One of the most popular comedians of today is Jeff Foxworthy. You may have you've heard of him. Certainly you know his type of jokes. He's the one who started telling jokes that began with the line, "you know your redneck when..." People love his humor because there's a grain of truth in it. Mr. Foxworthy pokes gentle fun at himself. And we've all seen examples of what it talks about:
- "You know you're a redneck when you mow your lawn and you discover that two cars were parked in your front yard.
- Question, "what's the last thing you usually hear before a redneck dies?" Answer, "Hey y'all, watch this!"
In other words when he tells one of the jokes, it's funny because, for the most part it's true. Everybody can identify and say yeah, that's kind of a redneck thing to do. So I'd like to borrow Jeff Foxworthy's idea and apply it to ourselves as Christians to see if there are some things about us, that easily identify us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, what kind of 'punch' line would we use with the opening statement, "You know you're a Christian when..."? I like to give you a couple of those. I want you to understand that this is a view of who we are, not from what the Bible describes as Christians, but from what people in the world expect Christians to be. So, if you went around and you did a survey of thousands of different people from every part of society who are not Christians and you said to them, "You know they're Christians when...", what do you think they would reply? Well, the following are a few things I think most people who are not Christians would answer to the statement,
1. You know you're a Christian when you go to church regularly
Regular church attendance is one of the most visible signs that a person is really serious about his faith. Obviously, church attendance doesn't completely determine a person's heart, of course, or their attitude. But it does make a statement about your lifestyle and your priorities. I once heard a person on TV talk about perceptions and gender. She said, that if three men were walking towards her on a dark street when she was all alone, she would feel no fear if she knew, they were just leaving a church service. The Bible not only commands that Christians not forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25), but its filled from beginning to end with scenes of God's people in worship at altars and temples and synagogues and finally as Christians gathered together on the Lord's Day as our brother John so eloquently spoke of a few moments ago. There are many things that Christians and non-Christians both do.
Non-Christians, they talk to a "god" out there, the "big man upstairs" for them, sometimes. Or they think about spiritual things that make movies about spiritual things. And they do good deeds, but only Christians put aside a specific time to worship God purposefully through Jesus Christ. A Christian who doesn't go to church has no credibility with those in the church, as well as, with those in the world. Another sign that you're a Christian: You know your Christian when... your language and your life is pure. One thing I've noticed about many nonbelievers, even though they drink, maybe smoke, curse, or whatever they do, they're always surprised, even offended, if they see a Christian doing the same thing. Purity of life is a hallmark of Christian living. When Christians are together to have fun, their fun is clean. Their pleasure is pure. No sexual motivation. When Christians talk or play music or compete in sports, their words and their attitudes reflect the sweetness and the purity of the Lord Jesus of whom they are disciples.
The greatest compliment to your Christianity is when people do not invite you to things because they know that you'll spoil the fun. Because you won't go along with what's sinful or impure. When Christians are around the language improves and women are not harassed. You get a bunch of Christian men and women together to have a meal and to play some sports, just have social thing, the men are not afraid that somebody is going to be hitting on their wife or hitting on their girlfriend. That's just not part of the equation. Peter the apostle says it this way in 1 Peter 4:4, of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things that they do. So they maligned you, meaning so they put you down. Now the world may not like it ,but when it comes to determining what is right and pure and good and highly moral, what do they do? They look to Christianity to set the standard. Now it's a standard that they think is too strict. It's a standard that they feel should not be imposed on everybody. They don't doubt that it's the standard that what it represents is pure and godly. They may not like the standard, but they know that it's the standard that if you want to be good, if you want to be pure, if you want to live your life correctly, if you want to have a spiritual life, well, just look at Christians because that's what they do. That's not what I want to do. I wouldn't want to be doing that. I don't want to give that up. But you have to admit, that's the direction I'd head if I wanted to have a clean and pure life. Another sign that you're a Christian:
2. You know you're a Christian when generosity is part of your character
It is amazing that although the government works very hard to make sure that Christian teachings and values do not find their way in any part of the government or public education. They bend over backwards to make sure no Bible, no prayer, no mention of God, no Christmas, no nothing we do want to hear about it. But when the same government decides to cut the budget and programs for the poor, the very first people they mention who should come in to help make up the difference are who? Yeah, the churches. Yeah, let's get those Christians. They say it. I mean, the boldness of it! We don't have the money. We don't want to speak about Christ nothing, but then all of a sudden they cut the program for the poor and what do the leaders say? Well, we think the churches, this is their task. They ought to do it, blah, blah, blah. And they say it without even imagining what hypocrisy that is. Because in the mind of the general public Christians are generous and they are kind as part of their natural character. When people are stuck without money or food, they open up the phone book and they just (many times) go down the list of churches to ask for help. Now think about that for a second. Somebody is poor or somebody is having trouble, somebody you know, so on and so forth. They wouldn't go down the list of garages and ask for help. They wouldn't go down the list of restaurants and go in and ask for a handout of money. They wouldn't do that for Target or Walmart or whatever. They wouldn't do that. But they will call a church that they've never been to and ask for help fully expecting to get it. Why? Because they know even if they've never been to this church, they know that Christians have been taught to turn the other cheek and love their enemies. They know that Christians have been taught that love is the highest goal that a person can pursue. They know that generosity and kindness in the name of Jesus Christ is a natural characteristic cultivated on purpose through teaching, through practice. And so people expect Christians to be generous and kind. And they actually feel sorry for them because this attitude seems so naive and dangerous in this world.
