There are more than four birthmarks of a true Christian, but here are four that seem to reflect genuine regeneration.
A Forgiving Spirit
Whoever has been forgiven much should truly seek to forgive others for less. That should be the position of every Christian. They have been forgiven such a great price that they could never pay or repay and had a wrath removed (John 3:36) that they had coming to them. In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18:21-35), the unmerciful servant had been forgiven of an unpayable debt, but a smaller debt he would not forgive. Jesus said, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). Shouldn’t Christians be the most forgiving people of all because we’ve been forgiven of all?
A Loving Heart
Can anyone say they’re a brother or sister in Christ and then not love their brothers or sisters in Christ? Someone might tell God “I love you God, but I don’t like your children” and will have an issue with the Father of those children. First John 4:7-8 tells us, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.” We are told, “… through love serve one another love” (Gal. 5:13) ,and love is what it should look like.
A Righteous Life
Don’t let that subtitle worry you because none of us are righteous. It is only Jesus’ righteousness that has been declared for us (2 Cor. 5:21). However, a life of practicing sin in a regular, consistent manner might create doubts about someone’s salvation and probably for good reason. One birthmark should be a growing in grace and the knowledge of God (2 Pet. 3:18), but another is a growing pattern of overcoming sin. The Apostle John writes, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4), and in 1 John 3:6, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” None of us will ever be sinless on this side of glory (1 John 1:8, 10), but we will sin less, just as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
A Hungry Life
I met a young man named Ben who was really eager to learn how to serve others and to live a life of obedience. I told him that he was blessed, and when he asked why, I reminded him of Jesus saying “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Just like the psalmist, you’ll have this same desire: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). That will be a hunger for His Word (the Bible), for His purpose (Matt. 28:19-20), and for Him (in prayer).
Nobody has every attribute of a Christian down perfectly, so don’t be overly anxious over these birthmarks. The Word gives us a good idea about who a believer is and who may not be. Only God knows the heart, but almost every Christian I meet seems to be forgiving. Most believers I know have loving hearts. A great number of the born-again that I know live like Christians, and some I meet have a hunger to learn more about God. No believer can claim sinlessness, but we should claim we sin less.