There is a danger in pointing out some of the characteristics of “almost Christians”. Real believers, who have sensitive consciences will start to wonder if they really are believers at all. The purpose of this is not to make real Christians doubt. But one of the things that is an indication of real faith in Jesus Christ is taking self examination seriously. Almost Christians do not wrestle with doubts. They know they are in good with God. It is not great faith, or large faith or gifted faith or sinless faith… that brings a person into being saved from sin – it is simple faith in Jesus. It is the faith of a child. It is simply trusting Jesus to do for you what you have come to see you cannot do for yourself.
But there is also a very real danger of not raising the issue of almost Christianity. Those who are merely almost Christians will never be prodded to investigate whether they are the real thing. Faith can be counterfeited. We see all kinds of examples of that throughout the Scriptures and Lord willing we are going to look at a few of them.
What are some of the marks of the Almost Christian?
1 – Knowledge of the Scriptures but no knowledge of God.
The devil himself quotes the Scriptures for his own purposes. He even use the Bible in his attempts to make Jesus sin.
2 Peter 3:14-16 – Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,  as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
The Word of God is a great treasure, a marvel too great to describe – through it we come to know our natural state, our need for Christ, the way of salvation and how to live a God honouring life. In it we find hope to carry on, solutions to our problems, answers to our questions. The Bible is a marvel, but knowing it is not faith in Jesus Christ.
2 – Giftedness but no true gift of faith
Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
These people in Matthew 7 are not lying here. They really did those incredible things. It is beyond the power of the greatest gifts to change the heart; a man may preach like an apostle, pray like an angel, and still have the heart of a devil. It is grace only that can change the heart; the greatest gifts cannot change it, but the least grace can; gifts may make a man a scholar, but grace makes a man a believer. God may have greatly gifted you. But there is a gift you need yet if you want to have eternal life – the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.
3 – Words of loyalty to Christ yet no words of faith coming from a heart for Christ.
Matthew 15:8 – ” ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
You sing. You pray. You hear the Word of God. You speak truth regarding Christ. Do you know that you can do all that and still not know Christ?
4 – Much busyness in the things of God but no resting in the grace of God
No one is in our church building more than I am. And if the question God should ask me when I stand before Him is “how much time did you spend in the church”, I’m in and I’ll have a seat right next to Christ. But that is not the question He will ask me. It is not the requirement. In fact, being so busy in a church can be the very thing that keeps people out of a true knowledge of Christ.
5 – Remorse for sin and not true repentance
2 Cor. 7:10 – For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.Matthew 27:3-4 – Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,  saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”
Repentance is not a matter of feeling bad about the bad things we do. It is a matter of turning away from sin by hanging on to Jesus, trusting Him and not ourselves.
6 – A shallow delight in the Word of the Gospel based on its joys
Matthew 13:20-21 – As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
A faith that will not stay true when the promised difficulties and oppositions come is not saving faith.
7 – A lesser love for the Gospel than the gifts of the world
Matthew 13:22 – As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
We see this in people who say they are Christians because it gives them acceptance in a community, or use of their gifts, or relief from some of the problems that assault them. But when serving Christ means the loss of those things – poof, they’re gone. And there are plenty of them.
8 – Religious fervour without true Gospel knowledge
Romans 10:2 – I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
They like exciting worship, so they come. Or they like exciting worship, so they leave. They want to be involved in great exciting things, things that are moving ahead, things that stir the emotions, get the blood pumping … . But they have no use for taking up crosses, hating father and mother, living the godliness that brings persecution … . They are excited about Christianity, not Christ. They are excited about Christianity the same way sports fans are excited about their team, or the employee is about a raise, or the teacher is when a student really gets it. All kinds of things that stir the soul – but let us not confuse them with saving faith.
9 – Trust in an event rather than Christ
If someone asks you when you were saved and you tell them about the night your mother knelt down by the bed with you and explained the Gospel, or you tell them about going to an evangelistic service and responding to the call of the Gospel, that really is great stuff. We need to hear the stories about how God worked to bring people to faith in Christ. But if someone asks you how you know you are a believer today and have eternal life now and you tell them about something that happened some time ago, there just might be a problem. How do you know you are a believer in Jesus Christ? Because you can remember getting really moved at a meeting in 1998? Because you signed a card? Because you walked to the front of a church thirty years ago? Are you trusting Him?
Philip. 3:13-16 – Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained
10 – Faith in one’s church or tradition
My church preaches the Bible. My church is pro-life, pro-marriage, socially active. Great. Trust your church. God will be very impressed. Saving faith however is a matter of trusting Christ.
11 – Hatred of Sin
Well, we certainly shouldn’t love sin. But there are those who hate sins and yet do not repent of sin. They think that because they hate child molesters, rapists, murderers … that means they have a superior morality. No – they have a morality that won’t abuse children, rape people … . But it does not mean that they see their sins as needing to be turned from.
Well, that is just a sample of some of the characteristics of almost Christians. But what is a true believer?
A true believer is one who trusts Christ alone and does not think that his faith is something that earns him points. He knows that his faith is a response to what God has done in Christ, not a matter of climbing up to God.
A Christian is one who gives up everything to follow Jesus but knows that giving everything up is not a matter of earning points with God, but an act of devotion to him for all He has done.
A Christian is one who prays but does not see prayer as forcing God to treat him well, but that it is an act of utter dependence on the God who owns everything and gives to those who ask.
In all these things we note this. A real believer is one who trusts Christ to do for him what he knows he cannot do for himself – deal with his sin. He is one who has no righteousness of his own but who has the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to Him because of his faith so that He is found acceptable, not because of anything in him but because Jesus has met all the righteous requirements of a holy God for him.