by Cooper Abrams
- Many who claim the name of Christ show little or no evidence of salvation by the way they live their lives. Often it is almost impossible to distinguish Christians from non Christians. Many who say they are saved are outwardly sinners showing little or no concern for spiritual things. For them Christianity is like putting on or taking off a piece of clothing. They put on their Christian appearance when it suits them, but leave it off most time. The question that naturally arises is: "Are all who call themselves Christians truly saved and going to heaven when they die?" The answer is sadly, "No" because many who call themselves Christians are in truth not saved. Jesus addressed this matter saying, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus is saying it is not the ones who call Jesus, Lord who will enter heaven, but those that do the will of God. In other words the true believer is the one to whom Christ is their Lord and who live by the word of God. These are the ones who have truly believed in Jesus Christ for their salvation whose belief directs their lives. Christ is teaching that true believers live for the Lord and obey Him. In John 3:19-21, Jesus explains the reason that people do not believe and follow Him. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. An unsaved man loves his sin and remains unsaved due in part because he refuses to give his sin up. He might understand he need to be saved, but he will not come to the light in repentance and forsake his sin. The love of sin is the mark of a lost man.
The Bible clearly teaches that when a man is saved his life is drastically changed, yet there are so many who profess to be the children of God whose lives remain virtually unaltered. The key in determining who is truly a Christian and who is not can revealed by the way they live their lives and their attitude toward sin.
Probably the most confusing thing about many who profess to be Christians is their lack of conviction of sin. They seem to be perfectly content with having habitual sin ruling their lives. Their attitude seems to be based on their belief that because at some time in their life they professed to believe in Christ they are assured of salvation. Often you hear someone say they believe they are Christians and going to heaven because the prayed a prayer and asked God to save them. You ask them where they attend church and they say they don't go to church. For others they claim to be Christians because when they were a child they were baptized and confirmed into some denomination or at some time became a member of a church. These people are trusting in their church membership to save them. The way they live their lives seems to have no connection to whether they have a true saving relationship with Jesus Christ or not.
Some with no visible evidence of salvation in their lives, claim the doctrine of the security of the believer, "Once saved always saved" and go on living as if some professed belief in their past guarantees them a place in heaven. It is absolutely true that if a person truly believes in their heart in the Lord Jesus Christ they are eternally saved as Romans 10:9-1 teach. However, verse 11 says "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 10:11) The question needs to be answered is what does God's word say about this? Is the professing Christian who habitually sins really saved? Can these people feel secure that their salvation is assured based on their outward act of having a religious experience, doing some ritual, praying some prayer, making a profession of faith or being a member of some Christian denomination?
The Bible presents genuine salvation in an entirely different light than what many accept as true redemption. The Bible says that saving faith is faith that is life changing. The Bible has some profound and revealing things to say about the relationship of the true believer to sin? 2 Corinthians 5:17, says "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Note that the Bible says "IF" a man is in Christ he is a new creature.
The genuine child of God is no longer what he was before he was saved. He is made different and because he has been changed, born again, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and been given a new spiritual nature. Clearly no one can honestly say that the Bible supports the idea of a person being saved and still remain as they were before. Nowhere does the Bible teach that a child of God remains comfortably living a worldly life of sin that ignores the presence of the Lord and his claims on their lives. The truth this passages teaches is conveniently ignored by many. It does not say that the saved man might have his life changed or that it would be nice if his life was to reflect the righteousness that God expects of believers. It emphatically says the person who is truly saved will experience a new life. This new life is one of "walking in the light" which means living a life that recognizes the destructiveness of sin. It means the new Christian wants to bring honor and glory to Christ by living a life that is pleasing to God.
