Back To Basics Transcript

various digital viewing/listening devices

Who Truly Is A Christian? (3)


If you hear that a woman gave birth in a poultry it is not likely that you would be expecting that an egg or a chicken is what she gave birth to. Likewise, the fact that you were born in a church does not make you a Christian, any more than a woman giving birth in a farm would have given birth to a crop! There are people today, whose claim to being Christian is that they were born into a Christian homedaddy or mummy is or was a Christian, an elder in the church, or even a pastor. Some other people claim to be Christians because their grandfather brought Christianity to their community; their father built a church in the village; or they have been attending church since they were born. In John 8:33, the Jews who were recorded as believing in Jesus because of the words he spoke only three verses before, began chiding with Jesus that, they were not in bondage to anyone or anything because they had Abraham as their father. Their argument in essence was that since Abraham, their ancestor, was accepted by God, they also, are accepted by God. This conjecture of Gods acceptance of people by genealogy, by association, by affiliation, or, by proxy, was, and still is, a major issue today. The New Living Translation of bible says in Romans 2:28-29, you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by Gods Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people. Paraphrasing these verses, we can categorically say that, You are not a Christian just because you were born of Christian parents or because you have been attending church since your birth or for a very long time now. No, a Christian is one whose heart is right with God. And true church attendance is not just a mere going to church every week, but one occasioned by a change of heart produced by the Holy Spirit. Those whose lives have been thus changed seek praise from God, not from men. To give more clarity to the impossibility of Christianity by natural birth, by association, by affiliation, by ordination, etc., we will read excerpts of John Wesleys testimony on his spiritual odyssey in a moment. John Wesley, who lived from 1703-1791, was the spiritual father of more than 35 denominations and movements, the most known one is The Methodist Church. Here are the excerpts:

As a Wesley, I was supposed to have faith. I was an ordained minister from a family of ministers. My brother, father, grandfathers, and a great-grandfather were all ministers. I was ordained at the age of twenty-two. I received my Master of Arts degree from Oxford, England. I preached on faith to the faculty and students at St. Marys Church, Oxford. But I did not have the faith which I wanted and knew that I needed. I had a sort of faith during my early life. But the devils also have a sort of faith. Still, neither they nor I received the faith of the covenant of promise. Even the apostles had a sort of faith when they were first with Jesus in Cana. Then and there, they believed on him in a way. But they did not yet have the faith which overcomes the world. The faith I wanted was a sure trust and confidence in God. I wanted to experience forgiveness from my sins and a oneness with God through the work of Jesus. I wanted to be returned to God through the faith Paul wrote about, especially in his letter to the Romans. Like him, I wanted a faith which would enable me to say, It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20). I wanted a faith which no one can have without knowing he has it. Many imagine they have this type of faith, but do not. My comforters imagined I had it, but I did not. I remained miserable in their poor comfort.

By Gods grace, I was able to have direct witness of this living faith through a group of Germans soon after leaving for the mission field. There were twenty-six of these unusual Christians on the ship. In mid-ocean, we encountered three violent storms in rapid succession. All the passengers, except these Germans, were in fear for their lives. I had to ask myself, since I was so unwilling to die, How is it that I have no faith? The third storm, a hurricane, hit at noon on Sunday. By four it was more violent than any of the other storms. The winds roared and whistled all around us. The ship rocked to and fro with great violence. It shook and jarred with an unequal, grating motion, so that no one could stand without holding on. Shocks came every ten minutes. It seemed as if those shocks would tear the ship apart. At seven I made my way into the quarters of the Germans. I had already observed the seriousness of their behaviour. They gave continual proof of their humility. They were willing to do the most menial tasks rejected by others, and take no pay. Every day was another occasion of showing meekness which no affront or insult could remove. If they were mistreated, they went away without a complaint. I wanted to see if they had been freed from fear. I knew they were delivered from pride, anger, and revenge. But what about fear? They began their services with a psalm. In the middle of the service, a great wave rolled over the ship. It covered the deck and poured down inside as if the ship were about to sink. A terrible scream came from the other passengers, but the Germans calmly sang on. I asked one of them afterwards, Were you not afraid? He answered, I thank God I was not. But were your women and children afraid? No. Our women and children are not afraid to die he replied mildly. I tried to watch their behaviour as often as possible. They were always busy, usefully employed, cheerful, and in good humour. They had done away with all strife, anger, bitterness, clamour, and evil-speaking. They walked and lived as true witnesses of Christ.

