So You Think You're a Christian

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Joel 2:32 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Lk. 6:46 π Lk. 9:23-25 π Rom. 6:1-2 π Rom. 6:15-16 π Rom. 10:13 π 1 Cor. 15:54-55 π Gal. 5:19-21 π Heb. 10:26-29 π Jas. 2:14-17 π 1 Jn. 1:6 π 1 Jn. 2:4 π 1 Jn. 3:6 π 1 Jn. 3:10 π 1 Jn. 3:16-17 π 1 Jn. 5:18 π Rev. 20:14 π Rev. 22:14-15 π Rev. 22:15

Of all the questions that can be asked, "Are you a Christian?" is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, in our era of relativism and post-"Christian" confusion, the exact meaning behind that question has become scrambled in obscurity. One of the worst offenders in obscuring the truth has been that group of people called the "church."

To be a Christian is one who has, in Christian terminology, experienced salvation. But what is "salvation"? What does it mean to be "saved"? The Old and New Testaments both promise that "whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." ( Rom. 10:13 ; Joel 2:32; top ) So, all we have to do is call on Him by name and we will be saved? Yes!

But what is commonly overlooked is that to be saved, there must have first been a danger, a threat. One is not saved from blessings, from life or from good things. That is contradictory to the innate meaning of the word. One must be saved from danger, from death, from destruction, from bad things. And so it is with spiritual salvation - we are saved from things that would render us eternal harm.

We shall be saved from Hell. When we call on the Lord for salvation, He will write our names in His Book of Life and we will not spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. ( Rev. 20:15; top ) This is great news indeed! And if we would even just truly believe that much, it would make significant differences in both our outlook and behavior! But if we think Christ's salvation stops with getting us out of Hell, we place ourselves right back on the road to the very place we thought ourselves safe from.

We shall be saved from death - not physical death but spiritual death. Death has been conquered by Christ and only awaits its final disposition according to His eternal sentence. (see Rev. 20:14 ) Death holds no terror for those who have truly received Christ's salvation. ( 1 Cor. 15:54-55; top ) But again, if we think Christ's salvation only saves us from spiritual death, we will yet experience that second death yet.

Taking this journey to heaven is much like taking an airplane journey to a friend's house in a distant city. We must have a ticket and then we must get on the plane and actually go. And when the airplane lands in that distant city, we still have not arrived at our friend's house. Having the promise of Heaven and eternal life is like having our ticket. But we must actually get on the plane. And when physical death deposits us in that far City, only then will Christ escort us to His eternal home - or else we will find that we were on the wrong plane the whole time.

There are two aspects of Christ's salvation which must see demonstrated in this life so that we may know for certain that we shall experience the future, eternal aspects of Christ's salvation when this life is over. Without these demonstrations being progressively visible now, we can be completely confident that we have not truly received Christ's salvation.

And so that there is no mistaking my meaning, these visible demonstrations are not something we work up from our own strength or abilities. They are the certain result of His answering our call. When we genuinely and sincerely call on the Lord, these demonstrations are the form His answer will take in our lives here and now. If we do not see His answer in this form, perhaps we were not so genuine or sincere in our calling on Him as we had been led to believe. Again, I say it clearly, if we do not see these visible demonstrations of Christ's power being worked out in our own lives here and now, we are not saved - no matter how good or how religious we are or how many Bible facts we may know.

And what are these eternal threats and dangers from which we are saved now? First, we must see ourselves being saved from sin. The Bible is replete with warnings against thinking that we can continue in sin after receiving Christ as Savior.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

He who says, ?I know Him,? and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. ( 1 Jn. 1:6 ; 2:4 ; 3:6 , 10 ; 5:18; top )

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? ( Rom. 6:1-2 , 15-16; top )

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ( Gal. 5:19-21 , emphasis added; top)

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses? law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? ( Heb. 10:26-29; top )

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. ( Rev. 22:14-15 , emphasis added; top)

The fallacy of expecting to partake of Christ's salvation without walking in obedience to Him is summed up in Jesus' own words:

"But why do you call Me ?Lord, Lord,? and do not do the things which I say?? ( Lk. 6:46; top )

Yes, our being saved from sins is progressive and some days will be better than others in terms of obedience (of which confession of sins - failures, disobediences - is an integral part). But if we are quite comfortable knowing that there are things going on in our life that ought not be, we have great reason to look on our "salvation experience" with doubt and concern.

And second, we must see ourselves being saved from our self. Jesus said:

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" ( Lk. 9:23-25; top )

John wrote:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? ( 1 Jn. 3:16-17; top )

James wrote:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ( Jas. 2:14-17; top )

There is a two-fold call on our life the moment we genuinely and sincerely call on the Lord for salvation: holiness - being morally and spiritually separated from worldly and sinful living to obeying and being like God - and love - self-sacrificial giving of our selves and our resources to meet the real needs of others around us. Any true work of the Lord Jesus Christ's saving grace includes progressive growth in both areas. Anything that promotes laxity in either area should be avoided at all cost. Though it may seem quite acceptable or enjoyable now, it will prove false and will leave you as unsaved as before you'd ever heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. You must experience a genuine, progressive and continual transformation of your life or you have not experienced Christ's salvation.

Christ's salvation, as great and wonderful as it will be in the eternal future, also produces radical changes in this life now. So assured is this fact that we can confidently know whether we are eternally saved or not by the mere presence or absence of these radical changes. And one must see these radical, progressive changes in regard to both sin and self or that one is simply not saved - no matter what "church" he attends, no matter which denominational theology he subscribes to, no matter what theological seminary he graduates from and no matter how many spiritual gifts he operates in. (see Mt. 7:21-23; top )

Thus the one who is comfortable in a sinful lifestyle is just as unsaved as the one who remains in a comfortable, self-centered, self-pleasing lifestyle. It is not enough to exchange the bars and places of sin for pleasant "church" surroundings and slightly improved moral habits. We must give up any and all supposed rights of self and fully embrace the complete Lordship of Jesus Christ if we are to have any hope of truly being saved from Hell and spiritual death. If we have no Spirit-led and Spirit-filled life now, why should we expect to have any when this body dies?

There are multitudes of diluted and compromised notions about Christ's salvation that effect no beneficial or God-ward change in a person's life - and they will effect no change in that person's appointed destiny in eternal Hell either. The stakes are extremely high and the deceptions are both clever and abundant. True salvation - salvation from Hell, death, sin and self - is available to all who call on the name of the Lord. Accept no substitutes.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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