What (or who) is a Christian? For those of us who profess to be Christians, this question might seem bizarre and rather irrelevant. Why? Because we have led ourselves to believe that we have gone past the stage where such a question would be relevant. We are on to “bigger” and “better” things. Perhaps so. But the danger with that mentality is it does more to reflect the shallowness of our faith than it does its depth. It is vitally important that we often stop and ask ourselves, “Am I a Christian?” “Am I truly saved?” Perhaps an equally important question which should immediately follow the preceding introspective questions is what J. I. Packer answers so well in his classic, Knowing God. In response to the question, “What is a Christian?”, Packer writes:
He can be described from many angles, but from what we have said it is clear that we can cover everything by saying: He is a man who acknowledges and lives under the word of God. He submits without reserve to the word of God written in ‘the Scripture of truth’ (Dan. 10:21), believing and teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. His eyes are to the God of the Bible as his Father, and the Christ of the Bible as his Saviour. He will tell you, if you ask him, that the word of God has both convinced him of sin and assured him of forgiveness. His conscience, like Luther’s, is captive to the word of God, and he aspires, like the psalmist, to have his whole life brought into line with it. ‘O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!’ ‘O let me not wander from thy commandments.’ ‘Teach me thy statutes. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts.’ ‘Incline my heart unto thy testimonies.’ ‘Let my heart be sound in thy statutes.’ (Ps. 119:5, 10, 26 f., 36, 80.) The promises are before him as he prays, and the precepts are before him as he moves among men. He knows that in addition to the word of God spoken directly to him in the Scriptures, God’s word has also gone forth to create, and control, and order things around him; but since the Scriptures tell him that all things work together for his good, the thought of God ordering his circumstances brings him only joy. He is an independent fellow, for he uses the word of God as a touchstone by which to test the various views that are put to him, and he will not touch anything which he is not sure that Scripture sanctions.
Then Packer concludes this section in his book with the following question and exhortation which I find to be quite searching but also very helpful. He concludes: “Why does this description fit so few of us who profess to be Christians in these days? You will find it profitable to ask your conscience, and let it tell you.”
Although our conscience is not the ultimate arbiter of truth, we will do well to head Packer’s advice here. Yes, our conscience may err, but the conscience is God’s given barometer for man’s soul. If such were not the case, Scriptural passages which exhort us to examine ourselves (e.g. 2 Corinthians 13:5) would be of no use to us. However, we must ultimately ask the Lord to search and examine us to see if we are still standing in the faith as David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) – Ultimately, the LORD Himself must do the work in us. His Word must point us to the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Ultimate and Embodiment of Truth, and the Divine/Ultimate arbiter of the true condition of our souls and our standing before Him.
Are you a Christian?