When talking to atheists, Muslims, Jews and other sorts of secular people, you hear many things about Christians that seem to be at times contradicting. The label “Christian” has become very broad and oftentimes, you find the world just throwing anyone who believes in Jesus Christ to some capacity into that box called “Christianity”.
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
(James 2:19 NLT)
But what defines a “Christian” shouldn’t be that broad at all, but as narrow as the very gate Jesus claims we need to press through with much effort, fear and trembling.
In this growing work, this very definition should become clearer and clearer.
These marks should represent points of reference for the following two important questions every self-proclaimed Christian should ask themselves:
- Am I a true follower of Christ?
- If I believe I am, in which areas do I yet have to spiritually mature or grow?
Holding your own life against the seven marks of a Christian, these two questions need to be asked in a time of self-reflection with the help of God who sees a person’s true heart.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 NASB
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? (10) “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.
The former question is to ensure we are really justified or set right by God to be able to engage in a very intimate relationship with Him. This step should never be taken lightly. Everything in life rises or falls with the answer to this question.
The latter should be taken into consideration for an entire lifespan of any Christian – from a simple churchgoer to a high standing pastor or leader within a ministry.
We all need to grow more.
In any case, both questions are to be examined with these 7 marks:
Every chapter is split up in these sections:
- The recipient (of this mark)
- The prerequisite (to receiving this mark)
- The application (of action steps to ensure these marks become [more] evident)
The first point is clear. The recipient of this message is a Christ-follower. It is someone who thinks or favorably desires to follow Jesus Christ regardless the cost. Hence why we are called “Christians”.
Every mark has a requirement in order that one can obtain it. The following point allows us to figure out what is necessary that we can be able to bear the marks as Christ did.
How we now bare these marks in a practical sense is a very challenging part, because the danger lurks herein that a believer will imitate the marks and not engage into a saving relationship with Christ Himself.
Luke 10:40-42 NASB
But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” (41) But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; (42) but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
The application must come out of the intimacy we have in Christ and He must be the initiator of and reason for any changes.
For clarity’s sake, again, these are points of reference, not a checklist of things to do in order that one might label her-/himself a Christian.
In the long run, people who try to live like Christians, but don’t experience the new birth or creation in Christ, will struggle to sustain such a lifestyle. They will burn out or find something more rewarding.