What Kind Of Christian Are You? 12-ish Different Kinds of "Christian"

I find it very disheartening to read people’s opinions of Christians nowadays.  Society is coming down on them really hard, with such hateful force.  It almost makes me wonder what kind of Christian they are talking about. 

While they might not differentiate one Christian from another, I think there are various different kinds of Christians (and “Christians”).  And just for fun, I want to make a list of as many different kinds I can think of.  And I am putting it on this blog because it’s important for the world to understand what a genuine Christian is and isn’t. 

So here goes, in no particular order  (And these are not exclusive of each other.  There can be some overlap.  Nor is this an exhaustive or “official” list.) …

1.  The Nominal Christian – A Christian in name only.  They call themselves “Christian” but don’t live like it.  They believe they’ve earned a place in heaven because they prayed a prayer once, were baptized long ago, or because their parents are Christians and they grew up in the church.  (You cannot inherit Christianity.  It is a decision that each individual has to make for themselves.) 

            Or maybe they do live like Christians for the most part.  Maybe they read their Bible and pray and go to church.  But faith for them is more of a “head truth” than a “heart truth.”  These are the people who will miss heaven by about 15 inches, the distance between your head and your heart. 

            A nominal Christian might know all the words and go through all the motions of being a Christian, but the truth of the Gospel hasn’t invaded their hearts.  They never made the conscious decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior for themselves, nor are they seeking to grow to be more like Him or to understand God’s Word more deeply and thoroughly.  They think that the little bit they have done is enough.  And because they basically look and sound “Christian,” they might not even realize they are not Christian at all, that they are settling for an unauthentic version of Christianity. 

            Matthew 7:21-23:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!”

            2 Thessalonians 1:8:  “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  

            1 John 2:3-6:  “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

2.  The Pharisee/Scholarly Christian – These are educated people who think their knowledge of the Scriptures and strict “rule-following” will save them.  They religiously attend church and study the Bible and pray and check various “Christian” responsibilities off their “To Do” list” because they think their “proper” living will earn them a place in heaven.  But once again, it’s a head-thing, not a heart-thing.  They know the information and militantly cling to it and teach it and live by it, but it hasn’t gotten past their heads and into their hearts. 

            There are pastors and Christian leaders and faithful church-goers who are like this - knowing the truth in their heads for years and teaching it to others without having really met Jesus yet in a genuine, saving relationship.  They are operating by the same principle that almost all religions (except Christianity) operates by: Work hard and do the right things and be a “good person/Christian” to earn your way to heaven. 

            But that’s not Christianity. 

            Christianity is “There is no way we can work our way to heaven.  We can never be ‘good enough.’  We are sinful, and our sins deserve death.  But God wants us with Him in heaven.  So He made a way to get us there:  He sent Jesus to die in our place.  His death paid the price for our sins so that we can once again have eternal life, a relationship with God.  And all we have to do is reach out in humility and accept that gift – His sacrificial death in our place, His forgiveness, His mercy, grace, and love.  We can’t earn His gifts or eternal life (that’s “religion”) but we can accept what He’s already done for us, the gifts and the life He freely offers us all (that’s Christianity).”          

            Colossians 2:8:  “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive practices, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

            John 5:39-40:  “You [the “religious” leaders] diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

            Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

            Religion doesn’t save.  Jesus does!

3.  The Experiential Christian – These people think that spiritual experiences are proof of having the Spirit.  They are the ones who fall down shaking on the floor, laugh uncontrollably, handle snakes, talk in tongues, etc. or simply run from one spiritual high to another, believing that their spiritual life is good only when they are excited and when big things are happening.

            I think there is great danger in elevating spiritual experiences too high.  These people tend to think that obvious and dramatic spiritual experiences mean you are more spiritual, more godly, and more favored by God. 

            Yet I think that, for the most part, deep down, they are actually seeking the exciting experiences instead of seeking God.  They are pursuing the emotional highs instead of focusing on building God’s Kingdom and living a righteous, God-glorifying life. 

            And they can easily be led astray by any new, exciting experience or “spiritual movement” because they think the Spirit must be in it.  However, demons can easily mimic wonders and signs.  And these people might not even realize they are opening the door to evil and drifting off course.

            1 John 4:1:  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

            2 Corinthians 11:14:  “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

            Too much focus on emotional highs and on dramatic personal experiences is dangerous.  And they are no indication of the genuineness of our faith and the “correctness” of our beliefs.

            “Proof of the Spirit” is not in crazy, emotional, “supernatural” experiences, for even demons are supernatural.  Proof of the Spirit is in the fruit of the Spirit, in the ways that a believer lives out the truth and Christian love and reflects Christ to others and grows in holiness.

            Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

            And the Spirit is not just in those who have exciting, emotional experiences.  He is in all true believers, from the moment we choose Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

            Acts 2:38:  “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  

4.  The Patriotic Christian – They think they are Christian because they live in America, which has Christian roots and has been quite Christian, historically and compared to other countries.  To them, “I am a Christian” is synonymous with “I am an American.”  They believe that you are a “Christian” by default if you live in America and don’t really identify with anything else.

            But the truth is, we are not Christians by default.  By default, we are separated from God, on our way to hell, unless we take the path that He gave us out of hell: believing in Jesus and accepting His sacrificial death on our behalf.

            John 3:16-18:  For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already . . .”

            We are born “condemned” – separated from God.  And that’s how we will die if we do not accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us which paid the penalty we owe, making it possible for us to once again enter His presence … this time eternally.  Salvation.  Eternal life.  Heaven.

5.  The “I Believe in God” Christian – This is someone who thinks that believing in God makes them a Christian.  However, even the demons believe in God. 

            James 2:19:  “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” 

            Unfortunately, in our world “God” can be just about anything we want it to be.  So “believing in God” is not a clear, defining indicator of being a Christian.  Because not all “gods” are the same.  All faiths don’t lead to the same place.  Simply believing that there’s a “God” is not enough. 

            Believing that there is a God is not the same thing as following the God of the Bible.

            True Christianity is not just about believing that there is something bigger than us somewhere out there, that Someone must have created the universe.  It’s about believing in and following Jesus.  You can’t have one without the other.  Jesus makes all the difference.  How you view Him determines if you have “religion” (false religion, spirituality, etc.) or if you have a biblical, saving, Christian faith. 

            You can’t call yourself “Christian” (a Christ-follower) if you believe in God but refuse to believe in Jesus.

          1 John 2:22:  “Who is the liar?  It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ.” 

            Luke 12:9:  “But he who disowns me [Jesus] before men will be disowned before the angels of God.”  

            1 John 4:2-3:  “This is how you can recognize the spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”  (Notice that you have to acknowledge Jesus Christ, that Jesus is the Christ, not just that Jesus was a real person.)

            John 14:6:  “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’” 

            Acts 16:30-31:  “ ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved . . .’” 

            Acts 4:12:  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  

            John 3:16:  For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  

5.  The “Aren’t We All God’s Children” Christian – These people think we are all God’s children because He made us all, so that must mean that we are all on the right track with Him (the track to heaven) just because we are His. 

            Yes, we are all God’s creation ... but we are not all God’s children.  God’s children are those who call Him “Father,” those who have made Jesus Lord and Savior of their lives.

            1 John 4:15:  “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” 

            John 1:12:  “Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God . . .”  

6.  The “I Love Everybody So I Must Be A Christian” Christian

            Mark 12:28-31:   “ ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

            ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this . . . ‘Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 

            It is a very common teaching nowadays that “Love others” is the greatest commandment, the best way to show that we are following God.  And loving others is crucial.  It’s great.  But what we seem to forget is that “love God” comes before “love others.”  And when we put “love others” over “love God,” we base our view of God and His truths on how we want to show love to others.  And this is wrong!  We should be letting our love for God and His truth dictate how we love others.  Not the other way around.

            Many people believe that it’s not loving to call anything “sin,” and so they excuse everyone’s choices because it’s “loving” to be accepting and supportive and open-minded.  They believe it’s not loving to hold up the Bible as The Truth or Jesus as the only way to heaven.  To them, it’s much more loving to tell everyone that they are all going to heaven.

            But the most important command is not “Love others.”  It’s “Love God.”  And we cannot define who God is and what His Truth is by the ways we want to show love to others.  Our love for others needs to be based on the Word, on the Truth.  Not the other way around.

            And if I may point out one huge misunderstanding:  Loving God does not mean having warm feelings toward Him.  It does not mean simply acknowledging that there is a God.  Loving God means obeying Him, living your life the way He wants you to.

            1 John 5:3:  “This is love for God: to obey his commands. . . .” 

            John 15:10:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

            John 14:15, 23,24:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command . . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. . . . He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

            Acts 5:32:  “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Who has been given the Spirit?  Those who obey Him!)

            Oh, the things that people try to get away with by claiming that “God is love” and that all God requires of us is to “love others”!

7.  The Hate-Filled, Violent “Christian” – This is why I decided to write this post to begin with.  I read somewhere that someone said the Las Vegas shooter was a Christian, that he was at least born a Christian.  And that other people won’t accept that it’s true.

