I'm not one to judge the state of another person's soul. That is left to the Lord. However, as I've been reading through John, I've noticed that John does give us a measuring stick with which to gauge a person's true faith. I can only imagine he does so because of the multiple warnings in the Bible about false prophets. It's easy to spot a non-believer, right? In fact, they are usually quite vocal about their atheism. But what about those people who claim to be Christians, who speak as if they were Christians, who can spout Scripture as if they'd read the Bible their entire lives?
There are severe warnings of false prophets in the Old Testament and urgent warnings in the New Testament by both Jesus and the Apostles
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and
bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their
destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 1 Peter 2
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves Jesus, Matthew 7:15
Here's John's measuring stick to spot a true Christian
He who says "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4
Pretty harsh statement, wouldn't you say? I don't know about you but that made me shift in my seat. I can't honestly say that I keep all God's commandments all the time. In fact, none of us can say that. It's precisely because we are sinners that God sent His Son into the world to pay the price, right? Yet, here it is in plain words. In fact, John goes on and on about this very thing throughout his book with statements like:
But whoever keeps His word,.... this is how we know we are in Him
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him
And yet again: Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
Yikes!! Yet, here's the true meaning of the Greek, which may be helpful.
No one who abides in Him deliberately, knowingly, and habitually commits sin.
That means if you have a problem with lying or gossiping and you purposely set out to lie to people and gossip about people on a regular basis and you do not strive to get better nor improve at all, you do not know God.
That means if you hate someone and you continue hating that person, never asking God for help with your hatred and never receiving that help and getting better, but you actually relish in your hatred, you do not know God.
That means if you have a problem with pornography and you continue to look at it, purposefully and habitually, and you do not get any better over the years, then you do not know God.
That means if you claim to be a Christian and you are having premarital sex with your partner willingly and repeatedly, then you do not know God.
That means if you are a practicing homosexual and you continue to have sex with your partner(s), then you do not know God.
That means if you are wealthy and you hoard your wealth and buy multiple mansions and jets and jewels and vacations, (and hence love the world and disobey God's command to give to the poor) then you do not know God
That means if you refuse to forgive someone who has done you wrong and you make no progress toward forgiving them, nor do you want to, you do not know God.
I guess you get my drift. I know these things are hard to hear, but the Word of God is often hard to hear. In fact, the Bible says it is a two-edged sword that pierces the division between soul and spirit.
I can already hear many of you out there asking me, "What about the grace of God? Didn't Jesus die for all our sins and once we accept Him, every sin we ever commit is forgiven?"
Yes, that's true. Praise God! But you cannot be a true believer and receive that grace of God and remain in your sin. It just doesn't work that way. John is very clear. If you are truly saved, you will obey God. You will want to obey God. You will seek His help in overcoming your sin and you will change. It may not be overnight, but if you continue abiding in Him, you will change!
There are so many "Christians" today who claim to know God but who are living in the darkness. There are entire denominations that accept homosexuality! Many church members struggle with pornography or are living together outside of marriage. What about gossip? It's just as evil as the other sins. Yet is runs rampant through the church!
Perhaps the church in general has does a huge disservice to believers by emphasizing God's free gift of forgiveness and grace while deemphasizing His commandments. They go hand in hand. As my pastor likes to quote:
God's gift of forgiveness and eternal life is free, but it will cost you everything.