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So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).
If Christ took up residence inside of you, there should be evidence of Him being there. It is similar to a maid that comes to your hotel room after you leave. There is evidence you were there. What evidence can you point to that shows Christ is living with you? These pieces of evidence do not make you a Christian, but they do point to the reality of regeneration. (See James 2:14-17.)
The gospel should always grip our hearts, and we see the evidence of its grip on how we live our lives. Jesus was distinctly Christian. He was not another kind of religious person but the kind that He wants us to emulate (Ephesians 4:17-24). There were a few distinctions that made Him unique. These are the same distinctions that make us different.
To be a Christian is to be like Jesus. To not be transforming into Jesus is contrary to what being a Christian means. To determine what it means to be a Christian, you must separate the singular acts of the Christians in the Bible from the repeated patterns of those Christians.
Typically, the single, unrepeatable actions in the Bible are moment-in-time, unique events rather than things you are to emulate daily (Ephesians 5:1). We do not consider unique events from historical figures normative. For example, Moses threw a tree in a pond, and the water became drinkable. Nobody should recommend that you replicate this act by throwing a tree in a lake and drinking the water afterward (Exodus 15:22-26). The Old Testament complainers found healing. You may become sick.
Another example is when Gideon puts out a fleece to figure out what to do next. This act was a one-time exceptional circumstance that is not a directive on how we make biblical decisions (Judges 6:36-40). You see another spin on this idea of decision-making in Acts 1:26, where the apostles prayed for snake eyes as they cast lots to see who would be in their group. I do not recommend this approach for your pastoral search committee.
Another bad idea is the prayer cloth miracle. If you give money to any person for a prayer cloth, expecting to experience healing, you will be disappointed. Maybe the Lord will provide you with common sense, and if so, that will be the best possible outcome. Prayer cloths are unique, not normative (Acts 19:11-12).
Jesus told Mary and Martha that He was glad their brother had died (John 11:14-15). I would not recommend this the next time you are engaging someone who just lost a family member. The wind does not always blow the same way (John 3:8). Each person and circumstance requires a unique opportunity to engage the Lord while expecting the Spirit’s illumination on how to respond at that moment.
These pneumatic opportunities are what make discipleship exciting. You never know what the person you are meeting with will bring to you, which is why you don’t script a discipleship opportunity. This kind of reliance on the Spirit is humbling and invigorating.
While one-time, spontaneous moments fill the Christian’s heart with anticipation and adventure, all of us must deeply immerse ourselves in repeated patterns that are normative for every person who follows Jesus. How many repeatable Christian patterns come to your mind? What Christian practices authenticate your walk with the Lord? Here are four that come to my mind.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We find everything we know about God in the Bible. There is no other specific revelation provided for us about God (Romans 10:17). All other books about God find their truths in His Word. The Word of God is the only authoritative source for you to know how to live the Christian life. It has everything you need for living a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).
While other books can benefit you, the “roots of those truths” come from the soil of God’s Word. If you want to profit in life, Scripture must master you. Paul says God’s Word does four things for you. It teaches, reproves (confronts), corrects, and trains. Note the sequence; it is purposeful and transformative.
When you study God’s Word, you experience teaching. From your studies, God reproves you regarding certain things. After God’s Word confronts you, the change process begins (correction). This new direction puts you on a training path of right living. Believers who regularly submit to God’s Word position themselves to experience the mastering effect of the Bible. This experience should be normative for every Christian (John 17:17).
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. —Martin Luther, the first of the 95 Theses
To run from your sin and cling to Jesus should be a standard practice in every Christian’s life. This opportunity is unique and repeatable for every believer. The word repentance means to change. The first time you repented was when God regenerated you (John 3:7). This first change is the salvation that the Lord brings to you. It is not the sanctification change you need to be mature (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Salvation does not transform you entirely; it puts you on the track to transformation. Regeneration permits you to go to heaven, but it does not make you fit for this life. It is a good start; that is all. This fact is why Luther talked about the Christian life as being a life of ongoing repentance. It is impossible to repent one time and be like Christ. You must be a repeat repenter, as you keep on repenting until Jesus returns.
A Christian home should be a repenting home. Each family member. who professes Christ should be actively owning and confessing their sins while seeking forgiveness from all those who have been affected by their offenses. The person who is not regularly repenting is a liar. That may sound harsh—I understand, but it is what John said to the Christians in his day (1 John 1:8-9).
To make all things a matter of prayer is the gold standard for Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer should precede the mighty works of God. It would be better to say “expectant prayer.” Jesus could not function well on earth without expectant praying; He prayed often. It was His habit. There was something inside of Him that motivated Him to talk to His Father.
This privilege is another unique and repeatable feature of the Christian life; you can speak to God, and you should be communicating with Him. Prayer is not a passive activity; it is an expectant activity. When my children come to me asking for something, they come expecting an answer. They do not ask and then walk away with no expectation of a response.
Prayer is an action that acknowledges that you cannot depend on yourself. The praying life is humility and maturity rolled into an other-world dependence that expects God to do what is perfect for the situation. The praying person is not looking to accomplish his plan. He does not pray to fulfill self-determined desires but prays because of an insatiable passion for the doing of the Lord’s will (Luke 22:42).
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
The missional purpose of all Christian habits is to share the gospel with others lovingly. Making the name of Jesus magnificent in the world should be the primary motive for church life (John 12:32). All of the habits noted thus far point toward that one purpose. Being mastered by the Bible, aggressively repenting of sin, and spending time actively and dependently praying is the platform upon which your Christian witness (pneumatic serving) stands.
Your serving is pneumatic in the sense that you never precisely know what God is up to in the world. The fortified Christian moves through God’s world while keeping in step with the Spirit, always aware that each step could be the chance to put Christ on display. Christians must have Spirit-illuminated peripheral vision and depth of field. We must see what others cannot see, which enables us to be competent servants.
The world cannot perceive things from the Spirit of God because those things are discerned spiritually (1 Corinthians 2:14). Discerning serving opportunities and being quick to provide the assistance needed was one of the hallmarks of Jesus. He could see what others could not see (Luke 7:44).
The book of Acts is full of people who repeatedly did these four things. Because of their active faith, they pushed the Christian message to the ends of the earth. When John Donne thought about the activity of the people in Acts and the people in his day, he wrote the following:
There are reckoned in this Book (Acts), two and twenty sermons of the Apostles; and yet the Book is not called the preaching, but the practice, not the words, but the Acts of the Apostles. And the Acts of the Apostles were to convey the name of Christ Jesus, and to propagate his gospel over all the world. Beloved, you are Actors upon the same stage too. The uttermost part of the earth are your scene. Act over the Acts of the Apostles. Be you a light to the Gentiles that sit in darkness. Be you content to carry him over these seas, who dried up one Red Sea for his first people, and hath poured out another Red Sea, his own blood, for them and us. —John Donne
How do you know that you are a Christian? One way to tell is if you repeatedly do the things the Christians in Acts were regularly doing. Four of those things were being students of God’s Word, actively repenting of sin, engaging in expectant prayer, and pneumatically serving others so the mission of Jesus could advance.
Do these things characterize you? If not, will you talk to someone about what you just read? Perhaps you have a friend or spouse or child who is not practicing the Christian life. If so, will you ask the Father how you are to respond to them? Here are a few more questions to help with your self-reflective examination.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).