How can I know that I am a Christian?

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
~ 2 Peter 1:10-11

Do you know that you’re a Christian?

It’s an easy question to answer if you don’t claim to be: ‘no’. But I find that it is one of the most commonly asked questions I receive from High School students. “How do I know if I’m a Christian, or not?” It’s a good question! It’s vitally significant when we realise that Jesus Himself said that on the last day there will be many who will claim to know Him, but to whom He will say ‘I never knew you’ (Matthew 7:21-23). Moreover, in 2 Peter 1:10-11, Christians are instructed to make every effort to confirm their calling and election before God.

Not knowing can be exhausting. The effort of going to church, meeting God’s people, and immersing in God’s word may feel empty when there is a lack of assurance that we are one of God’s saved children. This kind of exhaustion can be a sign of misplaced trust – after all, we are saved by trusting in Christ. But it can also be an encouragement in some way because it demonstrates that we do care whether or not we are a follower of Christ.

Nevertheless, there are three ways through which I think you can determine whether or not you are a Christian. Of course, it would be so much easier if I could lay out one litmus test. But the Bible gives us several ways to know if we are followers of Christ and instead of trying to synthesise them, why not let them speak for themselves?

Firstly, ‘do you repent of your sins and believe the Gospel?’ In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus was proclaiming the Gospel of God and called on people in Galilee to turn from their sins and believe in the message that the kingdom of God had come near. On this side of the Cross, we know that the kingdom of God came when Jesus died on the Cross and was crowned as our suffering, crucified, victorious King. The follower of Christ is the one who repents of their sins and believes the Gospel.

Repentance from our sins is not something that just occurs in the past. It is something we are continually doing. In Romans 8:12-14, Paul writes that the children of God are the ones who are led by the Spirit of God to put to death the misdeed of our body. In other words, the Christian is the one who is empowered by the Spirit to deny themselves and turn from their sins. The Christian still sins – what is different is the response to the sin. Have you repented of your sins? Do you continue to repent of your sins? And do you cling to Christ? If you, the testimony of God’s word is that you are a Christian.

Secondly, ‘do you have any desire to love God?’ Romans 3:10-11 says that the default state of humanity is to disregard God, never seeking Him, never wanting Him. Left in our sin and misery, we do not want to know God. We do not desire Him. There are many people who are interested in Christianity for what it can offer – forgiveness from your personal guilt, the love of a community, activities to do with your time, and the hope of life after death. But if these benefits of knowing God are desired above God Himself, then you may not be a Christian.

The Christian is one who loves God (1 Corinthians 8:3, Hebrews 6:10) and desires to know Him. The Christian will not love God perfectly, or continuously, because the Christian is still subject to sin. But if you have any love for God, any desire to know Him, any longing to draw near to Him, then the testimony of God’s word is that you are a Christian because you could not do so otherwise.

Thirdly, ‘do you love your sisters and brothers in Christ?’ In 1 John 4:7-8, John writes that Christians must love one another, and if they do then they know God. Whoever does not love their brothers and sisters does not know God since God is love. Jesus Himself said in John 13:34-35 that His disciples were to love one another as He had loved them, namely by humbly serving them. Ultimately, we know that Jesus demonstrated His love by laying down His life for His friends.

The love of God that we have been shown must extend to all people, but there is a particular emphasis in its visible display towards God’s people. In other words, the Christian is one who humbly serves and seeks to draw near to their sisters and brothers like Jesus did with us. We are not perfect lovers – we are not perfect servants. But if you have any genuine love, and a desire to love, your fellow blood-bought siblings in Christ, then the testimony of God’s word is that you are a Christian.

Assurance ultimately comes not in the amount of faith we have, but in casting our eyes towards the one in whom we have faith. Christ, our Saviour, loves us and gave Himself for us. If we trust in Him then we are saved. But the three questions I’ve laid out and derived from God’s word also serve as tangible ways in which we can be assured that we are secure in the salvation achieved for us at the Cross and resurrection. For some, this post may lead you to self-reflection as you realise that you do not repent, you do not believe, you do not desire God, and you do not love. If that is you, may I urge you to turn to Christ – the offer is available and you are welcome.

For the rest, may you be encouraged, strengthened, and filled with joy at knowing your calling and election is confirmed.

James Chen

James is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Sydney and is currently a teaching and learning manager of a senior high school tutoring centre. James is a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Carlingford and loves reading and teaching the Bible.