How Do You Know If Someone Is a Christian?
The word "Christian" is thrown around a lot in our culture. You may claim to be a Christian but have no idea what it really means. How can we tell if someone is a true, authentic Christian?
First off, no one is God and cannot with 100% certainty know whether or not someone has been changed by the Holy Spirit.
With that said, you can see results and effects of what Jesus has done in someone's life. John Frame says it this way:
"Jesus says that the regenerating work of the Spirit is like the blowing of the wind; you don't see it, you don't know where it comes from or where it goes. But as with the wind you can see the results, though you cannot be infallibly sure that regeneration has taken place. Faith and good works...show that we have been born of God (Salvation Belongs to our Lord)."
In other words, if you have been changed by the Holy Spirit and love Jesus Christ, people should see a change in your lifestyle. We will never be perfect. In fact, we should become more honest and open about our sins and shortcomings, embrace the grace of God, and be quick to love and forgive others.
I hear a lot from people that "You will know if a person is a Chrisitan by their fruits." What does this mean?
In Matthew 7:15-23 Jesus uses an analogy of a bad tree and a good tree. The bad tree represents false prophets who appear to have it all together but inside they are ferocious. These bad trees bear bad fruit. The good tree represents His faithful followers who bear good fruit. Two times Jesus says, "By their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7:16, 20)."
In this context, fruit is that which originates or comes from something. It is an effect, a result.
If you believe in Jesus Christ and desire to follow Him, people should see a change in your life, a change in your behavior, a change in the way you live. They should see light beaming off you.
Paul describes how Christians live in the Spirit of God. If we live by His Spirit, we are living contrary to our sinful nature, our sinful ways. The result of a Spirit-led life are the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-23). The Fruits of the Spirit are:
These "fruits" should be displayed and revealed by Christians everywhere. People should see good fruits from Christians.
Unfortunately many people have left the church because of hypocrites and bad trees who are in churches today. They claim to know Jesus but either don't try to live by His teachings or are too harsh and judgmental towards others. These two groups of people are called cultural "Christians" and fanatical "Christians" (see The Case for Christ).
The Cultural "Christians" are people who say they believe and follow Jesus, but they don't live by His teachings or don't practice the Christian faith. They think they are Christians because they may have "prayed a prayer" one time, but they have never really changed their lifestyle or cared to change. Instead, they try to blend in with the ways of the world that are against the ways of Jesus.
The Fanatical "Christians" are people who are self-righteous, judgmental, and confrontational in their approach to Christianity and don't display the Fruit of the Spirit. Instead they are hypocritical and destroy the Church and her people. Jesus talks a lot about these so-called Christians (see Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16; 7:1-5).
Everytime I hear an authentic Christian be honest and open about their weaknesses and sins and understand their deep need for Jesus, I've noticed people immediately listen to them and become attracted to them. A true Christian knows their greatest need is Jesus Himself, and they know they have been completely forgiven. This understanding of God's rich grace and mercy frees you from trying to be someone you're not. You begin to stop thinking so much about yourself, and you start thinking more about other people. You start displaying good fruit.
Our nation doesn't need anymore cultural or fanatical "Christians" who bear bad fruit. Our nation needs genuine Christians who bear the good fruits of the Spirit.