What defines a Christian in addition to truth is a profound belief to the extent that the Christian trusts Jesus for salvation, realizing that the individual has no power to save, and that no other gods can save them. That profound belief is called enlightenment, and is the born-again experience. Being born-again is necessary for salvation because it's the ultimate Light which a person can receive to be saved.
All those born-again is the true Church (John 3:3). Jesus said that but few believe Him! Some don't even know what born-again means let alone do they have the second-birth. They fail to realize that the only way to avoid the second death is to have the second birth, the latter which delivers the believer from the second death - or hell. Many people attend church each week who are headed toward eternal death because they haven't seriously considered Jesus.
Many "Christians" inherit their belief. They believe in Jesus because their forebears did. Their belief lacks trust, remembering that it's Jesus that is to be trusted for salvation, not anyone else or even their own self. Many of these "Christians" know good works and some even try to do them, but that is in effect endeavoring to save themselves. Their intentions are good, but their trust is someone other than Jesus. Those "Christians" never consider their own relationship with Christ because they have always believed. Unfortunately, the born-again experience never came about. I would suggest that they focus on the story of Nicodemus, and learn how to be reborn.
Other "Christians" follow false teachers. Even many mainstream denominations fail to accept that Jesus is divine, or that the gospel is ultimate truth. Many even propose that Holy Scripture is not God-breathed, and is the mere words of men. Scripture self-identifies with divine inspiration. To believe profoundly in the Resurrection and eternal life through Jesus means that believers must believe scripture all to be true.
Some deny the miracles of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson created his own Bible without the miracles. If Jesus can't heal, Jesus can't save. If Jesus can't provide bread and fish to a few thousand, He can't provide eternal life to millions. It is paramount that believers trust Jesus' miracles. Many mainstream denominations do not! I was baptized by aspersion in one of those many years ago. I went home a wet sinner, but still an unbeliever bound for hell. Sure, I believed in the existence of Jesus as even the demons do, but I failed to accept His death as my salvation.
Those churches which are social activists (the social gospel) do good things. However, they are not true churches. It's okay to do good things, but if the focus is on doing good leaves out trusting Jesus, and that He is the only way to salvation, then Jesus is left out of the worship of Him. Many social gospel churches even laugh at the Church's dependence on Jesus Christ and ridicule those born-again. They call born-again Christians right-wing zealots and haters. Social gospel churches don't bother that their church is righteous and take in Nicolaitanes of all sorts. God hates their deeds and doctrines.(Revelation 2) They are those who bring fornication and perverse sexual practices into the church - not for reproof but for acceptance!
Social gospel churches are little more than secular humanism. Many are Marxist in thought and have adopted every facet of socialism - (1) the sharing of property (confiscation is taught as righteous), (2) feminism, (3) racial division, (4) civil disorder, (5) destruction of institutions, (6) elimination of the true Church, (7) sharing of the wealth by decree, and even benign things such as (8) industrial technology. Most social justice churches have little to say about Christ, but much negative to say about real Christians!
Although those churches are the modern church, they are ancient, even since apostolic times. The churches of Asia of which John wrote in Revelation was for the churches then and now. It took little time for "Christians" to change the purpose of Jesus. Let's look at those churches:
The seven Churches are named for their locations. The Revelation provides descriptions of each Church (from Wikipedia).
- Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) - the church known for having laboured hard and not fainted, and separating themselves from the wicked; admonished for having forsaken its first love (2:4)
- Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) - the church admired for its tribulation and poverty; forecast to suffer persecution (2:10)
- Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) - the church located at 'Satan's seat'; needed to repent of allowing false teachers (2:16)
- Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) - the church known for its charity, whose "latter works are greater than the former"; held the teachings of a false prophetess (2:20)
- Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) - the church that has a good name; cautioned to fortify itself and return to God through repentance (3:2-3)
- Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) - the church steadfast in faith, that had kept God's word and endured patiently (3:10)
- Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) - the church that was lukewarm and insipid (to God) (3:16)
Without going into detail, some of these churches were partly righteous and partly not. Some were salvageable, and others not.
As can be seen, the church at Thyatira was the social justice church. We learn later that this false prophetess was Jezebel, not the wife of Ahab but one in like manner. There were problems in the church. One major influence in destroying churches was women speaking up with things contrary to truth. Men were to have dominion, but some women assumed the role God gave to men. This Jezebel was surely an early feminist. Naturally, since feminism includes sexual freedom, that fornication and homosexuality was accepted in this church. It is the forerunner of modern denominations which allow these perversions within.
The church at Ephesus are those who pulled away from those wicked, but became wicked themselves by neglecting Jesus. I believe this type of church describes some charismatics who have separated themselves from mainstream Christianity, and went out on their own. They focus on the worship of the Holy Ghost, and neglect that He is Jesus on earth. Some of them leave out the Father entirely, forget Jesus, and kneel only to His Ghost.
The church at Pergamum was the location of the altar to Zeus and also the center of emperor worship (Caesar proclaimed himself a god). Caesar was Pontifex Maximus, a title later adopted by the Roman Catholic Pope. Zeus or Jupiter was the king of the Gods, and was worshiped by many in the Roman Empire. The early Roman Catholic Church easily adapted pagan god worship with Christianity to gain acceptance. This church at Pergamum may have been symbolic of what the Catholic Church would become world-wide. As scripture says, for then and now, that church needs to repent of allowing false teachers. The Roman Catholic Church has placed the bulls of the Pope above the word of God, and only those true Christians within can save that denomination from itself! I believe God will save a portion of that church.
The church at Sardis sounds much like the modern or contemporary church. In belief, it is genuine, but in practice it has deviated. They are those churches who have adopted modernism. They are more places of entertainment than of praise. They are more your house than God's house. They do things the way you want them rather than the way God wants them. They mix fresh water with salt, and that can't be done. They seem to be under the spell of two masters. Even evangelic churches have went the way of modernism. They need to repent and get their priorities in order!
The church at Laodicea is symbolic of the end-of-age church where God and other gods are worshiped. I believe these churches are those which allow anything as long as it's in Jesus' name. In other words, they are those churches which attempt to sanitize sin by including Jesus. This type of church is called syncretic, and is much like the Jews under Aaron who didn't abandon God but adopted the Golden Calf. I believe the modern Golden Calf is eastern religions and their focus on Karma and the self. They balance forces for spiritual enlightenment, and do it in the name of Jesus. Many modern churches allow Yoga and other transcendental practices. Even people in my own church use Yoga, a form of spiritual enlightenment outside of Christ.
With the bad immigration policies of the western world this Golden Calf of oriental spiritualism is alive and well, diluting Christianity at every step. It's in the field of psychology and even in the military and educational system. Foreign gods are everywhere accepted as pseudo-science and even devout Christians turn to foreign mysticism for holistic health. That will be the end-of-time church, and socialism and Islam has much to do with it. I perceive that as long as that church is no longer Judeo-Christian that the Muslim church will be quite content. I believe that Islam becomes that end of time religion with a nice mix of Mohammad and Jesus.
The churches at Philadelphia and Smyrna represent the true Christian Church. The Smyrna Church represents those faithful who will be beheaded in the end-of-time for their faithfulness. Of course those will be post-rapture Christians, so that faithful Christians until then, are part of the church at Philadelphia (symbolically). Their faith is steadfast and endures until the end. This is THE CHURCH which is real today and will be until the end. That's my Church! That may not be yours.