Christened or baptized, and perhaps confirmed, you religiously trot off to Church every Sunday. You go to all the special services - Christmas, Easter, New Year's Eve, christenings, harvest festival, etc., etc. You attend Bible studies and prayer meetings. You happily serve your neighbors - help the elderly and the sick, run a mini-bus, lead a youth group.
But are you a Christian?
If you say "yes", you identify with about one in three of the world population, and belong to one of three thousand plus "flavors" of the Christian faith. You subscribe to a doctrinal smorgasbord selected from hundreds of denominational teachings - many conflicting.
Viewed from afar, Christian denominations are distinct from other religions. Christians do not, with the Hari Krishna, shave their heads and wear saffron robes. They don't observe Hanukkah or circumcise with the Jews. Nor do they, with Muslims, go to regular Friday prayers or observe Ramadan.
Indeed, it's how we worship that sets each religion apart from others.
For, at heart, all claim to worship God. All believe in serving their fellow-man. Almost all mankind believe they harbor within themselves an immortal soul which, at death, goes to heaven, to hell, to purgatory, to limbo, to Paradise, to another body - or maybe to the mysterious planet Prozac!
The Only Way
The Bible, however, claims Christianity to be unique - the "only way" to salvation. There's no other Name but Jesus Christ by which anyone can be saved (Acts 4:12). So, clearly it's vital that you know if you really are a Christian!
A real Christian will have accepted his or her sinfulness, and that Jesus Christ, expressing God's love, died for our sin. We will have committed ourselves to stop our sinning. We will have made a conscious decision to accept his gracious sacrifice on our behalf And we will have had a definite "change of heart" - our lifestyle will be in process of transformation.
But what is "sin"? It's here that many stumble. For there are almost as many definitions of it as there are Christians! Yet it's vital we know. How can you stop sinning if you don't know God's definition? How can you obey if you don't know what God wants? Wrote the apostle Paul: "If it had not been for the law I should not have known sin" (Romans 7:7).
He has indeed defined it - clearly. "Sin", wrote the apostle John, "is the transgression of the law' (I John 3:4). Paul adds: "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). "It is all forms of rebellion to God as defined in His Word. God says that if you want to repent, if you want to become a Christian, if you want to be sure of your salvation, you look into God's Law - the instruction He gave throughout the Scriptures - to discover what must change in your life.
You could start with the Ten Commandments! Are you actively honoring your parents? Do you follow a wholesome sexual relationship? Do you respect the property of others? Do you avoid violent behavior and envy and lying under oath? And do you consciously follow the spirit of the divine Law?
Many who claim to be Christian will at least pay lip service to this. But it's only part of the story!
An important question is - how do you worship God? If He were to look at you would He recognize by your behavior the way He prescribes for you to worship Him? Can you say you have repented - become a Christian - if you ignore the first four Commandments, which describe how to worship Him? This, said Jesus is the "first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-40).
Days of Baalim
Anciently, God's representative nation Israel was severely punished for abandoning His worship! They changed the way they worshipped. Instead of God's weekly seventh day of rest and His Festivals (described in Leviticus 23) they substituted the festivals of the sun-worshipping nations around them. Believe it - under other names they kept Christmas and Easter and Sunday - the "days of Baalim" (Hosea 2:13)! And for this God ejected them from "the Promised Land".
The New Testament changed none of this.
For three hundred years, until almost submerged in the surround- ing paganism, Christians continued to worship God as He pleased, on His weekly seventh-day Sabbaths and annual Holy Days. With new understanding they worshipped as did their forebears for generation after generation.
Christians should continue to do so today!
So - have you diligently searched the Scriptures to discover what the sovereign God requires of you? Do you know, for sure, that you are a Christian?
You must find out!
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 2 No. 1, January/February 1998. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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