(Section from the book titled Which direction is the Church going to?)
This section can download in PDF form here: How can we know sombody is a Christian
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There is a great variety of churches and movements in our days and it is extremely difficult to know which one is genuine and that who a real Christian is. What are the characteristics on the basis of which you can decide for sure who a genuine Christian is?
– a profound knowledge of the Bible?
– a restrained life lived through religious standards?
– praying more hours a day, sometimes even in the streets, carrying a Bible?
– signs that follow the believers as the Bible says?
The characteristics on the basis of which you can distinguish one person from another are those that nobody else possesses. This way Christians also have characteristics that are definitely owned only and exclusively by them. It is a vital question in our world confused by different religions.
So which are those characteristics the Word tells us about on the basis of which we can know for sure if somebody is a Christian?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” John 13.34-35.
According to the statement of Jesus there is something in His disciples (Christians following Jesus) that they can be recognized from: the love from God they love one another with. It must be a love that draws everybody’s attention. This love is not based on emotions or sentiments, but is an attitude no one can falsify or imitate.
Where does the Word write about this love and its characteristics?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” Gal. 5.22-26.
We can see that the love apostle Paul tells us about is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in Christians. Only those born again Christians are able to bear it who live according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Apostle Paul writes the following about the Christians in Corinth:
“So that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:” Co. 1.7.
What does that mean? It means that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit worked in that church. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not natural human abilities, but supernatural gifts, abilities from the Lord. These gifts all worked in the church of Corinth without exception. It would be very nice to have the same in many present day churches! However, there were some difficulties concerning the right usage of the gifts in the church of Corinth, the same way there are in present day churches. Therefore apostle Paul regulated the using of gifts and made clear the relationship between gifts, ministries and the fruit. We had better pay attention to that for it was also written for our benefit.
It is wonderful if we have the gifts functioning. Apostle Paul was also happy about it. However, we should not forget that these gifts were given for service with no other purpose but to build the Body of Christ.
The Word says:
“But earnestly desire the best gifts: and yet I show you a more excellent way.” 1 Co. 12.31.
What is the more excellent way that stands over gifts and is even more important than gifts? According to the Word it is Godly love.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profited me nothing.”
– suffers long, and is kind;
– love envies not;
– love vaunts not itself, does not puff up,
– does not behave itself unseemly,
– seeks not his own,
– is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
– rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
– bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
“Love never fails: but whether there be prophecy, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” 1 Co. 13.1-8.
“Follow after love, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy.” 1 Co. 14.1.
What do these words mean?
They mean that we may speak in tongues, prophecy and may do wonders by faith and distribute all our riches, but it is worth NOTHING if we don’t have love. We can easily check if we have this love or not. We just have to examine ourselves if we have the characteristics the apostle Paul mentioned as the characteristics of love. These are the very characteristics people can recognize from that we are Christians. This is what Satan is not able to imitate, because the source is the Holy Spirit. The reason why supernatural gifts are not characteristic signs of Christians is because Satan is able to bring forth similar signs as well.
“For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to deceive, if it possible, even the elect.” Mattew 24.24.
“And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceives them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” Rev. 13.13-14.
We can find plenty of examples in the Word where Satan does miracles. We have to remember that the magicians of the pharaoh in Egypt could change the stick into a snake the way Moses did and that Baal’s priests could prophesy as well. Therefore we can expect the same with the false prophet who will prepare the way before the Antichrist.
Now we can see that signs can easily deceive us and as the Word says “if it is possible, even the elected ones”! It is because signs are not characteristics of Christians but are just signs which follow the believers.
“And these signs shall follow them who believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Mark 16.17-20.
God anoints His Word and verifies it with signs. But we have to be careful because Satan can do similar signs to mislead us. There is only one thing and it is love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that infallibly distinguishes Christians from the people in the world who follow the emotions or wishes of the flesh and from other people who are involved in occultism, might they have good intentions.
