February 3, 2024
Romans 8:8-9, (English Standard Version)
"Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
You don’t become a Christian because you start going to church and doing Christian activities. These things have benefits that can be confused with salvation. These things aren’t bad, unless you believe this is what it means to be a Christian. In this case, these things are detrimental. There is actually such a thing as religious addiction. Religion can provide positive experiences and can be a way of coping with life.
So, what is a Christian really? The answer has nothing to do with a list of religious activities. John 1:12 (NLT) says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” A Christian is a child of God, who received and believed in Jesus, and who is sealed with the Holy Spirit. So, what does it really look like to be a Christian and to have the Holy Spirit with you and in you? For starters it is a constant. Sometimes we choose to ignore Him, but He is always there. Do you forget about God when you leave your church, or do you have no desire to pray and just be with God in His presence? Or do you feel any different in a church building? Or do you have little to no interest in being more like Jesus and understanding scripture on a deeper level? Or have you never known the Holy Spirit? Or do you have little desire to please God and give Him control? It could be that you are attending church, but you aren’t actually a part of God’s church.
What happens if you grow up going to church and know how to do all of the churchy things, but never actually become a Christian through acceptance and belief in Christ?What if you never received the Holy Spirit? You could grow up doing Christian things and eventually, because there is no true root then doubts about the Bible can set in,and you walk away? You are walking away from religion, not true Christianity. You can learn biblical things and have knowledge without salvation in Christ and the Holy Spirit of God living in you. However, knowledge without the Holy Spirit does not lead to wisdom or understanding of spiritual things. There are atheists who teach Bible courses at universities. How can that be? It’s very easy for this to happen. It is very easy to go to a church building every week, to listen to sermons, to volunteer, to get a seminary degree, and not be a Christian. The bottom line is, a Christian is a member of the body of Christ every single day. When you have the Holy Spirit in you there is no way not to desire the things of God. If you do not desire to please God, you do not have His Spirit living in you. Does this mean we always please Him? Of course not. Sometimes we choose to operate in our flesh instead of the Spirit. Christians absolutely cannot be in the flesh at all times because the Spirit is living in them. When you are at your worst, you will still know the Spirit is in you, even if for a time it is simply the conviction of sin or the urging to walk in the spirit instead of your flesh.
You hear stories of Christians who were in popular bands, or who were writing music for Christian bands finding themselves walking away from God. This is sad but were they ever truly with God? You can think you are and not be. Judas was with Jesus all the time and was involved in ministry, but he never actually believed. He acted like a disciple, but he never was one. “But there are some of you who do not believe. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)” (John 6:64, NLT)
Have you ever met someone who was such a “faithful Christian,” who never missed a church service, who was there every time the doors were opened and volunteered every weekend, and then just like that– they walked away from God? Why does this happen? Perhaps we have a misunderstanding of what it means to be with God? Perhaps many Christians have a very flawed idea of what a Christian even is? Of what the church is? Could it be that some of those people who walk away from Christianity are not actually walking away from God, but are actually walking away from a belief system centered on a set of religious practices? These things are empty and do not take the place of a real life with God.
You do not become a Christian and receive the Holy Spirit of God if you do not believe. Belief does not equal attending church services religiously, singing in worship bands, going on mission’s trips, giving money, attending church events or workshops, going to seminary, or engaging in other religious activities. When you believe, truly believe, you will be sealed with the Holy Spirit. He will be with you and in you. According to scripture, if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, and you would know it if you did, then you are not a Christian.
If you are going to church and practicing religion without salvation, without being sealed by the Holy Spirit through your belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ, it will not benefit you. Acting like a Christian without belief will not transform you. It will potentially harden you toward God. Why? Because you will not understand spiritual things and you will likely be deceived. You will also deceive others. It is a hundred percent possible to go to church multiple times a week, to passionately sing worship songs, to listen to sermons and take notes, to give, to volunteer and serve, yet not be a Christian.
It isn’t about what we do as Christians– it’s about who we are as Christians. You can do Christian things and not be one. You cannot be a true Christian without action. You must become a Christian before you try to act like one. The term, “Fake it till you make it” doesn’t work.
If you are wondering if you're really a Christian or just "churching" it, get alone with God in prayer, ask him to change your heart and to teach you through the power of the Holy Spirit and scripture what it really is to be a Christian!