It’s amazing how much we learn when we study the Bible and how some of the messages jump right out at us when we read with a hungry heart. The scriptures are God’s own inspired words that He’s given to us so we can learn about Him and become better disciples. As we study, our faith grows and we feel confident that God loves us and will help us through anything. Yet—it’s not until we attempt to put our faith to work that we really know how much of what we have read is in us. It’s not until trials hit that we often discover who we really are. Continue reading
Studying the Bible is comparable to studying music. We can mentally learn how to play the piano, but until we actually begin to work the keys with our fingers and apply the knowledge that’s in our head, it’s just education that’s stuck in our brain and will fade away after time. But when we apply what we’ve learned it comes alive in us and the music begins to flow through our heart.
And so, just as we need to apply works to what we’ve learned about music, so it is with faith: we either use it or we lose it!
It’s not enough to say, “I am a Christian” and then expect that we really are a Christian while we continue to live in the world without any change. In order for us to become a Christian, we need to study the Bible and apply our faith to all that we’ve learned so that our character becomes the same as the character of Christ.
But before we can even consider the thought of being a Christian, we need to know why we want to become one in the first place. Is it to find a godly formula to get rich? Is it to have a social club to attend on Sunday’s? Or is it to be forgiven for breaking the laws of God so that we won’t go to hell when we die because of these sins? Is it possible that the main reason for being a Christian is to be forgiven for our sins and to be assured that we have a home in Heaven so we can be with Jesus when we die?
Contrary to the fallacy that many Christians believe, nice people don’t get into Heaven just because they’re nice. There is only one way to get into Heaven and that is through the cross. Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
And in Matthew 8:22 Jesus says that many people will face God after death and be shocked when they’re not accepted into Heaven, but instead, will be cast down into hell.
Unfortunately, many people believe that John 3:16 means that everyone will automatically be saved because it says that Jesus died for the whole world, and so if you believe that then that’s all there is to salvation. Well, He did die for the whole world, but not everyone who acknowledges that or who calls them self a Christian is saved. Even the devil acknowledges that – and he is not saved.
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” … James 2:19
Salvation means more than just saying, “I’m a Christian”, but this is what the devil wants us to believe. True salvation comes only with repentance and a heart that wants to change from its sinful nature to the righteousness of God through the blood of Jesus.
We need to come to Jesus with an honest heart, ask Him to take away our sins and fill us with His Spirit so we can belong to His family – and then we need to study the Bible so that we can be like Him.
Here is a simple analogy that will help to understand the issue of repentance.
Let’s take two families: the Right family and the Wrong family. Little Jake of the Wrong family realizes that his family is filled with evil thoughts, bad actions and attitudes and that they will all eventually be cast into an eternally dark, evil future that he fears. He sees the Right family where the members are filled with love and hope and who have a beautiful home in Heaven waiting for them. He wants to be like them, so he responds to their invitation and moves in with them.
He acknowledges the mandate of the family; he talks about it as if it applies to him and he refers to himself as a family member, but he doesn’t change or commit himself to the head of the family. He’s still filled with his old ideals, mannerisms and values; he still bears the family name of “Wrong” and he still will end up in eternal darkness with them in the end. He never became a member of the Right family and will never receive the Right family inheritance when he dies, but sadly he’s been deceived into thinking it will be so. The only way that little Jake can become a member of the Right family is to give up membership to the Wrong family, walk away from them, become adopted into the Right family and take on their characteristics, inspirations, hopes and purpose. Then he’d no longer be little Jake Wrong, but little Jake Right, and he would be blessed by them while he lived and he’d be part of the Right family inheritance when he died.
When we become a Christian we come out of the world when we repent of our sins and we take on our Godly membership when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and commit ourselves to Him. We study our Bible to learn who Jesus is and who we are in Him, and we realize that the glue that holds us all together is our love for God.
“Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’” … Matthew 22:37
The world says that to be saved we just have to accept that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so matter what we do now as Christians we’re okay, and then we just have to love each other. While these are two elements of being a Christian, these are not the only prerequisites for salvation. To be saved – to be a Christian – we must realize that we have broken God’s laws if we’ve committed even just one sin – and so we deserve the punishment of hell for those sins. But when we come to Jesus and ask Him to forgive us, He takes those sins away and we are saved from the wrath that God will give out to everyone who IS found with sin on them. We have become righteous through Jesus, and we become committed to Him and will never go back into those sins again – John 8:11.
