Marks of a Christian
What are the characteristics of committed Christian? A genuine Christian has made a personal commitment to Jesus as Savior and, therefore, has the Holy Spirit living within. Read Romans 8:16, and I John 3:24. Since we cannot see the Holy Spirit in an individual the only way to test the genuineness of one’s claim to be a Christian is to observe in one’s life those characteristics the Bible says a growing Christian should display in everyday living. Various passages give a description of the Christian life and collectively they give every Christian a guide to how one should live.
In various teachings Jesus gave us four characteristics of a disciple or Christian. They are as follows:
- Absolute Surrender. Read Luke 14:27 and 33.
- Absolute Fruitfulness. Read John 15:8. In the context of the New Testament that fruit implies growing in the fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:22-23.
- Absolute Love. Read John 13:35.
- Absolute Obedience. Read John 8:31.
Another description given to us is found in the passage we call the beatitudes that introduce Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Found in Matthew 5:1-10 we see a Christian described there as one who is “poor in spirit,” one who is “meek,” one who “hungers and thirsts for righteousness,” one who is “merciful,” one who is “pure in heart,” one who is a “peacemaker,” and one who is willing to be “persecuted because of righteousness.” That is a list of characteristics of someone God will richly bless that we should review often and reevaluate our lives by them.
Paul gave various descriptions of what the Christian life should look like. Read I Thessalonians 5:16-18. While given in the form of a command, Paul pictures a Christian as one who is characterized by joy, praying and being thankful.
Another description of a Christian is found in Hebrews 5:12-14. Read those verses. A characteristic of a Christian that Paul wrote about is that he is a growing/maturing Christian. Christians are growing spiritually as they grow in their knowledge of God through a growing knowledge of His Word.
In the Bible, as in Hebrews 5:12-14, the term milk implies a basic food that does not require any chewing. A baby drinks, and his body does the rest. But as any parent knows, it is not long before we must begin feeding a baby more solid food. In time the body needs a variety of foods that are essential to health and growth. In the Bible milk is symbolic of basic doctrines that are essential in making a decision for Jesus while meat depicts food that is more complete and leads to a deeper spiritual life. A sign that one is a sincere Christian is his or her desire to grow spiritually and therefore willing to chew on solid foods.
Read II Timothy 3:16 to see the areas we will grow in if we study the Bible. A study of Scripture enables a Christian to grow in an understanding of truth (doctrine). Studying Scripture enables us to understand how to live or how to grow in holiness (reproof and correction). And studying Scripture enables a Christian to know what pleases God (training in righteousness).
God gave the Bible as a self-revelation of Himself and what He expects from Christians. He has also given us the Holy Spirit and among the tasks of the Holy Spirit we have Him helping us to understand God’s Word when we read and study it. He also helps us recall it when we need to be reminded of a truth to hold onto, a promise to claim, and a command to be obeyed.
God’s Word declares some areas in which we should be growing and that is growth possible only as we increase our knowledge of God’s Word. The Bible encourages us to grow in our faith. Jesus spoke several times, according to Matthew’s record of Jesus’ life, of those who were “of little faith.” In Luke 17:5 we read that the disciples asked Jesus to, “increase our faith.” Read Romans 10:17. Most Christians want a deeper and more consistent faith life and the primary way that will happen is through a deeper understanding of God’s Word. We must spend more time in the Bible.
God’s Word declares Christians should be growing in holiness, that is in living as God would have them live. We cannot live as God wants us to unless we know what His expectation is. We learn that as we study God’s Word. Read I Thessalonians 4:1-2. Paul urged the Thessalonians Christians to follow more and more closely what is today the equilivent to what God has given us in His whole Word.
We are to be growing our faith, growing in holiness, and growing in our love for one another. Read I Thessalonians 4:10 and Philippians 1:9. The New Testament tells us various times that we are to love one another and grow in our love. The more of God’s Word we know and of God’s love for us, the more we will want to love the brethren.
The New Testament describes Christian growth as a process that takes time but is the responsibility of every believer to be committed to it. It is a lifelong process but an important one if we are going to become all God redeemed us for. The process will not be completed until we are in God’s presence but is a process we should take seriously here and now.