Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Evidence of Genuine Conversion

The wisest man who ever lived, according to Scripture, was King Solomon and he said in Proverbs 4:23, "Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life." I have titled my blog "Issues of Life" because I purpose to use it for just that—the issues of life. My opinion on any given issue in life is of little consequence. What the God of the Bible has said on the issues of life is of paramount and eternal importance!
My first blog to the Issues of Life is a small book I have written titled: Evidence of Genuine Conversion. It covers the most important subject possible in the life of every person born into this world—and that is one's eternal destiny. Many are either confused or deceived about this greatest of life's issues. May God use the following to lead many into the light of God's truth.

Evidence of Genuine

Richard W. Barton

(Forward by Phil Johnson)

Printed in
© 2005

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Bible,
unless otherwise noted.
(Scripture taken from the New Kings James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

“Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:9)


Forward by Phil Johnson………………………….….

A New Creation
A Radical Change
Evidence of Genuine Conversion

Chapter One God’s Love in The Heart

Love for God
Love for Mankind
Love for Fellow Believers
Love for the Lost

Chapter Two Obedience

Chapter three Fruitfulness
Fruit and Good Works
Inward Virtue
Outward Good Works

Chapter Four Habitual sin

Chapter Five God’s Discipline

Chapter Six Longing for His Coming

Concluding Thoughts

Chapter Seven Making Sure



No careful reader of Scripture can possibly miss the fact that every major New Testament author, as well as Jesus Himself, frequently warned against the dangers of superficial and phony faith, false assurance, self-deception, and apathy about one’s own spiritual condition. When the apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5), he was summarizing one of the major themes of the New Testament.

Richard Barton became keenly aware of that strand of New Testament teaching several years ago and has devoted a significant amount of his life and energies to understanding what the Bible teaches about the difference between authentic saving faith and the superficial, half-hearted assent that Jesus warned could never save. Barton does an excellent job of making that distinction crystal-clear in language that is simple to understand and with biblical proofs that are impossible to dismiss.

A few years ago when the debate over “lordship salvation” dominated the evangelical agenda, I edited several well-known books dealing with the subject. (It was my privilege to edit both of John MacArthur’s major books on the topic, The Gospel According to Jesus and The Gospel According to the Apostles). Those books were thorough and detailed, and would be excellent resources for further study by anyone whose interest is piqued by this book. But many readers encountering such a difficult and heated theological debate for the first time found the page counts of those books intimidating.

What was needed was a good, simple introduction to the subject. Several fine laymen’s guides to the debate were written in the ensuing years, but none of them was as concise, simple, and easy to grasp as the work you are now holding in your hands. Richard Barton has given us a wonderful tool to use for those who need an introduction to the subject.

On an even more practical note, this is an excellent resource for believers who may be struggling with the validity of their own faith, or worse may be convinced their faith is genuine, but are self-deceived. My hope and prayer is that it will affirm the assurance of those who truly believe, while shattering the false confidence of any who are in bondage to a complacent self-deception, and be used of the Lord to enlighten many souls to the saving truth of the glorious gospel of Christ.

Phil Johnson
Executive Director of Grace to You
(Radio Ministry of John MacArthur)

Valencia, California
March 2006


For a great many years there has been an alarming trend within the Evangelical Church—one that has swelled church membership rolls with unnumbered people who are deceived about their true spiritual condition. Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis added). If the Gallup polls are correct, and if the 88 percent of all Americans who claim to be “born again” are truly born again, then Jesus was mistaken about the “few,” but we know that, “God, Who cannot lie,” (Titus 1:2, emphasis added) always speaks the truth.

There is an easy believism in the Evangelical Church that considers anyone a Christian if they have gone through certain “steps” in “receiving Christ.” These steps, so called, have been widely used in public evangelistic endeavors for over a century.
While the use of different methods in evangelism may vary somewhat among evangelists, pastors, and lay persons as we seek to carry out the great commission, we must take great care to never alter the content of the gospel message itself, and thereby deviate doctrinally from “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

This small book was many years in the making, and though it is short it is the product of tears, earnest prayer, the reading of good Christian books, and much soaking in of great expository preaching at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California where John MacArthur is our beloved Pastor and Teacher. And last, but not least, endeavoring throughout to make certain that every thing I had written was confirmed by Scripture.

To give due credit, it is was mainly through Dr. John MacArthur’s preaching and books that God first awakened my soul to a profoundly disturbing thought, and eventually a settled conviction, that some who were near and dear to me, who profess Christ, may not possess Him.
The longer I am exposed to Reformed Theology the more persuaded I have become that this condition of professing Christ without the possession of Christ is widespread and epidemic in today’s Evangelical Church.

In years gone by the statement, “walking the sawdust trail” was a description of someone who had responded to a popular method used in public evangelistic meetings to win converts. (The “sawdust trail” refers to gospel tent meetings where sawdust was scattered as ground covering inside the tent). Older people living today know what this statement means. While the phrase, “walking the sawdust trail” is rarely mentioned today, the methodology used back then remains pretty much unchanged. By way of definition this methodology can be described as follows:

At the conclusion of a gospel message people are encouraged to invite Christ into their lives. They are asked to raise their hand if they want to ask Christ into their heart. Then those who have raised their hands are invited to come forward to seal this decision. They then meet with a counselor, are asked various questions, after which they are invited to say a prayer to “receive Christ.” In some meetings those who raised their hands are simply asked to repeat a prayer of receiving Christ right where they are seated.

There is nothing inherently wrong with such methods, and countless multitudes have legitimately come to genuine faith in this way, but nowhere in scripture are any such experiences, or “methods” of evangelism, ever looked to as the basis for the assurance of our salvation. (For that matter, no experience of any kind in Scripture is ever considered to be a validation of faith. Not even when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John does the Scripture hold this experience up as the validation of their faith, but instead Peter went on to say in speaking of this “over the top” experience, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic Word, to which you will do well to pay attention,” 2 Peter 1:19 ESV, emphasis added).
God’s Word places the overwhelming weight for the evidence of our salvation in the present tense—on the kind of life we are presently living. We must never unequivocally assure someone of the certainty of their salvation just because they prayed a prayer to receive Christ. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to give assurance of salvation, not ours. The only valid proof that anyone’s prayer of receiving Christ was transacted in heaven is the resulting change of life that always follows genuine conversion! In spite of this emphasis in Scripture there are multitudes of people in the past and today who have been told that if they have once “asked Christ into their hearts,” they should never examine their salvation. This is contrary to the clear command of Scripture to, “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5) and it sets the stage for possible spiritual deception.

John MacArthur in his commentary on John’s Gospel starts off his comments on John 3:1-10 (the encounter with Nicodemus) with these sad, but true, words:

“Everybody talkin’ about heaven ain’t goin’ there.” This line, from an old spiritual, accurately describes many in the church. Outwardly they identify with Christ, but inwardly they have never been genuinely converted. Because they cling to a false profession, they fool themselves into thinking they are on the narrow path leading to life, when in reality they are on the broad road that leads to destruction. To make matters worse, their self-deception is often reinforced by well-meaning but undiscerning Christians who naively embrace them as true believers. Such confusion stems from the watered-down pseudo-gospels that are propagated from far too many pulpits. Cheap grace, market-driven ministry, emotionalism, subjectivism, and an indiscriminate inclusivism have all infiltrated the church with devastating consequences. As a result, almost any profession of faith is affirmed as genuine-even from those whose lives manifest no signs of true fruit (e.g., Luke 6:43-44). For many, no one’s faith is to be questioned. Meanwhile key New Testament passages regarding the danger of false faith (e.g., James 2:14-26) and the need for self-examination (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:5) go unheeded.” (Pages 97-98)

