There is a certain man I know whom I have had the privilege to speak to concerning faith in Jesus Christ on numerous occasions. Every time our conversation turns to spiritual matters of the heart and soul, this man quickly affirms to me that he is saved. To make sure he and I are on the same page when we speak of being saved, I have been careful to articulate the necessity of confession and repentance of sin as well as faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He assures me he understands and that he is saved. You might be thinking at this point, why do I keep asking him if he is saved? Why do I continue in my effort to clarify for him what it means to be saved? The answer, there is no discernible evidence in his life that he has a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I see this man’s life and there is no visible evidence of any conviction over sin, holiness, or testimony for the name of Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about this man and the many like him that profess Jesus, but have no evidence in their lives that they are truly saved.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul spoke of the motive for his ministry. He said, “For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that, if one died for all, then were all dead. And that He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5.14-15). Let’s think about what Paul said here. The word for “Constraineth” is the Greek word sunecho. This word means to be channeled in a certain direction like a ship passing through a narrow place. The same idea is seen when cattle are herded into a narrow place so they can only go in one direction. The truth Paul declared here is that the love of God pressed him into a specific lifestyle. In Paul’s case it was the ministry of Jesus Christ as an apostle. When Paul believed on Jesus Christ by faith and was saved, the love of God that saved him constrained him to live for Jesus. The natural result of being saved was that Paul no longer lived for himself, but gave his life for the glory of Christ.
What was true for Paul is still true today. A person who has genuinely trusted Jesus by faith to be their Lord and Savior will know the love of God in a personal way. The apostle John said that as a result of knowing the love of God in a personal way, we will love Him back, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4.19). If we genuinely love God because of His great love for us, that love will be manifested in obedience to His will in our lives. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14.15). Here is the point, the man I know who insists that he is saved demonstrates no evidence that he cares anything about God. This particular man attends no corporate worship of any kind. He never speaks of God’s Word, nor do I ever see him read it. In addition, the habits he allows in his life are all self-centered and designed to satisfy the desires of the flesh. There is no evidence that this man is constrained or even influenced by the love of God. Only God knows if this man is save or not, however, there is no outward evidence in his life that he is saved.
There is need for a word of caution when we begin to look at the “fruit” in another person’s life. It is possible for a true born again child of God to allow sin in their lives to a point where they look just like a lost man. We see one such example in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15.11-32). The youngest son who went into a far land and lived a riotous life was still a son to his father while he was out of the father’s will and in sin. His fellowship with the father was broken by his sin and rebellion, but he never ceased to be a son. So it is when a child of God fails in sin. Our fellowship with our heavenly Father can be broken, but never is our relationship with Him in Christ broken. The eventual evidence that the son was a real son was that he came to himself, repented, and went back to the father. Likewise today, a true child of God cannot live in the pig pen of sin perpetually, a true child of God will grow weary of sin at some point because it is contrary to our new nature in Christ. The warning is, we have to be careful and guard against becoming legalistic when we look at the lifestyles of others. It is an expression of love to talk with someone about salvation if we are not sure they are really saved. However, we are not the Holy Spirit in their lives. In the end, only God knows if a person is truly saved or not.
The real value of this discussion is for us to examine our own hearts. The apostle Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13.5a). Are you constrained by the love of God? Is there a conviction in your heart over sin? Is there a God given desire to worship with other believers in Christ? Are you drawn to the Word of God which feeds our very souls? Do you see in your life the loving work of the Holy Spirit as He molds and shapes you for His glory? If there is any doubt in your mind as to your relationship with God, I encourage you to confess your sin, repent of sin, and by faith ask Jesus Christ to save your soul and be the Lord of your life.