Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Mark of the Christian

Breaking News: 37 Year-Old Housewife Joins AKB-48! I'm sure this is old news to all my readers, right? No? Well it was huge news a couple weeks ago in Japan. But you may be wondering, "What is 'AKB-48'?" It is perhaps the most popular singing group in Japan and much of Asia. Originally consisting of 48 female singers, all of them in their teens or early twenties, the group recently added Mariko Tsukamoto, a housewife and mother of two, in an effort to expand their fan base.

What drew my attention was the choice of jewelry that Mrs. Tsukamoto wore to the big announcement: a cross necklace. Necklaces featuring the Christian cross are common in the States, and are not necessarily worn only by Christians. Ironically, the cross necklace is even more common in Japan where only 0.2% of the population is Christian. To be honest, I sometimes feel a little offended that the cross is used for adornment but without any of the meaning behind its significance. It's possible that Mrs. Tsukamoto is a Christian -- wouldn't that be wonderful, to have a Japanese Christian in such a bright spotlight? -- but it is unlikely.

This started me thinking about the mark of a Christian. How can we know whether someone really is a Christian? We obviously can't depend on jewelry or tattoos. Nor can we depend on church membership or leadership. A friend recently resigned his role as a church elder and left the church stating he no longer believes in the existence of God. Matthew 7:16 says, "You will recognize them by their fruits." My friend certainly seemed to produce good fruit in himself and others. John 13:35 says, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." My friend was and is a loving man. How can we know someone is a legitimate Christian? Is there any real litmus test? Ultimately, only God knows. I Samuel 16:7 says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." And yet, discerning not just other's hearts, but more importantly my own heart is a challenge for me. Is my heart sincere in its pursuit of God? I have doubts some days; but so did the Psalmist. In Mark 9, a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. He states, in verse 24, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Is my faith real? Or is it no more significant than the crosses worn by so many unsaved people around the world? Is your faith real? Or is it something you wear for cultural comfort? Let us persist in our faith, and to ask God to help our unbelief. And let us not grow impatient with the work of the Holy Spirit in calling saints and sinners to Himself. "In John 10:27-28, Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no  one will snatch them out of My hand."