“Am I a Christian?”
I’ve heard numerous high school and college age students ask themselves this question over the past several years, and I must say, it both encourages and saddens me at the same time.
It’s encouraging, because behind this question is a genuine concern for their salvation, and a heart-felt desire to be doing things right. On the other hand, it saddens me because it exposes a shallow, “culturized” version of Christianity that has been fed to them by our society since they were young.
But enough with my rant.
What’s the answer?
I don’t know.
Honestly, that question is not one for me to give a final verdict. However, I will respond by asking the questioner a question:
How do you know that you’re alive?
See, in John 3:1-21 Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to see the Kingdom of God, he must be born again. In other words, true faith in Jesus will produce a brand new kind of life in us. We are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus draws a parallel between physical life and spiritual life.
While this simple analogy is certainly not all-encompassing, I believe it is extremely helpful to us as we answer the question, “How do I know if I’m a Christian?” Having said that, here are just 6 logical implications of being born again:
1.) You know your birthday. Birthdays are a big deal. In fact, people in almost every culture all around the world celebrate birthdays. Just about everyone knows how old they are. Certainly this is for good reason. After all, it commemorates your very existence! It is most definitely a time that should be remembered. How strange would it be for someone not to have even the slightest idea of when they came into this world? I suppose the same is true for spiritual birth, but perhaps on a grander scale. Being born into God’s Kingdom should not be something that we need to ponder or think about. We should at the very minimum have a firm recollection as to when we accepted Christ as our savior.
2.) You don’t try to earn your name. Let’s be honest, it didn’t require any effort on our part to be born. We did nothing. Mom pretty much did all the work. We were born into our family and automatically inherited our parent’s name. The same is true for spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit did all of the work. God was working in our hearts, calling us to have faith in Jesus. Our spiritual birth is not based on the good things that we have done. It’s based on the perfect life that Jesus lived and the death he died on the cross. We did nothing – but yet we have been called children of God (Gal. 3:26). We have received the inheritance of God himself. Children of God do not try to earn their status. They recognize that it has already been given to them
3.) You can see. Perfectly healthy babies will have sight. Seeing the world is one of the most important ways that we can learn about it. In its simplest form, vision is nothing more than the right comprehension and conversion of light in the eye. Perhaps this is why there are so many references to light in the Bible. Jesus is called the light of the world (John 8:12). If we have been born again, we begin to see things the way that they really are. We develop a different perspective of the world, one which is much different than society. God becomes the center of everything. We view things through His eyes, and can see him working in our lives.
4.) You feel pain. As an athlete, this is one aspect of life that I am all too familiar with. However, physical pain is nonetheless a reality. Any normal human will experience it. But what is the purpose of pain? Pain tells us when something is harmful for our bodies. The goal is that when we act in a way that results in pain, we will not do it again. I suppose sin is a lot like spiritual pain. While it may seem fun for a short period of time, it will eventually leave us more empty than before. In this way, we can identify things that are harmful for us. Sin will produce regret and remorse. While it is unavoidable, we will do our best not to partake in it (Rom. 6:11).
5.) You get hungry and thirsty. Each and every day our bodies crave food and drink. We need these things not only to survive, but also to thrive and find enjoyment. It is a natural condition of our physical bodies to get hungry and thirsty. In the same way, people born of the Spirit have a natural hunger and thirst for God’s Word. They desire to read Scripture and allow it to fill and energize them in their daily lives. Just as we can’t physically live without food, so too we can’t spiritually live without reading and studying the Bible.
6.) You mature. Anyone who has ever been born on this earth has matured physically. After all, I don’t know any grandpa babies walking around, do you? Other than just being a normal life process, physical maturity allows us to gain knowledge, experience more, and enjoy more in life. I don’t know why we would expect anything less than this in our spiritual life. Spiritual maturity is a sign of spiritual birth. Certainly, there will be ups and downs, but our lives should show noticeable signs of increased godliness (1 John 2:6). The longer we have been Christians, the more we should know about God and the Bible. We should be experiencing more opportunities to share our faith with others, and as a result we should be filled with more joy.
Again, I want to make clear that these six items are not some kind of “Christian check-list.” There is no check-list. However, I do think that they shed some light on important issues. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth to examine themselves to see if their faith is genuine. “Test yourselves” he says. I think that all of us need to do the same thing, much like we go to the doctor for a physical examination. Even if we know that we have been born again, it is always helpful to look at our lives for deficiencies. Is my vision beginning to blur? Why are dangerous things not causing as much pain as they should? Am I trying too hard to earn my name?
See, by ourselves, we are no more than physical bodies born of Adam – as good as dead. But with Jesus, we have been given spiritual life. As both God and man, Jesus is the ultimate connection between the physical and the spiritual. We could not get to heaven or understand spiritual realities, so God came down to us. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are born again. God puts his own Spirit to dwell inside of us. We know that we are Christians not because of a title we are given or a faith we proclaim, but because we are now truly alive.
“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.” – Romans 5:18
We know that we are Christians, not because of a title we are given or a faith we proclaim, but because we are now truly ALIVE.