Recently, I had an extensive tour of a massive mango farm in South Africa. Before that trip, I had observed some differences in mangoes, but I thought it was like people - they just come in different shapes and sizes but the basic make up is the same.
Little did I know, there are thousands of cultivars! Although there are undoubtedly similarities, each type has extremely distinct characteristics. To my uneducated mind, I thought a mango was a mango. Once an experienced farmer took the time to show me how to identify different varieties, it became clear. By the end of our time there, I was easily recognising obvious differences that before receiving the information, I would have overlooked. A question I get asked often is “Many people seem to say they are a Christian. Is there a way to know if a person is sincerely born again? What does the Bible say about this?” The simple answer is really we have no idea the condition of a person’s heart, and it would be arrogant for any of us to presume to make that kind of judgement call on another individual’s personal and spiritual relationship with their Creator. Only God can and will judge each person. However, like the mangoes, there are some verses in the Bible that give us information that helps identify characteristics of a Christian. Ironically, not far off from my mango analogy, the Bible says you will know them by their fruit. (Matthew 12:33-37, Matthew 7:17-20)
This list of “fruit” to look for is not exhaustive but can serve as a beginner guide to answering this question. And again I can’t stress enough that people can project a pretend image.
In fact, Matthew 7:21-23 states that not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who did the will of my Father. Bottom line – putting on a show doesn’t fool the God who knows your heart and deepest thoughts but to us mere mortals, we can be deceived.
That is why the Bible lists some characteristics to look for in someone who is genuinely following Jesus lest you be led astray by “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” When someone chooses to “die” to themselves and allow themselves to be put under “new management”, their language and lifestyle changes. It becomes clear that the decisions they make are based on the direction of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Bible. For example, you might hear a person say this, “I am really tempted to xxx, but I know this isn’t what God would want me to do so I will submit and not do it.” Or when faced with a difficult choice, they say, “I honestly don’t know what to do. Let me go pray about it and read the Bible and see what God says to me.”
John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Bible tells us God IS love. He is synonymous with love! Therefore, it would make sense that if you have asked His Spirit to fill you that an overwhelming emotion you would feel towards
Commands are even given to love your enemy, to be kind to those who persecute you, and to not harbor any bitterness. This is NOT natural to our sinful nature. We don’t easily forgive nor love those who mistreat us! That kind of supernatural patient love is a clear FRUIT of God’s Spirit dwelling in a person! The entire chapter of 1 John 1 gives light to the issue of evident fruit, but I will just quote one verse, 6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” A person who becomes a Christian is one who says I am ready to walk in the light. That by no means insinuates that a person becomes perfect and never does anything they are ashamed of. We will fight fleshly desires as long as we are on this earth. But for someone genuinely seeking fellowship with Jesus, they don’t WANT to keep walking in darkness – it is just that – a daily FIGHT. Therefore, when a person isn’t FIGHTING the fact that they are living a double life intentionally deceiving others so that they can continue to walk in darkness so that no one finds out the actions they do – according to 1 John, the Truth is not in them. If the Truth were in them, living a lie would eat at their souls and they would set themselves free by exposing the deeds of darkness and coming fully into the Light.
They would do this even if there were consequences of confessing their sins – because they would desire a right relationship with God and inner peace more than they feared the punishment of man.
Galatians 5 gives us a specific list of what to look for, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties...But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” This verse is explicitly clear of what type of fruit to look for so there is no need to add on or explain.
I hope these verses will help answer the question at hand. A quote I like by DC Talk, “The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians who profess Christ with their mouths and walk out the door of the church and deny Him with their lives. This is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable.” Always remember that our actions speak much louder than our words. Comments and Questions to email@example.com or through her Facebook page: Mom to Mom: Parenting Consultations.
*Ashley Thaba is a popular life coach, team building facilitator, and motivational speaker. She is also the author of Conquering the Giants and Dive In. You can view some of her work on her YouTube channel: Ashley Thaba.