How Can You Know if You’re Really a True Christian?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1 John 2

7Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.

9If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. 11Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.
(1 John 2:7-11, NLT – emphasis added)

1 John 3

11This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another12We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?

18Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 19It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:11-20, NLT – emphasis added)


The Daily DAVEotional

How can you know for sure if you’re really a Christian?

Perhaps you’ve grown up going to church and you can’t ever remember a time when you weren’t a Christian. Or maybe you drifted away from God but have recently turned back to the Lord and you’re wondering if God still accepts you.

John’s short letter of 1 John is packed with a number of “identifying markers” that are good indicators that you are indeed “in the faith.”

In 1 John chapters 2 and 3, John gives another of his litmus tests that are designed to give his audience confidence that they truly are a part of God’s family.

In this particular passage, John says that the proof “that we have passed from death to eternal life” is our love for other Christians.

John’s argument can be summarized as follows:

    • We’ve been given a new command to love one another
    • This command to love is based on the example of Jesus, who demonstrated his love by dying for us
    • Jesus is light and in him there is no darkness, so living for Jesus is “living in the light”
    • Since Jesus died for us (all of us), it means he loves us (all of us). Therefore, to be living in the light of Jesus means we should love people as Jesus loves

The real litmus test then is how do you think and feel about other Christians? Do you love them as Jesus loves them? John says that those who say they love God but hate their Christian brother or sister is “living and walking in darkness.”

Darkness is always used by John in reference to sin or disconnected fellowship with God. Hence, the person who says they love God but hates their fellow Christian, for whatever reason, is not connected to God.

John takes the illustration even further when he says that “Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” OUCH!

So one of the identifying markers of a true follower of Christ is their love of other Christians.

Yes, I know! Some “other” Christians are not easy to love. Perhaps they share different political views than you or they’re involved in activities of which you don’t approve. Maybe they just have an annoying personality that rubs you the wrong way.

Regardless, John’s logic is irrefutable: Jesus loved us all, which is amazing because we were not very lovable. In fact, Jesus loved us in spite of the fact that our sin made us his enemies.

Since Jesus is able to love “the unloveable”, we should be able to as well, since we have His Holy Spirit living within us.

Therefore, we should demonstrate love to everyone, even those whom we might consider “difficult to love”, for whatever reason.

Our ability to love other Christians is an evidence of God’s work in our life and provides strong evidence that you really are a part of God’s eternal family!

Reflection

If someone were to come to you with doubts about whether or not they were genuinely a Christian, what would you tell them? How would you go about helping them to affirm their place in God’s family?

John specifically talks about our need to love other Christians. Why do you think he emphasizes the need to love other believers but doesn’t mention non-believers?

Some people are easier to love than others. What are some possible reasons why you might be challenged to demonstrate “love to some people?

John urges us to “really show it [our love for others] by our actions.” What actions show love to you? What are some actions you could begin to implement in your spheres as a means of demonstrating love toward other believers?

Suppose someone says to you, “I love Jesus, I just can’t stand his followers.” What would you say to this person? Do you think this person can be a Christian? Why or why not?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Walking in the Light Simplified

1 John 1

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But 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, purifies us from all sin.

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
(1 John 1:5-10, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

The letter of 1 John contains the familiar light/darkness motif that John is known for in his gospel, in which the word “light” shows up 24 times.

John uses the idea of light to depict moral purity and absolute righteousness, whereas darkness refers to sin or unrighteousness.

In this passage, John declares that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all”, signifying that God is completely righteous and without sin.

John then proceeds to give some qualifications for how we, as believers, can experience fellowship with God. Here are some of the highlights:

    • Verse 6 says that we cannot experience fellowship with God if we are walking in the darkness. But what does that mean? Well, if darkness refers to sin and unrighteousness, then walking in the darkness must mean that we are walking in unrighteousness.
    • Verse 7 says that if we walk in the light then we WILL experience fellowship with one another and our sin will be purified by the blood of Jesus.
    • In verse 8, John tells us that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving themselves.
    • In verse 9, John tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all sin.
    • Finally, verse 10 tells us that anyone who claims that they haven’t sinned is making God out to be a liar!

So what do these verses really tell us? It seems that if we want to experience fellowship with God then we cannot walk in unrighteousness, which one might conclude means that we cannot sin.

Yet verses 8 and 10 tell us that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving themselves and calling God a liar.

So if fellowship with God requires sinlessness, we are in trouble, because sinlessness is an impossible standard and John himself has said that we can’t claim to be without sin without deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.

So what is really going on here?

To answer this question, I want to appeal to a mathematical law known as syllogism.

The law of syllogism demonstrates the relationship between multiple statements.

For example, if “a” leads to “b” and “b” leads to “c”, then it logically follows that “a” leads to “c”.

Stay with me here because this isn’t as complicated as it may appear. Here is how this relates to this passage. Look particularly at verses 7 & 9.

In verse 7, John says that (A) “walking in the light” leads to “fellowship with God” and (C) “our sin being purified by the blood of Jesus.”

In verse 9, John says that (B) “confessing our sin” leads to “God forgiving our sins” and (C) “purifying us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that in both verse 7 and verse 9 there are two different actions (A & B) that both lead to the same result: being purified of our sin/unrighteousness. Here it is in simplified form:

    • (A) “walking in the light” leads to (C) “our sin being purified by the blood of Jesus.”
    • (B) “confessing our sin” leads to (C) “being purified from all unrighteousness.”

What does this tell us? It tells us that there is a relationship between “walking in the light” and “confessing our sins” since both lead to “our sin/unrighteousness being purified.”

So, do you want to experience fellowship with God? John says you have to walk in the light. But what does that mean? Fortunately, the law of syllogism helps us by helping us see how John defined what it means to walk in the light. It means that we are in the habit of confessing our sins and experiencing God’s forgiveness.

Walking in the light does not require some kind of sinless perfection, as John has established that everyone sins and we can’t say that we haven’t sinned.

Walking in the darkness means that when I do sin, I fail to confess it. As a result, I begin to live in rebellion towards God and I cease to experience daily forgiveness for my sins and shortcomings. The result of this is a lack of growth, as I wrote in my recent blog post “Why Some Christians Never Grow“.

Walking in the light simply means that when I do sin, I submit myself to God’s authority and I confess my sin. Confession involves agreeing with God regarding His moral standards. It also involves repentance, which is a posture of humility and openness to God.

The benefits of this simple habit of confession are enormous. We experience daily cleansing from our sins and we continue to experience fellowship with God and with other believers!

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the concept of “walking in the light”? How would you have described it to another person?

How important has the habit of confession been in your own spiritual journey? What makes it hard for you to confess your sins regularly?

What do you think are the connections between lack of confession and walking in unrighteousness? What are some of the reasons or factors that make it tempting for you and other believers to walk in the darkness instead of walking in the light?

John says in verse 6 that some people claim to have fellowship with God but they’re actually walking in the darkness. What do you think characterizes the lifestyle of this person? What does it look like to walk in darkness but claim to be in fellowship with God?

 

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash