The Marks of a True Christian
When we met last time we saw from the Book of Romans, an example of the mercies that He has lavished or caused to overflow upon us. And I just want for us to look at them again remembering that this is just a sampling of the incredible mercies that God has poured out upon His children as a demonstration of His love.
In chapter 1 verse 6 we are the called of Christ Jesus, verse 7 beloved of God, called saints. In chapter 2 verse 4 we see the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience which led us to repentance. Chapter 3 verse 24 we were justified as a gift by His grace through redemption in Christ Jesus. Verse 25, we are told that He was our substitute, verse 26 He is the one who justifies us on the basis of the faith He gives us. Chapter 4 verse 25 He was delivered for our transgressions and raised for our justification. Chapter 5 verse 1 we have been justified by faith and we now have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Verse 10 we have been reconciled to God through the death of Jesus. Chapter 6 verse 4, we have been granted life in Christ, verses 17-18 delivered from slavery to sin, verse 23, given eternal life in Christ. Chapter 7 verse 6, released from the power and penalty of the law, verse 25, through Christ we have deliverance from the body of this death. Chapter 8 verse 1, we who are in Christ Jesus are under no condemnation. Verse 15 we have received the spirit of adoption and now God is our Father! Verse 16, the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God. Verse 26, the Holy Spirit prays for us. Verse 28, all things work together for good for us who are the called according to God’s purpose. Verse 29 we were foreknown predestined and conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Verse 30 we were called, justified and glorified by God Himself, verse 33 we are defended by God Himself, verse 35-39 nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Chapter 9 verse 23, we are vessels of mercy, verse 25 we are God’s people, we are beloved, verse 26, we are sons of the Living God, verse 27 we are the remnant. Chapter 10 verse 12, we are partakers of the riches of the Lord, verse 20 we are the found of God.
Does this not move you to rejoice in the Lord and praise His Holy Name! Indeed, only a spiritually dead person would not be moved to praise because of this incredible demonstration of grace and mercy.
Because of what God has done on our behalf Paul calls us to a life of service to the One who saved us. That means that we are called to lay down our lives which means that we are to die to ourselves and our desires and dreams and goals and instead we are to live out our days serving the one who loved us and gave Himself up for us. The true Child of God is one who has turned his back on the world and the things of the world. He has surrendered himself totally to the will of God and understands all the implications that go with that surrender. He has put his hand to the plow and will not look back.
The mark of a true Christian is not only being dead to the world and its lusts, but alive and set apart unto God: to serve the Living God. He has heard the voice of God in the scriptures which say; 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
The true child of God has turned away from the world and has ceased allowing himself to be led astray by its allurements. This is because there has been a transformation in our inmost nature; a deep metamorphosis, a radical revolution in our being so that we become something other than we were. The Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence within us and we now listen to a different voice, a holy voice. Isa 30:21 which declares; “Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left” has become a living reality. Indeed we don’t look to the world but to the Law and to the Testimony; the Word of God! For we know that worldly wisemen have no answers and to look away from the truth to listen to them is to turn away from Christ and watch the wind and the waves. And we know what happens when we do that!
Moving into verse 3 we see another mark of a true child of God: he is humble like his Master. Paul says “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Notice here that there is to be no more “ME FIRST” in the mind of the true child of God. Instead we are to see ourselves and we really are: hell-bound sinners who were snatched off the broad road that leads to destruction, translated out of the kingdom of darkness and delivered into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
Next we see that the true child of God marked by a measure of faith in which to live and move and serve the one whom His soul loves. As I said last week the implication here is that each of us has a different measure of faith. Remember the Parable of the Talents? One servant was given 10 talents, another 5 and another 1. Each was allotted that which would suit him for the type of service that his master had called him to perform.
To us that means we have been given the level of faith necessary to carry out what God has called us to. We have been given the kind and quantity of faith that it will take to use our God given gifts. He has given each of us the spiritual insights, sensitivities, capacities and comprehensions to use that gift.
And this also implies that we are not all called to perform the same tasks. So while we may be able to serve, teach, exhort, give, lead or show mercy at some general level, not all of us were called by God to that specific task; not all of us have been gifted by God to specifically carry out those tasks as our ministry. Those who would try to lump all of God’s children into one particular mold have never read the Bible with understanding.
While it is true that by one Spirit we have all been placed into one body, this fact is also true: Ro 12:4 “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function… And so the true child of God is a servant to whom God has given the gifts of faith and grace for that task which God has called him to.
