You know those people who have great testimonies of radical change and total turn around? The ones who grew up without Godly influence or fell away from their family’s belief to pursue their own pleasure, only to be sought out by God and fall into His open grace and love? My dad has one of those testimonies. I don’t.
As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve always been familiar with the Gospel and my coming to Christ was a slow process of that head knowledge seeping into my heart. There is no specific date of my salvation or a time when everyone could suddenly see a difference in me.
And sometimes I wish it was a bit more “radical.” You know… perhaps that I had fallen a little further so that when my heart finally understood the Gospel it was more evident. But I’ve come to realize that the Gospel is evident in my life right now and that’s what is most important.
Still, there are times when people doubt my salvation simply because my lack of a date. Is there a place in the Bible that tells us to determine the validity of a person’s faith on whether or not they can remember the date and time that they came to Christ? Jesus tells us that we will know a Christian by their fruit.
You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. -Matthew 7:16-20
In other words, is Christ evident in their lives? Are they growing in their faith? Are their lives dedicated to the God who saved them so that they are living each day with a desire to serve Him? Is that desire pushing them to lead others to Christ? To love the unlovable? To help the helpless? To have hospitality toward others? Not to say that these people will be perfect, but that they are living differently from the world and allowing the love of God to show through them.
As I talked to a friend yesterday about controversy over having different beliefs than your friends, we considered the different ways that so called Christians handle or even seek out this controversy. In the end I determined that there two kinds of fake Christians in this world: there are those who push everyone away with their anger, bitterness, and supposed righteousness; then there are those who shy away from controversy to the point of being no different from the world, so that even if they say they are a Christian, what is the proof? And if there is no difference, then what is the point? Both of these people push others away from Christ, rather than drawing them closer, and it is these of whom I would question the validity of their salvation.
All of this revolves around a single problem: an inadequate understanding of the Gospel. Because you see, the Gospel demands a response, and those who live life as the world cannot understand the Gospel, otherwise they would live like it. But the Gospel also demands love, and those who live their lives in anger and bitterness toward the world cannot understand the great love that Christ had in giving His life for sinners, otherwise they would not be pushing those very same sinners away with their bitterness.
And if you do not understand the Gospel, can you really be saved?
In the same chapter of Matthew that I quoted above, Jesus tells us this:
“Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” -Matthew 7:13-14
And it scares me to think how many people in this world have a false security in calling themselves “Christian.” How many were led astray by someone who pushed them to say a prayer they did not understand? So that now they think they are working for Christ when they do not even truly understand what it is to be His. It scares me as I consider how many will stand before God and hear these words:
“I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” -Matthew 7:23
Stay tuned as I continue on this topic and discuss the importance of sharing your faith with a greater value of the gospel.