Can we truly know if someone is a Christian?

I took some flak in my last post on the death of Steve Jobs and it got me thinking about some of the signs of genuine saving faith. Just to fill you in, my critics seemed to think that I was too quick to assume that Steve Jobs was not a follower of Christ, and therefore, he died apart from the grace of God. Let me readily acknowledge that I don’t know whether Steve Jobs is in heaven or hell. Ultimately, God is the final judge and that’s why in my article, I left room for a last-minute conversion experience. To quote myself, “Apart from a death-bed conversion, it is likely that Jobs, in the words of Jesus, forfeited his soul.” God has the final say and what I say or anyone else says matters not. However, it would be wrong to think that there are not signs of life indicating genuine Christian faith. In the same way, it would be wrong to think that there are not signs indicating a lack of life and the absence of true, saving faith.

So what are these “signs of life” that might indicate whether someone is truly a Christian? The bible speaks of many, but let me suggest just two – a willingness to confess Christ and a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. Today we will consider the power of confessing Christ, and next time we will look at the fruit of the Spirit.

In my article, I quoted from Mark 8:36-37. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Here is verse 38. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

A person who is genuinely converted possesses an uncommon boldness. Even though the Christian knows that confessing Christ will result in the scorn and ridicule of those around them, they do so anyway. Why? Because they are not ashamed of Christ, the One who redeemed their life from the grave. Like Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)” In knowing that God had graciously saved him, how could Paul not confess the Lord Jesus to anyone and everyone he encountered? I love what he says in Ephesians 2:4-5. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Paul was bold because he had an awareness and understanding of God’s amazing grace.

Every year there are hundreds of thousands of Christian martyrs who die for their faith. Usually, all their persecutors want is for them to deny Christ. Simple lip service would prevent them from losing their lives, but they just can’t do it! They know that their Savior died for them in order that they might be reconciled to God. “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)” So these martyrs follow Jesus and confess His name, no matter what the cost, even if it means losing their lives and dying torturous deaths.

I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a closet Christian. If you are truly a Christian, you will have no problem telling your friends, neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and anyone else in your life that you are a sinner saved by grace. When you know that you were on the receiving end of the greatest deal in history, there is no shame in sharing of the One who saved you.

Will we be surprised by who is not in heaven? Yes (check out Matthew 7:21-23). But at the same time, I don’t think we will be very surprised by who is in heaven. I say that because the grace of God tends to permeate our lives in profound ways. The person who truly knows Christ is a radically changed man or woman. Christian’s aren’t perfect, but true saints tend to shine because the Spirit of God powerfully works in their lives. You can’t help but notice them. Next time we will consider this as we look at the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. Hope you tune in and even join the conversation.

5 thoughts on “Can we truly know if someone is a Christian?”

  1. Dan, I agree with much of what you are saying. However, concerning boldness, what do you say of a person who is more shy in nature, who tries to live a life of love towards his neighbor, but may not always outright ask people their thoughts about Jesus or tell them the gospel outright? I say this because I myself feel that I am not as bold as some of these passages suggest, but I still believe I am saved. Could you please clarify? I am not writing this to sound divisive. I would like to know what you think specifically about this case though.

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  2. Thanks Steve for your question – I think it’s an important one. Certainly, not everyone has the gift of evangelism. One of the elders at our church worked at GM for 43 years and literally witnessed to hundreds of people (maybe even thousands). Not every Christian that I know is going to be as bold as Jim was and still is. And not every Christian is going to die a martyrs death.

    What it comes down to is a willingness to spread the love of Christ every opportunity we get. I don’t think it’s necessary (or wise) to give the 4 spiritual laws to every non-believer you encounter. Nor is it wise to press them to “make a decision” and try to manipulate them to pray the sinner’s prayer with you. But when Christ has done a work in your life, I think there is going to be a desire to share about it. You are going to want to tell others what God has done for you.

    Thanks again for the question Steve

    Dan

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  3. I need help. My son is not saved and thinks he is.PLEASE I NEED A LIST LIKE TO SHOW HIM WHAT THE SIGNS OF A REAL CHRISTIAN ARE. MY SON IS DEAD IN HIS SIN AND THE DEVIL DECIEVES HIM… I HAVE THE LIST THAT HE WALKS IN THE FLESH AND THERE IS NOT A SIGN THAT HE IS TRULY BORN AGAIN.
    WILL NOT READ THE BIBLE
    HATES CHURCH
    NO CHRISTIAN FRIENDS
    LOVES THE WORLD
    MONEY HUNGER
    LIES , THOUGH THINKS IT IS NOT NOTICED
    THE LIST IS MUCH LONGER
    THERE ARE NO CHRISTIAN TRAITS
    I AM LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS A LIST SO HE COULD COMPARE HIMSELF
    LIKE
    REMEMBER THE DAY HE WAS SAVED
    LOVES JESUS
    LOVES CHRISTIAN
    LOVES GOD WORD AND WANTS TO EAT IT UP
    WANTS TO GO TO CHURCH
    HATES SIN
    AND ON THE LIST WILL GO
    DO YOU HAVE THIS KIND OF LIST OR CAN TELL ME WHERE, HE WONT STAY WITH A LOT OF READING

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    1. Thank you for your question. I would hesitate to say that there is a “list” per say, but I would direct you to 1 John. As your read through the book, there are several signs that seem to indicate whether a person has truly experienced the new birth or not. For example, check out 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:4, and 5:18. Hope this helps.

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