What Makes A Christian? Part 1

Once upon a time, I was a kid in junior high and high school, praying to survive from one day to the next without making a total fool of myself. But God, being gracious, provided me with some opportunities toward the end of junior high and into high school to defend my faith to a friend who was on a bold spiritual quest. Seemed like every day she had another question or challenge. So I went out and bought a book for teens on Christian apologetics (defending Christian beliefs) and read up. Praise God for this resource! It really helped me to feel prepared as I grappled with my friend’s questions. Praise the Lord that we remained friends throughout that time, and praise Him in a big way that she’s a believer, and active in ministry. Her life is a huge source of encouragement for me.

Now, at the same time that God was dealing with my fear of confrontation in the area of sharing the Gospel, a series of revivals took place in my hometown. Teenagers flocked to hear one particular speaker, and they would flood the altar at the end of the evening sermon, crying as they nailed slips of paper with their sins written on them to a cross at the front of the church. I remember sitting by one girl who wept loudly the whole time, and professed that she had “rededicated” her life to Christ. The next Monday at school, she was cursing as usual, planning for her next big party, and treating the “un-cool” kids like me just like she always had. As far as I know, she is still living for herself instead of God.

So what gives? The first girl claimed she wasn’t a Christian, yet God was clearly working in her life. The second girl claimed she was a Christian, but certainly didn’t act like one! So how can you tell which of your friends are Christians and which ones are not?

First, I want you all to do something. Look at your arm. Do you have skin? Bones? Muscle? Are you visible? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, hold on, because this may come as a shock: you are not the Holy Spirit!! You can’t see into anyone’s heart or tell what God is doing in their lives unseen. Therefore, it’s not your job to cast judgment on someone. But with that caution in mind, you all probably know the saying, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Jesus told His disciples that we’d know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 12:33). Makes sense, right? If it bears apples, it’s an apple tree. Similarly, when people claim to be Christians, we should see “fruit,” or evidence, of it in their lives. Pop quiz: what are these “fruits”? We could undoubtedly list dozens, but let’s start with the most obvious: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Sound familiar? They’re the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible tells us that anyone who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38 and Romans 5:5, for instance).

To Be Continued…


35 thoughts on “What Makes A Christian? Part 1

  1. Laura-

    Are you sure girl #2 wasn't Doug Davis? Hmmmm…. I'm just kidding. Not that I'm a girl….crap, you know what I mean… High school certainly was a different place for you and me. I can admit now that I was part of the group flocking to the front weeping at every single revivial, and of course, church camp.

    I do feel like I was sincere in the decisions I was making at those revivals and at church camp. However, I used things like camp and revivals as a crutch. People who call Christianity a crutch are clearly mistaken. It's the events, in my opinion, that can serve as a crutch. It's almost as if I intentionally made mistakes throughout the year so I'd have something to cry about at camp. “It's OK that I'm drinking a case of beer tonight–I'm going to camp this summer!!!!”

    I can already see the posts by all the MAD campers ripping me apart, but I have a feeling you all know what I'm talking about. I can easily admit that I still have a hard time living like a Christian. I still go to God only when there's something going wrong or when I need something. I'm beginning to understand that prayer is a necessity, and finally, at the age of 23 (almost 24, ugh), I'm just now learning how to pray.

    I'm not quite sure what the point of this long rambling is. I guess that it's never too late to learn to be a Christian. I hope I encouraged at least someone.

    Enjoying the blog. Sorry I never respond. Until now, that is….


  2. I'm glad you posted this. It has been a big part of my life recently in evangelism, as I have been encountering so many people who don't want to turn from their sinful lifestyles. They say things like “well I'm just backslidden right now, I know I need to get right with God but I just don't want to quit ___”(fill in the blank sinning).

    They believe it's okay to continue their lifestyle because of “grace”. They basically want the eternal security AND the life of sin, but the thing is, if the Holy Spirit indwells them, they will be moved to turn from that lifestyle. Now, I know that we all sin on a daily basis, (1john 1:8) but it's a repetitive, LIFE of continuous sin for which the person is unrepentant that evidences a lack of salvation (1jn3:6). It's all about the lifestyle – just like your tree reference; a person must take into consideration what kind of TREE they are, by examining their fruit.

    Yeah, I realize it's a lot more complicated than can be explained in a paragraph, but it's a very relevant issue in our increasingly permissive society, and something I've spent a lot of time reading ancient Koine greek in order to better understand. I appreciate that you posted this.