What a concise, penetrating, assessment of the sad condition of much of the Evangelical Church of today! In our mad rush to be relevant “cool” (accepted) by an unsaved world we have taken a good motive and gone way beyond the bounds of orthodoxy, watering down the message in order not to offend anyone, with the result that multitudes are being deceived that they are right with God because they have jumped through all the hoops we have set for them. We place everyone under one big salvation umbrella with the only criteria being, “Did you pray the prayer?” (In some circles even praying to receive Christ is not necessary—sincerity, we are told, is enough, no matter what you believe!) Paul McGuire, in his radio talk show on KKLA in Los Angeles, related that 68 percent of evangelicals believe that anyone will make it to heaven if they are good, and if they are sincere; regardless of their religious persuasion! This is an unbelievable statistic coming from those who profess to believe the Bible! Who needs Jesus? In actuality a statistic such as this only highlights what I have been saying and exposes the sad condition of the Evangelical Church, revealing just how far down the road from sound doctrine we have traveled.

Such statistics are indicative of the leadership within the Evangelical Church. Why are so many in the church, who claim to know Christ, biblically illiterate? Instead of pastors preaching expository sermons, and opening up to their congregations what God has to say concerning His Word, most use a Bible text as a springboard and ramble on from there giving nice thoughts about their own commentary, but never exegeting the text. And while this doesn’t excuse the layman from studying Scripture himself (as each Christian is commanded to do in 2 Timothy 2:15), it does set the example and has a direct bearing on the compromise that is occurring today.

This book was not intended as an essay on the “Lordship Controversy” issue within the Church, but I realized after I had finished writing it that it may well have been just that, because it is the “no-Lordship” teaching that is feeding and multiplying the problem this book was written to confront—the problem of being deceived about one’s own salvation.

For anyone not familiar with the above controversy among Evangelicals, “Lordship Salvation” is the term certain evangelical theologians have tagged those within the evangelical church who still believe that Scripture clearly teaches that one cannot genuinely come to Christ as Savior without also coming to Him as Lord. No one is more responsible for this “Lordship Salvation” tag then Pastor and Author, John MacArthur. His landmark book, The Gospel According to Jesus, sparked a firestorm of controversy that is with us to this day. (I cannot resist interjecting here that those who advocate a no Lordship salvation have picked an argument with God, not John MacArthur, or any other man, with the exception of no lesser authority than the Apostle Paul, who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit laid down the biblical absolutes for genuine, saving, faith, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, emphasis added, NASB).
Paul says that God’s requirement for salvation is twofold:

1. Confess that Jesus is Lord.
2. Believe that God raised Him from the dead.

It is not without note, (since God does nothing arbitrarily) that confessing Jesus as Lord is listed by the Holy Spirit as the first requirement. What does it mean to “confess Jesus as Lord?” We find that answer in the Greek definition of the word. Our word “Lord” is the Greek word “kurios.” Strong’s Concordance gives this definition: (supremacy); supreme in authority, i.e. controller; by implication Mr. (as a respectful title): God, Lord, master, Sir.

We all can understand the implication of the above descriptive words. Coming to Christ for salvation is, along with a heart belief in His death and resurrection, to make Him Lord-the “supreme,” “controller,” “master” of one’s life, in short, a full commitment unto total submission and obedience to all the precepts and commands of God as revealed in the Scriptures. Does this sound even remotely related to the no-lordship advocates who contend that all the gospel requires of men to be saved is to accept Jesus as Savior, and that Lordship, though desirable, can be added on later? That is not what my Bible says!

We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” This verse alone ought to end the no Lordship controversy. To argue that one can come to saving faith in Christ and yet not necessarily manifest a changed life is to deny the clear teaching of the word of God which teaches us that every person who is “in Christ” (born again) is a “new creation,” and that “old things have (past tense) passed away,” and that “all things have (present tense) become new” (emphasis added). I don’t see a time lapse in that verse. God could have said it any plainer than He has. “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

In seeking to affirm that Scripture teaches that how we live our lives has a bearing on the reality of our profession of faith in Christ, the no-lordship theologians throw up their hands and cry, “You are proclaiming a works salvation!” Our answer is, “No, we are not!” Salvation is by grace through faith alone apart from any human merit, but genuine saving faith can only be verified outwardly to a watching world, says the Apostle James, by our works. “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). Anyone can claim to have faith, but only a changed life makes valid that claim.

