[Word count: 561. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you— unless indeed you fail the test.” —2 Corinthians 13:3-5
Remember when I told my mom I wasn’t going to church or looking for a new one, and she asked, “Are you still a Christian?” I was annoyed at the question, but I need to revisit it. My adopted grandma says, “You don’t have to go to my church, but you do have to go to my god.” So I ask: Have I gone to God recently? Is my heart still there? Is there a Google Maps app that can tell you how far away you are from God? (First person to say The Bible gets punched in the face.)
From what I told you I believe, things get cold sometimes. Things get dry. But the relationship is not dead. Living things have been frozen solid, but cold does not mean dead. Anyone who didn’t know my background might look at my relationship… frosted, unmoving, and deathly still… and deduce with good reason that it is dead.
If my mom sees someone call themselves a Christian while living below the expected standard, she’ll say, “But they’re not a real Christian though.” Ma might snatch that membership card away quick if you don’t pay your dues.
But it’s not about looking like a “real Christian.” I know how to look like that. A couple strategic appearances at church, a perfectly-timed emotional outburst sometime during altar call, some familiar spiritual jargon, and I’m ready for my closeup.
But look even closer. I wanna know if you asked Jesus about me, he’d say, “Mark? He’s an inactive member, but he’s still on the roster.” Or if I stood before him today, would he say “depart from me, I never knew you… you worker of iniquity”? But didn’t God call us friends? Are we the kind of friends who can not talk for months and still pick up where we left off?
I don’t regularly read the Bible anymore. I pray when life prompts it. I do not fast. I do not meditate. I am a Christmas tree with little to no trimming—like that sad-looking Charlie Brown one. So then, am I a Christmas tree at all? At what point do I become just a regular old fir?
Liken it to a female breast cancer survivor who wants to reaffirm her femininity even after chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. Losing her breasts and hair doesn’t suddenly make her a man. You can even remove her womb and she will still be a woman, right down to her XX chromosomes.
So I wonder—down where it really matters—what makes a Christian really a Christian? Where does that belief have to be planted so that even when you strip away every identifying marker, people can still tell… God can tell… I can tell? (Asking for a friend.)
“Lord I believe in you
I’ll always believe in you
Though I can’t see you with my eyes
Deep in my heart, your presence I find
Lord I believe in you
And I’ll keep my trust in you
Let the whole world say what they may
No one can take this joy away
Lord, I believe.”
—Crystal Lewis, “Lord, I Believe In You”
Even those who walked closely with Christ went through a season of “questioning the answers”. So you are in good company. :)) It makes for a “real” faith; & besides, I don’t think that I would trust anyone’s walk who didnt go through this phase.
Your position with Christ is sure when you believe… (Here comes Bible…don’t punch me:)))
“So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:11, 24-29 NLT)
(You my be seated)
Now relationship in the walk Christ? Is a relative but very segregated dialogue.
A parent who hasn’t spoken to their child in 15 years is still “mom or dad” in title, but the relationship must be re-established via “contact”. And just like any good parent… It’s an immediate reconnection because they’ve longed for that exchange to return.
“Contact” is as simple as reading this blog to God out loud. I’m sure He’s already read it… But there’s a different power when it’s verbalized… Ijs
Luv all you write.
It makes me know I’m not alone.
P, thank you! No one else deigned to actually answer the question. Beautifully appropriate answer, too. I left it open for that purpose! And when we each knows the other is not alone, that sounds remarkably like us overcoming by the word of our testimonies. So thank you for yours. I’m edified. 🙂
Once you’re saved–really saved– you cannot become un-saved (you’re “sealed until the day of redemption”). The biblical requirements for a Christian are to 1)Accept that humans are flawed and cannot save ourselves from our own wickedness and evildoings; 2)Accept that Christ became the perfect sacrifice to pay the cost of our sins for all eternity with His death and resurrection; 3)Live a life of freedom as a result of this understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and our power through Him, praising God with everything we do and drawing more people to Him out of our tremendous love and gratitude to Him.
The question is not are you a Christian in your mom’s eye, or any other human’s eye. The question is whether you are a Christian in the eyes of the only righteous judge that exists: God. God tells a Christian by examining your heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And what is in your heart, comes out in your life: the things you do and say (Matthew 15:18).
Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) What is a Christian, but someone who loves Christ? Yet you say you do not go to church when the Bible says, “forsake not the assembling together of believers” (Hebrews 10:25). I don’t want to assume that you’re also not paying tithes to a church if you’re not spending time and energy at a church, but if not, that’s another clear command–pay tithes to God through His storehouse, the church–that we’ve already talked about in a previous conversation (“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offering.” Malachi 3:8, but don’t stop reading there!)
