Can we tell if a person is a Christian by looking at them? Ought we not be able to tell by how a person dresses, how he carries him/herself, whether or not they possess the Holy Spirit? I really used to believe that I could look at someone, consider their dress, their manner of speech and actions and make a judgement whether or not they were a follower of Christ. Today, as I write this, I do not believe I am qualified to make that judgement. Let me explain to you how I arrived at this decision.
I went to Godís Holy Word and searched for what Jesus had to say about this subject. Jesus had a lot to say about the religious people (the Pharisees).
15 "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are really wolves that will tear you apart. 16 You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You donít pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles. 17 A healthy tree produces good fruit, and an unhealthy tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree canít produce bad fruit, and a bad tree canít produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.
27 "How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombsóbeautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead peopleís bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 "How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed and decorate the graves of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. #
Jesus was talking about the religious people of his day that worried very much about their outward appearance. They wanted people to notice how "Godly" they were because of how the obeyed the ten commandments, how they loudly prayed in the townsquare so people could see them. They wanted the appearance of Godliness, but Jesus said their beauty(Godliness) was on the outside but the were filled with all sorts of impurity within. In other words, Jesus said they were hypocrites. Of course Jesus could see how they looked on the inside. That is something we cannot do.
1 Samuel 16:7
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, "Donít judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesnít make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a personís thoughts and intentions."
As God himself said, He does not look at people the way we do. He looks inward at their thoughts, intentions and attitudes.
24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
24 Donít judge by appearances. Judge by what is right.
23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it, so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should I be condemned for making a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24 Think this through and you will see that I am right."
Jesus was condemned by the Jewish leaders of his day for breaking a commandment. He healed a man on the Sabbath Day, and the religious people were outraged because He broke one of the commandments. He rebuked them by telling them not to judge people by how they outwardly obeyed God, but by whether their intentions were righteous or not. Jesus said to think on this and we would see that He is right.
The religious people of Jesus day, believed that they had to follow a rigid set of rules in order to earn Godís favor. And that was how it was under the old covenant, although God still desired that man obey him, not by a set of rules but out of a desire to serve Him. The Pharisees never made that connection. That is why God had to send His Son to earth. He had to create a new covenant. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. We could not keep the law to save our souls. It is only through the blood of Jesus Christ that we can become right with God. Not through following a set of laws that is impossible to obey.
How does that apply to Christians today? Of course, there will always be hypocritical people within Godís church. Those who believe going to church, tithing, teaching and doing all these deeds will earn them their salvation. Again, the outward appearance is of Godliness. Of course we as humans cannot tell if these people are Christians or not. But God does look inwardly at their motivation. What motivates a person to serve God? Is it to earn their way to heaven or because they "have" to because the Word says so; or is it because of their desire to serve God because they love Him with all their heart, mind, body and soul, and they want their neighbors to have this same personal relationship with Jesus that they have.
37 Jesus replied, " ĎYou must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.í 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ĎLove your neighbor as yourself.í 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."
In other words our motivation to serve God ought to be out of love, not obligation. It is not what is on the outside or what is presented to the world that impresses God. Only God can see what truly motivates our actions.
Jesus has told us it is by the fruits that ye shall know them. That fruit that we bear is what comes to us from the Holy Spirit. What is the fruit of the Spirit?
22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
When the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we allow Him to control us, we will produce all the above kinds of fruit. Is this fruit apparent in your life, and is this what motivates you to serve God? As you also may have noticed, Paul said there is no conflict with the law. So in our daily walk with Christ, we ought to be living by the fruit of the Spirit.
When we look at other people, do we try to judge them by what they are doing, by what clothes they wear, by what Bible they carry, by how many memory verses they know, how long their hair is - i.e. by their outward appearance, or do we try to find the fruit of the Holy Spirit within? Do we see the love of God, the peace that passeth all understanding, the patience of Job, the kindness and compassion toward others? Are we motivated by a desire to serve God because of our love for Him, so that He can be exalted or glorified; or are we motivated by a desire to exalt self to convince ourselves and others how "godly and deserving" we are? Only God can know for sure what motivates us. What is your motivation? What should your motivation be?
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
So what does it mean to be a Christian? Please take this short test. Donít use it to judge others, but as a self-test for yourself.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6
5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test. 6 I hope you recognize that we have passed the test and are approved by God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.) 10 Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin, your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you.
13 And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. #
1 John 3:24-4:15
24 Those who obey Godís commandments live in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us.
1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is the way to find out if they have the Spirit of God: If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 If a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist. You have heard that he is going to come into the world, and he is already here.
4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won your fight with these false prophets, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5 These people belong to this world, so they speak from the worldís viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God; that is why those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know Godófor God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.
13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. #
Follow Christís Example:
1 Follow Godís example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.
3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among Godís people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokesóthese are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. 6 Donít be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him. 7 Donít participate in the things these people do. 8 For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But when the light shines on them, it becomes clear how evil these things are. 14 And where your light shines, it will expose their evil deeds. This is why it is said,
"Awake, O sleeper,
rise up from the dead,
and Christ will give you light."
Did you pass the test?
In conclusion, I believe the only person we can truly judge whether or not they have a personal relationship with Christ and calls themselves a Christian is ourself. We are not God and are not qualified to make that judgment of others.
Ollie(Mar. 6, 1999)