And like the piano player, we never stop practicing! We do everything we do in faith to please God. His Word – the Bible – becomes our benchmark and we take on the attitude that, “If God said it then I believe it”, and we follow the teaching of Jesus and we reverence God our Father. The world becomes a place to live in until we get to Heaven, but it’s no longer our benchmark and we are no longer a member of its system.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” … Hebrews 11:6
As our faith grows we are able to trust God with our lives and our faith becomes our shield against the attacks of the world. We use our faith and we get the victory through our trials. But when we call ourselves Christians and don’t come out of the world and don’t live or practice faith, then we are living a lie. Don’t be deceived: salvation means repentance of sins, commitment to God and gratitude for the life that He’s given us. We need to put our trust in God and our faith to work because if we don’t use it, we will lose it.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” … Psalm 27:1
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Christians face many challenges in life and the greatest one is deception. Lots of people think they are Christians, yet their personalities and their lifestyles don’t reflect it. Are they Christians or is it possible that deception has made them Wannabee Christians?
One of the concerns that people have about Christianity is that they’ll have to give up all the good things in life; no more smoking, no more drinking, no more going to bars, no more indulging in unfavorable substances and no more hanging out with old friends. They look at Christianity as a religious organization that comes with a bunch of rules and turns people into unpersonable zombies. This is far from the truth because when you become a Christian you don’t have to give up anything.
When you become a Christian, you choose to give up everything.
There’s a big difference between someone who “wants” to become a Christian and someone who gives his or her heart to Jesus and “becomes” a Christian. The perception is comparable to a diet. Many people yo-yo on various dieting fads to lose weight, but they never succeed and in fact, often suffer poor health effects because of it. They’ll see all the benefits and read all the testimonies of celebrities who engaged in specific diets and now look awesome, and so they’ll go on the diet, too. But they’ll fail.
Why will they fail? Because their eyes are on the end result, but their heart and mind have nothing stable to hold on to. In other words, they are not committed to the diet or to the reason for the diet; they are not committed to good health; they are not committed to change – they just want to look good and so they follow the regime on their own energy and for their own glory.
It’s the same concept for Christianity. Without a commitment, you will not succeed. Unless you are committed to Jesus and to His ministry and to His calling on your life, you will never know what Christianity is all about. You will always remain a wannabee Christian with no goal, no purpose, no hope for the future, and nothing solid in your life to guide you.
Wannabee Christians want to appear to be Christians, want to reap all the benefits of being Christians and want to hold the status and impression of good Christian citizens, but they don’t want to deny their own existence. They don’t want to change who they are and more than that, they do NOT want to give up the pleasures in life that they enjoy.
However, when you are committed to God your heart changes and your priorities shift from being self-pleasers to being Christ-pleasers. Your focus and your goals, and your hopes and your joys in life become entwined with those of Jesus. You no longer struggle to give up old habits because you “want” to give them up; you no longer fight the change, but rather, you willfully submit to God’s ways. You slowly take on the lifestyle and passions of Jesus.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” … Galatians 5:1
The Bible tells us in Galatians 5:22 that Christians are known by their fruits and these are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These fruits are the personality and characteristics of Jesus, so the more you become like Jesus, the more of His fruits you will have and the more of His personality will live in you.
After a while you’ll realize that you are different. The things that you used to enjoy doing and places you thought were socially exciting become distasteful things of the past and you have no desire to do them anymore. You have new interests, new joys and new hope. Your outlook on life changes and you begin to see things through Jesus’ eyes.
“Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” … Psalm 37:5
Will every conversion be a simple transformation once you’re a Christian? Not always. People who once engaged in addictive substances, for example, will often have a physical battle to fight because their bodies crave the substance it’s used to.
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” … Matthew 26:41.
This requires diligently seeking Jesus to remove this craving and to heal the body. Some people will get the healing and others will need to go to a naturopathic doctor for natural meds to help them overcome it. But when you are committed and when you trust Jesus to give you the victory over it, you WILL defeat this goliath and you WILL enjoy the freedom of life without its evil clutches.
After a while you’ll look into the mirror and see that you really are different. You are not the person you used to be. As you study and grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and as you commit your life to Him, you’ll progressively take on His personality and His passions. Your thoughts and your ideals will become more like His as His Spirit becomes life in you.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” … Galatians 5:16-17
There are many Christians who really don’t know if they’re saved or not. One of the biggest reasons for this is that they don’t study the Bible and have no idea who God really is or who Jesus is. They don’t understand grace and much of their limited knowledge of Him is lost in the Old Testament covenant, and this leaves them to wonder if they’re a real Christian or just a wannebee who hasn’t found God yet.
It’s really very easy to determine if you’re saved and it’s not because you own a copy of the Ten Commandments. There are only two prerequisites to being saved – the first is faith and the second is works.
