Being a Christian is by far the greatest blessing one could receive. Who can reject the glory of God, and the awesome love and forgiveness that Jesus has to offer? Yet, sadly, there are many out there who have convinced themselves that they are Christians, when, unfortunately, they are not. Here is a short list of signs that you can use to examine yourself, or someone else, to test whether or not you are truly in the faith. This is by far not an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to discourage true believers.
Sign #1, Avoiding Persecution – There are many who claim to be believers and claim to know Christ as their Savior, and will even put on a good show of morality most of the time, but when proclaiming the name of Christ gets tough, they back down. This is not to say that a Christian will never have moments of weakness. We know from the Bible that even the great Apostle Peter denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:34). But if you repeatedly find yourself retreating when you are being persecuted, or purposely deny or hide your Christianity in order to avoid persecution altogether, you probably have no reason to believe you are saved.
…A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.– Matthew 13:3-9
In the above passage, the Parable of the sower, Jesus speaks of those seeds that did not fall on good ground—they have no roots or foundation. Since they don’t have this good soil where they have been able to establish healthy roots, the intense heat of the sun just drys them up, and they wither away. This is what happens to professing Christians when they have no foundation to stand on. When they aren’t grounded in true saving faith, they tend to wither away when they face opposition. They won’t stand up for what they believe in because they don’t really believe it. Matthew 10:32-33 says “32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” If you don’t see yourself facing persecution, and standing your ground, or at least trying to stand your ground, you very well may be a false convert. If you find yourself resorting to acting like a carnal man when around other non-Christians in order to “fit in,” you may want to examine your heart to see if you are truly saved.
Sign #2, Constant Worry – This one seems to be one of the biggest problems among professing Christians. There are some who have a preoccupation with worry, especially about worldly things like food, clothing, and money.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.– Matthew 6:24-34
God promises us he will provide us with everything we need. If you find yourself constantly worrying about making ends meet, or you are not content with what you have been provided with, this is evidence that you are not putting your trust in God’s promises. Faith is the key requirement for salvation, for without faith, one cannot be saved (Eph 2:8-9). Luke 8:13 says the false convert will receive the Word with joy, but the joy will be short lived. You will eventually fall back to your state of worry and unfaithfulness. If you are perpetually worried about these things, then you are relying on your self, rather than God, and you might be a false convert.
Sign #3, Unfruitful Relationships – Another sign that you or someone else may be a false convert is having little or no desire to develop friendships with other believers. When you are truly converted, and your desires are aligned with the will of God, you will long for friends that will lift you up in your walk with Christ, as well as hold you accountable (Ecc 4:9-12, Proverbs 27:9). Moreover, James 4:4 says “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” A true Christian wants to develop relationships that honor God. This does not necessarily mean that we can’t know and befriend any non-Christians at all, in fact, we are required to do so for the sake of sharing the Gospel. But that’s the key, our priority with non-Christian friends should be sharing the Gospel with them. The Bible also says “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Taking any friendship with non-Christians to the level of partnership, or fellowship is forbidden in Scripture. Yes, it’s understood that you have obligations to family members, and you are required to be close to them, but again, your priority with them as a Christian should be showing them the love of Christ. So if you find yourself putting off invitations to hang out with people in your Sunday School class because they make you feel uncomfortable, or if you find yourself more content with hanging out with non-Christian buddies from work, yet no desire to develop deep relationships with Christians, you might be a false convert.
Sign #4, Self Indulgence – Many Christians struggle with sin after they are saved. Bad habits are hard to break, even for the most faithful of believers. Some people may have smoking addictions, some people might curse. Some people may have a certain affinity towards self-gratification, indulging in things like unhealthy amounts of television, sports, entertainment, etc. Whatever the sin is, the true Christian will struggle with this. This is one of the tougher areas for the Christian to attack because it takes an ongoing, conscious effort to break habits. However, one sign that you are at true convert is if you are actually struggling with this activity. If you are a true Christian, your desire is to be obedient to Christ and to become more Christ-like (1 John 2:6). As a Christian, you now represent Christ, and it is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you (Galatians 2:20). You now live by faith, fending off your sins and worldly desires. This is not to say that you won’t sin, or fall, but if you find yourself never struggling with your sin, never feeling any Godly sorrow for your sin, perhaps you need to rethink your standing in Christ. Christ gives you a new heart when you are saved, and removes your heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). If you’re always too busy to spend time in the Word of God, you might not be saved. If you’re putting off your relationship with Christ, skipping church, not reading your Bible, and not ministering to your family, yet you are watching football, you curse at work around your buddies, you find yourself angry and unforgiving often, and you feel no Godly remorse, you very well may be a false convert.
Sign #5, Pride – Probably the biggest tell-tale sign of a false convert is pride. Pride is the root of all of the other signs of a false convert. Proverbs 16:5 says “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” Arrogance is Satan’s number one tool to stop you from believing the Gospel, it stands in direct opposition to any form of repentance, and anyone who is proud cannot be saved.
However, there are many who are proud yet profess to be Christians. They run around naming the name of Christ, might have Christian bumper stickers on their cars, and they may even try to share the Gospel with others, but if you try to rebuke this person, or call this person out regarding their sin, they will reject you. They absolutely cannot stand to be told that they are wrong about something. They will mock you and argue with you, and never accept responsibility for their wrongdoings. Proverbs 9:8 says “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” The scoffer, or mocker, will not be corrected, but one of the marks of being saved is someone who is humble and open to reproof. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Those who are humble in spirit are repentant, and receive God’s grace. If you always have an argumentative heart towards correction and reproof, and you are unable to hear when someone is confronting you about sin in your life, you very well may be a false convert. I’ll end with the following two passages addressing pride:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”– Luke 18:10-14
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”– Luke 14:8-11
Conclusion: All Christians struggle with certain things, and some more than others. If you are a relatively new convert, expect to struggle more than the seasoned Christian who has been saved and serving God for 40 years. The fact is, you should be improving constantly in all of these areas. There may be ups and downs, but if you take a look at the last year of your life, and you see no improvement in any of these signs, I would suggest you start praying and ask God to open your eyes and reveal himself to you. I pray that this list is glorifying to God first and foremost, but also that it be edifying to those who take the time to read it.