3. You know you're a Christian if you want everybody else to be a Christian too
In this world you're supposed to live and let live. Whatever you want to do, so long as it doesn't hurt anybody else, you should be free to do. Individuality is good. Diversity (any kind of diversity) is great. And we should fight to protect the right that everyone can just be who and what they want to be, and say what they want to say, and think what they want to think. If I'm a man, but I want to be a woman well, I should be... I shouldn't just be allowed to do that, I should be applauded. Imagine they're giving heroism awards to people who are identifying as the opposite sex to these people; they get the Hero Awards in this society. In this world of "I'm OK and you're OK" the Christian stands out like a sore thumb. You see Christians believe that the only thing worth being, whether you're male or female, is Christian. Whether you are black or white ,or yellow or red, or big or small, tall or skinny , or whatever you are, whatever culture you come from, whatever education, whatever financial background, whatever education, it doesn't matter. The thing to be is a Christian. And there's a reason for this. Jesus claimed that he was God. And He proved His claim through His miracles and then through His resurrection from the dead.
Then He said that He would give eternal life to those who became His followers, in other words, those who became Christians. He also said that the only, or excuse me, that only His followers would have eternal life; no one else. That's important. He said that only His followers would have eternal life; no one else. So because this was so, He told His disciples to go out and tell the world the good news about eternal life and convince as many as possible to become Christians in order to attain that eternal life. Therefore, converting people to Christianity, this is the main goal of Christians. The world, even if it can't explain it in the way that I just have, the world knows that this is always in the back of the mind of a Christian. They know that is what we're thinking all the time: how can I share my faith. How can I convince this person to believe in Jesus. They know that that's what was at the back of our mind. That's why the door gets slammed in your face when you casually bring up a subject even remotely connected with religion. People know that if they get into a conversation with a Christian, they're going to try to convert them.
At a New Years dinner at my in-laws one time. My niece had a new boyfriend and so she invited him to the family Christmas dinner at Mrs. LaSalle's house. And so he was going around talking to different people and he finally landed next to me. He sat next to me on the couch and started up a conversation. Then he asked that terrible question, "So, what do you do?" I said, "Well, I'm a minister." And it was as if he stepped in something. The look on his face was "Oh, my! What have I done? I'm sitting next to this guy." He just couldn't wait to get away from me. He couldn't wait to find a way to snap the conversation shut and just go somewhere else. Why? Because he knew that if he stayed and we talked, we would eventually get around to why wasn't he a Christian. I mean they even make jokes about this on television.
I remember once on a talk show there was this woman. She was an author at the time, a very popular author. She was single, apparently, and she would travel all over the United States and plug her books and to do interviews. So the the interviewer said to her, "You know you're a lovely young woman, single. You must get hit on a lot on airplanes. Sitting next to some guy who wants to date you, take you out or whatever." "Oh," she says, " I shut that down like that!" "Really!" "Yeah, I have three words that I use. Three words! Three words that shuts it down right away." "Really? What are the three words?" "Are you saved?" Yeah, when it got a little hot. When the conversation got away from the weather and where you going, the usual stuff we talk about on planes. When it was getting uncomfortably personal, she would just ask him, "Excuse me. Are you saved yet? Have you been saved in the name of Jesus?" She said, "That would cut that out!" excuse me, I got a book to read."
People do not want to deal with their sins. Jesus even said it, "The light has come into the world and men love the darkness rather than coming to the light." (John 3:19) And so, Christians, they're just an annoyance in this world. Because they want everybody else to leave their particular belief or philosophy and be "lighted" only by Jesus Christ. And they don't want this imposed on them. I don't mean Christians. I mean the world. They just don't want this imposed on them. I didn't mention anything about reading the Bible or being baptized or repenting of seeing or the proper way to worship or a proper way to organize the church.
