How do you know that you are a Christian?
Not All Claims Are Real
What makes a person a Christian? Is one a Christian just because he or she comes from a "Christian nation" or a "Christian family?" Can you believe what you want about the Bible, Christ, eternal life, salvation etc. and still be a follower of Jesus Christ? The fact is that Jesus Christ himself said that not everyone who claimed to be his follower, actually was one. Listen to his words: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform miracles?" And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness."
The truth is, there are many who claim to be Christian today, that have departed far from the faith that was handed down from our Lord to his apostles over two thousand years ago. A person can claim to be a Christian all he or she wants, but claiming it doesn't make it so any more than me putting on a white coat and walking around in a hospital makes me a doctor. In order to be a real doctor, there are certain things which must be true. I have to have gone to school for several years at an accredited school of medicine and receive a medical degree. I must intern at a medical facility beyond that. I just cannot put M.D. behind my name. Claiming the name of doctor doesn't make it so. So why do so many think that believing anything about Christ and doing things in his name automatically makes them Christian?
I. Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals
So, with that in mind, let's look at what a Christian is. In doing this I need to point out a word that has fallen into disrepute. Fundamentalism, is commonly used today as a pejorative term, but has not always been the case. The term originally arose in the United states in the late 19th century. It started with Presbyterians at the Princeton Theological Seminary and later between 1910 and 1920 it spread to conservatives among Baptists and other denominations. The movement's original purpose was to reaffirm the key theological beliefs of the Christian faith against a Modernist movement that arose around that time. The Niagra Bible Conference (1878-1897) used this term to define what they believed were the tenets that were fundamental to the Christian faith. There was a book published later in 1910 called "The Fundamentals" that popularized the word. The Fundamentalists distilled what they believed into five fundamentals. They are as follows:
1. The Inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit- As a result of this the Scriptures are considered inerrant.
2. The Virgin Birth of Christ.
3. The Belief that Christ's Death Was an Atonement for Sin.
4. The Bodily Resurrection of Christ.
5. The Historical Reality of Christ's Miracles.
All five of these beliefs are what the church has taught for over 2000 years. And since the time of Jesus and the apostles there have been people who have tried to deny them. But they are fundamental to the faith. That word fundamental can be defined as : "One of the minimum constituents, without which a thing or a system would not be what it is." It can also be defined as "something of central importance." These are teachings of the Christian Church which are of central importance to what it is. Christianity would cease to be Christianity without them.
II. Additional Fundamentals
With all due respect to the early fundamentalist movement, I see more than five fundamentals. And I don't think that they would disagree if they saw my list. The five that they stressed were being challenged by the Modernists at the time, so they needed to stress those particular ones. Besides the essentials listed above, I would add:
6. The Trinity: There is one God who eternally exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son and the Spirit have the exact nature or being as God the Father in every way. Any attributes that God the Father has, the other two persons have as well. So when Jesus was on earth, we were seeing God.
7. Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone: There are many verses which teach this in the Bible but Ephesians 2:8,9 says it best: "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast". This one thing sets Christianity apart from all other religions because all other religions try to do things to attain favor with their god or to reach their ultimate goal for existence. Christianity teaches that man doesn't have to reach up to God. God, in His divine grace, reached down to save man.
8. Christ's Ascension into Heaven: This happened after his resurrection and he is now seated at the right hand of the Father. This ascension shows that Christ is now glorified in the presence of the Father after undergoing the agony and humiliation of the cross for our sins. It also tells us that the Christian's glorification is guaranteed as well.
9. Jesus Will Return to Judge the Living and the Dead: Among the passages in the Bible which teach this, Matthew 24:30 records the very words of Jesus himself saying: "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory."
There are many who seek to deny the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The apostle Paul did not mince words about such people. He said this in Galatians 1:6-9
" I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed. As we have said before, so say I again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!"
It is my hope that no one reading this will be the recipient of the curse that comes from distorting the true gospel which is the only hope of mankind. May you receive the gift of eternal life which is offered freely to all who accept Jesus' sacrifice on their behalf.