Are You A Real Christian or An “Almost” A Christian?
On February 26, 1993, a powerful bomb exploded in the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand. It sparked an aggressive investigation with many arrests. But few law enforcement authorities recognized it as part of an international terrorist plot.
When terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center towers in 2001, police commissioner Raymond Kelly looked back on the first attack and said, “It should have been a wake-up call for America.”
There is a more severe wake-up call issued by the Lord Jesus himself through a parable in Matthew 25:1–13 in which he asks every professing Christian an earnest and soul-searching question, “Are you a real Christian or an almost a Christian?” And as we look at the passage, may we take to heart the seriousness of this question and respond appropriately.
I. Parable Explained.
A parable is a story based on an everyday life situation designed to teach spiritual truths. This parable is about a bridegroom coming to marry his bride and take her home to be with him. According to the day’s custom, the bridesmaids would greet the bridegroom and escort him to the bride’s house. Since the bridegroom could come even at night, the bridesmaids would have to carry lamps to provide light.
In this particular story, the bridegroom showed up at midnight. There were a total of ten bridesmaids waiting to escort him. Five of them had lamps with oil, and the other five had lamps—but no oil to light them. The ones with the oil went to the wedding party with the bridegroom. However, the rest were not allowed into the wedding party—despite their pleading.
The Bridegroom in the parable represents Jesus. The wise virgins [bridesmaids] who had the oil represent true Christians ready to meet Jesus. The five foolish virgins who did not have oil represent false Christians who are not prepared to meet Christ and are in danger of being shut out of heaven.
The main point of the parable is summarized in verse 13, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Stated otherwise, “Be prepared to meet the Lord this very day. For the time is coming when it will be impossible to obtain forgiveness for sins. There will be no second opportunities for entering into heaven once you leave this earth.”
II. Parable Applied.
As we look at the parable, we can draw 3 applicational truths.
Truth #1. One can outwardly profess Christ and yet never inwardly possess him.
There were many similarities between the wise virgins and the foolish virgins. Both took lamps and were waiting to meet the bridegroom [Matt 25:1]. The foolish virgins were not in opposition to the bridegroom’s coming. They seemed to await his arrival.
Similarly, many who profess to be Christians also claim that they are looking forward to the coming of Jesus—but are not rightly prepared to meet him. As the bridegroom delayed his arrival, both the wise and foolish virgins fell asleep.
The wise virgins were sleeping with a sense of security. They represent true believers who possess genuine security because of having the right relationship with Christ.
The foolish virgins also seemed to be sleeping with a sense of security. They, however, represent false believers who possess false security as a result of a deceived heart. They thought they were ready for Christ because they went to Church, did some outward “Christian” activities, and hung around other Christians. The sad reality is that they never truly repented of their sins and thus never experienced new birth in Christ.
Several characteristics mark the life of false Christians.
a. Their view of God is wrong. God is all love and nothing but love. He will never cast me out. When I stand before him, I can convince him to let me inside heaven. That was the view of the foolish virgins as evidenced by their desperate cries, “Lord, Lord…open the door for us” [Matt 25:11].
While God is love, he is not love only. He is also equally holy and just. He has promised in his Word to punish those who have not trusted in his Son [John 3:18]. For God to do anything contrary to his Word would make him a liar—and that’s an impossibility!
b. Their view of sin is wrong. False Christians equate conviction over sin as genuine conversion. While conviction does come before true conversion, it is also possible to have a sense of conviction without genuine conversion.
Judas, Felix, and Esau had conviction over their sins but were never saved [Matt 27:3-5; Acts 24:25; Heb 12:16-17]. Simply feeling bad over sin is not proof that one is a Christian. Unless that sorrow leads one to turn from sin and cast themselves at the feet of Jesus for mercy, it is a false sorrow that only leads to eternal destruction [2 Cor 7:9-10].
c. Their view of the world is wrong. False Christians are marked by a relentless love for the world and its pleasures. They do not realize that being in the world is not what Jesus condemns [John 17:15]. Instead, the world being in them is what he condemns!
Despite being aware of 1 John 2:15, which so clearly says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them,” they direct their entire lives to worldly desires. And if they are not busy pursuing worldly things, they are busy dreaming about them! Somehow they think they are the only exceptions to the command, “You cannot serve both God and money” [Matt 6:24]. How deceived they are!
d. Their view of loving others is wrong. A selective love toward others characterizes false Christians—they love only those that love them. It is amazing and sad to see many professing Christians exhibit deep bitterness toward others for years together. It could be towards their spouse, family members, other Church members, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Their general thinking is: “I generally love others. It is only so and so that I can’t love. After all, they have hurt me much.”
