Jonathan Edwards and the Birthmarks of the Believer
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” – 1 John 1:6
Listed below are just a few character traits of a true believer. They are each taken from the epistle of First John. Jonathan Edwards, the American Congregationalist Protestant minister who played a lead role in North American revivalism in the eighteenth century, described these evidences as “holy affections.” I have taken Edwards’s list underlined in bold print and have added my own commentary. Consider each one, and ask God to show you how many are truly evident in your life.
A respect for God. (1 John 1:8) If we minimize our sin, we will end up minimizing the holiness of God. But it is only when we see how offensive our sin is to a holy and righteous God that we begin to properly see His holiness. Our relationship to God must always be seen in the proper perspective; we are the creature and He is the creator.
Obedience to God’s Word. (1 John 2:5) The Bible is life’s instruction manual, and our lives should be marked by a passionate desire to glorify God by obeying the Scriptures. His words are commands to obey, not suggestions to consider. The sincere believer will treasure God’s Word by incorporating its principles into their life.
Distaste for the things of the world. (1 John 2:15) Our affections should be for the things of God rather than the things of the world. We are to live life pursuing holiness, not flirtatiously pursuing after worldliness. We must not be guilty of spiritual adultery by having a love affair with the world (James 4:4). Though we are “in” this world, we must remember that we are not “of” this world (John 15:19; 17:16).
A steadfast faithfulness to God. (1 John 2:19) – Our commitment to the Lord should be steady and unwavering. No matter the circumstances, our faithfulness to God should not buckle or waver under the pressures of life. Our allegiance to God must surpass all other allegiances in our life.
Anticipation to the second coming. (1 John 3:2-3) We should long for the second coming of Christ. As long as we are on this side of eternity, our attitude should be of one setting up temporary tent pegs, not pouring permanent concrete. We are only visitors traveling through who are not home yet.
Disturbed by sin in your life. (1 John 3:9) Before conversion, a person loves sin. But after conversion they loathe sin. They are bothered of all sin because it disrupts their intimacy with God. Because of this, the true convert will be about the business of killing sin (Romans 8:12-13).
A love for other believers. (1 John 3:14) Christians are known for their love for each another. If we profess Christ and yet allow hate to fester in our heart, the sincerity of our faith in Christ should be rightly questioned.
Experienced answered prayer. (1 John 3:22) God hears the prayers of His Children and delights in granting their requests so long as they align with His will. The true believer will have a fervent prayer life marked by the fruits of their labor. James 5:16 says “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
A spirit of discernment. (1 John 4:1) The true Christian will exercise a discerning spirit. Like spiritual radar, the Holy Spirit will quickly assist the true believer to help determine good from evil. And because of the spirit’s presence in their life, they will wisely decipher right from wrong.
Awareness of the Spirit of God living within you. (1 John 4:13) The Child of God will be keenly aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. They will easily detect the Spirit’s conviction (John 16:8), comfort (John 14:16), indwelling (1 Corinthians 6:19) and leading (Acts 1:8).
What an overwhelming list! Test and see if your life is marked by these Christian attributes. If there are any areas of weakness, ask God to help you see spiritual progress as you pursue God’s Glory in every area of your life.
– Pastor Eric