            When I read that, I thought  Wow!  You have no idea what you’re talking about!  You have no idea what a Christian really is.  The very fact that you think that we can inherit Christianity shows how little you know.  That ignorance would almost be laughable if it wasn’t so sad and so damaging to Christianity.

            For starters, no one is born a Christian.  No one is born a follower of God, in a right relationship with Him, on their way to heaven.  We are all born separated from God, on a path to eternal separation (read: hell). 

            John 3:18:  “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already . . .”

            Romans 3:23:  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

            Romans 6:23:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

            We do not inherit Christianity.  We have to make the conscious choice to accept Jesus sacrificial death in our place, which payed the penalty we owe.  And then we become a Christian.

            John 3:16:  For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  

            Acts 16:30-31:  “ ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved . . .’” 

            Romans 10:9-10, 13:  “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. . . . ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”               

            Secondly, a true Christian knows that indicators of a true Christian are love for others, growing to be more like Christ, growing in righteousness, and drawing others to the kingdom of God by living out His truth, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.  A true Christian will be steadily growing in the fruit of the Spirit. 

            Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness . . .” 

            Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

            John 13:35:  “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

            Mark 12:28-31:  “ ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

            ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this . . . ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 

            1 John 2:6:  “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

            We are to walk like Jesus. 

            And what did Jesus do?  Did He go around shooting up a bunch of people?  Did He even throw the stone at the woman who committed adultery?

            No!  Jesus loved.  Jesus forgave.  Jesus stopped others from throwing stones.  Jesus died in our place, paying a penalty He didn’t owe … so that we could live!

            1 John 3:16:  “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

            Don’t you dare try to tell me that this man who heartlessly shot up a bunch of people, who destroyed many lives in an act of pure evil, was “Christian.”  You have no idea what you are talking about!  You have no idea what “Christian” is.  So, of course, Christians won’t accept what you claim because they know better than you do what it means to be a real Christian.  You are spreading the idea that he was a Christian because it’s what you want to believe, for your own personal, political agenda!  (Just wait and see how your reasoning holds up when you stand before God and explain why you spread the idea that his actions were the actions of a Christ-follower.  Associating his actions with Christianity isn’t just slandering Christians; it’s slandering Jesus Christ.)   

            And if this man claimed to be a Christian then he didn’t even know what a Christian is.  Unfortunately, many atrocities have been committed in the name of God, by people calling themselves Christians.  And while some of them might genuinely be Christian (just too immature to understand that Christians are to spread the love of Christ, not harm others or force God’s laws on them or defend Him with violence), many more of these so-called “Christians” will stand before Him on judgment day and find out that they never really knew Him and He never really knew them. 

            Matthew 7:21-23:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!”

            Calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you Christian.  Being a Christ-follower makes you Christian.  And how you live your life will testify for you if you are a genuine believer or if you are just fooling yourself.

            1 John 4:7-8, 20:  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love … If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

            Romans 13:10:  “Love does no harm to its neighbor.”

8. The “Grace is a License to Sin” Christian – Sometimes, this person is a Christian but hasn’t yet grasped the truth that forgiveness doesn’t give us a license to keep sinning, but it’s why we should want to stop sinning and to grow to be more like Jesus.  Out of thankfulness for what He’s done for us and the desire to share that grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness with others.

            But other times, this person isn’t even a real Christian.  They are simply convincing themselves that they have been forgiven (are on their way to heaven) while being able to live however they want.  They think they can get the rewards with none of the responsibility or accountability. 

            But a genuine believer will continue to feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction and will eventually want to get back on the right track with God.  A non-believer won’t care.

            John 14:15:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

            Romans 5:20, 6:1-2:  “… But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, … What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

            1 John 3:8-9:  “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

            This isn’t saying that genuine Christians will never sin again, but that we will not deliberately and unrepentantly continue in a life of sin.  Because “God’s seed” is in all true believers.  The Holy Spirit will challenge us and create in us a desire to grow to be more like Christ.  We will feel guilty when we sin and convicted until we get back on track with God. 

            A non-believer or a “fake Christian” will not feel this conviction or this guilt or this desire for righteousness because the Holy Spirit is not in them to convict them, challenge them, and guide them into righteousness.

9.  The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (The Fake Christian) – This is someone who calls themselves “Christian” yet they deny basic, non-negotiable Scriptural truths.  They are calculated and deliberate in changing Scripture into what they want it to be.  They water down the message or cut out the parts that they don’t like in order to please themselves, to impress or placate society, to be popular, etc.  They want the rewards without any responsibility or accountability.  So they basically create their own version of “Christianity.” 

