Are You a True Believer?
In the past, John 3:16 was one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. But today, the most well-known verse is probably Matthew 7:1; “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
If you try to live a Biblical lifestyle and believe that’s important for all Believers, you’ll soon be accused of being judgmental. But is it judgmental to point out obvious violations of Biblical commands? Did Jesus mean we can’t hold each other accountable for obedience to His Word?
Not long ago, I was driving on the interstate, and I passed a state trooper who was checking out a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of the road. In a split-second decision, I failed to slow down or move over into the other lane as the law requires. Soon, the lights of a police car were flashing in my rearview mirror. He informed me of my traffic violation and wrote the citation.
Can I accuse the officer of being judgmental? I knew what the law is, and I knew I violated it. I didn’t like the fine, but I deserved it. The law is an objective standard. It says you must slow down or move over for any law enforcement or emergency personnel along the highway.
So, what’s the difference between the objective standard of laws made by men and the objective standard of God’s Word? The only difference I can think of is that God’s standard is always completely just, man’s standard isn’t! And yet people who willingly acknowledge the standards man sets up, ignore the standards God has set up. Go figure!
I believe the Bible gives us clear teaching that enables us to discern between true followers of Christ, and those who are only pretenders. We do need to be careful that our conclusions are never formed out of pride or feelings of superiority. At the same time, Jesus Himself reminds us, “…by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Our Scripture text today is First John 3:1-10. If you can, follow along in your Bible as I read. Here is God’s Word to us.
As we examine this text, I want you to see three EVIDENCES of a true Believer.
The First Evidence is,
A New Identity
If I claim to be a follower of Christ there must be a visible difference between who I was before accepting Christ as Savior and Lord, and who I am now! Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
The verb tense indicates this becoming new is something that took place in the past, but the results or effects continue into the present. John says here in our text that, as Christians, we are called the children of God. You were adopted into God’s family at a specific point, your conversion. But there are continuing results and benefits of that adoption. Your life should be changing to identify you more closely as God’s child!
When you become a child of God you bear the name of Christ. It is an identifier of who you are. In addition, our text says that if you are a genuine child of God, then the world will not understand you. What you do and how you act won’t make sense to them. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Too many Christians today, and too many churches, seem to think it’s their job to prove to the world just the opposite; that Christians really aren’t that different from anyone else.
Now I don’t advocate dressing a certain way or avoiding certain activities just to be different, odd, or weird. There’s no value in that. But, if my obedience to the Word of God makes me different, then so be it!
I can tell you this; if you’re an obedient follower of Christ you will look different, you will talk differently, you will act differently, and you will BE different from those who don’t know Jesus. We’re so afraid of being identified with Christ because it may make us the odd man out, or cause people to give us strange looks. So what! John says, “they won’t understand you because they don’t know Jesus.”
John goes on to say that we are right now, presently, the children of God. In our humanity, frail and broken as we are, we bear the identity of our Father. But if you think the difference between a believer and an unbeliever is great now, just wait until you see what the future looks like.
We don’t know all the details of the eternal state. We don’t know for certain what our visible appearance or bodily composition will be. But we are assured that we will be similar to Christ because we will be able to gaze upon His holy presence without fear. Think about that. We will be so identified with Christ in His absolute purity and holiness that we will be able to gaze openly upon His face. AWESOME!! This kind of intimacy comes only from a relationship, from our identity with Christ.
How do I know this? It says so right here in verse two of our text. And also, in First Corinthians 15:49, “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, weshall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”
That’s what Jesus did. He came to earth as a man to bear the image of humanity, while at the same time He bore the image of the heavenly. His identity was based on His relationship with the Father. In the original creation, we were made to have intimate fellowship with God. That fellowship was broken by sin, it was repaired at the Cross, and it will be perfectly restored at the resurrection! Only those who find their identity in Christ truly find themselves as God meant them to be. And what a difference that identity makes for all who find it.
Look at verse three. “Everyone who possesses the confident expectation of being in Christ’s presence maintains an outward conduct that demonstrates the reality of inward holiness.” If you truly believe what Jesus taught, and if you understand that this life is not all there is, then, you will live differently than those around you. You will be identified as a child of God, a Christ-follower.
The Second Evidence (of a true Believer) is,
A New Affinity
I believe the keyword of this section is in verse six – abides. It means to stay, to dwell, to remain in a certain place or relationship. It is present, continuous action. It is now and from this point forward. I used the word affinity because it means, an attraction, a desire for something.
Look at what I read, what activities I enjoy, what music I listen to, what kind of people I find fellowship with, and how I spend my money, and that will tell you whether or not I’m a genuine follower of Christ. A true Believer is identified by the things he or she is attracted to. I will have the desire to do those things which please Jesus, and so will you.