In our material world pursuing the wishes of the flesh, intolerance is especially high, envy, arrogance and pride are common and we can too often experience fight for money, infernal and brutal actions, anger, falseness (lie, swindle) and malicious joy. If we, Christians, in a world that so sharply shows the signs of the last times can bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit ,which is love, our lives will undoubtedly become so striking in the eyes of people (lights of the world) that nobody will miss it for sure. Even those fleshy people who are not able to sense spiritual matters will notice the kind of behavior of Christians they are incapable of doing due to their fleshy nature. These are the simple and obvious things the Lord has invented to make Christianity desirable and draw people to Himself.
This was the reason why Jesus gave the new commandment to his disciples to love one another as He loved them. This new commandment is still valid and nobody can give other command. However, there is somebody who won’t rest and keeps trying day by day. It is Satan, who draws our attention to follow signs and miracles and leave love behind. It is because he is not able to produce love, but signs he can. This is how he prepares the way for the Antichrist misleading many, if possible, even the elected ones. Let us be watchful and not allow him to mislead us! Christianity is not an alternative spiritual movement, but the community of believers who know God, have been born again and cleaned from their sins by Jesus Christ doing the will of God.
Following the truth in love
The TRUTH the Bible is talking about is an absolute truth in every case.
„Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me. „ John 14.6.
The Bible – as the written Word of God – tells about an existing truth for all cases and this truth is Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh, who says:
„…for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. ….” John 18.37.
God wants „ all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1Ti. 2.4.
What shall we do then?
„But seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;” Mattew. 6.33
So truth has to be searched for.
What is a righteous man in the light of the Bible like?
– does what the Law commands Romans 2.13.
– has the Lord on his or her side 2 Chron 19.11.
– the righteous is as bold as a lion Proverbs 28.1.
– is anointed by the Lord Psalm 45.7.
The righteous man becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God. This state fills you with joy and peace, but it doesn’t mean that you can live your life without problems. On the contrary, the Lord allows a lot of trials in your life to test your persistence:
– The Lord tests the righteous: Psa. 11.5.
– Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Spa. 34.19.
– Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: Mattew 5.10.
Why is so little said about righteousness nowadays even in Christian circles? One of the most frequently used words in the Bible is righteousness. In our every-day Christian walk we seem to overlook righteousness and fall into the trap of unrighteousness due to following “love”, which is not from the Lord, sometimes even tolerating sin.
What is the relationship between righteousness and the love of God? How can we follow righteousness at the same time acting in love?
Love is not always pleasing to us.:
„For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” Heb. 12.6.
All these things are happening for our good with the purpose to have us as true sons and not as illegitimate children. We need to remember how Jesus drove out hawkers from the temple in Jerusalem saying:
„Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” John. 2.17.
Let us also remember how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and hypocrites who kept tempting him:
„Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….” Mattew 23.15.
„Woe to you, you blind guides,…” Mattew 23.16.
„You fools and blind:…” Mattew 23.17.
Should a Christian today announce the truth in such a direct and open way he or she would be immediately thought to be extremely unloving and rude. However, the Word says that the love of God does include it, for Jesus himself did accordingly.
„…as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13.34.
The relationship between truth and love can be understood from the following words:
„…I am the way, the truth, and the life:…” John 14.6.
„Let all your things be done with love.” Co. 16.14.
„But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Eph. 4.15.
If you do not walk in truth means you walk in falseness! It in mostly through the ministry of the prophets that we can get a picture of the importance of proclaiming the truth and the consequences that follow.
We know that prophets are the people of God the Lord is fond of, whose ministry is to proclaim the truth. Henceforth they are not popular people everybody likes. We know well how much they suffered in Old Testament times, and what is more, they were usually murdered by their own nation.
„O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!” Mattew 23.37.
God chooses people and gives them power and authority to declare the truth to the people (like in ancient times, the same today). The way people resisted the truth and killed the prophets in those times, we should not think it is any different today. If we are really Christians, we must learn to accept warning and reproof with joy, because they are for our good. Anger and resentment or murdering of prophets are not reactions the Lord wants us to have if we are faced with the truth we do not like.
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