How do you recognise a Christian and why is important that you should? Jesus warned us that there would be wolves disguised as sheep who would try to infiltrate the flock of God, which is the church (Matthew 7:15-20), but He also gave us the key to recognising who they were. He said that it would be by the fruit of their lives that we would know them. Fruit is simply the evidence of what seed has been planted, and therefore the fruit of a person’s life is simply an outward sign of the life within, or the lack thereof.
As a shepherd among God's people there are five main fruits that I would look for when I am observing the lives of those who are seeking to become a part of the flock of God. that I care for. It is also important to stress that just because a person is not a sheep it does not necessarily mean they are a wolf, it just means they are not a sheep. In other words there will be some who may seek to join the flock that are not out to cause harm, but they have not been born again and do not have the life of God within them.
1. Living in the Light
But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (New Living Translation)
Living in the light simply means living in the open with God and your Christian brothers and sisters. When a persons life is open to God, with nothing hidden then God is able to work through that person and the enemy is not able to bring a charge against them. It means that we want every area of our life exposed to the searchlight of God’s Spirit, and anything that is not of Him can be cleansed and purged. The one who has truly repented has a desire for God to deal with any area that He has exposed in his life.
The one who says he is a Christian yet isolates himself from God’s people, and lives a double life must have a serious question mark above him in relation to his salvation (Proverbs 18:1).
2. A Desire to Obey God
If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.
1 John 2:4-5 (New Living Translation)
God does not demand instant perfection in the life and behaviour of a new believer, just as we would not expect instant perfection and maturity from a little baby. However there should be a strong desire within a believer to please God if they have truly come to know and love Him.
Without a doubt, the first step of obedience for any new convert is to be baptised in water. This is a clear command in scripture and is non-negotiable as far as God is concerned. A refusal to obey God in this first step should cause us to ask the question “is this person truly born again?” When Jesus was Himself baptised by John he declared that it was to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), a desire for righteous living is a hallmark of someone who truly loves God (1 John 2:29)
3. Love for other Christians
If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.
1 John 2:9-11 (New Living Translation)
A person cannot say that they loveGod and yet hate his people. A love for other Christians should result in a desire to spend time with them and a attitude of grace and forgiveness towards them. In fact forgiveness between Christian brothers and sisters is another non-negotiable as far as God is concerned. All the way through the New Testament we see that God’s forgiveness of our sins is intrinsically linked to our forgiveness of others.
Love for other Christians should also result in generosity towards them and a desire to meet the needs of others where possible. The person who sees a brother or sister in need yet shuts his heart towards them does not have the love of God in him (1 John 3:17)
4. Leaving the world behind
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.
1 John 2:15-16 (New Living Translation)
As Christians we are not called to a monastic existence, for we could not be salt and light to our communities if we did not live in them. However when we become Christians our priorities should change to fall into line with God’s will for our life. The person who claims to love the Lord and says he desires to follow Him, yet still lives his life with the same priorities and standards as he did before he was saved needs to stop and re-evaluate. The genuine Christian should, by the force of his new nature, begin to lose interest in the things that used to be of primary importance. A dependence on things such as wealth, cars, houses or alcohol in order to find joy or fulfilment will become a thing of the past for the person who now has the life of God within him.
We are no longer to be conformed to the world’s standards, ideals or way of thinking, instead we are to be transformed in our minds in line with God’s will. If there is no desire for transformation then again a question needs to be asked concerning the life of God in that person.
5. Acknowledging Jesus as God and Messiah
And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1 John 2:22-23 (New Living Translation)
There are many who call themselves ‘Christian’ yet deny the deity and the person of Christ Jesus. They may acknowledge His existence as a man, but do not acknowledge Him as God AND Christ. Jesus said that He is the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6). He also said that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). Therefore anyone that thinks they can know God without Jesus is deluded and not really a ‘Christian.’ The person who does not have Jesus does not have the eternal life of God with in him and is therefore still dead in his trespasses and sins (1 John 5:12).
I would hope that as you read through this list you would also measure your own life by the evidences that John points to as indicating a true Christian. If you are a leader in the church then I hope this study has been useful to you in protecting the flock that the Holy Spirit has made you an overseer of.