Christians are perfect, aren’t they?
OK – by now you’ve either stopped reading, cleaned up the coffee you spilt when you started laughing, or agreed 100%. If it was the first option, you aren’t reading so I don’t need to worry. If it was the last option, you aren’t going to like me very soon. If it was the middle option, I’m sorry – especially if it came out of your nose.
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes on a regular basis. From forgetting someone’s name to getting lost, it’s a normal part of life. Of course, we also sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. On this side of Heaven’s Gates, it’s not a question of if but when.
And so, I don’t think anyone should be surprised when another stumbles. Even if the person is a very vocal Christian (including well-known ministers, business leaders, and sports figures), we all stumble.
Now, let me be clear. That does NOT mean we should accept sin. In fact, our calling as believers is to take steps to grow and mature so that we sin less. Each and every disciple should be striving to be renewed by the transforming of his or her mind (Romans 12:1-2).
But here’s my point. Not every “Christian” is, in fact, a Christian.
There are a multitude of things we can discuss in this train of thought, but I’m going to take us back to Matthew’s Gospel and look at Jesus’ words during the Sermon on the Mount.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7: 15-23
Before we walk this road, let’s define a prophet according to Scripture. A prophet is one who speaks for God. A prophet is one who shares a message from God–usually one that has a call to action. To give an example, look at Jonah. He was called to go to Nineveh. This was a sinful and pagan nation. He was supposed to warn them of God’s coming judgment and instruct them to turn from their evil. In simple terms – stop being evil and follow God. The “prophetic” aspect was clear. If you don’t repent, bad things will happen to all y’all. (Yes, I know he was from the Northern Kingdom.)
So, what kind of false prophets were there in Jesus’ day? We don’t have time to go through them all, but if you read history around that time, you can see all sorts of people who claimed to speak for God. In fact, as soon as Paul and Barnabas set out on the first mission trip, they ran into a guy on Cyprus that claimed to be a prophet of God. Paul called him out and the guy became blind.
Jesus gives His listeners the key to identifying them – their fruit. In Galatians 5, we can read the things that exemplify fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, etc… If you see these things, instead of things like hostility, jealousy, quarreling, then you might be seeing a true prophet from God.
The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23a
I did say “you might be” though. Why?
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7: 21-23
There are very few verses in Scripture that scare me. This one does. Why? Because I want everyone to know the true gift of grace. I want everyone to know the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, of knowing the forgiveness of their sins, of knowing that they have been set free.
I know that not everyone knows this Truth. To be clear, I would not be so bold as to judge anyone’s salvation. God is omniscient – all-knowing – I am not. I know that He is sovereign. I am not. He is all-loving, all-gracious, all-compassionate. I am none of those things. He knows. I don’t.
How do YOU know if you are saved? How do you know if you are truly redeemed and saved by grace?
There are very simple questions to consider. We might call these the standards:
· Do you believe that you are a sinner?
· Do you truly believe that Jesus Christ died for YOUR sins?
· Do you believe that He paid the price that you couldn’t pay?
· Do you believe that you have received Him as your Savior and that you have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb?
Now I need to be honest. The answers to those questions, while challenging, are also easy. In many ways, we can check the “yes to all” button and move on.
Please don’t do that. I’d like to encourage you to think about something else.
That may sound strange. Intimacy. What do I mean?
When we want to understand a particular word, it can help to see other places that it is used. Jesus says, “I never knew you.” Where else can we see this word? At the end of chapter 2, we read Joseph did not “know” Mary until after Jesus was born.
He was not intimate with her.
Let’s be clear about something. If you are or have been married, you know that marital intimacy is one thing – sex. But it’s also a lot more than that one thing.
Intimacy in a marriage is kneeling at the bedside of your spouse when they are ill. Intimacy is scrubbing the toilets. Intimacy is mowing the lawn. Intimacy is doing the laundry and getting groceries. Intimacy is loving and serving your spouse in real and tangible ways.
Let’s put it another way. Intimacy is becoming ONE with your spouse.
Now, consider this question to know if you are ‘saved’:
Do you know Jesus intimately?
· Do you ever read Scriptures and weep as the magnitude of grace washes over you?
· Do you ever spend time in pray and weep as you realize the depths of God’s love?
· Do you ever laugh with Jesus as joy fills your heart and mind?
· Do you ever spend deep, passionate, and intimate time with Him? Do you ever just sit with Him, in quiet, peaceful contentment?
That is TRULY knowing Jesus.
I’d like you to consider those questions as you move throughout your day. If you answer no to them, that does NOT mean you have not received saving grace. However, it may mean that you can go deeper in your relationship. It may mean that there are layers of faith that are open to you.
All you need to do is be open to knowing Christ more.
If you’d like to talk about some of those ways, please reach out. I’d love to go deeper with you.
Yours in Christ,