In order to become a Christian [a follower of Christ] we need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to save us by taking our sins upon Himself on the cross and presenting us righteous through HIS blood to God, our Father. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God gives us this measure of faith to come to Him with repentance, but this faith is only enough to bring us to the cross; it’s not enough to keep us there.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we must walk by faith and not by sight. We must no longer act and react according the world’s standards; we must always be ready to follow the Bible’s leadership and we must always be ready tell the world about Jesus no matter how much they’ll scorn us or laugh at us. We must never be ashamed of the Gospel, but in faith proclaim it to the world through the witness of how we live our lives. And we do this because we have faith in God and not in the world.
We need to believe that Jesus loves us! We need to accept the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. And we need to be committed to Him and that means studying the Bible and learning His instruction for our lives. 2 Timothy 2:15 says that we need to “study the Bible to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This is the only way to read the Bible and we must allow His Holy Spirit to teach us.
We CANNOT depend on our pastor or our minister or anyone else on the earth to teach us about God. We must study the Bible and let God teach us because then we won’t be deceived by false doctrines or man-made interpretations. If we want to be the very best we can be at our job, we would not depend on an unqualified colleague to teach us about our intricate career because that person may not understand half of it and isn’t qualified to teach us. Instead, we’d study and take courses and learn everything there was to know about that job from a qualified teacher so that we could know with confidence how to perform our job and how to act and react as a professional.
When we first come to God there’s a heartfelt conviction that we bear as we realize that we are sinners doomed to God’s wrath, and that Jesus came to take away those sins. We repent and ask Him to take away the sin of the world and then we ask Jesus to come into our heart. John 1:29 says, “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Unfortunately, that experience doesn’t always become conviction and it can have several consequences – some good and some bad. While some new Christians will really dig deep into the Bible to know God, others will just let it all slip away and may either have the “once saved, always saved” deception or they’ll just feel that they couldn’t make it as a Christian so they walk away. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 13:3-9:
“And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth and forthwith they sprung up because they had no deepness of earth, and when the sun was up, they were scorched and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
To better understand this parable, Jesus explains it to His disciples in Matthew 13:18-23: “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Even though all of these people received the initial faith to believe in Jesus in the first step, most of them did not retain it because they didn’t root themselves in God’s Word. They didn’t grow and instead, they lost what they had received. (Another great parable is about the talents found in Matthew 25:14-29) The ones who do take root are those who study the Bible, learn who God is and change their lives to be what God has set out for them through Jesus.
When we study the Bible, we adapt the fruits of the Spirit into our own lives and the Bible says that Christians are known by their fruits. We learn in Galatians 5:22-23 what these fruits are and our old habits will fall away as we take on these new characteristics of Jesus: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
When we first start out as Christians we have way more of the world in us than we have of Jesus in us, but that’s normal and all of these “bad fruits” will fall off a bit at a time as we study the Bible and take on the “good fruits”. The people of the world bear the opposite characteristics – or fruits – to those of Christ, so if our actions and reactions – especially our reactions – are still influenced by the world after we’ve been a Christian for a while, then we need to seriously look into our heart and see just who we are truly following.
As we grow in Christ, we continue to fill up with His love and this is the one virtue that can really tell us if we’re saved or not. What is the measure of love that we have in our heart? Do we really love Jesus or do we just think He’s wonderful and to be admired? Do we trust Jesus or do we just say that we do and then go to the world for help? Do we love the people around us even though they’re not Christians or do we spent every thought criticizing them for things they do and say? Do we love the people who come against us or do we have this secret ambition to get even when no one is looking? And do we love ourselves as a child of God or do we hate who we are, our appearance and our failures because of the disabilities in life that we endure?
Jesus gave us the new commandment about love in Mark 12:30 and this should be our mandate for life: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” But He also gave us a second part to this comment (31), which is, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
So how can you know if you’re really saved or just a wannabee Christian? You need to search your own heart and dig for the truth inside it. Do you truly love Jesus as a real person who died on the cross for your sins? Do you spend time in the Word learning and growing and constantly changing from your old ways so you can be more like Him? Do you look forward to being in Heaven with Him forever? If your heart says yes, then you’re saved. But if you don’t have a convicted love in your heart for Jesus, don’t read the Bible and don’t apply His instructions or promises to your life and don’t tell others about Him with enthusiasm and appreciation, then that is a really good clue that you’re not a Christian – just a wannabee Christian.
The good news? There’s still room at the cross so if you don’t know Jesus and want to know Him, come now and be saved.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” … John 10:27