How can we say that one man is a Christian and another man is not?

Certainly Christ left us with some method to recognize His followers. And just as certainly it is vital that we do so.

Christianity is a demanding faith, the particulars of which are aptly laid out in the New Testament. To be a Christian a man must allow—one must ask—Christ to come into his life. Once done all sorts of things happen. The man becomes literally ‘born again.’ He is a new man. He has left his purely carnal existence and become a child of God.

The mere fact of birth does not mean one is a child of Christ. The Carpenter Himself made this plain in the Gospels. Some of His listeners after all He called children of the Father of Lies. He also said that until the end of time there will be goats in the midst of His sheep. Even among His twelve there was Judas.

So we can count on the obvious fact that some of those who claim to belong to Christ in reality belong to the other guy. We should neither be disheartened nor surprised at this. We were warned that this would be so.

So we can expect goats to dress up as sheep. Why do they do this? Quick answer: To cause the sheep to join the goats. You see, there is a tremendous battle going on all around you. You do not see most of it but you see evidence of it. We call this evidence ‘temptation.’ When you experience this there is somebody next to you. He is not your friend.

Of course, those who belong to the goats hardly ever admit to being a goat. That would be too easy. They claim Christ. It is simple to do so. It is popular in our nation to do so. It is especially popular among our political class. Christianity is a marketing tool. This is easy to show. Who would be elected to office who claimed atheism?

This is why politicians like to be photographed in church and why they like to talk about prayer and God. It is good for their business. Bill Clinton loved to be shown lugging around a huge Bible. George Bush said that Christ was his favorite philosopher.

But the goats have a problem, and it is a serious one. A child of Christ was given the gift of ‘discernment.’ It is the ability to ‘see beyond the seen.’ A Christian can use this tool to see who is really a sheep and who is not.

Heading back to the Gospels we see that a Christian man is to live, as much as he possibly can, as Christ lived. He will of course fail regularly. But when this happens Christ picks up His sheep and gives a hand. We see this in our human realm when a father allows his child to take his first steps. The child stumbles along for a few feet but then falls back to the ground. The father is right there, picking his child up and encouraging him on.

But consider another type of father, one who laughs when his child falls to the ground and refuses to pick him up. He even does all he can to keep his child from ever rising up from all fours. The child will thus spend all his life shambling around like an animal. He will become a goat. He might even come to like being a goat. Of course, he will not like it forever.

Two types of fathers. Two types of sons. Goats and sheep. Both children will come to resemble their fathers.

We know this from folk wisdom: ‘The fruit does not fall far from the tree.’ Christ Himself said something like this: “By their fruits you shall know them.”

We have come to the heart of the matter. The fruit of goats and the fruit of sheep are different. Goats are

filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32)

Sheep are different.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

There you have it.

But how about us? Where do we fit in? How are we to tell if we ourselves are Christians or not?

Here is the formula. Simply place your own name in the place of ‘love’ and ‘it’ in this passage.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

You see what I mean. Shameful and embarrassing, yes?

The solution—the only solution—is to get on your knees right now, this instant if you can.

Your Father will be delighted to help you walk.