With each passing year it seems to me that the word Christian carries all kinds of connotations and evokes different emotions from different people. The need to define terms is ever more necessary if one wants to be clearly understood. What is more concerning however is the fact that it is becoming rather difficult to clearly identify a Christian from one who is not. Worse still we seem to be confused about the evidences or marks of a true Christian.
Paul in writing to the Colossians (a group of Christians he had never met), he tells them of the report (Colossians 1:3-8) he had about their Christianity and he was left with no doubt that they were truly a saved people. And in essence the things he heard about them should be true of every Christian. So what report did Paul receive about the Colossians?
1. Their faith in Christ
They had a clear reliance, commitment to and trust in Christ. Their salvation was as a result of them believing is the only way to God. Their growth and everyday life is one of trust and reliance on Christ and his word. Saving Faith has three elements:
A. Rational: the mind understands the truth/good news of Jesus Christ. You can’t trust what you don’t know. Faith comes to those who have heard. Faith comes after revelation
B. Emotional: You embrace truth about Jesus with great sorrow over your sins and rejoice over God’s rich mercy and loving grace.
C. Volitional: You totally surrender and trust in Christ alone for your salvation. You chose to obey your new master.
2. Their love for others
They had a deep, sincere affection and care for the believers that resulted in warm fellowship. This is Sacrificial and unconditional love for others because they counted no sacrifice too great for the sake of others even laying your life for them (1 John 3:13-19). This love carries the idea of faithfulness, commitment and act of the will, it looks out for the best interest of the other. It is described in 1 Corinthians 13.
Inscription on a tombstone in a small English village said of one man:
“here lies a miser who lived for himself, and cared for nothing but gathering wealth, now where he is or how he fares nobody knows and nobody cares” in contrast a tombstone at st Paul’s cathedral in London reads “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God”
3. Their hope in life
The word hope in the bible carries the idea of joyful expectancy, a sense of certainty of the glorious reward and blessed future, it is securely stored and can’t be lost. This hope comes from hearing the gospel. It is this hope that fuels our faith and keeps up pressing forward towards the goal set before us, it is the same hope that gives us courage to endure hardship and rejoice in the midst of the numerous uncertainties of life. It is this same hope that our country and the whole world desperately need more than anything else. Hence the need for the gospel of faith, hope and love to be proclaimed to every soul in this world that is striving after the wind.
So how do you know one is a Christian in this confusing world? They will have faith in Jesus Christ, love for others and an unshakeable hope in life. This can only happen if one hears and believes the blessed gospel of hope.