Matthew 7:21-23 is one of the most alarming passages in the Bible. It warns that not everyone who claims Jesus as their Lord is sincerely saved. This means that many think they know Christ, but will come to find out that they never truly knew Him in a saving way. I can vividly remember reading this passage as a college student and being shaken to the core.
The false-conversion idea is echoed in the Parable of the Sower of Mark 4:1-20. There are four types of soils found in this Parable: one that flat-out rejects Christianity, two that seem to be interested in Christianity but don’t prove genuine (they are distracted by the cares of the world or disinterested after hardship), and one “good” soil that truly believes and bears fruit for Christ. Just like the fruitless seed that fell upon rocky and thorny ground, there are Christians who hear the Word of God and attend church regularly who do not show the signs of being saved and are not genuinely converted.
How do we know if we are planted in the good soil? The twelve tests below shared in Gospel Assurance & Warnings (see my review) by Paul Washer will help you understand more clearly what a true Christian looks like according to 1 John.
My goal of this post is not to cause any soundly-saved believer to doubt their salvation–this list should greatly assure you. Rather I want to hold up God’s Word as a mirror for self-examination. None of us are described perfectly below, but the list should confirm many ways God is working in our hearts as believers and bring a sweet assurance of salvation. If looking at this list makes you question if you are a genuine believer, I urge you to get on your knees before God and humbly ask Him to save you and regenerate you by the Spirit.
I invite you to join me in making each of these truths your prayer as you grow more into the image of Christ.
12 Characteristics of a True Christian:
Test 1: We know that we are Christian because we walk in the light (1 John 1:4-7). Our style of life is gradually conformed to what God has revealed to us about His nature and will.
Test 2: We know that we are Christian because our lives are marked by sensitivity to sin, repentance, and confession (1 John 1:8-10).
Test 3: We know that we are Christian because we keep God’s commands (1 John 2:3-4). We desire to know God’s will, strive to obey it, and mourn our disobedience.
Test 4: We know that we are Christian because we walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:4-5). We desire to imitate Christ and grow in conformity to Him.
Test 5: We know that we are Christian because we love other Christians, desire their fellowship, and seek to serve them in deed and truth (1 John 2:7-11).
Test 6: We know that we are Christian because of our increasing disdain for the world and because of our rejection of all that contradicts and opposes God’s nature and will (1 John 2:15-17).
Test 7: We know that we are Christian because we continue in the historic doctrines and practices of the Christian faith and remain within the fellowship of others who do the same (1 John 2:18-19).
Test 8: We know that we are Christian because we profess Christ to be God and hold Him in the highest esteem (1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-3, 13-15).
Test 9: We know that we are Christian because our lives are marked by a longing and practical pursuit of holiness (1 John 3:1-3).
Test 10: We know that we are Christian because we are practicing righteousness (1 John 2:28-29; 3:4-10). We are doing those things that conform to God’s righteous standard.
Test 11: We know that we are Christian because we have overcome the world (1 John 4:4-6; 5:4-5). Although we are often hard pressed and weary, we press on in faith. We continue following Christ and do not turn back.
Test 12: We know that we are Christian because we believe the things that God has revealed concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. We have eternal life in Him alone (1 John 5:9-12).
If we have these qualities, and they are increasing in us, we have evidence that we have come to know God and bear the fruit of a child of God. However, if these qualities are absent from our lives, we should have the greatest concern for our souls. We should be diligent to seek God regarding our salvation. We should reexamine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. We should be diligent to make our calling and election sure (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:8-11).
Excerpt from Gospel Assurance & Warnings by Paul Washer, pages 152-153.