The longer I serve as a pastor the more apparent it is to me that many people claim to be a Christian, when in reality they’re something else. That sobering fact could not be any more obvious than it is in the Bible-belt South. In many cases, people equate Christianity with American citizenship or church membership. Sometimes people are delivered an improper definition of Christianity through poor preaching or unbiblical evangelistic methods. No matter how a person ends up in a state of false Christianity, the errors are revealed by their perpetual lack of genuine fruit.
The title “Christian” was first used as a derisive term for the followers of Jesus (Acts 11:26). Over time, the term has been turned into a badge of honor and taken with great respect by those who follow Jesus. Just as the term itself has undergone a great change, so has the definition itself. Today, almost anyone is classified as a Christian who simply embraces the name and refrains from becoming a practicing axe murderer. Does anyone notice that a vast number of people who claim the name of Christ are not true Christians?
The Necessity of Fruit
Jesus didn’t leave us without proper knowledge on this subject. All true Christians produce fruit. Without fruit, a person reveals their lack of true conversion. Jesus has made it clear that the will of God is for His children to bear fruit. In John 15:16, we see these words, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” There is no room for fruitless weeds to be counted as fruit bearing trees.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says the following:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).
According to Romans 7:4, we are to bear fruit for God. As the workmanship of God (Eph. 2:10), we are chosen in Christ in order that we will bear fruit and this fruit is known as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If anyone does not bear fruit, they are identified as false disciples and warned of the coming judgment of God (John 15:6). Abiding in Christ involves the active process of fruit bearing as evidence of real Christianity. George Whitefield, the famous evangelist from church history, had seen his fair share of false conversions during his ministry. He once said, “I love now to wait a little, and see if people bring forth fruit; for there are so many blossoms which March winds you know blow away, that I cannot believe they are converts till I see fruit brought back; it will never do a sincere soul any harm.” 
The Warning Signs of False Christianity
How many people have bought into the empty and soul-damning lie that praying a prayer and walking down to the front of a church to make a public commitment to Christ is the new birth? As a result, many people are living in our cities who’ve made such commitments and prayed such prayers, only to cling to them with a great spirit of tenacity as they assure themselves that they’re a real Christian while marching their way to eternal hell.
Perhaps you viewed the statistics put out by Barna Research Group in 2016 that stated 25% of Americans strongly agree that doing good works will result in going to heaven. Another 30% claimed to “agree somewhat” that good works would earn a person a home in heaven. In another study published by the Barna Research Group, “about half of Americans agree, either strongly or somewhat, that while he lived on earth, Jesus Christ was human and committed sins like other people (52%). Just less than half disagree, either strongly or somewhat, that Jesus committed sins while on earth (46%), and 2 percent aren’t sure.” 
With a perpetually confused view of the gospel and misunderstood view of God in our nation, it should not be a shock that many false Christians enter the church with a passing statement of affirmation by a local pastor and the church. This only continues the trend of lost church members who can’t figure out why they aren’t producing real evidence of saving faith.
Consider the following signs of false Christianity:
- Do you have a lack of passion / desire for God?
- Do you have a distaste for the Bible?
- Do you find yourself constantly lacking passion for the local church?
- Do you constantly find yourself angry with the preaching of God’s Word?
- Do you have a greater passion and desire for your job or other worldly things than you do for God?
- Do you find yourself entertained and passionate about the things that God hates?
- Do you have a lack of love for the things that God loves?
- Is learning the Bible and things about God boring to you?
- Do you find it easier to spend money on yourself or to buy worldly things rather than investing it in ministry and missions through your local church?
- Is your mouth full of gossip and does your heart find joy in rumors and other negative stories about others?
- Do you spend more time criticizing your pastors than you do praying for them?
- Do you have a rebellious attitude towards pastoral leadership and a resistance to authority?
- Do you find yourself doubting your salvation at times only to escape such thoughts by reminding yourself that you once prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and stood before a congregation while making a public commitment of your faith?
- Do you constantly find yourself looking for something more exciting in your worship service that will please you and satisfy you because the preaching and singing of the gospel isn’t enough?
- Do you perpetually miss the observance of the Lord’s Supper and it doesn’t seem to matter too much to you?
- Do you have a lack of desire to pray?
- Do you have a lack of urgency in sharing the gospel with unbelievers?
- If asked, would you be able to explain the gospel?
- Do you believe that it’s possible to please God by doing good deeds?
If you have a consistent lack of genuine fruit and find yourself aligning with the majority of these questions in this list, it would be wise to stop calling yourself a Christian and examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith. Whatever you might be, you’re most likely not a Christian. You might have joined a church or been confirmed as a follower of Christ, but without genuine fruit of the Spirit – you have no right to claim the name of Christ.
What you need is the gospel. Jesus Christ saves sinners, but unless you’re willing to see yourself as a sinner and unless you’re willing to come to Christ as your only hope — you have no right to claim the treasure of His sacrificial death as yours. Stop calling yourself a Christian if you’re not.
- Jim Ehrhard, The Dangers of the Invitation System, (Parkville, MO: Christian Communications Worldwide, 1999), 11-16.
- Barna Research Group: “What Do Americans Believe About Jesus? 5 Popular Beliefs” [accessed 11-12-16]