Many people think of themselves as Christians. According to Pew Research 78.4% of the people in the United States are reported to be Christians. Where are they all? If we examine the characteristics of Christians, much Christian living is lacking in America! Perhaps people have different ideas on what "Christianity" means.
Christianity is not a genetic trait. No one is a Christian because their family is. Because a person's progeny is full of Christian preachers has no bearing on an individual's spiritual status, other than that they may have the advantage of being taught about Christ and have Christian behavior modeled. Despite a person's mentors and modeling, Christianity is a personal thing! If "salvation", "born-again" and "repentance" mean little to a person's Christianity, perhaps the "Christian" should reconsider. It's better to be "saved" and err than to err in thinking one is saved!
There are things to consider when testing a person's own spiritual well-being. Let me define a Christian: It's a disciple of Christ! It's a person who follows Christ and mimics him. For a person to "follow" it's obvious that their must be faith in whom they follow:
- Believe in the person that he is who he says he is.
- Trust what the person says is true all the time.
- Apply the person's teachings to one's own life.
- Feel remorse for not measuring up to the standards taught.
- Submit to the leadership of the person.
- Repent for not meeting the standard.
- Ask for forgiveness from the one you follow.
- Accept the forgiveness given.
- Pledge to change previous beliefs and practices which led to repentance.
- Make a commitment to rely upon the person from here on out.
Some people work "magic". Rock musicians merely have to strum the strings of electric excitement and women, especially, swoon at their feet. However, such magic seldom happens to rational people and for the irrational, when real life sets in, the groupie is left languishing in loneliness. Their joy is short-lived because "steps" were not taken and a false picture was mentally projected.
"Grace" is a keyword in Christianity. It's God having mercy on even the worst of us. In fact the worst of the worst love him most because he forgives them the most. (More on love shortly). Grace is a gift of God; a gift that we don't deserve. Our evil nature and it's penalty are paid for by God. Christ "redeems" people. He pays the price that we should pay! Because it's grace, we can't work to receive the freely given gift. Those who are believers in "irresistible grace" believe in the magic which turns a sinner into a saint merely by his or her existence. There is nothing they are "to do" and "doing" things, according to them, opposes grace!
The "steps" above is in fact "doing". All are things which go on in the mind and soul, and are exchanges between the empty person's heart desiring to be filled, and an omniscient God ready to fill empty souls. None are actions and each are prayers, which are merely conversations with God! He tells us that we need to change and are doomed if we fail to follow him. We listen, feel guilt, learn, believe, accept, repent, etc. Our hands do nothing. Our feet don't walk. Going up front to pray isn't salvation... it's who wins the battle for your soul which makes a person "born-again". The war you fight when you desire to submit is real and whether a person is "saved" or not depends on who wins the "spirit and flesh" battle you fight in prayer as you attempt to join God's army!
Salvation isn't magic! It's a battle. It took weeks of prayer for me to submit. God was ready the first instant and before I even approached him, but it was me that had to make a decision to turn "me" over to "him". My sacrifice was me! It's always a battle between "Self" and God, or the Flesh and Spirit! Some teach that there is a magic moment when a person reaches out to God. That magic moment is only a start of a spiritual battle!
The steps above are litmus tests so a person can know whether they have become a Christian. These steps are not assurance that a person is "saved", however. The assurance of salvation is that a person's faith (all the above steps) is put into action or "works". Rather than doing the devil's deeds a new person, born-again, shows a desire to please the Lord by doing his will! Our "doing" God's will is our litmus test to check our own spiritual condition. If we have went through the process of salvation, but yet do not the things God commands, then we certainly do not love God!
God saves us because he loves us, even in our sins. However, God expects something in return. He expects us to love him back for sparing us from eternal damnation. Doing his will is the only way mankind has to show love to an invisible God. "Doing" God's will is a litmus test for us to know that we're saved!
Some introduce other litmus tests. The non-essential litmus tests make it difficult to have faith and sometimes undermine God. Here are some of them, although the list is not comprehensive:
Did you go forward to the church altar?
Did you cry?
After salvation do you feel love?
Did you testify?
Did you get baptized?
Did you speak in unknown tongues?
Did you feel differently?
Did you quit sinning afterwards?
Do you belong to the "right" church?
Do you attend church?
Have you quit bad habits?
Are all things now okay with you?
Have all your doubts been dismissed?
Were you immersed at baptism?
Where you baptized properly?
These are all "litmus tests" applied to you by others who readily judge your spiritual condition. Such judgments impede faith! Because Jesus saves, yes, a person feels the emotion of love! However, loving God is not a prerequisite for salvation. It's how a saved person thanks God!
Those who are born-again (becomes a new person in Christ) eventually are led to crying, going forward, testifying, being baptized, joining a church, etc., but all those are a result of salvation. Some are "babes in Christ" and as they mature they do more of these things. If they see no change, then they have a right to question the authenticity of their experience, but failure to do any of these things is not a test of salvation!
"Sacraments" are things you physically "do" to obtain salvation. Some of these implied sacraments are speaking in tongues, baptism, and attending the right church and sometimes some say that the preacher must be in the direct succession of Peter or John the Baptist! These are litmus tests and have no bearing on salvation. The fact that people get baptized and some people join your church, has little do do with the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice!
Some preachers ask "Do you right now believe without a shadow of a doubt if you die that you're going to heaven?" is a Baptist "litmus test". Oftentimes Christians do have doubts, but that does not diminish their salvation. It can be dangerous if it lingers in impeding the faith we have and making us "feel" lost, but with prayer, scripture and repentance our communion with God goes on! It's only when our doubt endures that we are in danger of apostasy or it never happened at all!
Never let litmus tests hamper your salvation. Never let another apply what that person has experienced and rob you of what you have experienced. You and only you know if you're right with God and he will let you know if you listen! That's half of communicating with God. We're to listen and then respond! Don't get robbed of your salvation by litmus tests other than what happened in your heart when you and God put the devil in his place!