This may sound like a strange question to ask, but for many professing Christians, it is an opportunity to explore the realities of the faith on a very practical level. Over the past several years, I have met numerous professing believers who obviously have some obstacle that hinders their success in the Christian faith. To give some examples, in the recent past, I have observed professing believers that speak with intense profanity, drink alcoholic beverages, lie, gossip, slander, lust, and even use the name of the Lord in vain. I have often wondered, "How can a Christian do such things?"
If you profess to be a Christian, I want to ask you some questions that are designed to help provoke your thinking concerning the validity of your faith. Hopefully, the Lord will use these question to answer some of your questions and propel you toward a victorious Christian walk.
I have found that many people that claim to be Christians have never really been saved from the beginning. Could this possibly be you? You may remember the time that you responded to the call of Christ. You may remember repenting of your sins and praying the sinners prayer, but what if there was something wrong in the mix that prevented you from truly receiving Christ?
I knew a man once that was addicted to alcohol and drugs. The strange thing about him was that he was utterly convinced of two things. First, he believed that he was saved. Second, he believed that there was nothing wrong with his life. In fact, to put an exclamation mark on his belligerent attitude, he invited me to discuss the elements of communion over a beer. He had prayed prayers. He had even been baptized and testified of being filled with the Spirit, yet something was clearly wrong.
Is there anything about this scenario that sounds familiar to you? You may not be an addict, but have the sinful habits of your previous life continued to hold you like a vice even after you got saved? Maybe you did not really get saved at all. You may have thought that you were saved, but what if it was a false conversion? What if nothing really happened?
To give you an idea how this can happen, I will present an often repeated scenario. A person goes to a church service. They are told that God loves them, and that He has a plan for their life. At the end of the service they are invited to repeat a prayer, and they do so. While they repeat the prayer, however, in the back of their mind they know that they are holding something back. They want Jesus, but they do not want to give Him everything. It might be only one area of their life, but something is reserved. The prayer is over. Everyone congratulates them and welcomes them into the family of God. Everyone except Jesus, that is. He sadly watches as this stubborn soul enters into the delusion of a lifetime. Is this your story? Did you hold anything back when you prayed? If you did, then Jesus would say to you, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). This may be the reason your Christianity isn't working. The only solution is to truly surrender everything to Jesus. The old hymn must become your cry when it says, "All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give."
You may have been genuinely saved at some point in the past, but what about now? Are you saved now? I believe that there are many professing Christians that have allowed their relationship with Jesus to gradually slip away to the point that they did not even realize that He is gone. You might say, "Wait a minute. How can this happen?" It happened to Samson.
Samson is one of the most heroic figures in the Bible. Early in his life, the Bible teaches that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (Judges 13:25). Samson, however, did not regard this gift. He was stubborn and did what he wanted to do. After committing several sins, the Bible says, "And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him" (Judges 16:20).
I believe that there are many people that sit on church pews every Sunday that know not that the Lord has departed from them. They have refused to be corrected. They have justified their own sins in one way or another. They may have been selectively obedient rather than fully obedient, but in the end, they have allowed what once was real to disintegrate away. Is this you? Were you once clean? 2 Peter 2:19 says, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning."
If you feel that you are a backslider, there is still hope if you return to the Lord with all your heart. The book of Hosea teaches us that God is willing to receive you again if you turn to Him. "O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity" (Hosea 14:1). Have you fallen by your iniquity? Return to God. He told Israel, "I will heal their backsliding" (Hosea 14:4). He can heal yours too.
Many people do not realize how absolutely critical it is to be completely separated unto Christ as Lord. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters" (Luke 16:13). Jesus was specifically talking about money in this passage, but the principle holds true in other areas as well. Paul teaches the same thing: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:16). Does this mean that God will not receive you if you fail to separate? It surely must. This is a major concern for many professing believers today. When a person becomes connected to something that is unclean, this is called an unholy alliance. Unholy alliances come in many ways, but I will only list some of the more common examples.
