Am I Really a Christian? (3 Steps)

NOTE: This post has self-assessment tasks throughout. Please complete them whilst reading and answers/guidance can be found at the end of the post.

If you're asking this question, it's probably because of one of the below reasons:

  1. You've tried to be a "good" Christian before, but feel like it never seems to last.

  2. You're not convinced by preachers who make you feel good but don't ever teach on sin, conviction and surrender.

  3. You'd rather know the truth if you're wrong so you can make changes to get things right.

Whatever the reason, this is a great question for all of us to think about. This isn't just for new converts, it's for all of us. Here's why.

Jesus warned us that many would be deceived

Jesus warned us that many would follow the path to destruction, and few would follow the path to life (see Matthew 7:13-14). But here's the thing. It's not just those who die as athiests, muslims etc who will perish eternally. It's also people who mistakenly think they're walking with Jesus. From pastors to city workers and everything in between, there are some who will be shocked that they don't get eternal life! Look at what Jesus went on to say:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’" - Matthew 7:21-23

Just because we call ourselves Christians, go to Church, read the bible, don't swear, prophesy, cast out demons etc, that's no guarantee that we're really following Jesus. With strong warnings like those in the verses above, we'd do good to search ourselves to see where we really stand.

Am I really a Christian? To answer this question, we'll take a simple, evidence-based approach. In other words, if it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and barks like a dog, it's probably not a chicken (it's a dog!). Here are three key steps to know if you're really a Christian or not.

Step 1: What's the true gospel message?

The true 'gospel' (a.k.a. 'the good news') has the power to save sinners from eternal punishment (see Romans 1:16). But all news isn't necessarily true, and the gospel is no exception to this. With this in mind, we can't afford to blindly follow a gospel we've never checked for ourselves in the scriptures. Even if it came from our favourite preacher/friend/relative, we have to stay loyal to the truth. If it's a different gospel from the one we read about in the scriptures, it's false and it shouldn't be followed (see Galatians 1:6-9).

To understand the gospel, we first have to recognise the context of man. Just like Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3:1-19), all of us have rebelled against our Creator (see Romans 3:23). Rather than looking to Him as the Source of all wisdom and following the pattern of our Maker, we've gone our own way and become our own gods. So we do what we think is best, live on our own terms and ignore the wisdom of our Father and Creator. We can see the results of this in our world through history until the present day. A world where selfish ambition and greed are seen as more important than the inherent value in all humans, regardless of skin colour, culture and heritage (e.g. slavery, colonialism and even racial discrimination in our present day). A world where making up our own way led men to believe that genocide was justified (e.g. Hitler and the holocaust). A world where parents are burying their teenage sons and daughters who were murdered at the hand of a gun/knife. This is the sad and broken world that we live in. And it starts with the evil that exists inside of rebellious men and women.

So who do you turn to when your iPhone starts to malfunction? Where do you go when your brand new television stops working properly? Who better than the one who made those devices - the creator/manufacturer? It's the same with us. When we realise our brokenness and faulty ways of thinking, we need to run back to our Creator and Father - God. He paid the price for the damage we've done through our sinfulness, rebellion and broken ways of living. Jesus (God in the flesh) took the punishment that we deserved by dying on the cross in our place. Why? So that we wouldn't suffer eternally, but instead have the gift of eternal life (see John 3:16). So that we'd be adopted as God's children (John 1:12-13). And so that we would benefit from the new heart and His Spirit which God promised He'd give us so we could walk in His ways (see Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is the gospel! And it prepares us for eternity as we walk with God on Earth.

If we rely on anything other than the true gospel to somehow make us right with God, we're probably not really a Christian. This is because eternal life is a free gift from God that we've done nothing to deserve - that's the heart of the gospel. So no matter how many sermons we've heard, scriptures we've read and money we've given to the Church, there's no amount of good works we could ever rely on to justify us before God and earn eternal life. That doesn't mean our good works are a waste of time. It just means that we're saved and justified by God's grace alone (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

Self-assessment task 1

Complete the sentence: "The reason I'm not going to burn in hell is because__________________________".

Step 2: What's the fruit of your life?

