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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Characteristics of a True Believer

Two guys introduced themselves and asked if they could come into my dorm room. I agreed and they began to ask me a set of questions. (You can always tell when people have a script they are following unless they are really good actors.)

They told me about God and asked me if I wanted to go to Hell. (This, to me, sounds like a trick question. Do you know anyone who wants to go to Hell?) They told me that I could go to Heaven if I merely gave my heart to Jesus.

I thought, "I can spend an hour arguing with these guys or I can just comply and they'll leave." I got on my knees with them. I repeated what they told me to repeat. They soon left. I never saw them again.

I really did give my life to Christ months later but without anyone else around. It changed my life forever. However, repeating words did nothing for me when it wasn't coming from my heart.
I wondered how many people think they are believers just because they have followed the religious plan of saying certain words, walking down an aisle, or going through any set of religious activity that supposedly makes you a believer.

I know I said the right words but I was just as lost as I had ever been.

So, how do I know it "took" months later? What makes one action valid and the other false? The answer is simple: Its in the heart.

A true believer receives God's gift of life. I'm not talking about merely physical life but a spiritual life that comes alive. God communicates to us through our spirit. It was unable to respond to Him before we become believers. God makes our spirits alive and He communicates to us through them. A person who has never had any communication with God should wonder why that is so. God is speaking to us.

A true believer gives forgiveness. How can a believer hold offenses up to others when he or she realizes God's gift of forgiveness. The wages of sin is death. Jesus died to pay for those wages even though He never sinned. He died for me so that I would be forgiven. All of my forgiveness of others is based upon what He has done. He paid for all sins; how can I demand payment of something that has been paid for?

A true believer loves. God has loved us so much that His love, now realized, comes through a believer. We love because He loves us. Jesus said it is the defining characteristic of those who are His disciples.

A true believer is far from perfect. True believers know that we still have sins. We know that forgiveness is available. It is one of the reasons we are able to give grace. We know that God picks us us up when we fall down. We know that confession is good for us.

A true believer doesn't look for the faults in others. Looking for others' faults is just a smoke screen to cover your own faults. Some people think they can run down the street yelling, "Fire!" and pointing at others houses so that no one will notice that their own house is own fire. True believers call the fire department to their own house first.

A true believer seeks to please God. He communicates with us and we obey. We fear Him but not because He is unpredictable. We fear disappointing Him. It is the act of one who loves another. We love God too. We know His grace but we also fear the disappointment our disobedience brings. We seek to please God because we love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength.

A true believer is changed. God did not save us so that we would remain the same people. He saved us so that we would become like His Son. He continues to work on us until we are taken home to be with Him. A true believer knows God is not finished with him yet. He also knows there is a difference in his life since he became a true believer.

Some days I bask in the presence of God and thank Him for working in my life. I thank Him for changing me. Other days, I do things that I shouldn't. I say things I wish I hadn't said. I treat people in ways I shouldn't have treated them. No one would be able to tell if I was a true believer. It is these days that God reaches out to correct who I am. He makes the adjustments to my life. I fall under conviction. I return once again to the life of a true believer.

I am not a true believer because of what I have done. He works in me. That came because I asked Him to take my life. I asked Him to come into my life. I asked Him in because He gave me the faith to do so. I can't even take credit for giving my life to Him.

I am being changed by Him.

Ultimately that is what gives you the characteristics of a true believer.

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