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Studies show that unbelief is indeed on the rise these days. We are living in increasingly secular times and, unfortunately, those who do not believe in the truth of Scripture often seem to have the loudest voices in the public domain. Skeptics are becoming bolder and more vocal, and their influence is seen in education, entertainment, court systems, and government. They have made significant progress toward their goal of having God’s name entirely removed from the public realm.

Add to this the fact that we are living in what some call the most “biblically illiterate times,” and it’s apparent why unbelief is on the rise and why moral standards continue to deteriorate. Other factors include the pervasiveness of secular humanism; the church’s halfhearted adherence to the hard truths God’s Word; the significant growth of New Age and Eastern religions; the attempts to redefine the family; the postmodern rejection of absolutes; and the aggressive rise of the New Atheists.

The bottom line is this – we live in a fallen world and “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel” (2 Corinthians 4:4). As history moves forward, many will move further away from sound biblical doctrine. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1Timothy 4:1). There are plenty of false teachers to keep the lost blinded and aid them in their flight from God (Matthew 24:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:3; 1 John 4:1). The sad truth is that most people do not see the Bible as the absolute authority anymore. As God’s Word continues to be marginalized, unbelief will continue to increase around the world.

The Bible warned against apostasy nearly two thousand years ago: “[People] will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:4). Along these lines, John MacArthur has stated, “Our society has grown steadily darker; and the message the church is now giving to the world is more confused and confusing than perhaps any time since the Dark Ages.” His conclusion: “the church needs to get back to the Word of God.” Indeed, getting back to the Word is the only solution; to do anything less is to hide our light under a bushel (Luke 11:33). If we want people to believe, we must give them something to believe in.

The servant of Christ should not lose heart. Despite the increasing unbelief and the growing tide of hostility toward Christianity, there is good news. Jesus told us that, before the end comes, His gospel would be preached in the whole world (Matthew 24:14).  Portions of the Bible have now been translated into more than 3,850 languages, covering 98 percent of the world’s population. Christian radio broadcasts are now accessible to nearly 78 percent of the earth’s population. God’s Word is being preached around the world with tremendous success by multitudes of Christians, many of whom risk their lives every day to spread the gospel. “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save” (Isaiah 59:1), even in communist China where it is believed over one hundred million people are following Jesus Christ. World Christian Encyclopedia reports that nearly seventeen million people accept Jesus Christ every year.  Scoffers will multiply (Jude 1:18), but Jesus is still Lord of the harvest, it is still His harvest field, and we still pray for Him to send forth His workers (Luke 10:2).

A Christian can be defined as a person who has, by faith, received and fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior from sin (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). And in the heart of the Christian resides the Spirit of Christ (Ephesians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:11). Now, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9), and this person, then, is not a Christian. Thus, the term “fake Christian” is a misnomer. You are a Christian or you are not a Christian; one is either with God or against God (Matthew 12:30).

That being said, this question is certainly a legitimate one in the minds of many people. And this is likely due to the behavior of some Christians; however, it is also likely because of the behavior of many who think they are Christians or profess to be Christians, but who are not. The reasons many believe they are true Christians when they are not are many and varied. The false teaching that is so prevalent these days is certainly one reason. When churches eschew teaching sound doctrine, the end result will be congregants who do not know the truth of God’s Word. How can they keep in step with the Spirit, when the Truth is not in them?

Also, some believe their recitation of a prayer or responding to an “altar call” alone may have turned them into a Christian. Many believe their religious traditions, such as being baptized as an infant, secured a spot in Heaven for them, or that their plentiful good works alone have put them in good standing with God. And of course some believe church attendance alone guarantees salvation. The point is that many who profess to be Christians are not Christians at all. Yet they complacently remain convinced that all is well with their soul. Sadly, many will live their entire lives believing they were Christians only to one day hear these words from Jesus Christ: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).

The clear teaching of the Bible is that when someone is saved his life will most definitely change as he is a “new creation, the old has gone and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A true born again Christian will strive to bring glory and honor to Christ by living a life that is pleasing to God (1 Peter 1:15-16, 4:1-4). True saving faith will indeed produce works or “fruit” in the life of the believer (James 2:17, 26). Thus, if there are no works of love in one’s life, a careful self-examination is certainly called for. The apostle Paul instructed those in Corinth to do this very thing: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Indeed, any profession of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false profession and such a person is not a Christian.

Now, even though the lifestyle of true Christians does reflect the presence of Christ in their hearts, we know we are not perfect. Christians do sin and the apostle John makes it clear that we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise (1 John 1:8). And when Christians do sin, rest assured there are multitudes just lying in wait to use their “slip-up” to further denigrate the true body of believers. That is why Paul admonished the church in Thessalonica to abstain from even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and to live in such a way as to “win the respect of outsiders” (1Thessalonians 4:12).

What Christians will not do, however, is engage in repeated or habitual sin (1 John 3:6). One who engages in deliberate and habitual sin is simply proving that he does not know Christ and therefore cannot be abiding in Him even though he may live his life under the vast umbrella of religion and is thought, therefore, by many to be a Christian.

As believers mature in their faith, they will exhibit more and more evidence of their true Christian nature, such as their love for God, repentance from sin, separation from the world, spiritual growth, and obedient living. As Paul told the Romans, the genuine child of God has been set free from sin and has become a slave to God, and the result is eternal life (Romans 6:22).