Being insensitive to sin legitimately brings a professing Christian's salvation into question. Why? Because a truly born again believer has a different attitude toward sin than the unsaved. That is what repentance truly is. Repentance is seeing things in a new way and rejecting one's former false beliefs. The Bible clearly teaches that the lost man is a slave to sin. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5). God goes on to say, ". . . the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). The saved man accepts this truth and has a different attitude toward sin which comes from the new nature that a true believer receives when he becomes a child of God. This does not mean the saved person will not sin. A Christian still has the old carnal nature with tempts him to sin. Paul expressed this truth saying "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. . . But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:21, 23) However, many who claim to be Christians have not war in their members; they just live their lives experiencing no conviction for their sins.
The reason that the unsaved commits sin is because they only have a carnal mind and the carnal mind can do nothing but sin. "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:18) These verses picture the man whose life is dominated by sin as being lost. It reveals that the unsaved will live a life of sin. The Bible is saying that a person who professes to be saved, but whose life remains unchanged has not experienced the new birth (John 3:3) and is not a Christian.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The way the saved child of God lives is always presented in sharp contrast as to how the lost live. Concerning the saved person the Bible says, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4) Note that the verse says those who experience the new birth "should walk in the newness of life." Romans 6:6, says "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." The child of God is saved in order that he might overcome sin. Salvation is being saved from sin and its penalties. Paul states the fact of this new relationship toward sin in the genuine Christian's life. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
To those who claim the name of Jesus and yet remain unchanged and live sin dominated lives God says, "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:2) Living a life of separation from sin is not arbitrary for the believer. It is not a matter in which God has given us a choice. When the Lord says, we "should" walk in the newness of life, He is not saying the issue is subjective. It can be illustrated this way. What does the following sentence mean? "If a man is pilot he can fly airplanes!" The sentence is not saying that an airplane pilot may or may not fly airplane. What it is saying is that if a man is a pilot he will fly airplanes. To be a pilot is to be a flyer! To be a born again child of God means that one does not live a life of glaring sin.
It is not normal for a saved man to allow sin to go unchallenged in his life. The true believer will hate sin in his life and fight it. How could a man who has the spirit of God indwelling him, think nothing of allowing blatant sin to remain unopposed. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24) Paul explains further, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
The Bible is quite clear on the matter. The genuineness of a person's profession of faith is seen in how they live their lives. Just because a person says he believes does not assure that his faith is real. The Bible says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). James used this statement in making the point that true faith produces works or fruit in the life of a believer. The devils have a head knowledge of who is Christ. But they rebelled against God and do not accept that he is Christ and Lord and they do not live for Christ! Their works are evil. Genuine faith is a faith that works a change in a persons life and produces Godly living in a persons life.
Many take comfort in the fact they have a head knowledge of Christ. They believe in the historical Jesus Christ, but their belief does not produce a commitment to living their lives for him. The Bible gives them no assurance of salvation. Nothing is further from the truth than to say that because a person accepts the "fact" that there is a God then he is saved. Salvation is a matter of a changed heart. God says, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:10) True salvation is a "heart" salvation. The profession made with the mouth is invalid unless it comes from a changed heart that has committed itself to living for God.
Jesus warned that there are those who think they are saved but will not go to heaven. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). In Matthew 7:23 Christ says he rejects these people who falsely use His name and calls them "workers of iniquity". "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity " (Matthew 7:23). Jesus said those that live as God commands are those that are saved and the mark of the unsaved is that they do not obey God. Jesus Himself qualifies a man's belief as to whether it is real or false. Those who truly believe in Christ, follow Him and are the ones who are saved. To not live for the Lord is evidence that one is lost and not a child of God!
This brings up the question, "Does a Christian sin?" God says, "Yes!" "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). This verse is addressed to the saved. Christians will sin, but they will not like it and will fight it. Paul in Romans Chapter 7 expresses the conflict that the genuine Christian faces. He says, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Romans 7:21-23).
Paul is describing the warfare that the child of God experiences. God's children want to do right, yet still have the old carnal nature that draws them to sin. The battle within the believer's life is one of determining to whom he yields the control of his life. The unsaved knows nothing of this internal warfare.
