By Judy Nichols

May 29, 2016


Years ago a couple in our church had identical twin sons. I could never tell them apart. Then someone told me that one of them had a mole and that was how you could know who was who. Unfortunately, since they were typical active little boys, I never had the opportunity to scrutinize them side by side to find the mole, so I always just said, "Hi" without adding a name. Now that they’re grown, of course, it’s easy to tell them apart since they wear different hair styles and one wears glasses and the other doesn’t.

So how does one tell a Christian from a non-Christian? What are the distinguishing marks? It’s tempting to look at behavior as the benchmark, but that would be a mistake. There are plenty of non-believers who are very good people. And Christians are just as capable of misbehavior as anyone else.

Let me trace a bit of history to shed light on it. After the Israelites left Egypt, they traveled to Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. While Moses was up on the mountain (forty days and forty nights) receiving them, the people lost focus, got tired of waiting, and made a golden calf to worship as their god. God said He would not go with them any longer because they were an obstinate people and He might destroy them on the way. (See Exodus 32 for the full story.)

But Moses interceded on their behalf. "If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that [we] have found favor in Your sight? Is it not by Your going with us, so that [we] may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?" (Exod. 33:15-16.) God’s presence with them was to be the mark of God’s favor, of their being His people.

Later, when Moses reiterated the law prior to their entering the Promised Land, he said, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you . . . you shall listen to him." Both Peter and Stephen declared that this Scripture was referring to Jesus (Acts 3:22, 7:37). We know that God was pleased with His Son because He said so both at His baptism (Matt. 3:17) and again at the transfiguration. "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him" (Matt. 17:5).

Isaiah foretold the virgin birth, saying the name of the child would be "Immanuel," which Matthew affirmed, noting that it means "God with us" (Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23). Before He was betrayed, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them a Helper, the Holy Spirit who would be with them forever (John 14:16-17). It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that is the distinguishing mark of the believer.

We may and do misbehave, but the difference is that, because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, we can repent, be forgiven, and move on to greater godliness. That’s a whole lot different from trying to find a mole on an active kid.

© Judy Nichols 2016

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