Am I A Real Christian?

5 Questions That “Measure” Your Faith

Pastor Matt Anderson
Aug 6, 2015
It may surprise you that most of your friends and neighbors consider themselves to be “Christian.” According to an ABCNEWS/Beliefnet poll, a whopping 83% of Americans self-define as Christians, compared to just 52% of the rest of the world. But what does that mean? It’s likely that these individuals represent an increasingly diverse spectrum of lifestyles and perspectives, and so it’s impossible to define “Christian” based upon common factors.
So what is a Christian? A “real” one, I mean.
This gets messy, because we quickly slide off the road into one of two ditches—either self-justification or judgmentalism. The former extreme tends to lower the bar of faith in order to accommodate whatever I believe to be a sufficient version of Christianity, which can include anything from polytheism or moral relativism. Jesus becomes an irrelevant sidekick as I opt for the bland, lifeless ethic of “to each his own.” But on the other ditch we become self-appointed judges who claim a God-given responsibility to evaluate or denigrate the authenticity of other peoples’ faith. Five minutes with one of these grumpy and misguided Scrooges could turn the Pope into an atheist.
This question is far easier to pose to others than oneself, because we’d rather not confront our own inadequacies. But we must start with ourselves if we wish to avoid these nasty ditches and honestly pursue spiritual growth. Taking careful notice of how Scripture defines our faith, here are five questions to help determine whether or not I am an authentic Christian, or if I’m merely a CINO (Christian in name only).
1. Am I an active member of the Body of Christ?
I live in a culture that chases the mirage of self-actualization through the means of autonomy, personal experience and consumeristic anonymity. We’re socialized to reserve large swaths of personal space in which to have reality served our way and on our timing, making life little more than a cosmic drive-through. In this context, virtues like commitment, servant-leadership, civic engagement, vulnerability, accountability and personal responsibility threaten to limit my potential, invade my space, and obstruct my ambitions and freedom. However, this perspective is antithetical to a Gospel-centered life, which requires a joy-based investment in an actual gathering of servant-leaders who do life together and embrace a common mission to transform their city. So do I attend, serve, and participate in a local church, or have I settled for drive through spirituality? Am I an active member in a faith community, or have I fallen into a severed, dis-membered relationship to the Body of Christ? Do I have a role of any kind? Does a specific church rely on me for leadership, even as I lean on that church for support? Is the local church essential to my life or just another option to anonymously consume if and when convenient? Sure, I may have been bored, hurt, or disappointed by the church, but Jesus died to create the church, and identifies her as His chosen instrument to redeem the world. So if the church is good enough for Jesus, with all its flaws and imperfections, isn’t it good enough for me?


2. What saturates my reality?  
Whereas many immerse themselves in media and chemicals, Christians individually and communally immerse themselves in Scripture and prayer. This rhythm begets an infectious and creative inspiration that leads believers to grow beyond their expectations and to perceive new possibilities for serving and loving others. They develop a game-changing intimacy with God and one another. Many Christians not only lack the roots in community described above but also take little time to pursue God’s presence through the tools He’s given us—namely Scripture and prayer. Do I harness these gifts as a compass with which to pursue God, meeting God on His terms and embracing His vision for my life? Or are they crowded out of my busy life, leaving nothing but the altar of personal experience?
3. Have I died lately?
Jesus tells His followers to take up our crosses daily out of a desire to lose our lives for His sake (Luke 9:23). Cultural Christianity is a trivial badge awarded for a certain upbringing, background, or a past decision, all of which can have little impact on my daily life. But Biblical Christianity is different. It’s an ongoing commitment to the denial of self and the opening up to the person of Jesus Christ, surrendering my vision and plans for His on a repetitive basis. This prevents me from seeing faith as a one time, one day, or one hour per week exercise rather than an ongoing commitment to claim and share God’s undeserved grace in every sphere of my life. I’m bombarded with and drawn toward other attractive options every single day, and without a steadfast commitment to the Way of the Gospel, I’ll begin to settle for a lesser version of life and blend into the casual “Christian” crowd (Romans 12:1-2). So have I died lately?


4. Do others see me as an example?
Most people give little thought to their legacy, but Christians are obsessed with theirs (I Tim 4:12). Having been set free from the prison of selfishness, we prioritize the growth and needs of others, looking for ways to nurture and encourage their faith. Jesus is simply too good to keep private, and those of us who know Him are called to serve as examples. Do people in my life know that I love Jesus and am eager to share Him? Have I asked someone to hold me accountable for my faith example? Do I look for ways to honor and serve Him in everyday life and conversation? Do I seek out opportunities to mentor, coach, teach and encourage others, or have I privatized Jesus as a good luck charm in my back pocket?


5. Am I honest enough to admit that I’ve failed this list miserably?
Humility is the Christian’s best friend and greatest ally (James 4:6). We were and are so broken that Jesus had to die for us (Romans 3:23) and must continue pleading for us at God’s right hand (Rom 8:34). All of us fall short of the name Christian, and we’ll continue struggling with our “Old Adam” until the day we die, so that we’ll always need forgiveness for everything we do. Even our most noble causes and deeds are shaded and tarnished by our sinfulness, and we can’t free ourselves from this stain no matter how hard we try or how well we pretend. We constantly miss opportunities to trust God and bless others. We use resources we’re called to share, share what we’re called to keep private, think too much or too little of ourselves, and choose self-absorbed safety over Christ-centered risk. We’re sinners, after all, and that’s how we roll.
Real Christians rigorously uphold every value on this list, but none more that this final ideal, which affirms that none of us measures up. At our best, we’re wounded healers who, through an ongoing process of repentance and forgiveness, pursue a Savior that we’ll desperately need every step along the way, and we’ll do it together for the sake of the world.
Am I a “real” Christian? Well frankly, He’s not done with me. He’s blessed me with an active role in His family where I may live, struggle, grow and serve, as we savor and share the Gospel together. And so, thanks to the daily Grace of God available to the Body of Christ, I will be.