King James Bible
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How to Know if You Are a Real Christian
by Jonathan Edwards
"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe
that and shudder." James 2:19
How do you know if you belong to God? We see in these words what some
people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some
people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as
some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership
to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism programme in
common use that asks people certain questions. One of the questions is, "Suppose
you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?" A very common
response is, "I believe in God." Apparently the apostle James knew people who
said the same thing: I know I am in God's favor, because I know these religious
Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good,
but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn't believe in God;
and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had
the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them
of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a
person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God! Certainly this would
make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the
One God is only the start of good things because "anyone who comes to him must
believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb.
However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is
definitely not proof that a person is saved. What he means is this: "You say you
are a Christian and you are in God's favor. You think God will let you into
heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all,
because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell." The
demons believe in God, you can be sure of that! They not only believe that He
exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth,
who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them.
This is the reason the demons "shudder" or tremble they know God more
clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in
the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God's
grace in our hearts.
This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have,
or find within themselves, something of God's saving grace proof they would go
to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The Bible makes it
clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not
take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of
salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.
This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like.
They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The
devil is perfectly wicked. "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to
carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding
to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native
language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) "He who does what is
sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (1
John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of
darkness, and so on. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)
So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead
to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and
religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their
minds may make impressions in their hearts, indeed we do see that the demons
have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they "shudder." But
they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the
Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the
experience of men.
Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful
these thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a
way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God's existence is more
concrete than any man's knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle
with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one
occasion Jesus cast out some demons. "What do you want with us, Son of God?"
they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"
What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However,
while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.
Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn't make their
thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows
they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly that Jesus
will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere,
and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of
God's grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal
punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will
suffer in the same way.
We may make several conclusions based on these truths. First, that no
matter how much people may know about God and the Bible, it is no sure sign of
salvation. The devil before his fall, was one of the bright and morning stars, a
flame of fire, one excelling in strength and wisdom. (Isa. 14:12, Ezek. 28:12-19)
Apparently, as one of the chief angels, Satan knew much about God. Now that he
is fallen, his sin has not destroyed his memories from before. Sin does destroy the
spiritual nature, but not the natural abilities, such as memory. That the fallen
angels do have many natural abilities may be seen from many Bible verses, for
example Eph 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the
rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against
the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
In the same way, the Bible says
that Satan is "more crafty" than other created beings. (Gen 3:1, also 2 Cor. 11:3,
Acts 13:10) Therefore we can see that the Devil has always had great mental
ability and is able to know much about God, the visible and invisible world, and
many other things. Since his job in the beginning was to be a chief angel before
God, it is only natural that understanding these things has always been of first
importance to him, and that all his activities have to do with these areas of
thoughts, feelings, and knowledge.
Because it was his original employment to be one of the angels before the
very face of God, and sin does not destroy the memory, it is clear that Satan
knows more about God than just about any other created being. After the fall, we
can see from his activities as a tempter, etc., (Matt 4:3) that he has been spending
his time increasing his knowledge and its practical applications. That his
knowledge is great can be seen in how tricky he is when tempting people. The
craftiness of his lies shows how clever he is. Surely he could not manage his
deceit so well without an actual and true knowledge of the facts.
This knowledge of God and his works is from the very beginning. Satan
was there from the Creation, as Job 38:4-7 shows: "Where were you when I laid
the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. . .while the morning stars sang
together and all the angels shouted for joy?" So he must know much about the
way God created the world, and how He governs all the events in the universe.
Furthermore, Satan has seen how God has worked his plan of redemption in the
world; and not as an innocent bystander, but as an active enemy of God's grace.
He saw God work in the lives of Adam and Eve, in Noah, Abraham, and David.
He must have taken a special interest in the life of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of
men, the Word of God incarnate. How closely did he watch Christ? How carefully
did he observe his miracles and listen to His words? This is because Satan has set
himself against Christ's work, and it is to his torment and anguish that Satan has
watched Christ's work unfold successfully.
Satan, then, knows much about God and God's work. He knows heaven
first-hand. He knows hell also, with personal knowledge as its first resident, and
has experienced its torments for all these thousands of years. He must have a great
knowledge of the Bible: at the least, we can see he knew enough to try tempting
our Saviour. Furthermore, he has had years of studying of the hearts of men, his
battlefield where he fights against our Redeemer. What labours, exertions, and
cares the Devil has used over the centuries as he has deceived men. Only a being
with his knowledge and experience of God's working, and the human heart, could
so imitate true religion and transform himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)