Some people make unholy alliances when they become members of gangs, clubs, or secret orders. These organizations often require pledges of loyalty to the group as well as a system of authority. Once you become a member, you are obligated to perform your duties as outlined in your oath. Jesus warned against such pledges (see Matthew 5:34-37). So does the book of James: "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation" (5:12). Did you see that? If you make these types of oaths, they will lead you to condemnation. Beware!
Another type of unholy alliance that many people make is to associate with false teachers. The Bible teaches us clearly to avoid association with such people: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). If you choose to ignore this clear teaching of the Bible, you will find yourself in an unholy alliance. Don't think, "It won't happen to me."
One particularly dangerous unholy alliance comes in the form of normal human relationships. This is when you become involved with a person that is not a believer through friendship, business partnerships, or even through dating. In 2 Corinthians 6:13, Paul sternly warns, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" If you have made an unholy alliance through friendship, business, or dating, you need to get out now. Otherwise, your relationship with Christ is effectively stifled. Christ will not walk with you while you walk with them (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 for the full context). If you are married to an unbeliever, you are not allowed by the Bible to leave. Your alliance may have started off as unholy, but when you became legally married, your marriage is honorable before God (see Hebrews 13:4). Stay where you are. Repent of the sinful way you started the relationship, and trust God to help you endure whatever comes. Sadly, however, you may be in for a long road, but you can still overcome as a believer if you are faithful.
You may have made an unholy alliance that is suffocating your walk with Christ. It may not even be one of the ones that is listed here. If it is not marriage, you need to get out while you still can. Would you rather lose a friend for Jesus or lose Jesus for a friend?
Several years ago, I was introduced to a Biblical truth that I intend to share with you concerning spiritual strongholds. Paul says, "Neither give place to the devil" (Ephesiahs 4:27). What happens if you do? I believe that if you give the devil place, he will establish a stronghold in your life. A stronghold is a military term meaning a fortress. Let me explain how this works.
God honors legal transactions. For instance, if I take something that is yours, then I am guilty of stealing; however, if I purchase it from you, I can take it without being guilty. Why is this so? It is because a legal transaction has been made. The object is no longer yours. It legally belongs to me. Now that it is mine, if you take it back, you are guilty of stealing even though it was yours only a few moments earlier. God honors legal transactions.
As a believer, when you open the door to the devil through sin, you give him a legal right to be there. Many people do not realize this. Ephesians 4:27, within the context of anger, makes it clear that you can give a place in your life to the devil. I believe that this principle extends to areas other than anger as well. If you do, then he will endeavor to build a military fortress to keep what has been given to him.
It is unfortunate, but believers open themselves up to this problem quite frequently. Jesus said, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John 8:34). If you make yourself vulnerable by committing sin, you will become entangled. "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins" (Proverbs 5:22). Are you being held by the cords of your sins? You may have a stronghold that has never been broken. There may be many sins that could produce strongholds in your life. In this study, I will only mention a few.
Lust is such a common stronghold that many people, including believers, take it as a fact of life. James teaches us how this works: "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (1:14-15). The object of the devil is to kill you. He will attempt to do so through lust.
Another common stronghold that people face is through addiction. Many people are addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or other chemicals. These all produce strongholds. Have you ever wondered why so many people, including believers, seem to never be able to break free of addictions. They may overcome the physical withdrawals and be clean for a while, but eventually they find themselves right back where they started or even worse. One reason for this is that the spiritual stronghold has never been destroyed. Is this you? As long the stronghold remains, these addictions have a legal right to be in your life. The cords of your sins can be very strong.
These and many other strongholds have the power to stifle your Christianity. If your Christianity is not victorious, it may be because of a spiritual stronghold. Fortunately, there is hope. Paul teaches, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but might through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (2 Corinthians 10:4). Spiritual strongholds must be pulled down by spiritual weapons. They cannot be defeated through the flesh, the methods of man, or the self-will. They can be broken, but be ready to go to war. War is part of being a victorious Christian. Put on your armor and fight.
I hope that these questions have helped you evaluate your faith. If you have determined that your conversion was halfhearted or that you are a backslider, you can call on Jesus today and make a total surrender and a fresh start. If you have learned that you have made an unholy alliance or allowed an enemy stronghold to come into your life, you may feel defeated already, but "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).