There was a troubled look on the student’s face as I finished my talk. “I believe that Christ is who He says He is,” he stated, “but I just don’t know if I am really a Christian. What if I’m deceiving myself?”
The question is a reasonable. After all, God put up a huge billboard in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that says, “DO NOT BE DECEIVED!”
So, how do you know you’re a Christian?
First be sure that you understand the basics. Do you believe that Jesus is God? Do you believe that He came to the earth to deliver sinful people from the consequences and power of their sin? Do you believe that Christ lived a perfect life and then died on the cross to pay the penalty that you deserved to pay before a holy God?
Do you believe that He was raised from the dead and has overcome the power of sin and death? And have you, to the best of your knowledge, placed your entire trust in Christ alone as your only way of salvation? Have you rejected the selfish life you have now come to despise? Then you have the basics and may well be a true believer.
In addition to all this, God says that He has given you His Holy Spirit to help you know for sure that you are in the family and truly forgiven. He says, “By this we know that we abide in Him, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 3:13
God says in Ephesians 1:13-14 that the Holy Spirit is a “deposit guaranteeing the future inheritance.” Like the down-payment on a car or house or college education, the Holy Spirit in you is a pledge that the future with Him will be there as He promised. And this deposit of the Spirit is placed in you by the One who cannot lie.
The Holy Spirit helps you know you’re an authentic Christian in two ways. First, the Bible says that He produces “fruit” in us.
It’s a preposterous idea, but just imagine Michael Jordan (the pre-comeback Jordan) inside your skin when you shoot hoops. You look like you’ve always looked on the outside, but something is coming out of you that nobody has seen there before.
When Christ enters the life through the Holy Spirit, He makes you noticeably different. This word “fruit” is just a way of saying that Christ in you is now working through your own personality in some unique and powerful ways.
When I lived in Orlando, I grew some orange trees in my back yard. They were pitiful and the fruit was, well…not so appetizing. But I could tell I had an orange tree and not a pecan tree. A tree is known by its fruit; even if it is not perfect fruit.
In Galatians 5: 22-23, the Bible describes the fruit of the Holy Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Notice that the first fruit is love. Though you cannot see it clearly in our English translations, the passage actually implies that the entire cluster of fruit is about love in its many forms. A true Christian loves others, and shows that love by his acts of kindness, goodness, patience, and respect toward them. It is a giving and forgiving kind of love—even toward parents, teachers, athletic opponents, and enemies.
Love is no small matter. Actually, it is the most often repeated indicator that a person is a true Christian. For instance, in 1 John 4: 7-8 the Bible says, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Do you have this God-given love for others? If so, you have reason to believe that you are a true Christian. But if there is no fruit of love, then you have good reason to believe that you are not yet a true child of God. The fruit tells the truth.
But there is a second way that the Holy Spirit helps us know we are in. In Romans 8: 15 we read that the Spirit causes us to “cry out, ‘Abba, Father.'” The word, “Abba” is like “daddy.” This means that the Spirit inside of true Christians is the One that causes us to want to be with God, to know Him well, and to talk to Him as our Father.
In John 3:19-20, Jesus said that non-believers actually run from the Light. But when the Spirit comes you have new desires. You want to know God and to communicate with Him like you do with someone you really care about.
If you have this desire to love God, you ought to be encouraged that you are in the family. But if you can remain apathetic over a long period of time, you have good reason to question if you are a true Christian. Apathy, in fact, is just the quiet form of rebellion.
It is not unusual for you to have doubts from time to time, especially when you are weak in your faith. But when you have those doubts you should be serious about finding out the truth. Too much is at stake.
As a friend of mine said, “Doubts never send anyone to hell, but deception always does.”