Ten Tests of True Christianity
The book of 1 John was a book written with a single purpose in mind. And what was that purpose? The apostle John, in 1 John 5:13, tells us that he wrote this book so that you as a Christian might have assurance of your salvation. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NIV) Have you ever doubted your salvation? Have you ever wondered if you are truly saved or not? The book of 1 John will answer this question once and for all. As we read through the five chapters of the book of 1 John, we come across ten passages which define ten questions we need to ask ourselves in order to find assurance of our salvation. Answer these questions from your heart without trying to deceive yourself or justify yourself in your mind.
Question #1 Do we walk in the light or in the darkness?
1 John 1:6-7 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (NIV)
What does the Bible mean by the word “walk”? It is not talking about taking a stroll around the block. Our “walk” is the manner in which we live our lives, both in public and even in private when no one sees what we do except God. Similarly, light and darkness have nothing to do with day or night here. Jesus tells us in John 3:19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (NIV) Darkness is where people walk when their deeds are evil, but light was brought into the world by Jesus Christ. We have assurance that we are Christians when we live our lives walking in the light of Jesus Christ and shun the works of evil done in darkness.
Question #2 Do we claim to be without sin, or do we confess our sins?
1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (NIV)
Is anyone perfect? Of course not. Except for Jesus Christ, we have all sinned. We have all sinned in thought, word, and deed. We have all sinned in sins of commission and sins of omission. And we have all probably done so in the last hour. To most people, the idea that someone would say that they were without sin would be ludicrous. But John tells us that it happens. And when someone claims to be without sin, they call God a liar. They show that the Bible means nothing to them – as the text says, the word has no place in our lives. Romans 3:23 plainly tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NIV) We can have assurance of our salvation when we make a regular practice of confessing our sins to God and seeking His forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Question #3 Do we just say we know God or do we obey Him?
1 John 2:3-5 “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.” (NIV)
What good does it do for a person to claim to know God but then not obey God? According to these verses the answer to this question is that it does no good at all. John tells us that part of the definition of knowing God is obeying God, and anyone who says that they know God but then doesn’t obey him is liar. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the story of two men. One built his house on a rock, while the other built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the house on the rock stood firm, but the house on the sand fell with a great crash. Jesus tells us the meaning of this parable. The man who built his house on the rock is the person who hears the word of God and puts it into practice. The man who built his house on the sand is the person who hears the word of God but then does not put it into practice.
Question #4 Do we hate our brother or do we love him?
1 John 2:9-11 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.” (NIV)
Why should our relationship with other people affect our relationship with God? I believe the answer to this question lies in forgiveness. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God had every reason to hate us because we lived in rebellion against his perfect law. But instead of showing us His hatred, God extended His love to us by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. Our witness of this love is shown to the world by our love for our brother (and sister) in Jesus Christ. Even when our brother or sister has done something that has hurt us deeply, we still are called to love them. The person who harbors hatred for their brother or sister in Christ in their heart has not shown that they know the forgiveness that God has extended to them. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus tells us “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV)
Question #5 Do we love the world or do we do the will of God?
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (NIV)
Love for the things of this world is perhaps the greatest danger that faces the church in America in the 21st century. We are caught up in an age when materialism and hedonism have run rampant, and these two sins have not left the church unaffected. There is no difference between the person sitting in the pew on Sunday morning and anyone else in America when it comes to lusting after possessions, power, and pleasure. The meaning of the words “sacrifice” and “self-control” are lost on the church today. Notice that the text says if we have love for the world in us, then there is no room for the love of God in us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (NIV) Jesus Christ faced the same temptations we face today when he was tempted by Satan in the desert – cravings, lust, and pride. But he did not sin. And today, we have the same resources at our disposal to resist temptation. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (NIV) It is foolish to invest any love in anything of this world because this world and its desires are going to be destroyed. Eternal life is bound up in doing the will of God.
Question #6 Do we isolate ourselves or do we rejoice in assembling with the body of Christ?
