Living in East Texas has both advantages and disadvantages. I enjoy the scenery of tall evergreens and starry night skies. I like driving through small and old town-squares; many out here are still quaint and active. I also enjoy the somewhat familiar culture of family values and traditional societal structures.
However, the vague sense of conservative values often passes as Christianity, and this is a tremendous disadvantage. Many people assume they are Christians because they “believe in Jesus” or “love God” or “put God first” in their lives. It seems most folks where I live don’t know that a person can “know” God and yet remain under God’s judgment and condemnation.
Romans 1:21 says that everyone, at least in some sense, “knows” God. The context of this verse indicates that the knowledge we all have of God is basic, but not salvific. In other words, it’s enough to know we should honor God and serve Him, but it’s not enough to know God as heavenly Father and gracious Savior.
According to Scripture, East Texans are not unique in their general knowledge of God. As a matter of fact, everyone knows something about God… that God is (or He exists), that He’s powerful, and that He’s just or moral or righteous. Knowing these things does not make someone a Christian… This knowledge is natural for all people everywhere.
What makes a person a Christian is their trust or belief in God as both King and Savior, particularly their love for and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, as Romans 1:21 says, non-Christians with a knowledge of God show that they are not actually Christians by not “honoring” or “glorifying” God… and by not expressing “thankfulness” or “gratitude” toward God.
This dishonor and ingratitude can show up in our lives in all sorts of ways, but here are 5 ways I think these are regularly displayed in my neck of the woods.
1. Non-Christians don’t want God to demand anything from them.
I see this all the time in people who claim to love God but have a tough time remembering the last time they gave up some genuine desire out of obedience to God’s command. It seems that many who claim to be Christians don’t realize that being a Christian means trading an old life for a new one… dying to self and living for Christ (Rom. 6:1-14).
Friend, if you resist the idea that God is in charge of your life and has the right to tell you what to do, then it is likely that you’re not a Christian.
2. Non-Christians don’t want to devote regular time to God.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to someone who claimed to “believe in God” and “love Jesus” and yet he or she gave no devoted time to God during the previous month (or year!).
Did you read God’s word, the Bible? No… Did you go to church recently? No… Did you read a book about the Bible, Christianity, God, or Jesus recently? No… Do you live in any way differently than your non-Christian friends? Not really…
Friend, if you don’t devote regular time to God, then it is likely that you’re not a Christian.
3. Non-Christians don’t want to know anything more about God.
Most people who don’t read the Bible omit this practice because they don’t want to read it. They are not fascinated by the God they see inside that book. Most people who don’t go to church regularly are absent because they’d rather be somewhere else; they’d rather be doing something else.
Friend, if you don’t have any interest in being at church or reading the Bible, then it’s likely that you’re not a Christian.
4. Non-Christians don’t want to think much about their sin.
People who don’t think like Christians imagine that talking about their sin will only lead to greater feelings of shame and guilt. The assumption is: “The more we talk about how bad I am, the worse I’ll feel.”
But that’s not how Christians think at all! Christians know that Jesus saves sinners, and that sinners can find freedom from shame and even freedom from the power of sin when they confess sin and speak honestly about their ongoing failures.
Friend, if you don’t want to think about your sin and you avoid talking about your sin, then you might not actually be a Christian.
5. Non-Christians don’t cling to Jesus Christ like He’s really their only hope.
All but two of the people I’ve met in East Texas over the last 5 years have claimed to be Christians. And most of those with whom I’ve had some kind of gospel conversation have expressed hope in their good deeds or in God’s nebulous forgiveness. They imagine that they’ve lived well enough or that God must forgive them… because “God forgives!”
Friend, God doesn’t just forgive sinners. The Bible says God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7; Nah. 1:3). God’s “righteous judgment will be revealed” against all sinners (Rom. 2:5). God “will render each one according to his works… [and] for those who do not obey the truth… there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:6-8).
Friend, Jesus Christ is our only hope of escaping the judgment we deserve! If you aren’t actually clinging to Christ like He’s your only hope in life and death, then you’re not a Christian.
Now, if you think you might not be a Christian, then please don’t hear me saying that you should try harder. I don’t intend to say that at all! What I am saying is that Christians live like Christians, and our lives should reflect what we truly believe (James 2:14-26; 1 Jn. 3:1-10).
If you think you might not be a Christian, then your best course of action is to seek to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can read more about the gospel HERE.
I also urge you to talk to a Christian about what it means to believe and follow Jesus. If you don’t know any true Christians, then call a pastor near you by looking up churches and contacting their offices. You can probably also contact a pastor via email or through a church’s website. I know my contact info is available at www.fbcdiana.org.
May God help non-Christians to become Christians. May God help Christians to live consistently with their profession of faith. And may God grant grace to any reader of this article.
Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.