When I was in middle school, it was considered one of the biggest offenses to be told that you were a “poser.” This would imply that you’re trying to be someone you weren’t in an effort to impress others. For example—if a guy claimed he was a jock and even dressed one, but he had zero athletic skills, then he was a poser. Perhaps he wanted the attention from girls that being a jock could attract. Sadly, “posers” aren’t just found in middle school; there are some who have crept into today’s church, pretending to be a Christian. So what exactly are fake Christians, and how do we know when we see one?
What Is a Fake Christian?
The term “fake Christian” may bring to your mind an image of someone who is a hypocrite. Although there are plenty of hypocritical Christians, we need to break this term down in order to accurately define what it means.
We know that the word fake suggests inauthenticity. Counterfeits.
With these two definitions in mind, we can define a fake Christian as being one who has not genuinely been born again, and yet they put on the persona as though they have.
Perhaps this person chose to wear the Christian title so they could profit off that reputation (similar to those jock posers back in middle school). All of us have likely, at one time or another, attempted to fit in with a certain crowd. If an unbeliever discovered they could gain a certain kind of acceptance through “fitting in” with a church crowd or Christian industry, they may have preferred to wear a church mask rather than actually accepting Christ into their heart.
But if someone wanted the acceptance, or the benefits, that come from being a Christian, why wouldn’t they—you know, actually become a Christian? One reason is that they may not believe in the message of the cross. 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”
Another reason is that, while they may relish in their false Christian appearance, they are ultimately not willing to dedicate their hearts and lives to God. Being a true Christian would involve sacrificing their ungodly lifestyle—or else they’d continue that lifestyle and live with the guilt. The enemy is a deceiver, and he attempts to make Christianity look like bondage to unbelievers so they will choose to remain “free” to live for him instead.
To summarize, fake Christians are those who have chosen a saved appearance rather than a saved heart. They care more about their status through the eyes of the church, their family, or a Christian industry rather than their status through the eyes of God.
What Is an Authentic Christian?
An authentic Christian, on the other hand, is one who has accepted Christ as his or her Savior. The light of the Holy Spirit abides within this person. Matthew 7:20 provides an indication of how we can identify an authentic Christian: “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
The speech and actions of these authentic Christians overflow with fruit of the Spirit, because Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
This doesn’t mean that these authentic Christians do not commit sin; after all, Jesus is the only sinless human who walked the earth (1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5, Hebrews 4:15). Rather, when true believers commit sin, they are convicted by the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8) and live a life of repentance. They are set free from living in bondage to sin and have been purified by the blood of the Lamb.
Because believers know that we will someday give an account for the way we lived our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10), authentic Christians strive to serve God and obey His Word. They understand that God’s opinion carries more weight than man’s because Galatians 1:10 reminds us, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
What Is the Difference between a Fake Christian and a Wayward Christian?
Thankfully, our salvation is not determined by works but by faith (Galatians 2:21). Otherwise, no one would be worthy enough to stand before God in eternity!
There are those within the church who have genuinely accepted Christ as their Savior and once committed their lives to Him but have since strayed from following His Word. Perhaps this Christian goes to church weekly, prays occasionally, and even loves God—but their love for Him is not reflected in the way they live, speak, or make daily decisions.
Does Scripture Address the Idea of Fake Christians?
Scripture makes it clear that there are those who will call themselves Christians on earth, but when they reach eternity, their hearts and true intentions will be revealed.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
Remember Judas Iscariot? He was once considered an apostle of Jesus, but his true motives were soon revealed. When he betrayed Jesus, it was proven that he was more interested in what he could gain from Jesus rather than how he could serve him. It is believed that Judas had a financial intention behind betraying Jesus (see Matthew 26:14-15).
Sadly, there are still many Judas Iscariots within the church today—people who perform like a Christ-follower and may even be well-versed in “Christianese,” and yet their motives are purely for fleshly gain rather than spiritual gain.