  3. Doug, my friend and brother, thanks for opening your heart. Very insightful assessment about the EVENTS being the crutch, not the real truth of a relationship with Jesus. VERY insightful. How easily we sustitute occasional meetings, concerts, revivals, etc. for a long steady obedience in a heavenward direction. Psalm 37:23-25a (KJV) says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he stumbles, he will not be utterly cast down.” STEPS, not big huge leaps. Why is it that we long for the large, the dramatic and the momentous in our Christianity, rather than the simple, the small and the minute opportunites to obey and be blessed?
    The “secret” of living FOR Jesus is living WITH Jesus. He Who lives in us still delights to do the will of His heavenly Father, and if we would just submit to His delight within us, it would make us little by little more filled with joy.

    Jonathan, check out the current post on my blog — Laura has it linked — that talks about justification and sanctification being two sides of the same grace.

  4. Thanks, oh ye few but faithful commenters!

    Stick around for part two, hopefully forthcoming this weekend.

    And Doug, my life was the same, just without the alcohol… less obvious backsliding is still sin! I recognize that I spent a lot of time in High School with a rebellious heart — rebellious against my parents and rebellious against God. I mean, God has commanded me in His word to make my relationship with Him the priority, and whenever I don't, that's sin!

    Speaking of which, I need to go read my Bible now.

    And I think I'm going to do a poll asking folks why real Christians who have the Holy Spirit to empower them still sin, and still love their sin! (Pointing fingers at myself!)

  5. Ummm . . .

    Colossians 1:27
    + Philippians 2:12-13
    + John 4:34
    = You are able to do the will of the Father because of Christ dwelling in you.

  6. hey all, check out this amazing post about victoria's secret on my blog (10/07/05) on 12strings.blogspot.com !!

    The above looks like a dirty ad, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment Laura, if Howard Stern called me… oh boy I'd give him a piece of my mind… on second thought why waste time pontificating to an anti-intellectual? I think you did the right thing by hanging up.

    I wish it weren't wrong to feel so blithesome about the existence of a hell for certain people. I KNOW, I KNOW, it's wrong.

  7. Theres a club in my school called Fellowship of Christian Athletes… I went to a meeting once, and was incredibly dissaapointed with there lack of zeal. Atleast for God.. in that sense. Its easy, in highschool to use church camps and revivals as a crutch.. I guess just because its so easy to sit in your own scum (sin) than to overcome the worldly “desires” and set out for what we were meant to do, and be. Anyways, back to the club… I feel lacking in the area of fellowship. (and this club did not satisfy it at all) Ive sorta allowed myself to become complacent in the past few weeks…. it disgusts me. Its so easy (as one of the few Followers of Christ in my school) to shut myself in my own little world and just hope to be godly. Thats why I decided to start a club for those who are willing to be on fire for God, and show it… (bearing fruit) Kids these days get a taste of our “christianity” and realize that it isnt any different than what they do. They think “why bother… they arent any different” But what they dont know, is they are being shown bad examples of what christianity is.

    Pray for me… things are becoming hard, and I need prayer…

    I dont even know if that whole last post made any sense… I was just pouring out my heart.

  8. It ticks me off that people like Howard Stern not only exist, but have influence over people's opinions and thoughts! To think that there are people in the world who watch him on E! every night and listen to his radio show every day, laughing and winking at his foulness and perversity…

    Just one more evidence that we live in a fallen world.

  9. in a way…. it kinda makes me want to puke…. the way the world is. I just have to suck it up, and realize that it is not my home, and I will not conform… but most of all that Im here for a reason… to be a History Maker.. a speaker of truth to all mankind.

  10. Allison, girl, I want to encourage you (and anybody else dealing with the same frustrations…), as you're trying to surround yourself with like-minded Christians, not to shut yourself off from the lost. Your purpose on this Earth is to bring credit to God, and make His reputation famous! It's pretty tough to do that if you're not loving the lost and bringing the Gospel to them.

    And those folks who call themselves Christians but don't live like it, or the folks who just show up to events like FCA for the sake of hanging out — why don't YOU become the reason God put them there, and let THEM be the reason God put you there? If you believe God is in charge, you have to believe that nothing is an accident. I'm a firm believer that God teaches you lessons that may have a personal application, but ultimately their purpose is to strengthen your ministry — your OUTREACH!

    Get that solid group of Christians around you, and be tough on each other. Set up accountability with them. Pray hard together for the lost and for each other's holiness. And then go, all of you, to FCA or whatever other event you choose and represent Christ. Become the leaders! Love the lost enough to step outside a simple desire to grow, and into a desire to see people saved.

  11. I dont really know what to say… except to pray for me. I mean… Im pretty outgoing for the most part…. it just isnt easy these days for me to …. i dunno… reach out. I think I realized that I should probably stick around with the FCA thing and make a difference in it…. but Ive had some bad experiences with some of the kids in it…. im not going to go into it. It doesnt matter… my point is…. I find it so easy to back into a corner when things get tough. I know its wrong. God wants me to change. Whats it gonna take for me to change? I mean, what can I be doing to break this habit? Any advice?

