Do you know someone who claims to be a Christian but lives like the Devil? Are they truly saved?
Sinners but Saints
There is a tension that believers live with in this world. It’s the fact that they’ve been saved but that they still sin after being saved. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1st John 1:8, 10), but of course, this is why it’s called the good news, since “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:9). John gives us the problem (1st John 1:8) but then gives us the solution (1st John 1:9), so God’s mercy is not relevant until God’s wrath has been revealed. There are only two kinds of people….saints, and “aint’s.” Jesus Himself said it is an “either/or” proposition: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,” there’s one group of people, but then, “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). The first step in being saved is admitting that we are sinners and we presently have the wrath of God on us (Rom 2), but then when we realize we’re sinners in need of saving, we’ll run to the cross. First, we need a biblical view of humanity, and the way the Bible describes humanity is that none of us are good, none of us seek after God, and not even one of us are good (Rom 3:10-12, 23). It is just as Solomon wrote: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Eccl 7:20). Someday, we’ll be saved to sin no more. It’s just not today.
Falling and Diving
I have counseled a few men who are battling pornography. If they are serious enough about overcoming this addiction, they agree to make me an accountability partner. That means they have to report to me very few days and tell me how they’re week went. Knowing they had to call me and tell me how it went, they had two options: they could lie about it and feel guilty about that and for falling again, or they could tell me the truth and let the Spirit of God convict them. These men have discovered that it’s easier to tell the truth upfront rather than lying about it, and having all that guilt on top of guilt. One man recently said he had fallen and watched some pornography, and he felt so unclean. I reminded him that he can confess that sin and be cleansed from all that unrighteousness, and that’s what he did, but he started to do better as time went by because he knew, sooner or later, he was going to have to call me, and he dreaded telling me that he’d did it again. Even so, he had a hard time forgiving himself, so I explained that “we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2). I haven’t found that perfect man yet. No wait, there are none. Well, there was One; the God Man, Jesus Christ, but other than Him, I can’t find a sinless person. How about you? King Solomon wrote, “for there is no man who does not sin” (2nd Chron 2:36), and that include me, and that includes you, but the difference is, as James said, “we stumble” into sin, whereas those without the Spirit of God, not only fall into sin, they dive into it and swim around in it. If the child of God does that, the Holy Spirit will convict them, but with no Holy Spirit available, the lost person dives into sin and stays there. The child of God gets up and dusts themselves off, and tries not to do that again. That’s a vast difference. Pigs love pigpens, but believers can only take so much of the pigs sty before they have to get out and get cleaned up (repent).
In the World
Jesus knew that God could not take them out of the world, but He did desire to get the world out of them, and so that is a believer’s life; growing in holiness, day after day, year after year, and it’s called, sanctification. If we can look back just a few years ago, I imagine most of us would see things that we used to do that we don’t do anymore, however, even the Apostle Paul said, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19), but the difference is, Paul knew what the good was and strived to do it while also striving to not do what he knew to be wrong. That’s us, isn’t it? David wrote, “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). I’ve fallen, and I’ve been cast headlong, but I didn’t stay there, because I knew, “the LORD upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:24) to allow me to get back up again. I was down, but I didn’t stay down, and I didn’t want to stay down. Paul tells us the things that unsaved people practice that saved people don’t (1st Cor 6:9). Paul frequently uses the word “practice” (2nd Cor 12:21; Eph 4:19; 1st Tim 1:10) because it refers to someone doing something over and over again, and in this case, it’s sinful activities. If you love basketball, you’ll practice it a lot, so anyone that “practics such things” as Paul mentioned, practice them over and over. Clearly, if they’re practicing them often, that means they love to do them. A believer might fall into one of these sinful activities, but they don’t practice it day after day. A person who continually practices these things can have no assurance of their salvation.
Ultimately, we cannot know for sure whether someone is saved or not. God alone knows (1st Sam 16:7), but we can see if a person’s life betrays their profession of faith. A lot of people profess Christ, but a lot of people will do that to Christ Himself, and He will turn “many” away (Matt 7:21-23), not a few, so if you see your brother or sister living in serious sin, like any kind of sexual immorality, you need to go to them privately, as Jesus said (Matt 18:15). If that doesn’t help, “take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt 15:18), and “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt 18:17). John writes that “you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1st John 2:29), since “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1st John 3:4).