Countless people today do claim to believe in Christ, to be “born again,” yet for many of those same people, if their lives were placed beneath the searchlight for the evidences of genuine conversion found in Scripture there would be little or no resemblance to what the Bible calls, a “new creation” where “old things have passed away” and “all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Rather than proclaiming a works salvation and taking away from the simple gospel of grace through faith alone this blessed truth adorns the gospel message, since the faith to make Him Lord is all a work of God, for “…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 12:3).

God alone knows our hearts and every truly repentant heart that sincerely embraces Christ as Savior also get Him as Lord. We do not make Him Lord, as if the choice is up to us. He is the Lord! For lack of a more reverent phrase salvation is a “package deal!” All who receive Jesus receive the Lord Jesus Christ because that is Who He is, and if in the passing of time ones life is not lived under His Lordship then we have every scriptural right to question the validity of that conversion.

Perhaps you have read this far and are thinking to yourself, “This is not for me. I know that I am a Christian. This doesn’t really apply to me.” May I say, in all love, that you might be the very person who needs most to read this book? There is no room for pride here, or a “pat on the back” mentality. This book was not written to pass judgment on who is, or who is not, a Christian, but to present the evidences of salvation that Scripture itself gives us. Heart examination concerning our eternal destiny is not optional. All Christians are commanded to, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, emphasis added). So if you are saying to yourself, “This doesn’t apply to me” you need instead to place yourself under God’s clear command. As a true believer your faith will be confirmed and strengthened, and for any who may be self-deceived this examination could alter your eternal destiny!

Let me ask you, “What could possibly be more important in life than knowing for sure where you are going to spend eternity—especially when the only alternative to heaven is hell?” The Devil knows this and has always been active as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) in an effort to blind the minds of men and women to “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). In these last days of the Church age Satan “knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12) and he is waging all out warfare against the only message that will populate heaven and depopulate hell.

The eternal destiny of our souls is the one subject above all others we must have clarity about, yet, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, multitudes of people in the Church are deceived about their true spiritual condition. How can we so confidently say this? Because so many are basing their hope of heaven on unbiblical premises! What God says, after all, is all that matters! The burden of this book is to examine the evidences which the Word of God sets forth concerning who is, and who is not, a Christian. Our assurance of eternal life must be based on Scripture! To place our confidence in anything other than what God’s Word plainly teaches will give a false assurance and put our souls in jeopardy. May it please God to use what has been written to open the eyes of any who may be deceived, and bring comfort and assurance to every true believer.

Richard W. Barton

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

The above verse of scripture deals with the most important subject in the universe. Nothing in all of life even comes close to the importance of every person’s response to the above command by the Apostle Paul. The command is to “examine [our]selves” to “prove [our] selves” as to whether or not we “are in the faith.” We can afford to fail in every other area of life, as undesirable as that might be, but we must not fail in giving full attention to the destiny of our immortal souls! That is the ultimate failure—a failure with eternal consequences! No one spoke to this matter more forcefully than our Lord Jesus Christ when he said, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

When the Apostle Paul spoke the command to the Church in Corinth to, “examine yourselves” he was addressing the whole congregation, not just the weak or the doubting among them. Because it is a command it was not optional then, nor is it optional now unless we choose to disobey. If you have never examined your own salvation experience, then this command is clearly to you. And even if you feel you have done so an occasional review of God’s grace in your life is spiritually comforting.

The pages of the Bible, especially the New Testament, contain many “proof texts” by which we can carry out this command of God to examine ourselves, and to accurately judge our own spiritual condition. I realize that true believers, as well as those who may be deceived, both believe that they are saved. Perhaps this is the very reason Paul gave this command to the entire assembly (and us today). To obey then is imperative. For if all obey, then all will be confronted with the biblical basis for the assurance of salvation.

Salvation is a free gift from God but it is not a gift easily received. This ought not to shock anyone for it is the clear teaching of Scripture. Contrary to the “easy believism” that is widespread today, it was Jesus Who said, “Narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis added).