John prefaces this new affinity by pointing out the nature of sin. Sin is, violating God’s holy standard. Prior to becoming a follower of Christ our natural attraction was to sin and self. We had no choice; we were slaves to sin, and we couldn’t help ourselves. But John reminds us that Christ came to take away, our sins. He alone was qualified to do that because He was sinless. Jesus was the perfect embodiment of holiness, the perfect representation of His Father.
This new affinity, this new desire, changes the way we look at life. Jesus said of Himself, “I only do those things which please the Father.” Can you say that? I can’t honestly make that statement. It’s my goal, but in practice, I fall short. I try, by God’s grace, and the power of His Holy Spirit in me to choose what’s right. And I don’t obey God’s commands in order to earn His approval. I already have that, based on my acceptance of what Jesus did for me at the Cross. But I obey His commands because I love Him. I want to make Him happy to call me His child.
I don’t understand how some people think. Take any genuine love relationship, whether it’s a dating couple, a husband and wife, or a parent and child. Those involved in genuine love relationships will do whatever it takes to please the other person. They’ll be courteous, kind, gentle, and protective; you name it. There is an attraction there, an affinity, and they are doing whatever they can to build the relationship. You say that’s normal, and I agree.
So, why is it that when Christians strive to obey the Bible and live to please Jesus and their Heavenly Father they’re labeled fanatics by other professing Christians? Isn’t this relationship with Jesus the only one that will really last beyond this earthly life? Shouldn’t this relationship take priority over all the others in our lives?
John reminds us that anyone who sins habitually, as a lifestyle, is not experiencing Christ’s presence and does not know who He is. Such a person doesn’t have an attraction, or an affinity for Christ because there is no relationship. In addition, he reminds us that anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ but does not lead a righteous life, is a fake, a phony. In verse seven he says very emphatically, “My dear children in the Lord, let no person, no, not even one, mislead you and take you astray: the one who practices righteousness is righteous because Christ is in him.”
What are your desires? What kinds of things attract you? If you’re a genuine Believer, you have an affinity for God and the Word. You desire those things that please Him.
The Final Evidence (of a true Believer) is,
A New Personality
Webster defines personality as “the organization of an individual’s distinguishing character traits, attitudes, or habits.” Every human being has a personality. Your personality is based largely on your inward character. Who you really are at the core will determine how you respond to the external forces that press upon you through life’s experiences.
Our text points out one undeniable fact; there are only two options. Either you’re a child of God and practice habitual righteousness, or you’re a child of the devil and practice habitual sin. Too many people today want to try and find a middle road. They want to be identified with Christ to escape eternal punishment, but they also want to identify with the world and all its temporary pleasures. I must tell you, there is no middle road. You can’t have it both ways.
John points out that anyone who has been “born of God” does not sin habitually because the seed (or nature) of God is in him. It is the Divine nature, the inherent holiness of God Himself imparted to the Believer. He has a new core! It is out of this core that all his decisions are made. In John 7:37 Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said,out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
The old nature is not totally eradicated, but neither is it in control! If the old nature was totally eradicated, we wouldn’t need Paul’s counsel in Second Corinthians10:5, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
We can obey this command because the nature of Christ has transformed our character and given us a new personality. He is now on the throne of our lives, and we walk in step with Him as he enables us to become in practice what we already are in position. And what a blessed walk it is. Not always easy or pleasant, but always blessed.
And so, John says the children of God are identified by their inability to sin habitually. The opposite is also true; the children of the devil are identified by their inability to practice righteousness habitually. Someone might try to say, “but I’m a victim of my circumstances.” Oh no, look at verse eight of our text. “Christ appeared on earth for the purpose of demolishing and destroying the deeds of the devil.” You’re not a victim, you’re not powerless, and you’re not without hope, because Christ came! He broke sin’s power at Calvary and broke death’s power at the resurrection. And you can have a new nature, His Divine nature. And you can have victory!
Our text closes with a final observation and proof of the Divine nature. “Anyone who doesn’t habitually practice righteousness doesn’t have the Divine nature, therefore, he does not love others.” Genuine love for others is only possible if we have received the Divine nature.
As I close let’s review the evidences of a true Believer. I call you to examine your life even as I examine mine. Are there evidences to support your claim of being a Christian? Does your identity hold up under scrutiny, does mine?
And what about your affinity? What do you desire most? What kind of people are in your closest circle of friends? Remember, we’re commanded not to be judgmental, but we are commanded to be discerning. And if we ever needed to exercise that discernment it’s today.
Does Jesus live in you? Is He in control of your life and the choices you make? Does your personality reflect His presence? Do you demonstrate the evidences of a true Believer?