Outward Evidence of a Christian
1st Baptist Church,
Des Moines, NM
Last time, I discussed the topic “What is a Christian?” I hope you saw that a Christian is a person who is spiritually re-born in Christ. This person has had their sins forgiven through the substitionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf, and they have been given a new heart- one that loves God instead of being an enemy of God. Too often people look at the exterior and say “Oh, that person can’t be a Christian. They just have too many flaws!” I tried to show you from Scripture that a Christian is a work in progress. Yes, they have exterior flaws, but according to 1 Samuel 16:7, God looks at the heart and what’s key is whether they have a heart reconciled by Christ for God or not.
Today, I’d like to look at some of the exterior signs of a Christian. While the heart is the key, there are some exterior signs which should make us at least suspect that a person may be saved. If these signs are lacking, that is, if the fruit is missing, then we may have cause to suspect that the tree is bad. The reason I want to discuss this is partly so that we may identify true Christians, but also so that we can identify imposters. We’ll see more of this as we go through our lesson.
Before we get started, let’s ask God to bless this message, give me the words to speak, give you ears to hear, and may His name be glorified. Amen!
The first place we’re going to visit is:
Matthew 7:15-27 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (16) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? (17) Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (21) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (23) And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (24) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (25) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (26) "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: (27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Now, I’m going to revisit this passage tomorrow when I start discussing these wolves in sheep’s clothing, but for now, notice several things. First, Christ tells us that we shall know them by their fruits. He says “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” And “therefore, by their fruits you shall know them.” When Christ says “…by their fruits you shall know them…”, this tells us that there are some exterior signs by which we may identify good trees. Those signs are their fruits.
We don’t have to make up “fruits”- the Bible clearly tells us what to look for.
Galatians 5:19-23 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (21) envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (9) (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), (10) finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
From these two passages, we can clearly see that fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, righteousness, truth, and self-control. Also in these passages we see the works of the flesh. Now, as we learned yesterday, a Christian is a work in progress. Therefore, there may remain some works of the flesh in a Christian along with some of the fruits of the Spirit. Overall, though, what do we see? Do we see fruits, or do we see works? And more importantly, have we seen a change from works of the flesh to fruits of the Spirit? Has our person changed from being a contentious and envious person to one who shows kindness and longsuffering? If we see this, then hopefully we are looking at a change in heart.
Let’s continue. We know from Romans 5 that all men start off as enemies of God.
Romans 5:10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
This passage says that we were reconciled while still enemies of God. We know from 1 Corinithians 1:18 that:
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
So, to the unsaved person, the message of the cross is foolishness but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God. Further on in 1 Corinthians we see:
1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
If a person can truly call Jesus Lord and if this person can acknowledge the power of God in the gospel message, we have some good evidence that they are a saved person. However, if you were paying attention when I quoted Matthew 7, you know that Jesus also said:
Matthew 7:21-23 (21) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (23) And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
Simply saying with your mouth “Oh, yeah, man…Jesus is Lord” isn’t proof that what you’re saying is true. It is part of the picture, yes, but people can and do lie. Now, there’s no fooling God- God knows the heart!- but what we’re looking at here is external evidence of Christians. And again, we’re doing this not so much so that we can identify real Christians, but so that we can identify those wolves in sheep’s clothing who claim to be Christians, but are not. Let’s go back to Matthew 7 and look at the rest of the passage:
Matthew 7:22-27 (22) Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (23) And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (24) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (25) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (26) "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: (27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
In verse 24, Jesus says, “Therefore…” and that “therefore” is “there for” a reason. He’s referring back to those who talk with their mouth but in reality never knew Him. Who are those who Jesus knows? He tells us “whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them…” We can find numerous passages which back this up. Here are four:
Matthew 12:50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."
Luke 11:28 But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
John 15:12-14 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (13) Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. (14) You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
And here’s a passage about Christ himself:
Hebrews 5:8-9 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (9) And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
We should see from these passages that those whom Jesus calls “friend” and “brother” and “sister” are those who obey the commands of God. Note carefully that one does not become a brother or sister of Christ because they have obeyed, but rather obey because they are true brothers or sister. Obedience does not gain our salvation but true, heart-felt, obedience is evidence of salvation. If you have missed this point, then we will need to start all over again, beginning with Ephesians 2:8-9 which says:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.
So, while we can never know a person’s heart- only God can do that- we nevertheless do have some outward signs that will help us separate true teachers from false prophets. Since a Christian is born-again, has received a new heart, and basically undergoes a conversion, what we’re looking for is a change. Just think about Paul before and after his conversion! Prior, he was persecuting Christians and throwing them in jail, consenting to their death. Afterwards, he was willing and even eager to himself be persecuted for Christ’s sake. He went from hating Christ and Christians to literally giving up his life for their sake. This is the sort of thing we’re looking for while keeping in mind that, once again, no living Christian is perfect but still retains remnants of the flesh. I showed this yesterday where Paul told us in Romans 7 that he does the things he does not want to do and cannot do the things that he wants do. He says “Oh wretched man, that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) and then immediately gives the answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25). There are the keys to help us determine whether we have an unbeliever, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or a true believer in front of us.
How about you? Which of these are you? A lost unbeliever still hating the things of God;, a wolf persecuting and perverting the things of God, using Christ’s name in vain, and preying on the sheep; or a believer in Christ, one who trust in Him and Him alone for salvation, sanctification, and eventual glorification, one who now has access to the Father through the son? Which one are you? May God show you the answer, to his glory, through Jesus. Amen.
False Prophets (1)- What is a Christian?
False Prophets (3)- Establishing their presence