One of the questions that Christians often ask each other or think to themselves is this; “is so and so saved?” There are a whole host of reasons why we would ask such a question, but at the heart of the question is a concern for that particular person’s eternal destiny. As we dialogue with one another over that question, we often point out the things people “say” about themselves. For example, if they told us that “I got saved at summer camp when I was 13 years old,” we generally take them at their word. We might also point to church attendance or religious knowledge when trying to answer the question of whether or not a person is really saved, but for the most part, this question is generally answered by what that person said or didn’t say about himself. Did he or didn’t he have a profession of faith? After we know this, the case is closed. But is that the perspective that Jesus and the New Testament writers took?
Often when we have these conversations, we know that there is a problem with our approach, but we don’t want to deal with it. When we ask, “do you think Joe is really saved?” we are also secretly wondering why there is little (if any) difference between how he lives and how the rest of the world lives. But when we find out from our friend that he did make a profession of faith and is really “saved,” our concern goes away because we just think that Joe knows the truth, but isn’t living it. He’s simply “fallen away.” What we often fail to do in confronting this problem is to go to the Word of God and see what it says concerning true and false conversion.
Most Christians are familiar with the words Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount. “You will recognize them by their fruits.” In other words, how a person lives is the key issue. If we summarize the teaching of the New Testament on this subject, we might come up with something like this: a Christian is someone who has been “radically changed” by God’s love manifested in Jesus Christ, through the continual work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, no change in life – equals false convert. But this, once again, presents us with another problem. Didn’t Jesus also say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Judge not, that you not be judged.”? Yes He did and I’m glad He did because this is something we are prone to do in our fallen nature. Only God truly knows the state of someone’s heart, and it’s only God who will have the final say on the Day of Judgment. However, for the health of the Body of Christ, we have been given what we might call, “signs of genuine conversion.”
Most Christians would agree with me that even though the President claims to be a Christian, he really isn’t. We know this because of how he lives his life. The signs of the Holy Spirit doing a radical work in his life are not evident. So we don’t have a problem making certain judgments, but we have a harder with those who are close to us and those we really want to think are saved, such as a friend or relative. Let me suggest that if we understand what true Christianity really is, we will better know how to talk to about pray for those people who are near and dear to us (and everyone for that matter) who might think they are saved but are really not.
Tomorrow we will take a closer look at some of those signs of genuine conversion that we find in the Epistle of 1 John. Make sure to check back in.