Once again, I've left it far longer than I had intended to write a post. The last few weeks have been pretty busy. The busy period finished with the superb Lancaster University CU houseparty at a snowy and misty Blaithwaite (see above).
I gave a seminar on the title 'Am I really a Christian?' The first part of the seminar focused on how anybody can be saved at all. The second part focused on the signs that the Bible writers point to as characterising those who have true spiritual life, those joined to Jesus, our living Head. It's not that these things define us as Christians; rather, when we have true spiritual life, they characterise us.
Here are the characteristics I came up with:
1. The truth test: a born again believer accepts God's promises as not just being true generally, but true for them. The genuine Christian has a humble assurance of their assurance and forgiveness. "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 - see also 1 John 2:1-2, Romans 4:20-21).
2. The confession test: a true believer is pleased to declare Jesus as Lord, in word and action. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says: "No-one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit." Greg Haslam puts it like this: 'Is Jesus the boss in your life? Are you unashamed to let it be known that he is? Unembarrassed to speak of your allegiance to him before others? Glad to sing, say, preach and declare ‘Jesus is Lord’ in an unforced way on each occasion? Does this flow as a clear and resounding certainty from your heart to your lips? If the answer is ‘yes’ to each of these questions, then you must be a Christian, for the indwelling Holy Spirit produced that confession.'
3. The obedience test: a genuine believer is committed to fighting sin in their life. Will Metzger puts it like this: 'God, in his mercy, will not allow children of his to be comfortable in sin. He makes us restless, even to the point of questioning our salvation, so that we might not presume on his favour but, instead, relish his grace. Often we recognise our salvation not by victory over sin but by the warfare that is still going on within us. Comfort and encouragement do not come from outward circumstances of “success” but rather from drawing near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, from knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Boldness coupled with humility is the result.' See 1 John 2:3-6, Mark 8:34-35, Galatians 5:17 and so on.
4. The fruit test: the Holy Spirit puts the attitudes and desires of Christ into true believers. It is true that Christians slip up - again, as Metzger puts it, 'we sometimes find winters where no fruit is evident, even in the lives of genuine believers.' However, Jesus promises that true believers will bear fruit, particularly his own character (John 15:5, also Galatians 4:22-23).
5. The personal test: a true believer knows that they know Christ. This is what Romans 8:15 and 1 John 5:10-12 say. Christians are not people who are backing a plausible theory, hoping it works out. They have the Spirit’s testimony in their hearts that they know Christ. You can look at what Jesus has said and what he’s done, but knowing him is personal. When it comes to knowing someone, you know whether you know them or not. With a theory, I may not be sure that I’ve grasped; a moral code, I’m not sure whether I’ve kept it well enough - but a person, I know whether I have met them or not.
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