Many people claim to be Christians in our world today. In fact, the stats say that there are around 2.2 billion professing Christians on planet earth at this very moment. Do you consider yourself a Christian? I would like to take a look at Saint Paul‘s epistle (letter) to the Christians in Philippi to see how the Word of God describes a genuine Christian. People can say all kinds of things and different people have different opinions on any given subject so asking “people” what a genuine Christian is like would lead to many differing and opposing opinions. That is why we want to limit ourselves to what God has to say on the subject. This article will be a litmus test for all of us to see if we are the real deal or not. Let’s look at Philippians chapter 1 to find God’s opinion.
I. The measure of a genuine Christian begins with his/her attitude. Paul describes the attitude of a genuine Christian in the first 2 verses of the chapter when he writes:
1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons : 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A genuine Christian understands that he is a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. A bond-servant is a person who basically becomes the slave of another (by choice, because he loves his master/friend and fares well with him). He is not forced to serve, he chooses to serve on his own free will. His goal in life is to serve and please the master. A genuine Christian no longer has a selfish attitude of living his own life for himself. He willingly chooses to give up his life and freedom to serve the Master, Jesus Christ. His focus in life is obedience to the Master by doing all that he can to please the Master. Who is the Master of your life? Are you in control or have you turned the wheel over to God? Is your passion in life to please God and serve Him? What wakes you up every morning? Do you seek to know Christ’s will so that you can serve Him? How important is Bible study to you? Your attitude toward God sets the tone for how you live life.
II. A correct attitude of course leads to correct actions and Paul reveals the actions of a genuine Christian.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ ;
A genuine Christian seeks to make disciples and he has disciples. That is the final command given by the Master, Jesus Christ. We as Christians are to make disciples as we live life. Part of the process of making disciples is praying for them. A genuine Christian constantly prays for his disciples. He does it with joy and he prays very specifically, for their spiritual growth toward maturity. Paul is in prison when writing this and you would think that he would be preoccupied with his own situations and that his prayers would be all about him. Instead, Paul’s prayers and thoughts are about his disciples. Do you have disciples? Do you pray for their spiritual growth? Do most of your prayers center around your needs and wants or the needs of others?
5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,
A genuine Christian participates in living and spreading the Gospel every single day of his life. He is driven by the fact that God is working in him; to change him as well as to reach others. He confirms the power of the Gospel to change a person’s life by living according to the Gospel. He defends the Gospel by sharing It every chance he gets. Nothing on this earth can stop the Gospel from spreading, except one thing, if you do not open your mouth and share it with the people around you. Chains and imprisonment could not stop the Gospel in Paul’s life. He used his imprisonment to share the Gospel with all the guards and even the officials. Do you take part in the Gospel every single day by living according to It and sharing It with others?
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
A genuine Christian constantly matures in his faith. An indication that he is maturing in his faith is the fact that his love grows more and more. Paul shares the process of growth here. You cannot simply “make yourself have more love”. God causes that to grow when you grow in “real knowledge” of Jesus Christ through studying the Word, personal application, and prayer. When these 3 things are present then spiritual maturity will happen. Your love will grow more and more. More proof that you are maturing in your faith is the fact that you learn how to discern between good and evil. In our modern world, people call black, white and white, black (speaking on issues of morality). Faithfulness in marriage is called “wishful thinking” and immorality is taunted as a virtue. When a person grows in his faith, he learns to determine what is good and what is bad (because God reveals it to him). Are you maturing in your faith? Do you spend time daily studying the Bible so that you can apply Its truths as well as praying? Can you discern between good and evil? Do you know what is right and what is wrong according to God’s standards?
III. There are specific results that accompany the lifestyle of a genuine Christian and Paul share them with us in this passage.
13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,
The Gospel is made known to the people around a true Christian. Everyone everywhere that a genuine Christian goes, knows that he is a follower of Christ through his actions and his words. He is a fragrant aroma of the knowledge of Christ. Do the people around you know that you are a Christian or do they have to assume? Or would they be shocked to learn that you are a Christian?
14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
The people who know a genuine Christian are also encouraged to preach and spread the Gospel. He lives a contagious lifestyle. The more time you spend with this person the more motivated you are to be like that person and share Jesus Christ with everyone. Do you motivate others to preach the Gospel by your lifestyle?
We will stop here for now. I think that it is very clear what a genuine Christian is like. He has a certain attitude, manner of life, and results. Are these things part of your daily life? What changes do you need to make based on what we have learned? May God help us be the real deal when it comes to Christianity.