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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

How Can I Know That I'm Not a Christian?


In II Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul commands his readers: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

OK, that seems straightforward enough.  But what does it mean to examine yourself?  What should you be looking for?  How do you know whether or not you are "in the faith"?  What is the "test" that we might fail?  I wrote Am I Really a Christian? in order to try to help answer these questions.

Well, we should all hope that we pass "the test" (again, Paul's words, not mine!).  And Scripture gives us a few things to look for that would indicate that in fact we are not "in the faith".  A few examples:

  1. You're not a Christian if you don't believe true doctrine: By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (I John 4:2-3)
  2. You're not a Christian if you enjoy sin: Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (I John 2:4-6)
  3. You're not a Christian if you don't persevere: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (I John 2:19)
  4. You're not a Christian if you don't love others: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (I John 4:7-8)
  5. You're not a Christian if you love your stuff more than you love Jesus: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

Now, none of this is to say that our obedience somehow earns our salvation.  But these are fruits of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that the authors of Scripture clearly expected a Christian to be able to discern in their lives.

Next up, I hope to post some thoughts on how true believers can have assurance of faith.  In the mean time, you can read the beginning of Am I Really a Chrisitan? here.

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Number 2 is baloney. If it is true then there are no such thing as Christians. Don't sit there and tell me, "Well, I sin, but I don't enjoy it." None of us walk as Jesus walked, none of us keep his commandments. Everybody enjoys sin, yet there are still Christians. There has got to be a different way to understand those verses.

We are ALL unbelievers in some way, everyday.

This is the spiritual battle.

We ALL sin. And we ALL commit the same sins, over and over. Such as NOT going to the jails and prisons and visiting the prisoners regularly. Such as NOT living on a thin margin of income and giving the rest to the poor. Such as every time we have an opportunity to help someone, and we don't.

Does this make us un-Christian?

NO. It's makes us sinners. Who did He come for?


Baloney? Those are fighting words! :)

I think you're right. But sometimes it's rhetorically effective to leave something un-nuanced; it can cause the reader to think a little more carefully about the statement in question. That's what I was aiming for.

For a more careful consideration of that point, check out chapter 4 of the book....

I agree with Miguel, to a point. I also enjoyed seeing the word "baloney" typed out - I didn't expect that, and it made me smile :)

Anyway - I agree that some sin is enjoyable. In fact, I've heard pastors say that sin is fun, and if you're gonna do it, do it right.

But perhaps a better way to say this might be that they "fully enjoy sin." An example might be David and Bathsheba. Surely there was some part of that sin that was "enjoyable", but if you look at Psalm 53, that isn't what he walks away with. Romans tells us the Holy Spirit was given not to convict Christians, but sinners of their need for Christ. But, as the Spirit dwells inside believers and conforms us more and more to the likeness of his son, living in and with that sin becomes more and more uncomfortable and unenjoyable. Much of that can happen almost immediately, but through the practice of sanctification some of it takes years. Take speeding, for instance. How many of us are at a point in our walk with Christ when we repent every time we defy the government God has set in place?

I THINK, anyway, that that might be what Michael is trying to say. Or at least that would be my answer to it. If the believer has his heart set to Glorify God in everything he does, sin is diametrically opposed to that goal, and therefore, "unenjoyable."

I disagree with Miguel's distinction (and Dan's qualification with the word "fully") regarding the wording of number two. While sin possesses fleeting pleasure to which Christians fall when lack of faith prevails (), it is improper and unhelpful to say that this means we "enjoy" sin.

In , Paul lays out the familiar struggle between the knowledge of the law and the attraction of sin. Paul's attitude toward sin in this section cannot be described as enjoy; rather it is clear that Paul hates this struggle that exists within himself. He longs for sin to be absent from his body.

On an experiential level, it may seem to us that we "enjoy" sin, but Moses' example of rejecting the "fleeting pleasures of sin" in makes it clear that this is a misuse of the word. We may experience pleasure in the moment (and the moments that follow) of our sin but this is not a proper understanding of the word "enjoy."

To enjoy an experience or an action we must take pleasure from that experience in an immediate sense BUT ALSO we must take satisfaction in that action apart from the time in which the action was committed. This is necessarily the meaning of the word "enjoy." There is an important distinction, in this case, between (1)deriving pleasure MERELY at a point in time and (2)possessing an overall attitude of satisfaction IN ADDITION TO temporal pleasure. David received fleeting pleasure from his fling with Bathsheba but his reaction to his sin indicates that he never enjoyed it.

Sin is so evil and destructive because it is pleasurable but it can never deliver the enjoyment and fulfillment that it promises. A true Christian cannot enjoy (find satisfaction, rest, etc.) this type of deceit and instability. "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy [take immediate pleasure and later satisfaction] him for ever."

Ben I think that you put it well, in that "enjoy" must be an enduring feeling that we find rest, peace, and fulfillment in. We can not experience this type of enjoyment in any other thing other than Christ alone. We put and thanks for the post.

Miguel, it seems to me that the book and the idea itself is doing exactly what it was intended to do: cause you to pause and engage the statement. If you love Jesus, why do you love sin? The word enjoy means "to take pleasure in, to have and use with satisfaction." Synonyms are words like "relish, savor, fancy, appreciate." Christians hate the fact that they sin. There is a difference between enoying the sin in our life and experiencing the temporary fleshly satisfaction of, say, an angry vent. Immediately afterwards the Christian is disgusted with his/her actions and turns to God in deep sorrow and regret. This godly sorrow produces repentance. If one walks around enjoying sin, this is a sure indication that they have not repented of it. God produces great sorrow in us when we sin. This is what the book is getting at. If you love your sin and you really want to hang onto it as opposed to being transformed into the image of Christ as your highest aim, it is likely that you do not know the Savior. What is baloney is people who hang onto and enjoy their sinful lives and claim also to love Christ. This is antithetical to all that Scripture teaches regarding the relationship between the believer and sin. Christians are not unbelievers, ever. Sinning in some way does not make one an unbeliever, even a little. To cross such boundaries with words in this way only serves to confuse the issue. We end up saying, well, we are all technically unbelievers to one degree or another. How much of an unbeliever to you have to be to be, uh, an unbeliever. Rediculous in my opininon.

How Can I Know That I'm Not a Christian? | 9Marks replica bags

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