I have been reading the Left Behind series – a fictional tale of the rapture to the second coming of Christ. And midway into the series, all true Christians get a mark on their foreheads only visible to other believers. When I read that, I thought how nice it would be if we could also quickly know if someone is a true Christian or not.

  • With false teachers and false converts plaguing the church, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the wheat from the tares. And even those who are saved often doubt their salvation and are uncertain they will go to Heaven when they die.
  • But it’s not God’s will for us to have doubts about our salvation, and discover it on the last day as we find out the sex of a baby at childbirth. He instructed us to examine and test ourselves to see whether we are indeed in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). And we must do so because those who fail the test will not enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).
  • So how do we examine ourselves and know if we are true Christians? Easy, by reading the wonderful epistle of 1 John which primary purpose is to give us certainty about our salvation.
  • I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life

    1 John 5:13

  • A little background of the epistle: it was the 90’s AD, and John was the last surviving Apostle. False teachings were spreading like wildfire in the church and caused many to follow it. John, well advanced in age, wrote an epistle to different churches to remind them of the fundamental truths of their faith, and to reassure them of their salvation.
  • There’s much to learn from 1 John (John MacArthur preached on it for over a year). However, the scope of this post will be limited to information pertinent to the marks of a true Christian.
  • Mark #1:  Belief in the deity of Christ
  • Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God.

    1 John 4:15

  • Christology is what sets Christianity apart from other world religions. Some religions and cults claim Jesus was only a teacher or a prophet; Mormons do not believe He is one being with the Father, and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe He is an Archangel. And even people who profess to be Christians do not all believe in the Jesus of the Scriptures. Some believe He was only a man, one of many ways to go to Heaven, a manifestation of God, etc.
  • But a true Christian believes Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:1 states, “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God .” It’s more than merely reciting the Sinner’s prayer or having intellectual knowledge. It’s truly believing in your heart what God says about Jesus (1 John 5:11) and having faith in Him (1 John 5:12).
  • Self examination
  • Who do I say Jesus is? Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God who died and ressurected? Do I have faith in Jesus and believe He is the only way to eternal life?
  • Mark #2: Obedience to God’s commandments
  • Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God and God in him

    1 John 3:24a

  • A child of God obeys the Father’s commandments. However, we do not get saved because we keep God’s commandments. Instead, we obey God’s commandments because we are saved, and we love He who saved us. 1 John 5:3 says, “for this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”  
  • Anyone who disregards God’s commandment cannot have been born of Him, because God’s children love the Father and earnestly desire to please Him. 1 John 2:3-4 says, “by this, we know that we have come to know him if we keep His commandments. Whoever says, “I know Him” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
  • Self examination
  • Am I keeping God’s word? Do I desire to keep God’s commandment and please Him? Do I obey His commandments out of love? 
  • Mark #3: Rejection of the world
  • Do not love the world or the things of the world; if anyone loves the world; the love of the Father is not in him

    1 John 2:15

  • A true Christian does not love the world nor the things of the world (1 John 2:16). Instead, he seeks to do God’s will and have eternal life (1 John 2:17). The world and God are so antagonistic that if you are friends with the world, you are an enemy of God (James 4:4). Likewise, if you are a child of God, the world hates you (1 John 3:13). You can either be Godly or worldly, but you cannot be both.
  • SEE ALSO:  On Writing, Playing the Piano, and Growing in Godliness
  • Self examination
  • Am I worldly? Do I love the things of the world more than I love God? Do I seek to please the world instead of doing God’s will? 
  • Mark #4:  Repentance from sin
  • No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.

    1 John 3:9

  • God is holy and calls His children to be holy like Him. Anyone who makes a habit of sinning doesn’t know God, nor abide in Him (1 John 3:6). It doesn’t mean Christians will never sin; it means they cannot willingly continue in sin without repenting from it. We can’t keep on sinning because Christ came to take away sins (1 John 3:5), and protects us from it (1 John 5:18).
  • Furthermore, a child of God practices righteousness because God is righteous. 1 John 2:29 says, “if you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.” Whoever does not practice righteousness and keep on sinning is not a child of God, but a child of the devil (1 John 3:10).
  • Self examination
  • Am I living in sin? Do I confess and repent when I sin? Does my sin grieve me or do I enjoy it? Am I practicing righteousness?
  • Mark #5: Love for others
  • Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    1 John 4:7-8

  • God’s nature is love, and anyone born of Him must also love. 1 John 4:12 says, “no one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” It is possible for non-Christians to love others, but only a true Christian can love others as God loves.
  • And this is how God loves us: selflessly. He sent His only Son into the world to be the propitiation of our sins (1 John 4:9-10). As Christ laid down His life for us, so should we for our brothers (1 John 3:16). Anyone who hates his brother does not have eternal life in them (1 John 3:15).
  • Self examination
  • Do I love others? Do I love others because God loves me or for selfish reasons? How do I demonstrate Christ-like love to others? Do I harbor hatred in my heart for anyone?
  • Mark #6: Rejection of false teachings
  • They are from the world; therefore, they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us. And whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this, we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    1 John 4:5-6

  • John penned this epistle regarding false teachers (1 John 2:26) because of the rise of Gnosticism in the church that caused many “believers” to turn away from apostolic teaching. However, those who left sound teachings to follow false doctrines were never genuinely saved (1 John 2:19); otherwise, they wouldn’t have left. A true Christian does not listen to false teachers: he overcomes them (1 John 4:4). He remains in Christ, follows His teachings and does not heed extra-biblical revelations (1 John 2:27).
  • SEE ALSO:  6 Next Steps For A New Christian
  • Self examination
  • Am I listening to known false teachers? Do I disregard sound doctrine in favor of false teachings because it tickles my ears ? Do I exercise discernment and test the spirits? 
  • Mark #7: The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
  • By this, we know that we are in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit

    1 John 4:13

  • Lastly, you know you are saved when you receive the Spirit of God in you. The Holy Spirit is evidence of regeneration because only those who believe in the Son of God receive the testimony of the Spirit in them (1 John 5:10).
  • Self examination
  • Does my life show evidence of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit such as bearing the fruits of Galatians 5:22? Do I sense the Holy Spirit empowering me and leading me in life?
  • And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

    1 John 5:20

  • Keep in mind that we are not saved by works but by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Exhibiting these marks are merely evidence of salvation, not the cause.
  • So don’t get discouraged because you don’t exhibit all these marks perfectly and sometimes stumble. Jesus is the only one that could be perfect. However, we hope to become like Him when He returns (1 John 3:2-3). In the meantime, keep progressing.
  • If you read this post and realized that you are not saved or might be a false convert, don’t get discouraged either. The gospel of Christ is good news of salvation, not condemnation! As John famously said in another of his writings “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
  • It’s not too late to repent and become a Christian. 1 John 1:9 says, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And Romans 10:9-11 says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved 
  • If you have yet to receive the gift of salvation: repent! Confess to God your sins, and ask Him for His forgiveness. Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh, bore your punishment on the cross, died, and resurrected three days later. And behold, all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).
  • Friend, it is the last hour, and Jesus is coming soon. Prayerfully examine yourself and make sure you are a true Christian while you still can. Don’t let His return take you unaware, but prepare yourself so that you may receive the Lord with confidence (1 John 2:28).
  • It’s my prayer that you will be assured of your salvation and walk with confidence and hope befitting a child of God.
  • If you are interested in studying the epistle of 1 John, here is a reading plan I made.