According to the Bible, all men enter this world with a “guilty” verdict: “There is none righteous, not even one… there is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11), and “He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18). Simply put, the entire human race is condemned and headed for destruction–but God, by His grace, has chosen to save some (Ephesians 1:4-6). Are you one of them? How can you, or anyone else tell? How is God’s gift of salvation manifested in one’s life so that he may know “beyond a reasonable doubt” as to his election? Let’s employ Scripture as our “prosecuting attorney” and examine the evidence that is associated with spiritual guilt and innocence.
God’s Word makes it clear that all men are doomed and spiritually dead apart from the saving work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Romans 1:21). In other words, there is no hope of salvation or “acquittal” without the convicting, regenerating, and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Just as with one’s physical birth, one’s spiritual re-birth (i.e. being “born again”) is never the result of a person’s own initiative or doing. It is by God’s sovereign choice ALONE as to whom He reaches through the convicting work of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Those whom God chooses WILL come to possess a true and saving faith (1 Thessalonians 5:24, Romans 8:29-30, Philippians 1:6), and the Bible gives abundant testimony with respect to how that faith WILL be evidenced (i.e. 1 John 1:3-6). Christianity is not a “hope so” faith–it is a “know so” faith (1 John 5:13).
Again, Scripture emphasizes that good works are never a contributing factor to one’s salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9)–but that they are, instead, the inevitable RESULT of it (James 2:26). In other words, good works are never the “cause,” but they are always the “effect” when it comes to one’s salvation. Scripture also makes it clear that, while God initiates the miracle of His saving grace, man is none-the-less responsible for submitting his life to the Lordship of Christ for sanctification (John 8:32, John 14:21,23, 2 Peter 1:5-11). This loving and obedient response results when a lost sinner truly understands his hopeless condition–and realizes that he has been saved from eternal destruction by God’s grace alone through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. As such, it is the evidence of a life in submission to the Lordship of Christ that becomes the best indicator of who God’s legitimate children are. Now, let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about the appearance of such evidence.
In 1 John 3:10, God has written, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are OBVIOUS: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” Wow, the word “obvious” seems to jump right off of the page in front of me. Is it OBVIOUS that you practice righteousness? Is it OBVIOUS that you love your brothers and sisters? I once heard a pastor tell his congregation, “You’re probably going to be surprised by a lot of the people that you’ll see in Heaven.” Well, according to the Bible, there shouldn’t be any “surprises” –this should be “obvious!!”
God has also explained how to recognize His children in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Here, He has written, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Carefully consider how Scottish theologian Oswald Chambers once expounded on the meaning of the previous verse: “The work of salvation means that in your life things are DRAMATICALLY changed. You no longer look at things the same way. Your desires are new and the old things have lost their power to attract you. One of the tests for determining if the work of salvation in your life is genuine is–has God changed the things that really matter to you? If you still yearn for the old things, it is absurd to talk about being born from above–you are deceiving yourself. If you are born again, the Spirit of God makes the change VERY EVIDENT in your real life and thought. The resounding evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the UNMISTAKEABLE family likeness to Jesus Christ, and the freedom from everything which is not like Him.” Now, with these words in mind, take a look at your checkbook register and your weekly planner or appointment calendar–what does the “hard evidence” indicate? Are your visible interests and priorities in line with God’s Kingdom purposes?
God’s Word plainly instructs us to examine ourselves to see if we are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Corinthians 11:28), and then tells us what evidence to look for (Galatians 5:19-24). Scripture further commands that the true Christian is to “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-3), and to live so as to “PROVE” that which is good and acceptable and perfect according to the will of God (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:10). It doesn’t get much clearer that.
Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).” That is to say that many hear the gospel–but only a few respond in truth, and so PROVE that they are the chosen ones. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus used the same quantitative words to describe the only two categories of persons on this planet. He said that “many” are on the broad way that leads to destruction–but only a “few” are on the narrow way that leads to life. Which road are you on? Does the demonstrated evidence of your life prove it?