There is no greater impediment to the progress of the gospel than Christians who live hypocritical lives. The world can sympathize and be forgiving when it comes to the errors which we sometimes succumb to because of our humanity. After all, we all make mistakes. Yet, what the world cannot tolerate is preaching from a person who has no credibility because of a lifestyle that goes directly against the message preached.
God has ordained things to work so that the lost see Jesus Christ and believe His testimony to be credible when we live our lives as if Christ is truly alive and at work in our hearts. So then, if we claim to be Christians and yet fail to let Christ rule in our hearts, we blind people from seeing Him. Our testimony is a very serious matter because it is a powerful influence in pointing someone toward or away from Jesus Christ and salvation.
The Bible gives us several identifying marks which all Christians should possess and live out. The first is love. John 13:34-35 says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." We must love all people, even those who irritate us to no end, who curse our God, and those who would like nothing more than to see us suffer. No matter what, we must be kindhearted and care for the well-being of others, even ahead of our own well being at times.
In a world devoted to self-seeking and where love has grown cold, this surely makes believers stand out.
A second identifying mark is unity. John 17:21 says, "That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." If the world can see a unified family, a unified church, or a unified body of believers, then they we can have hope that they can believe that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah sent from God to redeem the world from its sin.
The world understands division, destruction, and an "every man for himself" mentality. But to see a group of people live with kindness and gentleness toward one another, even when they have nothing to gain from doing so, that friends, is a sign from heaven that Jesus Christ is indwelling in these people.
A third mark is holiness. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."
A consistent and God-honoring lifestyle is necessary for true love to be manifested, to be seen, and to accomplish its powerful witnessing work. If we live like the world, how can the world see Jesus in us? We must obey Romans 12:9 which says, "Let love be without hypocrisy."
A fourth mark is good works. Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Christians might have love in their hearts and be walking in obedience, but if they are not putting their love into action, the world is not getting a chance to see Christ. A precious old saint of God once told me that Jesus clarified discipleship plainly in John 13:35 when he said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." The tiny word "to" changes everything for the believer. Believers realize it is not enough to have love "for" someone. Jesus is only glorified when we transfer that love from us "to" the person in need.
When love is acted out in good works toward others, the world can see and praise God in heaven. The church should be known for its pure and undefiled religion, going to those in need and seeking to meet their needs (James 1:27).
Finally, a fifth mark is our hope. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."
The world should be able to see the hope which we have no matter what circumstances we face to the extent that it makes them ask us how we could have such a hope despite what is going on in our lives or around us. Whether things are good or bad, it should be obvious to all that we still believe that God loves us and that God is on the throne.
As we live out these identifying marks, the world will have to take notice. Regardless of the situations we face, it is by God's design that the gospel is advanced through His people, and therefore His people must provide evidence to the message preached by how they live their lives. Jesus Christ needs to shine brightly through us every day from today forward for the sake of the testimony of our Savior.
We will bear marks of Christianity, but come to think of it, Jesus bore marks. He bore them for our forgiveness. He bore marks to redeem us and bring us to a place where the world can see Him in us. His marks were painful, His marks were marks that we should have born. And yet, we can bear the marks of salvation, the marks of servitude, the marks of Christianity and through our marks His are not in vain.