However, Scripture clearly says that hatred ought not to be the characteristic of one claiming to be a Christian. 1 John 4:20-21 says, “20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 3:13-15 and 1 John 4:7-8 stress the same theme as well.
So, it is possible to outwardly profess Christ and never inwardly possess him like the five foolish virgins. That’s why we all need to examine our lives to see if we are mere professors or truly possessors of eternal life.
Truth #2. Salvation cannot be transferred or shared.
As the bridegroom came, the foolish virgins realized that they had no oil for their lamps. They immediately asked the wise virgins, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out,” who in turn responded, “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves'” [Matt 25:8-9].
By the time they could go and purchase the oil for themselves, it was too late. The wedding party went in, “and the door was shut” [Matt 25:10]. The foolish virgins could not get in based on the readiness of the wise virgins. They had to be individually ready for the bridegroom. In other words, salvation is an individual transaction between the sinner and the Lord. It cannot be transferred or shared—one has to be personally ready to meet the Lord.
Many professing Christians are like these foolish virgins. They think God will let them into heaven based on what Church they belong to or their parents being Christian, or their spouse being Christian. Jesus himself warns such self-deceived people very clearly with these words, “unless you repent, you too will all perish” [Luke 13:3]. His words in John 3:3 further affirm that salvation is a personal experience, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
Let’s examine our lives. Do we think we will enter heaven because we belong to a particular church, have Christian parents, or feel better than most? If so, we are deceived. Unless we experience conviction over our sins, repent and turn to Christ for deliverance on a personal basis, we are not saved.
Truth #3. Christian faith calls for life-long perseverance.
Even though the bridegroom delayed his coming, the wise virgins were ready for his any-moment arrival. Even though it was at an unexpected time, “midnight” [v. 6] when the bridegroom arrived, they were still ready. This shows that the Christian is to persevere in the faith till the end.
Christ is not calling us to exhibit a “once-in-a-while” or “whenever-it-is-convenient” type of obedience. When we turn to Christ, it is a life-long commitment to following him—even if it costs us our very life.
Sadly, there are many today who view Christ and his offer of salvation as nothing more than a “hell-insurance” policy—a ticket to heaven that comes with nothing but material blessings! No wonder the prosperity gospel has such an appeal to our generation! The message of self-denial, cross-carrying, is not very popular even in many “churches” today. However, that was and is still Jesus’ message!
Jesus commands us to “enter through the narrow gate” because “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” and “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life” [Matt 7:13-14]. Notice not only is the entrance narrow, but the Christian road is also narrow. The entire Christian life is a challenging life that calls for life-long perseverance.
True Christians understand the cost of following Jesus. They understand the cost of following him, in the long run, is far less compared to the cost of not following him. That is why they persevere despite the relentless battles with sin, Satan, and the world. Even when they sin, they turn back in true repentance. They do not remain comfortable in sin, knowing that sin grieves their Lord, who died on the cross for their sins. The very thought of cherishing and staying in the sin for which their Savior paid such a terrible price is an abject horror to them!
Please don’t misunderstand; I am not saying that one gets saved because they persevere. I fully adhere to the biblical truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone [John 6:47; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5]. One does not get saved by persevering in the faith. Perseverance is not the cause of salvation. Instead, it is the result of genuine salvation!
Let’s examine our lives. Are we the kind of Christians who persevere—even when the situation is challenging?
Today, many who profess Christianity ask, “How close to the world can I get and still be a Christian?” Jesus clearly shows just how close one can get to him and still NOT be a Christian. It is easy to be “Almost a Christian.” It does not cost a person much—now!
However, it will cost one everything—in the life that is to come. How tragic it would be on that day of judgment to find out there is a vast difference between being a real Christian and almost a Christian. The difference is as vast as heaven and hell.
Let’s be warned: To be almost saved is to be certainly lost! How correct is the statement, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” May these words not be the description of any one of us.
The foolish virgins found out too late. Please don’t put yourself in a similar position. If you have never done so, turn from your sins, ask Jesus to forgive you, and make you his follower right now. He will respond immediately. He will give his Holy Spirit to come and live inside of you. And the Holy Spirit will help you live the life you cannot live on your own. And by your persevering life, you, too, can be sure you are a true Christian!