            This allows them to pursue the lifestyle they want and to spread un-scriptural ideas without guilt.  They convince themselves that they are being the kind of Christian God wants them to be, even if it looks almost nothing like the kind of life God calls us to in the Bible.

            Society usually likes this kind of “Christian” because it tells them what they want to hear and makes them feel comfortable about their sins, instead of convicted.

            2 Timothy 4: 3-4:  “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 


10.  The Ex-Christian – They tried Christianity, didn’t like it, and gave it up.  They believe they were once a “real Christian” but now they are not.  They believe that they are now “in-the-know,” that they know what it felt like to be a real Christian and had good reasons to reject it.  And so they think their “non-Christian” status is justifiable - because they gave Christianity a try and found it lacking. 

            Yet anyone who is truly a Christian will stay a Christian because the Holy Spirit lives in them and will continue to convict them.  But if they have truly walked away from the faith then they never really had real faith.  They never really had the Holy Spirit.

            1 John 2:19:  “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 

            So while they might think they are “in-the-know,” they never really knew real faith.  They rejected Christianity because they wanted to, for one reason or other.  Or they rejected what they thought was Christianity, but it was really something more like “religion.”  Either way, they were never filled with the Sprit, no matter how vibrant, exciting, and emotional their former “Christian” life might have been, no matter how real it felt to them at the time. 

11.  The Stagnating/Back-Sliding Christian – This is a genuine Christian who is currently failing to live like it, for any number of reasons.  Usually they got off-track somewhere along the way and began slowly drifting away from the Lord and into a life of sin.  To others, they might not even look like a Christian anymore.  

            Yet unlike the Ex-Christian or Fake Christian, they will feel convicted by their lifestyle.  They might be running from the conviction or trying to stuff/ignore the discomfort and guilt they feel, but it will be there, deep down, gnawing away at their peace and joy.

            A person can spend years like this – running from God – before they finally admit their waywardness and return to Him.  But no matter how far or how fast they run, He will pursue them and convict them.  (Or He might withdraw His presence from them, handing them over to their own sinfulness, so that they can finally see how far they have drifted from Him.)

            This is the prodigal son, the one who ran off to live his life the way he wanted but who woke up one day and realized that he wanted to return to the father. 

            Luke 15:17-20:  “When he [the son] came to his senses, he said ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’  So he got up and went to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

            God’s harshest words and strongest condemnations were for the “religious elite,” the “spiritual snobs” who thought they could earn heaven by their righteous acts and who thought they were better than all the sinners out there.

            But God has a soft spot for the sinners, for anyone who will admit to their sinfulness and their need for Him.  He never has harsh words for hurting, broken people who reach out to Him – even if they had been running from Him and living in sin.  He only has love and compassion for them.  And He comes running to them the moment they take a step back toward Him. 

            If you are the prodigal son, it’s time to return to the Father!      


12.  The Genuine Christian – When I say I am a Christian, I mean I am a “Jesus Christ-following, Bible-believing, Bible-living, Standing-Firmly-On-The-Truth-Yet-Loving-Other-People-And-Respecting-Their-Right-To-Make-Their-Own-Decisions” Christian.  (It’s sad that we have to clarify carefully what kind of Christian we are nowadays.  But there are so many misconceptions about what a Christian is that it’s necessary.) 

            However, even among genuine Christians there is a lot of variation.  Not all Christians look and act the same.  Some are very vocal and political and pushy; some are quiet and keep to themselves and stay out of politics.  Some are kind and gentle, and some are blunt and abrasive.  Some will have huge lists of “Christian” rules to follow and to push on others, and some will have short lists for themselves and will not push it on others.  Some are full of joy, and some are full of fear or anger or shame.

            All Christians are still human.  We all struggle with sin, whether it be pride, jealousy, fear, lust, greed, etc.  We will hurt others sometimes.  We will say or do the wrong thing.  We will struggle with how to understand and apply God’s Word to our lives, with how to live it in the world.  We will break down sometimes.  We will fail sometimes. 

              Christianity is not a destination, it’s a journey.  It’s growing in faith and love and grace and compassion and truth, etc.  We are not perfect, but we know it and we seek forgiveness for it and we strive to be better, to grow to be more like Christ, and we run to Him for help, healing, and strength because we know that we can’t do it on our own, that we need Him.

            I hope that by sharing this list, people might begin to think a little more critically about who they are talking about when they refer to “those Christians.”  And I hope that it might draw some of you to genuine Christianity.  It makes sense that so many would reject Christianity when they don’t even have a clear picture of what a true Christian is and what the Bible really says.  I hope that this list might change that.

(Reposted from my other blog.)

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