You say you don’t read the Bible often and you don’t meditate, but the Bible tells us to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be able to do everything written on it. THEN (emphasis added) you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)
You say you “pray when life prompts it,” but life ought to prompt it every second you breathe air if you’re paying attention. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
God says He judges a tree by the fruit it bears. And the fruit, or evidence, that the Holy Spirit lives in you (the evidence of Christ and thus Christianity in you) is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control”. Of course our flesh prevents us from manifesting these things consistently; glory be to God that He’s already provided that perfect sacrifice in Christ Jesus to stand in the gap between imperfect us and our perfect God, so that when God looks on us, He only sees His perfect son and not our human screw-ups and weakness. How and ever: “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!” (Romans 6:15). We are not to boast in the things we do that are clearly against the Word of God. When the Holy Spirit is alive inside of us, He pricks our hearts when we do this sin, and it seems like these questions in this blog post are the Holy Spirit pricking your heart to say it’s not right, Houston, we have a problem, go back to the altar, fall on your knees, stay there til you get the Holy Ghost power, (if I can take it allllll the way back for a minute!)
Christianity is not about putting on a show, it’s about living for an audience of one, and that’s the Holy Trinity. Lord, is my life pleasing in Your sight? I am fulfilling Your commandments? Am I being obedient to You? How can I be MORE dedicated, more faithful, more of a living sacrifice for you? That’s what the heart of a Christian asks. Let a man examine himself to see if he is honoring the Lord with his life. But how can you examine yourself if there is no standard? The standard is the Word of God. You absolutely must read the Bible daily to know what God wants from a Christian’s life. It will help you hear Him clearly when He’s speaking to you in every day life, all around you.
We cannot measure up to Christ ever. That’s why we needed Him to die for us. We’re free from that need to be perfect and from the bondage of sin. The question now is, what will we do with that freedom? Walking in freedom, in the fruits of the Spirit, is the ultimate evidence of Christianity, of Christ in us.
I’m wondering if you’re not considering all forms of ‘contact’ with God. Things as simple as saying, ‘Thank You’ throughout the day is contact to me. Sometimes (a lot of times) I don’t have a whole lot to say to God except, ‘Thanks. You’re amazing.’ Whether it’s for keeping me from a car accident, promotion on my job or just waking me up… The ‘Thank You’ is all I got sometimes. I know He honors that too.
Sometimes saying, “God knows your heart” feels so much like a lazy, cop-out but I truly believe He does know our hearts. Our walks with Him are deeply personal and I think that as long as we’re exploring it honestly – like you’re doing with this blog – and showing Him some measure of growth… then we’re where we are supposed to be. 🙂
I have to say. That is very validating. I’ll TAKE it! 🙂 If those count, then yes, I still do pray. But the laboring and tarrying we used to do in church? I haven’t felt the need to circle back to that. There is an unmistakable peace in affirming that he really knows us though. I’ll breathe another sigh of relief on your comment today.
The laboring/tarrying is something I feel guilty for not doing more sometimes because I do believe there is power in that commitment to put everything else aside and get into His presence. <– Which is something I refused to see when I was younger b/c I did NOT WANT to be at church for hours tarrying lol! But the more I get to know God for myself, the more I understand things.
But I also know there is power in voiceless tears too. If I believe God knows my heart, I believe He also knows, sometimes I'm so full that I've got no words – only tears. He understands those too. On the flip side, He also knows when I'm just trying to fulfill some doctrinal mandate by blubbering on my knees for an hour to "feel" more Christian.
I will say this, though… Counting my blessings has caught me up for an hour or two. Just remembering one thing leads to another and another and before I know it, time has passed and I'm zoned out (or in) in His presence.
He REALLY knows us. So He knows when it's real… Whether that's two hours, tarrying on our knees or 30 seconds of tears and moanings and groanings that can't even be uttered. SINCERITY draws us closer to Him not the posturing. To me. And, you know, I'm still growing in God so this is just where I am today. Hopefully I'll have experienced more growth down the road.
It’s been most necessarily comforting every time someone reminds me that God KNOWS us. I have anxiety about that sometimes. See also: “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood!”
Wwwwoooooo!!! My pastor *just* got done preaching about this. People fall to the wayside spiritually everyday, but one thing remains…when you’re His, you’re His.
Hey, didn’t Carlton Pearson catch hell for preaching “once saved, always saved”? Or was it preaching that there’s no such thing as hell (’cause that’s what got Rob Bell in trouble).
I think I’ll finally enjoy the privilege of the being the least long winded one! Yay! Lol
Scripture (don’t swing!) says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead… you’re saved. (Romans 10:9,10). That’s it boom.
And it sounds like that’s where you’re already at. Seems like your struggle is in “but what does that look like? Cuz what I see don’t match, and I don’t trust what I know.” Which, as someone else already said, puts you in good company.
A “real” Christian or a “really” saved person refers to the caliber of life. If someone claims to belong to the light, you expect them to what? Shine. Or progressively shine. If someone claims a heritage of light and they start to resemble the darkness more and more… something is off. Mind you- saved is saved, like being black is being black. There are no degrees to it. There is only growth. Church has just gotten away from looking at the right stuff.
Light is not reflected in your suit and tie on Sunday morning any more than being black is reflected in wearing your du rag in public. So the question is… what does light look like? How can I tell, in myself and others, if I’m not abusing my being saved or even lying on it with my life? Bible. Moreso new testament. It’s a lesson in light- and the first principle is unconditional love, because that’s what God gives us (John 3:16).
And that’s where I stop before I start rambling. Lol But you’re far from “unsaved” twin!
Wow! I have some valid questions for you Mark, then I think you will recieve your answer
Where are the questions?