  12. ugh, sorry guys. I'll get to that post soon. I'm sick right now, and am just starting a round of antibiotics that I hope will allow me to finish up this endeavor sooner or later.

  13. All~

    Doug, you are the man. Your honesty is so awesome. You are not the only one. What insane people we can be sometimes, huh? We tend to find every excuse to stay the way we are and not submit to God's best. Those excuses become well rehearsed and very comfortable. We use them to ignore the Holy Spirit as he wooes us back to our first love. It is almost terrifying to let go of excuses and believe that God wants us, all of us.

    I love being reminded that God delights in me. Not because I have much to offer, but because He wants to delight in me. Wow.

    John, I love the concept of submitting to fact that God delights in me. Because, yes, it does yield more joy than I can imagine. There is a peace and a connection that overwhelms me when I let that fact sink into my heart. It serves to change my “want-to.” I now want to do things that won't break my Father's heart. If I do break my Father's heart, I know it. (And, God help me all the times I do.)

    Also, we live in a society that lives for the weekend, the next big party, the next adrenaline pumping activity…it really is no wonder that we expect the same thing from God when we attend conferences, concerts, camps and so on. We miss the kiss of sunshine and song of bird as touch from God. We forget His promises and his consequences for our choices. I think we sometimes behave the way we do because we don't really trust that He means what He says. Our patience with Him runs out, and subsequently our relationship. He speaks, but we can't hear. We fall out of love. How sad. How tragic. How common.

    Doug, take heart. Some folks never learn how to have a conversation with God. He's great fun to talk to. It's worth every minute.

    Allison, being a History Maker and a trail blazer isn't easy, but always know that God takes good care of His own. He will order the steps of your day. He will give you favor with men. He will give you friends. He will make sure that His will is done. You align yourself with His way, and you will see great things come to pass.

    Laura, I think that we Christians sometimes continue to sin because we are cowards. It takes much bravery to allow God to break us and change us. Some of us just aren't ready yet. (I speak for myself here, you know…) Take care of yourself, K?

    I sometimes wonder what I would do without Jesus. I'm glad that I will never know…



  14. Actually, Jonathan, you pushed this blog into an exciting new realm of 30+ comments. That's extremely important.

    And I will SO get that second installment done today, guys. Sorry!

  15. Also, Jonna, you rock. Thanks for leaving an amazing comment. Did you know that Johnny Jones linked me from his youth group's website? I feel so cool right now!

  16. Jonna– its good to hear from you again. Some wise words.
    Have any of ya'll done 40 days of purpose? Well we did it like a year ago, and now were doing the followup by the same guy called 40 days of community…. its really very good. Were not very far into it, but my favorite part so far is learning about love… for one another.

    “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” John 13:35

    The love (that mirrors Christ) shows the world that we are followers of Christ…. thats pretty cool…. especially when sharing your faith isnt easy. Sometimes love can be hard. It takes patience (especially when it has to do with your younger brother) But Christ shows love, and is love, and we are to mirror him.

    Ive been challenging myself, and my christian friends to show love in our own little “Bourbon Streets” (school, work…ect.)
    Bourbon street is a place in New Orleans where there are bars, strip clubs, and other things like that. The street smells from the puke and urine of people who were so drunk, they couldnt even find their way home. If you think about it, Jesus would have been around a Bourbon street…. and he would have loved and helped those people that needed it the most.
    The world sees christians as judgemental. We have to not stick our noses in the air and walk by giving off the feeling that we think we are better than the dwellers of our “bourbon streets” WE must mirror Christ and love them.
    Where are your bourbon streets?
    Mine is pretty much at school in general, but more specifically the drumline. Pray that I can show love to them, maybe it will speak to them.

    Just some thoughts. 😛

  17. All~

    You all make my heart glad. I will be praying for you all.

    Oh Jonathan, I didn't mean to leave you out. Your comment was filled with wise and eloquent words. I was actually agreeing with your diagnosis of the society we live in and our reaction in my long and laborious comment. Please don't think me insensitive.

    Yeah, I think Jesus would hang out in the “bourbon streets.” God help us love like He does…Easy to pontificate about and difficult to do…(welcome to Christianity in the real world, ladies and gentlemen)

    Live gently and sleep sweetly.


  18. Anyone a History buff? I have some questions….

    Since the rationalists (i guess from 1700-1800) believed that you are rewarded or punished for how “good” you were on earth. Did they believe that You could get to heaven on your own? Did they believe in salvation? Our good friend Thomas Jefferson was a part of this movement… did he believe in salvation? Isnt this also when they started seperating church and state?

    ok jump back a little now… Puritanism… they believed everything was predestined, and you could do nothing at all whatsoever to get into Heaven… (unless God decided before you were born) did they also not believe in salvation?

    Sorry… in English were comparing the two. And I have a test this week, and Im unclear about some stuff.

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