How can you distinguish between a genuine Christian and a nominal Christian?
If you do not have the Spirit of Jesus it is impossible to distinguish between a real Christian and a nominal Christian. Both may speak the same language, dress in the same way, go to the same church, perform the same religious activities, play the same sport, live in the same neighborhood or subdivision.
But one is alive-the genuine Christian, the other is dead-the nominal one, in the life of the Spirit. The first is heading to the joys of heaven, the latter to the torments in hell.
The following indicators therefore are not external criteria by which we can segregate the genuine Christians from the nominal ones. They are indicators which we can reflect upon and search within ourselves to discern whether we are genuine or nominal Christians.
Of course, the elements in these indicators naturally and normally surface in the lives of people who are genuine Christians. But again their manifestations can be imitated by the ingenious nominal Christian.
For example, we may think that a person who devotes one hour every day faithfully in praying while kneeling in a church has a personal, growing love for Jesus. Such may be very deceptive. It may be true that indeed he has a personal, growing love for Jesus. It may also be true, as Jesus once commented, that he is pretending to pray long prayers in the hope of devouring the houses of widows. The Pharisees were performing long prayers but Jesus told us they were not following him; they rejected him.
While it is true that there are millions of Christians who are satisfied and comfortable with their nominal Christianity, there are a few though who sense that their lives lack something which they may not be able to pinpoint out or even vaguely describe. For these few the indicators described here may help them reflect on their lives and motivate them to search how to live a genuine Christian life.
It may also happen that a nominal Christian reading these indicators may come to the realization that what he has been presuming all along his life, namely, that he is a real Christian, is an illusion. Upon knowing this he may want to move from nominal to genuine Christianity.
These indicators are to be taken as an integrated whole set of indicators, not each one separately. If an indicator is missing, most probably the person is not a genuine Christian.
Here are the seven indicators.
1. The person has experienced God speaking to him personally, either through a preacher, a book, or other circumstance.
2. The person has experienced listening to an explanation of the Bible or reading it such that he felt his mind was opened. His reaction is: Now I know, whereas before I did not realize this was the meaning. If he is literate he has experienced a thirst for reading God's word. If he is non-literate he has experienced a thirst for listening to the reading of God's word.
3. The genuine Christian has a personal, growing love for the person of Jesus the Christ, talking with him with more and more time of his day.
4. He has a certain or sure conviction of the forgiveness of his sins, whether past, present or future. He has no fear of being punished.
5. He has a complete distrust in his works as a means of pleasing God.
6. He has a deep and growing love for other genuine Christians and he seeks out their company.
7. He has a compassionate love for the non-Christians and the nominal Christians and desires to bring them to genuine Christian life.