In the early days of Christianity, persecution was a real threat to believers. For those who had been Jews or Gentiles, to live for Christ and share the story of Christ wasn't the safest thing one could choose to do, especially in the days of Emperor Nero who took great joy in persecuting Christians. Believers took great risks – faced humiliation, torture, even death. It would have been easy under all the pressure to just melt back into society and avoid the hostility. Thank goodness, many stayed the course despite the high price they had to pay – and thus ensured the survival of Christianity down through the centuries. These were no fake Christians (after all, who would want to fake faith / belief in Christ knowing the consequences) – they were the real deal – they were all in – committed to the end.
Christians in America live under different conditions today – though our faith might be under attack at times, we're still free to be Christians, to worship, to share our faith without the threat of physical harm or death. Yet instead of thriving and expanding influence, Christianity in America is having less and less influence on culture and society. In fact, the culture seems to be having a greater impact on Christianity than the other way around. Without the threat of persecution, a lot of people who claim to be Christian are Christian in name only – there's no threat to calling yourself a Christian, no price to be paid, so it's easy to claim to be a Christian without showing any evidence of being a Christian. So what differentiates fake Christians and "real deal" Christians? It comes down to lifestyle, priorities, deeds, action – there should be visible evidence. The Book of James is clear: faith without deeds is dead faith. Are you a "real deal" Christian – are you fit to carry the cross of selflessness, sacrifice, and service?