The Bible teaches us that Christians should examine, or test, themselves to see if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). For such an examination to be accurate, however, we must have a true standard. It is not wise to judge ourselves according to our own or others’ opinions.
The Word of God is the only proper standard for judging the genuineness of our faith in order to grow in the assurance of our salvation. There is one book in the Bible written specifically for this very purpose—1 John. John writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).
First John sets forth several characteristics that will be found to some degree in the life of every true Christian. To the degree that these characteristics are evident in our own lives, we may have assurance that we have truly come to know Christ and are being transformed by His power. These marks of genuine conversion are summarized in the following statements. We would do well to carefully and prayerfully examine ourselves in light of them.
- Christians walk in the light (1 John 1:5–7). Christians’ character and conduct are progressively and gradually being conformed to the will of God as He has revealed it to us in the Bible.
- Christians are sensitive to the sin that is in their life and confess it (1 John 1:8–10). Christians are not immune to sin, but they disdain it and struggle against it. Their lives are marked by repentance, confession, and gradual victory.
- Christians keep the commandments of God (1 John 2:3–4). Christians practice righteousness (1 John 2:29; 3:7, 10) and do not give themselves to sin as a style of life (1 John 3:4, 6, 8–9). Christians’ lives are marked by conformity to the will of God and confession and repentance of departures
from God’s standard. This does not mean that Christians are capable of perfect obedience to God’s commands. It means that the way they live will reflect a new and increasing appreciation for the commandments of God and a growing conformity or obedience to them.
- Christians seek to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). The great ambition of true disciples is to be like their Master (Matthew 10:25). They desire to imitate Christ in everything (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1). Consequently, Christians also have a growing disinterest in imitating this fallen world or winning its approval.
- Christians love other Christians, desire their fellowship, and serve them in practical works (1 John 2:9–11). This is one of the greatest evidences of salvation (Matthew 25:34–40;
- John 3:14–18).
- Christians grow in their disdain for and rejection of the world (1 John 2:15–17). “The world” refers to the ideas, attitudes, and deeds of this present fallen age that contradict and oppose the nature and will of God.
- Christians continue in the teachings and practices of the faith that were once and for all handed down to the church through Christ and His apostles (1 John 2:19, 24; Jude 3). Christians have been taught by God (Jeremiah 31:34; John 6:45) and are not carried away by every wind of false doc-trine (Ephesians 4:14).
- Christians purify themselves (1 John 3:3). They seek to grow in holiness, which is moral purity (2 Corinthians 7:1;
- Timothy 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15–16). This involves not only a separation from evil but also a drawing near to God and a holding on to what is good.
- Christians believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world (1 John 2:22–23; 4:2, 13–15). Christians’ great and only hope of salvation is in the person and work of Christ. They believe the testimony of eternal life that God has given them through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 5:10–12).
- Christians are subject to God’s loving and paternal discipline (Hebrews 12:5–11). God will not allow His children to continue in immaturity and disobedience, but will discipline them in order that they might share in His holiness and bear the fruit of righteousness. This is one of the great marks or characteristics of true conversion.