It's true that eternal life is a gift from God. It's true that we're saved by God's grace, rather than because we've "done enough good". But that doesn't mean we just "take the free gift" then go back to reckless living. Far-from it! Here's the thing: Christianity isn't just a coat that we put on for later, or a parachute we put on for when we kick the bucket in this life. Christianity is literally like the miracle of a corpse being raised from the dead. We were spiritually dead in our sins, so we didn't have the power to fully follow God's way (see Ephesians 2:1-10, Colossians 2:8-15 and Titus 3:3-7).

By saying yes to Jesus, there's a spiritual reality that we don't see with the naked eye. The slavery power of sin is broken in our lives (see Galatians 5:1). We receive a new heart and Spirit from God that enables us to reject sin and walk in God's ways (see Ezekiel 36:26-27 and Titus 2:11-14). We're made new, so we don't have to walk as we once did (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). All of this takes place as we spiritually come to life!

So think with me for a moment back to the example of a corpse. Imagine it was smoking cigarettes that took you to the grave. You've just been brought back to life from the dead. Does it then make sense for you to go back to that same, old smoking habit? No way! You know that's what killed you in the first place, so why go back to the thing that put you in the grave? The same is true of our lives as Christians (see Romans 6). With the empowerment we're given through God's grace and the Holy Spirit, we see the brokenness in our old passions and indulgences. We resist their lure, and choose instead to walk in the power God's given us! We might not get it 100% right every time, but there's an overall progressive growth which confirms that we're more like Christ today than yesterday.

Self-assessment task 2

Answer the following question:

Since I became a Christian, has there been evidence of me changing to be more like Jesus Christ? Am I any different than I was before becoming a Christian?

Step 3: When's the last time you died to self?

Some bad habits and temptations die the moment we become Christians. But there are other things that we spend our lives wrestling and fighting through. The fact that we feel tempted isn't a sign of false-conversion. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and throughout His life on Earth, but He never gave in and was perfect without sin (see Matthew 4:1-11 and Hebrews 4:15).

It's with this context that we have to look at Jesus' words for those who want to follow Him:

"... If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" - Luke 9:23

The cross isn't about living the high-life and Jesus being some genie in the bottle. It's a place of death, humility and putting our fleshly, unrenewed, unregenerated mind and desires to death. This doesn't just happen when we first say yes to Jesus. It's something we're called to do daily.

What does it look like to carry your cross and die to yourself daily? At work, it might be resisting the urge to get wicked on that frustrating colleague who provokes you. In marriage, it might be choosing not to hold grudges but to reconcile with your spouse - even when you know they're in the wrong. It might be choosing to tell the truth, even when you know lying could make you money. There are countless ways to carry our cross and die daily as we follow Jesus. But the point is that we should die daily, and put our old ways and desires to death. If we're not, it might be a sign that we're really not Christians after all.

Self-assessment task 3

Answer the following question:

Have I been dying to myself and taking up my cross daily? If yes, what are some examples?

Final Comments

As you reflect on the things we've covered in this post, ask God to search you and expose any areas you might be falling short. Ask for His forgiveness for any wrongdoing and ask for Him to make the truth of His Word bear fruit in your life. God is looking for those who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. The truth shouldn't make us feel like there's no hope or we'll never measure up. Contrary to that, we should rejoice when our faulty-thinking is exposed by God's Word. It gives us the chance to run to our Father, seek His forgiveness and walk out the new life He's called us to.



Self-assessment task 1

Complete the sentence:

"The reason I'm not going to burn in hell is because__________________________".

Christian answer: Points to Jesus taking our punishment and giving us the gift of eternal life.

Non-Christian answer: Anything else.

Self-assessment task 2

Answer the following question:

Since I became a Christian, has there been evidence of me changing to be more like Jesus Christ? Am I any different than I was before becoming a Christian?

Guidance: The fruit of our lives should progressively show change as we become more and more like Jesus. The changes might not seem obvious shortly after we've first become Christians, but over time, it should be more and more obvious. We grow at different rates (some more drastic and obvious than others), so it's not about comparing ourselves with those around us. It's about looking back on who we were before Jesus, then comparing that with the person we are today.

Just like weight-loss, we might not see the changes in ourselves straight away. But those we do life with can often see it first. Pay attention to the comments of others - even your non-Christian friends. They might not always speak the truth (Christian or not), but pay attention when they say things like "you're so boring now that you stopped clubbing and getting drunk". It might not be true that you're boring, but the comment is an example of the change in you.

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