God says that saving faith is faith that overcomes the world. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). Because a person is truly saved he will be in the process of overcoming the world which means overcoming sin. The genuine child of God will not be a habitual sinner. That means that his life will not be ruled on a continual basis by sin. The pattern of a believers life will be one marked by degrees of growing righteousness and does not mean the believer will not sin or at times fall or backslide. It is possible and even likely that every believer will fail in his faith at times. But he will not remain there! God will not let him go on indefinitely in sin without intervening.
God said of David, that he was a man after God's own heart. Yet, David fell in to gross sin. He even murdered and commuted adultery. But David did not remain in sin. Sin caused him heart wrenching agony and with great remorse he repented and began once more to serve the Lord. God forgave him of his sin, yet this period of sin grossly effected him the rest of his life. God would not allow him to be used as he could have been. He was not allowed to build the temple and his sin caused him great heartache throughout the remainder of his life.
Though God says we will sin at times, he does not say that we will be dominated by sin. God helps us by actively helping the believer in fighting sin in his life. He does it in two ways.
First, when we are tempted God gives us a way out. He gives us an alternative to sin. The Bible explains, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) James says we are drawn away and tempted by our old nature. But though we still have the old nature it has no hold on us. Paul explained it this way, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:6-7) Christ's death broke the hold of sin and death on the world. When we truly believe on Christ Jesus the hold of sin on us is broken - we no longer have to sin.
Second, God helps us overcome sin by chastening us when we drift away into willful sin. God in the Book of Hebrews explains His actions.
- "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and no sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave then reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live: For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, the we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yietheth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:1-12).
Hebrews Chapter Twelve tells us that if a man professes to be saved and shamelessly sins and God does not chasten him it is evidence that the person does not know God. "But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons" (Hebrews 12:8). God promises that he "will" chasten His own, but He will not chasten the unsaved man who serves Satan. The absence of chastening of a person who professes to be a Christian, yet who lives in sin is good evidence that the person is not saved. The opposite is also true because a child of God who will not confess his sin will soon find himself under the chastening hand of his loving God.
Nothing delights the Devil and serves his purposes more than to have people confused as to what is a true Christian or having a lost man think that he will go to heaven. The true believer will be a person who abhors sins and daily fights temptation. He claims the promise of God that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just o forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The genuine Christian admits he is a sinner and openly confesses it to God. Jesus taught his disciples what the attitude is of a truly born-again person toward sin. In the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and the tax collector Jesus said, " And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner' (Luke 8:13)."
God says to the believer that as His child we are to confess our sins and He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We should understand this verse is to be used only in case of failure. It should not be used as an excuse to indulge in sin and then callously call on God to forgive us. The pilot of an aircraft wears a parachute and is thankful that it is there, however he does not plan to use it! It is to be used only in the rare occasions of failure. A pilot does not take chances and fly irresponsibility risking a crash because he has a parachute to fall back on. Never should the child of God toy with sin resting on the promise of God to forgive and bail him out. The true believer hates sin the same way that God does.
The believers in 1 Corinthians 11, were chastened because they did not "discern" the body of Christ. "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). They did not "discern" the Lord's body in that they brazenly sinned without any regard for Christ's suffering for each sin they committed. Their insensitive acts of sin in truth mocked Jesus's suffering on the Cross. It is obvious that this was not only their attitude when they took the Lord's Supper but was also the way they lived their lives. God strongly rebuked them and caused some to be sick and some died because of their callous sin against God. How insensitive they were to Jesus's suffering. Each of us must examine our own attitude towards sin least we too belittle Christ's sacrifice for us.
Every sin that a person commits caused the Lord Jesus Christ great suffering there at Calvary two thousand years ago. When we callously sin we caused Christ more suffering on that cruel old Cross. How can a child of God, with little or no compassion, flagrantly and knowingly sin causing Christ more suffering? One could understand that a child of God will occasionally slip and sin but God has made provision for us. However, no one who understands the simplest teachings of the Word of God could understand how a saved person could allow sin to rule his life and go unchecked.
