Vol. 5, No. 7
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Every day of our lives we are called upon to distinguish what is real and what is not. Advertisements make bold claims, but in reality, we always need to read the fine print, do we not? Many times things appear to be one way but in reality, they are opposite. In Christianity, often times the hypocrite passes himself off as a legitimate Christian, but he is really only play-acting. How then can one ascertain whether or not one is a Christian?
The Jewish perception was that they were in covenant relationship with God simply because they were the seed of Abraham, but this was only partially true. In reality, they needed the Savior to be "free indeed." Read John 8 31-36:
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Have we deceived ourselves today, like the Jews of old? Is it possible that we could be displeasing to God, even though we believe we are following his will? Paul urges Christians, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates" (2 Corinthians 13:5-6). Let us see from God's Word who is a "real" Christian.
Jesus told Martha of Bethany, "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-6). He also stated to the disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). These verses along with several others make Jesus the exclusive way to salvation. We cannot "lay hold" on salvation unless we "lay hold" on Jesus Christ. Peter and John told the Sanhedrin council, "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Paul encouraged Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12 & 19 to "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses...Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." Hebrews 6:18-9 described Christians as those, "...who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." Everything else in life must be secondary to this. Nothing is more important than our salvation.
The church is a haven of rest from the wicked world, but it is more than that. It is a place of activity. Christians grow by studying the Word. First Peter 2:2 reads, "desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye my grow thereby."
Both the novice and the veteran Christian of many years belong to the same body. "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1). Lest we forget, the Lord's Supper is designed to remind us that it is Christ who makes our salvation possible. We are to keep our thoughts upon him otherwise, we eat and drink damnation to ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:29). In the hymn, "When My Love for Christ Grows Weak," the final verse reminds us, "Then to life I turn again, learning all the worth of pain, learning all the might that lies, in a full self-sacrifice." We enter to worship our God, but leave to serve! The real Christian is active in the church. He is a blessing in it, and he is blessed by it!
"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Ephesians 1:19-21, esp. 21). Christ is the core and covering of his religion. He gives meaning to everything. The "Grace of God that bringeth Salvation" appeared in the person of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11).
The atonement was brought about by the loving self-sacrifice of Jesus. First Timothy 2:5-6 reads, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Thus, when one is baptized, (becomes a "real" Christian), it is in reality the beginning of his conscious sharing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3ff).
So, a real Christian is not just one outwardly, but inwardly as well. He is not just a pretender, but one of "faith unfeigned" (1 Timothy 1:5). We have often heard the excuse that there are too many hypocrites in the church. We must heartily agree with that! Even one would be too many. Many cite this fact as the reason they are not faithful members of the Lord's church. However, to use the hypocrite as an excuse for not becoming a Christian, or for not being restored to faithfulness is utter foolishness. The cost is one's eternal soul.
Besides, where else but within the Lord's church would one expect to find a hypocrite? Where else would one go to pretend to be a Christian? Certainly, not out in the world. Rest assured, God will judge the hypocrite, and he will judge the faithful as well through his Son. Acts 17:31 reads, "He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness..." John 5:22 reads, "For the Father judgeth no man but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." Real Christians emulate the hope of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:9-11.
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.