Notice, I didn't say that, "You know you're Christians when you worship without instruments" or "You know your Christian when you know..." so on and so forth. I didn't mention that because these are Christian things. These are Bible things, necessary things, but they're not necessarily things that people on the outside of Christianity see or judge us by. A non-Christian has no opinion as far as we're concerned, whether we use instruments or not. For them this is a non-starter for them. They're not interested in that idea.
People who know nothing about the religion of Christianity, who couldn't tell you if Moses is in the Old Testament or in the New Testament or its ok to use instruments in worship or not; these people have their own criteria for judging who is truly into Christianity and who is not. And the ones really into their faith, according to those people out there, are Christians who make a priority of attending worship and Bible study. Those are the people who say to those people out there "Hey, Wednesday were doing this thing and we're having a big thing over there, we're going to play ball at the event." "When is it?" "Yeah, Wednesday around 6:30." "Sorry! Love to be there, but we have church on Wednesday night." I am sorry. Do you do it on another night?" "No, it's the is the only night." "Well, then you'll just have to count me out." They're the people whose lives and activities are clean. It's obvious.
When I work around people that don't know I'm a Christian. Even before I went into ministry, people at my office knew that I was a Christian. I remember one episode in the lunchroom when I was working at Bristol Myers, a big company, and I was in the lunchroom in a bunch of people were passing around a Playboy magazine. How did I know it was Playboy? They were reading it like this and the tables were joined together and it was just going from person (men and women) it was going from person to person to person to person and when it got to me, they passed it around my back and passed to the next person. I didn't say a thing. I didn't denounce anybody. They just knew; "yeah, we can't include this guy. He's gonna be, you know." I would say "Debbie-downer" but Debbie is sitting right there and that would not be a good thing. I don't want to get in trouble with Debbie. But do you know what I'm saying? They couldn't include me in that. And if they're having a bachelor party for a guy at work that was getting married, I never got invited to the bachelor parties.
Christians can be counted on to be generous and kind to strangers for no other reason than it's the Christian thing to do. You've heard that expression: "the Christian thing to do." Have you ever heard the expression, "It's the Islamic thing to do", "It's the atheistic thing to do," or "It's the Buddhist thing to do?" You never hear that! You never hear that. And there are people who are convinced that Christianity is the only valid religion and want everyone to become Christians like themselves.
We're not going to be judged by God based on the criteria I just gave. This list leaves out so many important and necessary things of the Lord, obviously believing in Jesus, repenting and being baptized in order to become a Christian. But I ask you this question, if we were being judged by the world to see if we were genuine Christians, would we pass their tests? I'll tell you something. This may only be an unbelievers list of what a Christian is supposed to be. But if we can't pass their list, I doubt we'll be able to pass God's list. If we don't pass on this list, we're like the salt that has no taste, salt alright, but not very useful for anything much. In Matthew chapter 5 verse 14 to 16 Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
We as Christians are like salt and light on a stand and in order for people to find their way to God, they need to be able to see. And the things I mentioned today are the things that make up the light of Christianity that enables others to see. If they cannot see these things in us, then they are in the darkness and we are not serving any useful purpose. So yeah, maybe you don't have the skill or the ability to knock on a door. You know, what we call a "cold call." Just walk up to door knock on the door and say, "I'm a member of the church down the street," and this and that, "and I'm just here to invite you to church service." Maybe you don't have the "chutzpah" as our Jewish friends say. Maybe you don't have the "chutzpah" to just do that, a "cold call." That's fine. You won't be judged on that. But you will be judged and I will be judged, as well, by what kind of light did we give off. Did we give off the kind of light that enabled our non-believing neighbor to actually find his or her way to Jesus? So, I add one last sign that really says you're a Christian. And that is, "you can admit it when you are wrong and change your way." In biblical terms, of course, it's called repentance. Christians who are into Christianity are eager to do this, because it's a sign of maturity.
So, if others could not tell that you're a Christian, because you've let slip your commitment to attending all of the services of the church or you've allowed your life and your speaking or your activities to become more worldly, more impure, more un-Christian than Christian. Or if you've not been much of a light or salt and pointing people to Jesus, you can demonstrate to God and to the world that you are still, you are still, genuinely wanting to be a Christian by acknowledging your faults and changing your ways. Remember if the world doesn't recognize that you're a Christian today there's a pretty good chance that the Lord won't recognize you either on judgment day. So if you need to become a Christian by confessing your faith in Jesus and being baptized in his name, or if you need to go back to living like a Christian because you falling into sin, or you've just fallen away altogether, we encourage you please, come now. So that the angels in heaven and the Christians gathered here this morning can witness that you truly are a Christian and not ashamed of this name. If you need to respond to our invitation, we encourage you please, come forward now, as we stand and as we sing our song of encouragement.