Two days ago, I wrote a blog entry where I argued that we Christians don’t always use the most biblical methods when we try to determine Christian versus non-Christian. This is a critically important question, because as I said in that earlier entry, it affects how we pray for and communicate with the person in question. If you learn that someone who you thought was saved is not, then chances are you are going to cry out to God for their salvation or at least you should. You will also look for opportunities to point them to the biblical definition of a Christian.
There are a number of New Testament passages we could examine, but I want to look at 1 John today. The Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5 is another one that came to mind, but we have just started to work through 1 John in our Sunday School class, so 1 John wins out. I want to encourage you to read through 1 John because it is such a rich, but challenging epistle that gets right to the heart of this matter. Look at what the Apostle John says concerning those who are “born of” God and those who are not.
1 John 2:29: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
1 John 3:9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”
1 John 4:7: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”
1 John 5:18: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”
I came across these verses in John Piper’s important study called, Finally Alive, where he examines what it means to be “born of God.” One of the things that Piper states is that more important than what a person says about themselves is how that person actually lives. As the Apostle John makes clear, the true Christian embraces righteous and forsakes sin. John is not saying that the one “born of God” is perfect, but that they do have a radically transformed life. As that person lives by faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God transforms them and their desire is to please God in everything.
The implications of this for our churches are staggering. If we really believe what John is saying, then that means that many of our evangelical churches are filled with the unregenerate. There might be a lot of “good people” in those churches, but our idea of “good” does not necessarily equal “born again.”