The past year I have been amazed at what and who gets called christian these days. 2017 was officially the year of “fake news”, and by extension the rise in fake christians. It is clear that many have problems distinguishing the genuine from the fake. Its ironic that in the information age, there is so much confusion. We are in an age of information however there are specializists who spread misinformation for the purposes of distorting the truth. The devil is an expert at telling half truths and misinformation. The scriptures point to us that often even the devil comes to us as an angel of light; when the truth is that he is a master of disguise. The scriptures give us clues how to discern a true believer from one that is fake. Because God is concerned about how he and his people are percieved. Here are a couple of ways how to spot a true christian from a fake.
A true christian will love God more than himself.
The first and greatest command is to love the Lord with all of one’s heart, soul and strength. Everything about a christian will emanate from this point. When you are looking at someone, you have to ask the question? Does this person really love God. Does this person not just talk about God, does this person know God, do they want to know him. Do they have a relationship with Jesus. Do they believe that he died for their sins and are eternally grateful for the work that he did.
A christian will display the love of God to others.
The second commandment is to Love our neighbor as ourselves. Matthew 22:39. Jesus clarifies this statement by stating that loving our neighbor means not just loving those who look like us and think like us, but it is to love those who are different, it is to love those who are despised, and mistreated, it means to look out for their interests and to even pray for our enemies.
This is why racism, sexism, and any other prejudice is wrong. We are not to treat others worse or to disparage, and criticize certain groups just because they look, talk or believe differently then we do.
If you have a person who is always treating or talking about an individual or others who are different in a condescending way, if they are one to cause division and hatred this is a sign that they do not walk with God. Proverbs 16:28 states A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
Again proverbs 15:18 states:
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.
Where as the mark of a believer should be this as found in Proverbs 17:9
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
The mark of a christian should be one that strives to bring others together in love and not one of division. I want to make a caveat in this because love of others doesn’t mean you will not confront or speak out against things that are wrong. For instance if I have a married friend who is cheating on his wife, my love for him will not mean I will not call him out on his cheating because it will offend him. Rather the opposite, my love for him will lead me to call him out on his sin. My friend may not like it when I call him out, however the way I approach him will emanate out of my care for him, not one of blanket condemnation. Christians should always strive to speak the truth, and make principled stands, but when they do it they must speak the truth in love.
A christian will have a love for the people of God and for the Word of God.
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
The author of Hebrews takes this idea and states it this way
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
We have talked about the love for others. However there is a special love for the Word of God and the people of God. This means a christian will be a part and active in a larger community of worship and faith. A christian is one who longs to hear the words and commands of God and strives to put them into practice. There is no such thing as a lone christian. A biblical christian is one who is part of a larger community, in which he serves and encourages his fellow christians toward love and good works.
A true christian is one who admits their sins, and strives to correct their mistakes.
All christians sin. However scriptures tell us to confess our sins when we do fall short.
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
So the two points behind these verses are the following:
As a christian you will sin, but it is important to confess your sin and not just confess to strive to correct that sin. A christian is one who is humble because he understands that he is a work in progress. Any person who does not confess to their sins, and who does not make any attempts to correct their mistakes is not walking as a believer. Also important is the fact that a believer realizes that our good works will not erase our sins, but that it is only the blood and righteousness of Jesus that cleanses ours sins. We do not rest on our own righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ. So by definition a christian can not be self righteous.
We should all evaluate ourselves and those who claim to be christians by these traits. Jesus warns us that there will be many false prophets, and false teachers, and false leaders. As believers we need to make sure we aren’t duped. Even if you are not a christian, by looking at these things you will be able to tell the real from the fake.