Can you be a Christian without looking like one?
Before answering the title question, I want to first address another question: Can you look like a Christian and not be one? Jesus’ answer seems to be an emphatic, “YES!”
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!
– Matthew 7:21-23
This passage is dealing specifically with people who look very much like followers of Christ. Think about the things they have been doing. What Christian wouldn’t want prophesying, driving out demons, and doing miracles on their resume? In our time, these people probably go to church every week, read their Bibles, pray, give, and serve regularly. It appears that they are producing the fruit of a relationship with Christ, but Christ just said that bad trees don’t produce good fruit, and these are bad trees. These are people that trust in themselves for salvation.
They show their true colors when they ask, “Didn’t we?” Someone trusting in Christ doesn’t ask that question. Rather, they ask, “Didn’t you?” Jesus, didn’t you pay for my sins on the cross? Holy Spirit, didn’t you seal me when I repented and put my trust in Christ? Father, didn’t you place me in your hands, where nothing can separate me from your love? This is the attitude of a true follower.
You can look like a Christian without being one, but can you be a Christian without looking like one? Our society would certainly say so, but did Jesus?
I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.
– John 15:5-8
How can you prove that you are a disciple of Christ? Many would answer, “I said a prayer.” This magical prayer is not in Scripture, however. The truth is that you cannot prove you are a follower of Christ without works. James understood this, which is why he said, ‘”But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works'” (James 2:18). He was not saying that our works will save us, but James, like Jesus, recognized that you cannot follow Christ without evidence/fruit of Christ being the Lord of your life.
You cannot have Jesus as Savior and not as Lord.
Jesus laid out only two paths. One is wide, easy, full of people, and leads to destruction. The other is narrow, difficult, absent of crowds, and leads to life. There is no third path.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
– Matthew 7:13-14
Unfortunately, we seem to have made up a 3rd path. This path is not so wide but certainly not so narrow, and it definitely should be easier more often than difficult. This is the path paved with the prosperity gospel and the American dream. This is the path that says, “I can be a Christian and still live MY life.” Some might even say that the more sin in a Christian’s life, the more God’s amazing grace is magnified. If you have thought that, you aren’t the first. It crossed the Romans’ minds too.
Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
– Romans 6:1-2
So can you be a Christian without looking like one? Jesus’ answer seems to be an emphatic, “NO!” You might find some Scripture that could, maybe, possibly imply that there are Christians who did not produce fruit (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). My question is simply, “Do you want to bet your life on that?”