Speaking of a Christian professor in contrast to a true Christian might seem to be a contradiction. This is because biblically speaking there is only one type of Christian: a person who has received the genuine gift of repentance unto salvation by faith through grace in the Lord Jesus Christ and is diligently living in obedience to Him as his Saviour, Lord and King. All others are non-Christians. But for the sake of popular speech and common understanding such a phrase is necessary.
I have often heard some people say that you cannot actually know a true Christian. But this is contrary to the Holy Scriptures for we are instructed as to the characteristics of a genuine Christian. I encourage the doubters to read the whole of the book of 1John. Meanwhile here is just a sampling of some of the distinguishing traits:
Concerning The Holy Bible, an unregenerated person (a Christian professor) may read the Holy Scriptures but will still not have faith. Though such ones may even take to studying the Holy Bible they will not be better than other unbelievers who have nothing to do with Christianity as they will have no life of God in them. A professor of Christianity may have a reading plan and even read several chapters of the word of God every day and yet never appropriate a verse of Scripture.
In listening and hearing, a carnal professor will usually boast of having attended numerous conferences: I was in this conference and that conference; I have been under the ministration of or heard numerous popular preachers. He comes out of each meeting extoling how powerful the message was but he never seems to be affected by the power. He may have and be listening to many sermons every Sunday and indeed all weekdays as well yet 10 or more years down the road he is still as dead spiritually as the first day in church. Such reckon their spiritual status by the number of years since they have been coming to church or since they came in contact with Christianity. Ever hearing, never understanding and never growing, rather they are hardened.
In prayer the sentences flow from his lips as readily as that of a person with verbal diarrhoea; he has a very impressive repertoire of pleasant-sounding phrases and words; Scripture verses seem to run through his mind as freely as a dam breaking its bounds, they just gush out in torrents. They are adept at saying nice prayers which are just mere meaningless words. They think prayer is for show: how much you can shout, stamp your feet on the ground and jump around sweating like a turkey who knows he is the next at the dinner table. Observing them at prayer you may be tempted to think they are the offspring of Baal worshipers in action as in the days of Elijah!
In conversation the Christian professor can talk glibly and frequently orthodoxly of doctrines, yes and of worldly things too. He switches smoothly between the two according to his mood, according to his audience and according to the perceived advantage and lucre he is after at the moment. To him nothing seems too sacred to peddle. In his attempt to display knowledge, he only often exposes his ignorance and unbelief.
I have heard some people say it does not matter how you dress or speak as long as you have Christ in your heart. Such are either ignorant or deceitful because what is inside is reflected by what is happening outside. One even said “am a Christian but not religious and I worship nobody” What a confused mind! Can you be a Christian and not worship the Lord Jesus Christ?
Please remember this: as it is internally so it is externally. What is resident within the heart is reflected on the outside. The heart in which the Lord Jesus Christ reigns will be productive of fruits that are in keeping with the character of Christ. Hence, the difference is just as real between the genuine Christian and the nominal Christian in their daily lives.
And remember this too:
Faith applies the whole of the Word of God in all its glorious detail and authority:
- Hence, Faith applies the fearful threatening of the Word of God and trembles before them.
- Faith applies the warnings of the Word of God and endeavours to obey them.
- Faith applies the precepts of the Word of God and looks unto God for the grace to be able to walk in them.
And this faith is what distinguishes the genuine Christian from the professor, the one who is one in name only. But this faith is also the genuine faith too. This genuine faith cannot be worked up or be exercised at will nor can it be legislated by law or be forced on a person by any one. This is the faith that is God-given: it is a gift. This is the Holy Spirit-given and Holy Spirit-moulded faith in the heart.
This is not the mere head-knowledge and intellectual assent to the truth that the carnal professor possesses.
Rather the divine faith is a living, spiritual and vital trait. It is:
- the faith which “purifies the heart” (Acts 15:9);
- the faith “which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6);
- the faith that “overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4).
- This faith is the faith that is divinely rooted and sustained in the midst of trials within and opposition without.
- This is the faith that makes its possessor to exclaim “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15), “For I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).
- It is not a common faith for it is found only among the genuine of God.
- Where it is, it cannot but be manifested!
Do you have this genuine faith? If not begin to pray for it for you may actually have labelled yourself “a Christian” while in reality you do not belong in the household of God.
Please diligently observe that this divine faith is not always exercised nor is it equally strong at all times. However, the genuine Christian who possesses it must be taught through experience which is often painful, that, as he did not originate it neither can he command it at will and therefore he must turn to its author and originator for the needed sustenance. He must often turn to God and say “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
And therefore in contrast with the carnal professor, we see with the genuine Christian with this divine faith that:
- when reading the Word he is enabled to lay hold of its precious promises;
- when bowing before the Throne of Grace, he is enabled to cast his burden upon the Lord;
- when he rises to go about his temporal duties, he is enabled to lean upon the everlasting arms;
- and when he is made to pass “through the valley of the shadow of death”, he will triumphantly cry “I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” (Ps 23:4).
O Lord our God grant us the divine faith that has been the privilege of all your saints through the ages that our lives may truly begin to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Pet 2:9).