We saw some of those gifts last week beginning at verse 6: and we note that Paul is very clear in his description; that they are gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, and we also saw that these specific gifts were not given for us to hide in the ground. Instead “each of us is to exercise them (put them to work) accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; \or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
In our obedience to God we are demonstrating good stewardship as we exercise the gifts He has given and as we go about the ministry that He has called us to. This too is a mark of a true Christian.
Also last week I gave you 9 steps of examination and preparation to see what God has gifted you with and called you to. Let me repeat them.
1. Present yourself a living sacrifice to God.
2. Know that you have been given a gift by God.
3. Pray for wisdom and direction from God.
4. Don’t seek a specific gift!
5. Examine your hearts desires…what do you desire to do?
6. Seek confirmation that you have been gifted in a certain area but don’t try to force the issue. If everyone keeps telling you that that is not your gift then believe them.
7. Look for the blessing of God!
8. Serve God with all your heart. You must be totally abandoned to the service of God.
9. When you begin to see what God has gifted you with, begin working in that direction.
Did you follow through with this…was it important enough to you that you took the time to implement them? Remember that God has not been vague in His descriptions of the various gifts He has given to men. You cannot say; “I don’t see my gift” in the scriptures because there is no direction you can go in which God has not spoken. If this is important to you then you will put forth the diligence to seek God’s face and listen to Him speak to you from His word. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
For you see; the main mark of the true child of God is seen in his love for his Father in heaven and his burning desire to know what God’s will for his life is. His hearts desire is to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength and to demonstrate that love which God has placed in his heart in service to God and man.
As we move into our new material found in Rom 12:9-10 we will see the heart attitude behind our service to the God we love. As God has given each of His children gifts, abilities with which to serve Him, our duty as believers is to exercise them: implement them in obedience to the command of God, to prove our love claim by doing what He told us to do. We are called in the scripture to do everything for the glory of God. We are called to honor Him in all that we say and all that we do. Indeed the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts; our very thoughts are to be pleasing to Him who is our Rock and our Redeemer.
And so let’s read our text, found in Rom 12:9-10 where we read “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; Now as I have been doing I want to go verse by verse and take each of these words apart to show you their rich and full meaning. As we examine them I believe that what will unfold will be the will of God, that which is good, acceptable and perfect. Also I trust you will see both the character of God and the marks of a true Christian. So let us gaze upon the face of God in His holy word. We begin with verse 9 where we read, Let love be without hypocrisy. The first word we have is “love.” The Greek word is Agapeo from which we get our English word Charity. Charity is defined as benevolent or compassionate love. It is not based on what the object of love desires but on what the giver of love sees as the real need.
This love, this charity is a verb; an action word. God’s charitable, compassionate love can be seen in His actions towards us. What action you ask? “For God so loved (agapeo) the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Joh 3:16 In the greatest demonstration of love that has ever been seen, God looked at this world of sinners who had broken His laws and shook our fists in His face and He remembered that we are but dust. And in a demonstration of amazing grace, agapeo, mercy, charitable compassionate love, He sent His Son to take our punishment, to die in our place and to be raised for our justification. God did not give man what he wanted but what God saw as his real need.
From 1Co 13:1-13 we have Paul’s definition of real agape love. First he shows what it is not and then goes on to give us the finest written definition of true love ever. He says “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
When the scriptures teach us that God is love the evidence is in! He has both defined it in 1Cor 13 and demonstrated it in the three gospels. So what about us? Do we bear the marks of the true Christian? Are we living examples of the revealed truth about what real love is? In 1Jo 1:6 the Apostle says that “If we say that we have fellowship with Him (God) and yet walk (live) in the darkness, (the moral, spiritual darkness of sin) we lie and do not practice the truth; our profession is demonstrated to be a false one on the basis of the evidence; we say one thing and do another. In 1Jo 4:8 the Apostle declares that “The one who does not love (the one who does not demonstrate the selfless, servant type of agapeo of love) does not know God, for God is love.” And also we read in verse 16 “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” In fact in 1Jo 3:14 the apostle declares that this type of love is so central, so connected to what marks a real Christian that he says “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. In other words, a person who demonstrates agapeµ love proves he is a true Christian while the one who shows no evidence of has no claim on Christ or on eternal life.And so here are some very clear marks of what a true Christian looks like as well as evidence of what a false professor looks like. Consider these selected scriptures concerning what we are to be about; what should mark us:
Joh 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
Ro 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
1Th 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
1Pe 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
So the mark of a true Christian that we see in our text this morning is agapeo: compassionate love, charity.
