Do you ever question your — or someone else’s — salvation?
A woman recently wrote me about a history of abuse in a family that is “Christian.” Her question was: “How can one who is a Christian continue a cycle of sin?” I believe the question that needs to be answered, however, is “What defines a ‘Christian’?”
Any of us can claim to believe and receive Christ. But a true Christian is a follower of Christ, one who possesses His indwelling Holy Spirit, and whose life produces evidence of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is very clear about our lives producing evidence of our salvation through:
- the “fruit” we bear. (These godly characteristics are listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.)
- the love we show to others. (God’s definition of love is given in First Corinthians 13:4-7).
Jesus said “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you….You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:12-14). And the Apostle John said “The man who says, ‘I know Him, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.'” (First John 2:4-6).
So…does a Christian continue to sin? Unfortunately, yes. We all, at times, act according to our old nature (our sinful lives apart from Christ) when we are not living under the daily control of God’s Holy Spirit. But with Christ’s Spirit in us, we have the power to overcome temptation and live according to God’s spirit, not our fleshly desires.
So, now I understand why the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). He didn’t mean “work FOR your salvation” as none of us can do that (Ephesians 2:8-9). He did mean, I believe, that we should constantly evaluate our hearts and lives before God to determine if we really are a Christ-follower. Asking these questions may help you evaluate if you — or someone else– is truly following Him:
- Do I experience a conviction by God’s Holy Spirit when I sin, causing me to repent and turn away from that sin? If there is no conviction of sin, perhaps His spirit is NOT living in you. First John 3:6 says “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”
- Am I displaying love as Christ does? Another way to ask this is: Is there true evidence of my salvation in how I live and treat others? Scripture says: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemns us…” (1 John 3:18-20).
How do we know if someone is really a Christian? We have only their lives to hold up to the life of the One (Jesus) whom they claim to follow. So…be a follower of His through a life of obedience and love. And that way you — and others — will not question whether you and I are really Christians, too.
Next week I will answer Peggy’s question: “How do I keep my focus on God and walk daily in the Spirit?” Leave me your question below or email me at Cindi@StrengthForTheSoul.com and I’ll try to answer it in the coming weeks.