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Now before you answer, please understand, this is not a trick question. But it also isn't a question that can be flippantly answered because you have gone to church, been baptized, walked up front at some camp or conference during the altar call or even read the Bible. If you were about to base your answer on any of those qualifications, you might have a little anxiety right now.
Many people who have done many or all of those things and who would enthusiastically proclaim "yes" to the question posed at the top of the page will find themselves standing before Jesus on judgment day hearing the words they never thought was true...Jesus never knew them (Mat. 7:23).
It speaks to the point of this post: Claiming that you are a Christian doesn't necessarily make you one.
It is just like me claiming that I am an auto mechanic. I can give myself the title. I might even be able to fool those who knew less than me about cars. I'm not sure there are any, but for the sake of argument let's pretend there are. I can have fancy cards made up that look professional. I can dress in mechanic scrubs. I can learn some of the lingo of the trade. Sure, I could probably change a tire (as long as the rim was on it) and check the oil and fluid levels, almost anyone could.
But I'm not claiming to be anyone, I am claiming to be an auto mechanic. It is a title that carries with it the reasonable expectation of a sophisticated knowledge of the inner and outer workings of automobiles that the average person is not going to have. While anyone can claim the title, there is more to a title than just the name itself.
As soon as someone entrusted their vehicle to me, my ruse would be quickly discovered. Using duct tape to fix oil leaks or WD40 on annoying squeaks or knocking sounds isn't standard protocol. Ultimately it doesn't fix the problem at all and probably makes things worse. After you got what was left of your car back from me...probably towed back to your house with a note saying it was unfixable and you need a new car. You wouldn't say that I was a bad mechanic. You would most likely say that I wasn't a mechanic at all and possibly sue me for misrepresentation as well as damages. This is getting expensive...let's change the subject.
I am sure you get the point. So how does this relate to our relationship with Christ?
Well, let's take a look at the fuller context of the passage quoted above:
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness. --Matthew 7:21-23 ESV (emphasis mine)
Even in its fuller context, the stories above (7:15-20 a tree and its fruit) and below (7:24-27 building your house on the rock) tell us that we can confidently and righteously infer those who are true believers in Christ and those who are false based upon their teachings and their obedience to Christ and His commands...no matter what they claim for themselves.
In other words, those who claim the name of Christ, but know nothing about Him, have no desire read His word or more importantly put those words into practice, according to Jesus, have no part in Him, no matter how many great things you have done in His name.
Some of you may be getting uncomfortable right now. Good. Too many for too long have been allowed to label themselves "Christian" without ever producing the fruits Jesus promised came with the relationship we have with Him. For too long many Christians, myself included, have tiptoed around uncomfortable truths, such as this, affirming those in a constant state of rebellion as if their continual disobedience to Christ could ever prove to Him that they love Him. Those in this condition are on the precipice of judgment, no matter how they label themselves, and it is the kindest, most loving act I can do to expose such a condition so that they may truly come to the only One who makes the word Christian mean anything in the first place.
The desire to know Christ is the longing produced by faith (Phil. 3:8-11). Conformity to the image of Christ is the work of the Spirit in our lives (Rom. 8:26-30). Obedience to Christ is the act of love that faith produces (John 14:23-24).
Anything less than this is counterfeit religion posing as Christianity. I pray you don't find yourself there. And if you do, do us both a favor and don't call yourself a Christian.