesus as just another man or teacher or religious person. He changed his mind and thought of, or more accurately knew, that Jesus was/is the Messiah.