Summary: Love is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

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Title: The Christian’s Litmus Test I

Text: I John 4:7-21

Thesis: Love is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

(Part 1 - This week I will speak on the love of God for us and next week we will look at Our love for others.)


I am not a scientist but I do remember learning about testing the acidity and/or alkalinity/basicity of a solution with litmus paper. If you were testing for acidity you would apply a drop of the solution to a piece of blue litmus paper and if it turned red the solution was acidic. If you were testing for alkalinity/basicity you would apply a drop of the solution to a piece of red litmus paper and if the paper turned blue the solution was basic.

The term, litmus test, is a scientific term but has become widely applied as a test in which a single factor is decisive. The test has nothing to do with litmus paper but simply the asking of a make or break, deciding question. For example, when a father learns his daughter wants to marry a handsome young man the father might ask, “Does he have a job?” And if the young man does not have promising prospects… no job is a deciding in his acceptability as a future husband for his daughter.

Last October Republican Presidential candidate, Herman Cain, remarked that abortion ought to be “a choice that the family or mother has to make.” That comment forced Mr. Cain to spend a week attempting to shore up his anti-abortion credentials… an effort that included endorsing a Constitutional amendment to bad abortion.

The Washington Post article commented, “To be sure, politicians do not always line up perfectly with their parties on abortion issues: there is a notable contingent of

“pro-life Democrats” who oppose access to abortion. But as far as presidential elections go, abortion has become a key dividing issue and a litmus test that candidates must pass.” (Sarah Kliff, How abortion became a political litmus test,” The Washington Post, October 24, 2011)

Religion and race may be a litmus test for some voters. Some refused to vote for JFK and some determined to vote for him because of his Catholic faith. Some will not vote for Romney because he is a Mormon and others will vote for him because he is Mormon. Some refused to vote for President Obama because he is black while others voted for him because he is black.

If there was a litmus test that determined if a person is a Christian or not, what would that single decisive factor be? I like the way Bryan Wilkerson breaks down our understanding of the defining factors in the Christian life as a series of tests.

Is the Litmus Test Doctrinal?

Some might say, “The single litmus test to determine if a person is a Christian or not is the doctrinal test.” Does a person believe right? Does that person believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, died of our sins, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven? Does a person believe that someday Jesus will come again bringing with him the souls of deceased believers. On that day all who are dead in Christ will bodily rise from their graves meeting the Lord in the clouds where they are reunited with their spirits and spend eternity with the Lord? Does the Christian believe that those who are living at that time will also rise to meet the Lord and then spend eternity with the Lord as well? Does that person confess their sins and have they invited Jesus to come into their life? Is what a person believes the litmus test of the reality of his or her Christianity?

Is the Litmus Test ethical or moral or behavioral?

Some might say, “The single litmus test to determine if a person is a Christian or not is the ethical test.” James put it, “If you say you have faith but do not show it by your actions, what good is that? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” James 2:14-20 So then does a person have to live right? Does that person live a holy life? Is that person’s life marked by a sincere desire and determined effort to be holy even as God is holy? Does that person live a life separate from the world avoiding the appearance of evil? Does that person demonstrate the reality of his Christian faith by living a life of obedience to Christ?

In his argument in support of a behaving faith over a believing faith James said, “You believe there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this…” James 2:19 In the mind of that person you can believe until the Mississippi runs dry but if you don’t live right your faith is in vain.

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