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Am I a real Christian

March 23, 2016
Benjamin Spalink
question

"Am I a real Christian?"

The question is a helpful one to ask periodically.  God wants us to move beyond doubt when it comes to our salvation.  But because of the prevalence of sin that goes under the guise of "Christianity," it is necessary to test ourselves time to time.  Whether you answer in the positive or negative, the answer is helpful. If "yes," you can feel secure and thankful to God.  If "no," the Spirit is convicting you to bring about true repentance and faith - you may have saved yourself from disaster.

I John is filled with these kinds of self discernment tests.  Whereas the Gospel of John is often difficult to understand, his epistles are much more direct. I John is written to help the listener "avoid sin" (2:1), to remind them of the truth, (2:21), to keep his listeners from being led astray (2:26), and to assure the listeners of their salvation (5:13). Essentially, John is drawing a clear line between light and darkness, and differentiating between those who are with Christ and those who are "anti-Christ."

Although there are lots of important differences, two stand out.  The light and the darkness are demarcated by the law of love and by the confession of Jesus as God's Messiah (or Christ) in the flesh. Here's how it goes: If you love your "brother" as Christ loved us, you are in God. If you hate a brother, you are not of Christ.  John writes, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness" (2:9).  Simple, right?  Hate of a brother cannot coexist with love for God.

The other clear boundary marker is the earnest confession of faith in Jesus. John writes, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well" (5:1).  Love for neighbor and belief in the Son are inseparable. You can't have one without the other. If you truly love, you believe in the Son. If you truly believe in the Son, you love.

Good Friday is a great occasion for serious soul-searching. One should ask, "Do I love my church family? My physical family? My roommates?  Do I love my neighbors? Or is there anyone for whom I'm harboring hatred?"  Hatred has many forms - outright hostility and cruelty towards others evidenced through harsh words, rudeness and mean intent. Other subtle forms are common: holding on to unforgiveness, secretly despising someone, wishing their downfall or demise.

Again - the truth is hard to accept, but John is clear.  You cannot love God and hate your "brother."  It simply can't happen.  Love for God is made complete in us when we learn to love others.  May this truth challenge you to your core and turn you toward God's truth, or may it speak to you a gentle word of affirmation, showing you that you are indeed walking in the light.

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