A couple of weeks ago in youth group we considered what some of the main characteristics are of believers. If we or someone else claims to be a Christian, what would we look for to verify the claim? The Scriptures give us plenty of help in revealing the characteristics of genuine Christians. James 2:17 says, "Faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." Therefore our conclusion was that if you really are a Christian, your faith will reveal itself by what you believe and how you live.
Here are the characteristics that would be revealed in the life of a Christian that we found and discussed from Scripture. Note that it is not an exhaustive list.
- Christians are well aware of their sin and their need for forgiveness and restoration. (1 Timothy 1:13-16) The Christian life is marked by faith in the Gospel and repentance for sin. It begins with repentance and continues on with it. Christians still sin, but they cannot do so without being convicted by the Holy Spirit for their sin. They will not grow comfortable with their sin. Eventually the conviction of the Holy Spirit for sin will lead the Christian to repent of their sin and seek the restoration with God and others through the Gospel.
- Christians trust Jesus Christ alone for their salvation from sin and hell and not in anything they have done. (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 20:30-31) Christians always look to Christ and away from themselves for the foundation of their hope for being made right with God and receiving the gracious blessing of eternal life, rather than the condemnation that we deserve. Christians do not put any hope in works, in religious services, or in their own reputations for their acceptance before God. They trust in Christ alone for their salvation.
- Christians accept the Bible as the very Word of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) This means that Christians take the Bible seriously. They obey what God says in His Word. They read and seek to learn more and more about God's Word. They feed their faith on God's Word through reading, studying, and regularly hearing God's Word preached. Christians will question themselves before they question God's Word.
- Christians progressively love others more and more. (John 13:34-35) This is an identifying characteristic provided by the Lord Jesus to His disciples on the night before He was crucified. Just before He willingly gave His life out of His love for the church, Jesus gave the command that all who follow Him must love one another as He loved us. Therefore Christians will find ways to serve and care for others. Christians will consider the needs of others as more significant than their own. They will be active members of local churches so that they can easily love and support other believers as they seek to serve the Lord faithfully together. We noted that this loving others will grow progressively as no Christian will be able to do this perfectly at any point in their lives because of sin, but there will be growth in this love as they mature.
- Christians seek to help others to know Christ and to believe the Gospel. (Matthew 28:19-20) Genuine Christians know the wonderful good news of the Gospel really is good news that everyone should know about. So out of their joy in knowing Christ, their love for their neighbors, and their overwhelming gratefulness for receiving the grace of salvation, Christians seek to help others know Christ and believe the Gospel. They will do this through evangelism, serving in ministries in their church for making disciples, and supporting and being involved in missions work.
Are these characteristics in your life? Are they in the lives of people in your church who claim to be Christians? Yes, Christians must believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but that belief will also show itself by how Christians actually live. Faith always shows itself if faith is really there in the heart.