The saved man knows he is a sinner and begs God for mercy. However, the religious unsaved man will enjoy his sin and will be greatly offended if it is suggested that he is a sinner. The religious lost are masters of justifying their sin.
It is very interesting that in many cases the world accepts a better standard of conduct for the Christian than many who profess to be the children of God. If you ask the average man on the street if Christians should drink, smoke, use profanity, be immoral, lie, cheat, gamble or steal they will respond with a resounding, NO! Yet, many who call themselves Christians think nothing of doing these things. If appears the lost world in some cases has a better understanding of what God meant when He said, "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Some have the philosophy that if the Bible does not make specific references to some questionable act then it can not be called a sin. The Bible does not specifically mention many individual sins, but condemns all immoral acts in principle. The Word of God does not say that smoking cocaine is sin, but would any sane person conclude that it is not sin? The Bible is a book of principles. We are to examine all things by biblical principles to determine if it is right or wrong. Does smoking crack harm the body? The answer is clearly, yes! Then if it harms the body it is wrong and sin. God says he lives in our bodies (indwells) and He commands that we live pure lives and keep our physical bodies pure. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
There is also a further commandment of God that effects the actions of a Christian. The Bible says that the child of God should, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:22) Just because the Bible does not specifically mention something does not mean it is not sin. If an act even appears to be sinful, then the child of God is commanded to avoid it. God's standard is one of purity. The genuine Christian can accept no other standard. He too will not feel he is being cheated if he has to give up some pleasurable activity to maintain his testimony for Christ.
The religious lost are comfortable with sin reject the Savior's claims on their lives! They profess to believe the Word of God but refuse to live by it. Jesus speaking to the religious but lost Jews responded to them by asking them, "But why do you call Me "Lord, Lord," and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
Every man should examine himself in light of God's Word. If a man is truly saved, Christ will be evident in his life. If he is lost, sin will be the pattern of his lives. The unsaved man is a rebel. He defies God's claims on his life. The born again Christian humbly submits himself to Christ. There is a drastic difference between the two. The true Christian is at peace with God, whereas the lost man is in rebellion. The saved, blood washed, sinner will always stand out in stark contrast to the world. God's children thank Him for saving them FROM sin! "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
Jesus said, "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." (John 10:5) Jesus was clearly teaching that His sheep will follow Him, they will not habitually follow after Satan. God's call to the lost sinner is clear; He is, ". . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
God says, that saving faith is faith that one lives. The late Paul Harvey said, "If you don't live it, you don't believe it." We was right! Anything else is counterfeit. The true child of God will love the Word of God.
The true Christian loves the word of God and wants to obey Christ because he knows it is best. He knows his local church the "ekklesia" (assembly) is important to the Lord. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:22, that He gave His life for it. He will be faithful in attending its services and assembling with other believers. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
He will love the souls of the lost around him and seek to win them to Christ. He will be greatly concern about his testimony before others. He will support God's work with his resources in giving tithes and offerings to in thanksgiving to the Lord for God's provision for Him. Thus he will be supporting missions both locally in his church and around the world. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) He will obey the Lord who says "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)He will seek to find his God given talent and use it as Christ directs. This is the picture of the true born again child of God as he grows and matures in the Lord. Anything less is abnormal and the evidence of a unfaithful servant or false professor in Christ.
My friend, the question is this: "What does God say about sin and His saints?" Is the pattern of your life one of following Christ? If you sin, do you repent of it and return to faithfulness? Is it your heart's deep desire that Christ have all of you completely? Do you abhor sin and fight temptation continually? When the Bible condemns your sin does it offend or does it cause you to renew your commitment to overcome even the appearance of sin? If your answer is no then you have a serious spiritual problem. Would you now turn away from sin and all it destructive effects in your life and receive God's promised forgiveness for sin. Read and study God's word and find a godly Bible believing Christian or pastor to help you.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Roman 6:23) Thank God! Jesus Saves!!