After two years of poor results , I thought it was time to leave the mission field. I took a ship home. On the return, I had much private time to think about my Christianity. I went to the mission field to convert others, but was never myself converted to God. This is what I have learned in travels and services. I am fallen short of the glory of God. My whole heart is altogether corrupt and abominable. As a result, my whole life cannot produce good fruit because I am an evil tree. I am alienated from the life of God as a child of anger, an heir of hell. My own works, my own sufferings, my own righteousness are far from reconciling me to God whom I have offended. These make no atonement for the least of my sins, and my sins are more numerous than the hairs on my head. I know in my heart there is nothing in or of myself which can plead an earning of Gods mercy. I have no hope except of being justified, saved freely through the redemption that is in Jesus alone.

Within a week of my return home, God sent three more German Christians who had faith which I sought. One of them, Peter Bohler, was to lead both my brother Charles and me into this new faith. I was able to spend much time with Peter. In my discussion with Peter Bohler, I was amazed by his accounts of a living faith. He insisted that the fruits of holiness and happiness were part of such a faith. I went back to my Greek New Testament to verify his claims. I resolved to accept the testimony of the Scriptures. I was sure that God would direct my search. He would show me whether this doctrine was of Him. Even though I did not yet have this living faith, I began to speak about it in public. I went into the prison to preach to the condemned. I prayed with a condemned man. He knelt down with much heaviness and confusion. He arose in cheerfulness. I am ready to die. I know Christ has taken away my sins. There is no more condemnation for me. he eagerly reported. As he was taken to his execution, he continued in the same composed cheerfulness. In his last moments he was the same. He enjoyed perfect peace, assured that he was accepted in Jesus.

On my next visit with Peter, I assured him I had no objections about his claims on the nature of faith. I agreed that faith is a sure trust and confidence which man has in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he is reconciled to God. I could not deny that both holiness and happiness were fruits of the living faith, just as he claimed. My review of the Scriptures proved this. What I could not understand was what he spoke of as an instantaneous work. I could not understand how this faith could be given in a moment. How could one be turned from sin and misery into righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit instantaneously?

I returned to the Scriptures to search this point again. I particularly studied the Acts of the Apostles. To my utter astonishment, I found scarcely any instances of conversion except the instantaneous kind. Few were as slow as that of Paul who was three days in the labour of the new birth. I had but one retreat left. I granted God did these things in the first age of Christianity, but times had changed. Was there any reason to believe that God works in the same way now as He did then? The next day I was beaten out of this retreat, also. Peter brought me Christians who testified God had changed them in a moment. In a moment, they said, God had given them a living faith in Jesus. That faith transferred them from darkness into light, out of sin and fear into holiness and happiness. Here my disputing ended. I could now only cry out, Lord, help my unbelief!

I had continued to seek this faith, though with some strange indifference, dullness, and coldness until May 24. In the evening of that day, I went very unwillingly to a prayer meeting ... About 8:45, I was listening to a reading of Luthers preface to the Epistle to the Romans. While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation. An assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. The moment I awakened the next morning, the love of Jesus, my Master, was in my heart and in my mouth. All my strength came from keeping my eyes fixed upon Him, and my soul waiting on Him continually. In church in the afternoon, I could taste the good word of God in the anthem. Yet Satan injected a fear into me. If you do believe, why do you not feel a greater change? That I do not know. But this I know, I have now peace with God. And I do not sin today. Jesus, my Master, has forbidden me to take any thought about tomorrow. This answer came from something deep within me. It was not me.

John Wesleys testimony is of a personal experience which some people who attend or even serve in church are yet to have. And of this true faith, which marks a person as a Christian, John Wesley said, Everyone possessing this true faith is free from sin. The whole body of sin in him is destroyed. He is free from fear, receiving peace through Jesus while rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. He is free from doubt, having the love of God shed abroad in his heart through the Holy Spirit which is given to him. He is assured that he is truly a child of God through the witness which the Holy Spirit bears in the heart of the faithful. You can experience such a freedom from sin this instant, and henceforth, if only you would let go of all claims to Christianity based on anything, except faith in Christ alone! Your lifeless church attendance, where all you seek and pursue are worldly possessions and fleshly desires must be given up; to pave the way for a life changing salvation experience through faith in Jesus Christ resulting in you being a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Friend, your parents may have been God fearing or even Gods servants; but that does not automatically confer on you the status of child of God. From the age of accountability (that is, the age from when you can differentiate right from wrong), you have to seek Gods deliverance from, and forgiveness of your sins. Oh! If only you would fall on your knees now and repent before God, calling on Him for His salvation, and the assurance of it in your heart!

Let us pray.