Now our love is to be true love: real love; it is to “be without hypocrisy.” Anupkritos. This is an interesting word. It means one who is inexperienced at acting. You see, there is a lot of play acting being done in the name of love. Men and women alike pressure one another into adulterous relationships by pretending to ‘love’ them. I have seen this done over and over again in my lifetime and it is ugly. There is only one purpose behind the acting being done and that is self gratification. And when the objective becomes a conquest, the luster wears off and the conquest is cast aside like garbage. The consummate hypocrite in Scripture, Judas, pretended to be devoted to Jesus to achieve his own selfish purposes. His hypocrisy was unmasked and his self-centeredness was made evident when he betrayed Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver.
In contrast to the love of the world, the mark of a true Christian is love that is genuine. It is a love that is more than word or tongue but is seen in deeds and in truth! It comes from the heart of one who has surrendered all on the altar to Christ as a living sacrifice; Christ is living through us and loving through us. His love was pure and perfect.
And we are to be like Christ.
Concluding verse 9 we are called to Abhor what is evil; Apostugeo. Abhor means to detest with horror or to shudder with horror. What does this look like? Turn to Matt 26:37 Jesus has just entered the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples and we read “Then he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be in terrible pain and agony of mind.” Why is this? It is because according to 2Co 5:21 Jesus was about to be made sin on our behalf.
Listen to the passage; “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The pure, spotless, sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ had never known sin. And He shudder in horror with what was about to come upon Him. Another example of something that should make us shudder with fear is give to us in the epistle of Jude where we read that we are to “save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude 1:23 Jay Adams says of this verse that it represents in the first case “those who are in the fire. They are in serious danger and even if it takes violent action, pull them out of harms way.” When you are dealing with fire you must be careful or you too will be burned. But note the next group in this verse: the danger here is even more serious. Listen again to the passage; “and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Again from Adams; “The figure here has changed from fire to a loathsome disease.
The word clothing here is xiton which is the undergarments, which are the closest to the body. We are called to show mercy but mixed with fear because we too might be contaminated by the contagion of the running sores. When we go to rescue them, we must be very careful about what we do so that we won’t become contaminated by the same sinful actions that have brought the trouble.”
Such an illustration should bring you to shudder with horror; apostugeo. Think of shuddering from intense cold: uncontrollable shivering. James tells us that the demons believe that there is one God and they shudder. Same idea! And so we are to abhor evil with the emphasis on separation from it. In other words, when we witness to the unsaved, we must be careful that in our zeal to win them we do not allow ourselves to be drawn into sins from which they need deliverance. This is a very real danger. Consider Doctors and nurses who are dedicated to helping those who are ill, even from the deadliest diseases, but they take every precaution to protect themselves from those diseases, lest they, too, become infected.
Speaking of evil the word here is poneros and it is evil in a moral or spiritual sense. We are talking about that which is wicked or mischievous or malicious. The greatest representative of poneros/evil is the devil. Are you getting the picture here? The true child of God is marked by abhorrence, an intense hatred and detestation of anything that is wicked, mischievous or malicious. These things are to be foreign to the Christian.
Someone has said that the only security against sin is to be shocked by it. The constant bombardment of our senses through TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, and books with the immoralities, violence, and perversions of modern society makes it difficult to be shocked by anything. Unfortunately, many Christians regularly entertain themselves with sheer ungodliness, perhaps rationalizing that, simply by being a Christian, they are somehow immune from sinful infection. Genuine hatred of evil causes one to avoid it. In his Essay on Man, Alexander Pope wisely observed that,
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
That stanza reflects the progression found in the first Psalm 1:1-2: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” We cannot flirt with sin and escape falling into it. Refusing to be enticed even by the first, seemingly harmless attractions of sin, the righteous man delights “in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night”
When you see evil in any of its forms you can be sure the godly thing to do is the exact opposite. And Paul declares that the true child of God is to cling to what is good. The verb kollaoµ (to cling) is from kolla (glue) and came to be used of any bond: physical, emotional, or spiritual. We are called here to bind ourselves to what is good (agathos), to keep company with that which is good or agathos, benevolent, profitable and useful. Our clinging attachment to good is to be the same type of devotion illustrated by the marriage bond. Now I know that the perversion of marriage has caused this example to kind of lose its effect but that is only if you have never seen a marriage that has been forged in heaven.
When a man loves his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, when he loves her as his own body, and when a woman is subject to her own husband as to the Lord and respects him in obedience to the command of scripture and because they both have been given a love for each other that is otherworldly, well then you can understand how we are to cling to good with the same devotion. For this brings glory to God!
The good is “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute.” And “if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,” Paul continues, “let your mind dwell on [or cling to] these things” (Phil. 4:8). In 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22, the apostle gives similar instruction: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” That is clearly a call to discernment, the thoughtful, careful evaluation of everything, so we can decide, judged against God’s Word, what to reject and what to cling to. As Paul has already explained, the key to finding and following what is good is in not being “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). As we separate ourselves from the things of the world and saturate ourselves with the Word of God, the things that are good will more and more replace the things that are evil. This is part of the process of sanctification.
