I once had a discussion about how getting saved should result in outwardly visible and noticeable changes in how a person lives. At first I was inclined to agree with this and mentioned that I knew people personally who professed to be saved but routinely said and did things that made one wonder and that definitely had to make a watching lost world doubt. After some discussion with my wife, reflection, prayer and scripture reading I now have a rather different view on this. We know that the Bible teaches once saved always saved and yet we know that we all have sinned on occasion after receiving our salvation. Does the fact that we sometimes fail to live in a way that is pleasing to God mean that we were never saved? What of the backslider? We need to realize that just as one picture of a person doesn’t tell you who they are neither does one moment in time. God is the judge of man’s heart 1 Samuel 16:7 7But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. We can clearly tell whether there be fruits of the spirit in a person life, that doesn’t tell the whole story though. Perhaps a person used to live for God and then lost faith after the loss of a loved one. Looking at a person where they are now is NOT always or even often an indicator of where they were last year or where they will be next year. We need to be careful of our legalistic views and judgments. Matthew 7 1Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Who among us, do you reckon would be comfortable asking that the Lord judge them according to how they judged others?
1 John 1 5-10 5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
If we, being members of a New Testament church do sin, are we then unsaved? How can we judge the salvation of others knowing that we ourselves are still guilty of sin and often in need of confession to the Lord? Perhaps, when we see a believer in Christ who isn’t living for God…..WE are as responsible for their failing as they are! How can a person who doesn’t go to Church or reads the Bible know how to serve God and live for him? Preaching repentance unto salvation is all well and good but that shouldn’t be where our duty and responsibility for that soul ends. If we have lost loved ones or loved ones who are backslidden do we stop at simple prayer for them? No, we must challenge them, confront them and exhort them with God’s word. Just as we are told in Matthew how to handle the sin of a brother in the body, we should use this teaching in our dealings with anyone who claims the name of Christ.
Matthew 18 14Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
To close, we need to be careful of how we lean unto our own understanding and judge the hearts of others. We need to persist in teaching, witnessing and exhorting. We may wonder about a person’s salvation but that is, in the end between them and God and we must be very careful that we don’t sit in self righteous judgment over them. Sadly, the actions and words of those who think they CAN judge the salvation of others and even state publicly they are glad they are not as others or that they can just look at people and see they need Jesus was a large part of my motivation to write this lesson. Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. How can we, knowing that we ourselves are hopefully, progressing nearer to Christ every day expect a new believer or a babe in Christ to already be living their lives in a Christ centered fashion. What also of the person, who doesn’t gamble, drink to excess, smoke or mistreat his neighbors? When he gets saved you most likely won’t see drastic changes in their life. They were already, by design or tradition doing many of the things that God would have them do. The major changes in their life might be limited to regular church attendance, tithing and sharing the gospel. We need to prayerfully and humbly submit our prideful, judgmental and legalistic ideas and thoughts; confess them to the Lord as the sin they are and ask him to give us his mind, his righteous judgment and understanding. Search the scripture and see if it is right or possible to judge where another will spend eternity. It goes against OUR grain, but is entirely consistent with God’s incredibly forgiving nature that even someone as remarkably evil as Hitler COULD be saved if they repented and accepted Christ before death.