Art Linkletter was a man who had a tragedy in his life. Afterwards, he said he was with some young people in a hotel in San Francisco when they all got down on their knees to pray. He said, “I looked around and hoped no one would see me and recognize me – but it wasn’t long before I no longer cared what anyone else thought. Up until that time I was very self-sufficient, I didn’t feel that I needed anybody. For 40 years I had entertained millions on screen and on stage. I thought of myself as a good person, but I was what I call a “cardboard Christian,” a façade, there was nothing real on the inside.”
Counterfeiting is as old as the world. The government reprints money because with modern technology it is difficult for the experts to distinguish between what’s real/fake. But counterfeiting doesn’t just exist with money/jewelry, it also exists with people. How many times have you heard somebody say – “I thought I knew him/her?” and were talking about someone who acted one way but now is acting another. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the real and the counterfeit, and it is getting harder every day. I am going to make a hard statement – “In the church of Jesus Christ there are people who are Christians in name only, look alike Christians. Their names are on the membership roll, but they are counterfeits – cardboard Christians.”
Friends, one of the things the Bible makes perfectly clear is that not everybody who is walking around and talking about going to heaven is going to heaven, not everybody who says they are saved is saved. We have a lot of people who say they are saved, who say they are on their way to heaven, but there’s no change in their lives.
You see, the devil’s a great counterfeiter; he would just as soon send you to hell from the pew as from the gutter. He would rather you have a form of religion than to have genuine or real salvation. I believe the curse of our generation is that our churches are filled with baptized pagans, full churches of empty people, people who have never been saved. They have culture, but not Calvary, ritual but not reality, form but not force, religion but not righteousness.
Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” What Jesus is saying is that some people are saying one thing and living another, they are not what they claim to be, their walk doesn’t match their talk. How do I make sure this doesn’t happen to me? How do I know if I am a true Christian?
I. A true Christian knows God
1 John 2:3-4: “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.”
The goal of every person’s life – the pinnacle of all other goals should be the goal of knowing God. Now we may think there are other things more important in the Christian life than knowing God, but there isn’t. We may think that because we are Christians and read the Bible and know a great deal about God, that we know God. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can know alot about God without knowing Him.
You see, it’s not just about knowing facts – the Jews knew facts about God, but were lost: John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
We have intimate relationships/fellowship with each other – that’s what God wants with each one of us, an intimate love relationship that is real and personal (1 John 1:3 – “…our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
Matthew 7:23 – “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
2 Thessalonians 1:8 – “…in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What were we made for? To know God! What should be our highest goal in life? To know God! What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God! What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God! What gives God the most pleasure when He looks at us? Seeing someone who knows Him:
Hosea 6:6 – “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”
1 Chronicles 28:9 – “And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”
Our love for God must be greater than our love for anything or anyone else on this planet, our desire to know Him must be the highest thought we ever think or the strongest desire we ever have: Psalm 119:10 – “With my whole heart I have sought you…”
If knowing God is not your highest priority or you love someone/something more than you love God, you are an idolater and your soul is in jeopardy of being lost forever!
II. A true Christian obeys God
1 John 2:3-5: “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.”
Because Jesus is Lord, He has the right to command us (Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”). True Christians keep the commandments of Jesus, submit to the Lordship of Jesus, want to live their lives according to Jesus because they value His commandments – it is a burning ambition in their lives. If you don’t keep His commandments, you are a liar, you are not a true Christian.
A true Christian obeys God, without question: 1 John 3:24 – “Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.”
1 John 2:5 teaches us that these are love commandments, not legal commandments. John 14:15 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
1 John 5:2-3: “We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.”
God’s commandments aren’t hard to keep when we view them as love commandments. If you love Jesus you will obey and serve Him, not in order to earn your salvation but because you love Him. Is that your desire?
Do you agree with David: Psalm 119:34: “Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 – “I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! I will obey your decrees.”
If not, then you need to put a question mark beside your salvation.
III. A true Christian seeks the lifestyle of Jesus
1 John 2:6 – “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
I am to walk/live as Jesus walked/lived – I am to be as He is (1 John 4:17 – “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world”).
Not when we get to heaven but right now. He is my example and pattern. How did Jesus walk: 1 John 3:3 – “And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.”
Jesus lived/walked in purity – He lived a pure life. Am I pure? That means no filth, immorality, impurity. It means we are not to watch and listen to things that tempt us to immorality. Would you watch it if Jesus were sitting beside you? Can you imagine Jesus watching this stuff? 1 John 3:7 – “Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.”
We must practice righteousness (do what is right), just like Jesus did! This doesn’t mean to not just do wrong things. We may say, “I don’t steal, get drunk, do drugs, etc.” Neither does a telephone pole. Jesus went about doing good everywhere He went with perfect love in His heart.
WWJD if He were here today? He is here, through His Spirit living in us, and as we abide in Him His life comes into us. The Christian is the visible part of the invisible Christ and Jesus is the invisible part of the visible Christian. Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
IV. A true Christian shows the love of Jesus
1 John 2:7-11: “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.”
1 John 4:7-11: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.”
1 John 4:17-21: “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.”
God is love, when I’m born again His nature is in me (Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us”).
If God’s love is in me I will love others. But if my heart is filled with hate towards my brother, I am not a true Christian, I am lost and not saved (John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”). If you are saved, your heart will be filled with love.
If you are a “True Christian,” then the Holy Spirit Who dwells in you will be working to produce the “Fruit of the Spirit” in you:
Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
That’s how you can know. “If your religion hasn’t changed your life, you need to change your religion, because you don’t have the Bible kind.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Jesus clearly teaches us that Christianity isn’t something you do, it’s who we are!
John 15:4-8: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”