1 John 2:18-19 “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (NIV)
We all know someone who used to go to church, but does not do so any longer. They have their reasons – too busy, too many hypocrites, need to cut the grass at the lake house, don’t need to go to church to worship God. Or perhaps we know someone who says they are a Christian but has never been to church. They too have their own reasons and excuses. The truth about the need for a Christian to assemble with the people of God on a regular basis is clear in this text. If we shun the people of God, then we have aligned ourselves with the Devil. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (NIV) Jesus leaves us no middle ground. I find it easy to put this concept into practice. There are so-called Christians who will not go to church if there is anything better on the calendar, like a day at the lake or trip to the beach. And then there are so-called Christians who won’t go to church if it’s raining, or too hot, or too cold, etc., etc. And then there are the so-called Christians who just can’t seem to get going early enough on Sunday morning to make it to church, or make it to church at a reasonable time. Never mind that they are on time for work and school on Monday morning. Put this in contrast with those people who can say along with the psalmist in Psalm 122:1 “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (NIV) There is nothing I look forward to during the week like going to church.
Question #7 Do we deny that Jesus is the Christ or do we acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 2:22-23 “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist — he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (NIV)
There are many false ideas today about the true identity of Jesus Christ. These range from telling us that Jesus was nothing more than a creation of mythology to telling us that Jesus was just a man, was married, had a child, and was buried in a family plot in Jerusalem. However, there is only one true Jesus. And we read here in our text in 1 John that this one true Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. “Christ” is derived from the Greek word “Christos”, and means that Jesus is the anointed one – the one sent by God the Father to pay the price required to atone for the sins of the world. Notice also that we are called to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ and is the Son of God. I believe that this acknowledgement is supposed to be a public acknowledgement and an on-going acknowledgement. And I believe that the first act of obedience of a new Christian to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is believer’s baptism. In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus tells us “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (NIV) I also want you to notice one more thing about this passage – if we deny that Jesus is the Son of God, then we also deny God the Father. There is no such thing as a person who believes in the one true God but does not believe also in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Question #8 Do we practice sin or do we strive toward righteousness?
1 John 3:4-7 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” (NIV)
How do we recognize someone who has falsely converted to Christianity? One way is their attitude toward sin. Even the best Christian sins from time to time. But the Christian must be contrite and broken-hearted over their sin. And the Christian must not practice a lifestyle of sinning. We are told here in our text in 1 John that no one who keeps on sinning knows God. That is, no one who makes a lifestyle and regular practice of sinning knows God. No one who sins and can laugh about it knows God. No one who sins and does not seek the forgiveness of God knows God. A Christian can be recognized by their desire to do what is right. Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11 “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (NIV)
Question #9 Do we love our brother just in words or do we love our brother in deeds?
1 John 3:14-18 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (NIV)
We have already seen this truth once – a true Christian loves their brothers and sisters in Christ. However, this time John tells us specifically what form our love must take. What good is it to say that we love our brother, but then turn a blind eye to the needs of our brother? There is a proverb which says “Actions speak louder than words.” And it is true in this case. James writes in James 2:15-17 “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV) I believe the same can be said about love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Love by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. I also believe that our text in 1 John here calls us to be proactive. Notice that we are called to meet the needs of our brother whenever we see them.
Question #10 Do we listen to the world or do we listen to the words of God?
1 John 4:5-6“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (NIV)
Many who call themselves Christians show that they are not Christians because they rely upon the wisdom of the world to solve their problems instead of trusting in the words of God. We live in an age where we turn to celebrities like Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil, Dr. Ruth, and Dr. Laura when we need advice and counsel. These people are offering advice which is not based on the Bible. We are told in Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (NIV) Why would someone who calls themselves a Christian turn to the world to solve their problems? Because they have no faith in the power of God. Because the ways of God run opposite of the ways of man. Because the natural man cannot comprehend or understand the will of God. The Christian should not turn to the world when he or she has a problem. We are told in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV) In practice, this affects every area of our lives. Our education, our family planning, our career choices, our finances, our health, our hobbies, our entertainment, our emotions. Ask yourself this question: How different would my life look today if I had allowed God to make my decisions for me? Not just the big decisions, but all decisions. Do you think you would have made the same choices you have made?
I encourage you to go back now and read the entire book of 1 John so that you can understand the context from which these ten questions are drawn. If you are indeed a Christian, this book promises to bring you assurance of your salvation. If you are not a Christian, the book of 1 John will shine a spotlight on the areas of your life where you fall short of the righteous standard of God. The person who is not a Christian falls short because, no matter how hard they try, the works that they do in the flesh will never be good enough to be pleasing to God. We need to have the righteousness of Jesus Christ imparted to us to be able to stand before God on the day of judgment.
By Berean Husband