If you talk to most law enforcement officers about their job, he or she can give you copious details about evidence. How to collect it, preserve it, requirements for its chain of custody and even rules on its presentation in a court of law. When a “good” detective works a case he or she simply follows the evidence. In fact, evidence must be relevant and material to the case in any court at any level. Why is it so important? The details and facts put in evidence prove or disprove the charges filed against the defendant. We don’t want to see a guilty person let off without paying his or her consequences for the crime committed. As well, we don’t want to see an innocent person put in jail or prison for a crime he or she didn’t commit.
Evidence is also used outside the criminal justice system. When we miss work for sickness, it isn’t uncommon for an employer to require a doctors note as evidence. When we wreck our car and file an insurance claim, the insurance company requires pictures of the damage and sends an adjustor to verify the extent of the damage to establish evidence that supports the claim. When we apply for a loan, the bank runs a credit check, employment background check and verifies our assets as evidence to justify giving you a loan. And, for that matter, when we claim to be a Christian, Christians and non-Christians often look for evidence. Why? They want to know if we’re authentic. After all, no one is comfortable with a hypocrite.
Over the time I’ve been a pastor, one question that routinely gets ask of me is this: How can I know that I’m a Christian? Before I continue, let me say that we all must be cautioned about judging another person’s heart. With that said, as we tread lightly, there are three parts to my answer found in scripture. First, we have to establish the evidence of what a Christian is. Second, we have to establish the evidence of how a person becomes a Christian. Third, we have to establish the evidence of how a Christian lives and acts.
First, what is a Christian? AC 11:25 “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” From this text we can establish that a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ or simply a follower of Christ. In fact, the Greek word in the manuscripts means “little Christ.” The question often asked in response is, what is a disciple or follower of Christ?
One short verse gives us what we need. AC 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In summary, “A disciple is someone who follows Jesus (head), is transformed by Jesus (heart), and joins Jesus on His mission (hands).” ~Jim Putnam, Real-life Discipleship
Second, what is the biblical evidence of how a person becomes a Christian? We must begin by recognizing our status with God.
ISA 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
ISA 59:22 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
RO 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
RO 6:23a For the wages of sin is death
In short, we are sinners. Sin is rebellion against God. It is anything we think, say or do that falls short of God’s standard. Here is the problem. Our sin separates us from a holy and righteous God.
The next step in our journey in becoming a Christian is understanding what God has done to reconcile us.
RO 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
RO 6:23b but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 CO 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In short, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin so we can be reconciled to God.
We also must understand that our journey to becoming a Christian requires faith.
JN 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
EPH 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
RO 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Now that we’ve established the evidence from scripture of what a Christian is and how a person becomes a Christian, we must also establish the evidence for the lifestyle of a Christian.
Third, how does a Christian live and act?
2 CO 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
LK 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me
MT 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
In short, a Christian acts like a new person who denies themselves to the point they follow Jesus even to the death.
Here are also some practical things to keep in mind about a Christian’s lifestyle.
JAS 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
1 JN 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
RO 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
In short, a Christian does good works according to the will of God as a result of their faith, they love Jesus and demonstrate their love for Jesus by obeying His commandments and are free from the control of sin. Please notice that I didn’t say we will be perfectly sinless. For that matter, let’s all be reminded that a Christian can’t take credit for any of this because this is something God does in us.
Now that we’ve established the evidence from scripture of what a Christian is, how a person becomes a Christian and how a Christian lives and acts (lifestyle), there is a critical question we must all look in the mirror and ask ourselves. What is the question? Does the evidence demonstrate that you are, in fact, a Christian?
All in all, I’m not a law enforcement officer and I don’t wish to collect evidence against you and I certainly don’t want to judge you. There is only one Judge in these matters and His name is Jesus. But, I can help you uncover the evidence for your faith in Christ. In any case, I can’t bear to imagine a person who isn’t a Christian who thinks they are and I wouldn’t want a Christian to suffer with doubt about whether they are a Christian or not. So simply follow the evidence from scripture. Are you a Christian because you fit the definition, you have admitted that you’re a sinner by nature and that you’ve believed by faith that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and your lifestyle demonstrates that Jesus has transformed you into a new person? In case you’re wondering or worried, we aren’t perfect like Jesus but the evidence must demonstrate that God is progressively transforming you into the likeness of His son, Jesus.
A Work in Progress,