Next we see that a mark of a true Christian is seen in this: to 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; Devoted comes from philostorge a compound of philos (friend, friendly; friendship love) and storgeµ (natural family love, which is not based on personal attraction or desirability). Brotherly love Philadelphia is another compound word: phileo (to have tender affection) and adelphos (brother). We are to have a loving affection for one another in the family of God. Devotion means to love warmly. The opposite of this would be the Pharisees who as a group loved themselves and merely gave God lip serve. In contrast to merely saying you love Jesus, He told His disciples that “If you love Me, you will keep (or obey) My commandments. Joh 14:15 If we say we love God and yet don’t do what He said, well, I’d say that makes us liars and the Truth is not in us. What do you think?
Brotherly love reflects the nature of Christians. That is why Paul could say, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” 1Thess. 4:9. Being “taught by God,” the true child of God knows intuitively that he is to love his spiritual brothers and sisters. For the very reason that God is our common heavenly Father, love for each other should be as natural and normal as family members’ affectionate love for each other.
We are to avoid all hypocritical pretenses, all outward show stuff and really, truly love one another with brotherly love. The best illustration I can give is that of David and Jonathan. The scriptures declare that their souls were knit together. This is an illustration of Philadelphia or brotherly love: full of delicate affection and tenderness which is mutually given by those who cherish one another with Philadelphia love.
The result of this type of true affection, this true Christ-like love is seen in that the true child of God is marked by humility. The true Christian has heard the command “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Phil 2:3-5 tells us to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The true Christian is marked by a desire to be a doer of the word rather than being just a hearer who deludes themselves. He has heard and as much as he can as he continues to seek to grow into the image of Christ he seeks to put humility into practice, turning away from selfishness, rather esteeming others better than himself.
Paul says that the true children of God seek to “give preference to one another in honor.” Listen to what this means. It means to try to outdo one another in showing respect for one another. And this is done without the pharisaical play acting that could be seen in the public square of Jerusalem as they would put on a show for all to see. Jesus said that those who do this type of thing have received their reward. If you want to put on a show like a politician, you will get exactly what you wanted.
To honor is not to flatter or to give hypocritical praise in hope of getting something in return. The very opposite is in mind. To truly give preference to one another in honor means to show genuine appreciation and admiration for one another. This should be a glowing characteristic in the family of God. We should be quick to show respect, acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and demonstrate genuine love by not being jealous or envious, which have no part in love, whether agape or Philadelphia.
These then are marks of the true Christian. The true Christian;
- Actually loves people, especially his brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not the hypocritical play acting type of love that the world demonstrates but is a real heartfelt love that does not seek its own but another’s welfare.
- He truly detests evil with a horror that makes him shudder and he clings to what is good. Php 4:8
- He is devoted to his fellow believers with a love that exemplifies what the family should look like rather than the perversion it has become.
- He honors his fellow believers rather than being self seeking like the world. He tries to outdo his fellow believers in showing respect for them.
The true child of God is otherworldly, characterized or marked by an otherworldly attitude of godliness and holiness, humility and love! He is dead to the world and alive to God. These marks are humbling as the show us how far we have fallen.
What then do we do? Since we have bought into the worlds lies and have surrendered once again to the chains of the devil what are we to do? I think the answer is both simple and complex. It is simple in that we are simply to obey the scriptures and complex because it will involve effort and most people don’t want to put forth any effort for any reason. But if it is important to you to actually live out the faith you profess here is the answer to our dilemma: but note that it comes with a warning.
Rev 2:5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place—unless you repent.
This is the solution and it is in 3 steps.
Remember means to remember back to when we were first born again and the fires of love to God were hot. And if we can’t remember such a time then we must be born again.
Repent means to turn the other way to go in the opposite direction. It means to change our minds and what have we learned in this chapter; don’t be conformed but transformed. What is this but repentance! We must repent of our cold-heartedness toward God and His word and His will, ask His forgiveness remembering that promise from 1Jo 1:9, If we repent He has promised to forgive. But our repentance must be real and not just an outward show for God can see through that.
Return: go back to that place again, to the place where we served God with our whole heart. Live a life that exemplifies the marks of a true Christian as we put into practice what God has revealed to us. Return or do the deeds we did at first. Return to Christ as our first love and repent of committing adultery with the world. James 4:4
It is not enough to say we have faith, we must demonstrate that faith by our works, our deeds! For this is the mark of the true Christian.