When Christ called individuals to follow Him it was always a call to a total and a costly commitment, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34, emphasis added). Notice in this verse the words of personal sacrifice and commitment. Salvation is indeed offered freely, but to provide salvation costs God His only Son, and Christ His life, and it will cost us our lives as well. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23). (This is not, primarily, a reference to martyrdom, although that possibility is included in our commitment, but Jesus was referring, in this context, to dying to our self-life).

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking eternal life he went away disappointed because he wasn’t willing to give up his god which was money. The same is still true today. Men have their “gods” besides the true God, but to follow Christ we must be willing to forsake our idols. (An idol is anything more important than God in our lives). Jesus calls all who follow Him to a total surrender, to Himself and to His Kingdom, even if that should mean physical death. He said that the way to eternal life was “narrow” and “difficult,” and that “few” would find it. He went on to say that the majority would be unwilling to come this narrow way, “for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matthew 7:13).
If it is not easy to be saved, and if the majority of mankind, will choose not to enter in at the narrow gate, then how can we know for sure whether or not we, ourselves, are among the few who have come by the narrow way? If the consequence of not believing, or of believing wrongly, is eternal surely God would not leave us without some way to examine our hearts as to whether or not we belong to Him. The good news is He did not leave us to wonder, or to hope, about this most important matter in all of life. In fact, God is so concerned that we experience the assurance of true salvation that He inspired the Apostle John to sum up his entire first epistle with this wonderful statement, “These things have I written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, emphasis added). God put this verse in the Bible because He wants us to know with an absolute and unshakeable certainty that we possess eternal life. The Apostle Peter emphasized importance of this assurance in his second epistle, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10, emphasis added).

Before we examine some of the evidences of genuine conversion found in Scripture it would be helpful to stop right here and briefly look at just what the Bible says transpires in the heart of every true convert at the moment of salvation. What takes place at conversion obviously lays the foundation for everything else that follows in the Christian life. And if we correctly understand the miracle that is wrought by God in our conversion, it will go a long way in establishing our hearts in the matter of assurance.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new,” (emphasis added). The Bible says that at salvation we pass from a state of death to life, (John 5:24) and we become a “new creation.” This new creation always produces a radical change in our behavior.

A New Creation

The core truth about salvation is that genuine conversion brings about a brand new creation in our nature. Before conversion, no matter how refined or moral we might have been (in the eyes of men) we were all slaves to the sin nature that was passed down to us from Adam, and as such we were separated from God and spiritually dead. But when God in His sovereign grace reaches down to rescue us, at the very moment of our conversion a true miracle takes place, and the living God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, takes up permanent residence in our hearts, and we become, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), a “new man” (Colossians 3:10). We suddenly find ourselves loving God, desiring His will, hating sin, and longing to obey. Instead of being separated from God we are now joined to Him in an eternal and inseparable bond. (Romans 8:38, 39). This change in our nature is a miracle every bit as great, yes greater, than creation week itself! No amount of education or self-reformation could ever bring about this transformation in the fallen heart of man.

This miracle of becoming a new creation is prophesied in the Old Testament and realized in the New. In Hebrews 8:10, and again in 10:16, the writer quotes Jeremiah 31:33 in speaking of the new heart that God would give to believing Israel, and also to all mankind, under the New Covenant, “This is the covenant that I will make with them…I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Hebrews 10:16). Before we experience God’s redeeming grace, the law of God is external to us. It commands what we are unable to perform. We may acknowledge the righteousness of God’s law; even try our best to obey it, but it is still external. Only in the hearts of those in whom the Holy Spirit lives, by reason of the new birth, is the law of God resident—as a life principle within. That is why the Apostle Paul writes in his Epistle to the Colossians, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, emphasis added). We have absolutely no hope of glory (heaven) apart from the new birth in which Christ comes to live within us. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). God’s Holy law, which was impossible for us to keep, Christ kept in our place, and when we are born again through believing the gospel God credits Christ’s perfect righteousness to our account and declares us not guilty! That is grace!

After the miracle of the new birth everything in life is seen in a whole new dimension. The Psalmist expressed it this way, “I have set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8, emphasis added). The hymn writer also spoke beautifully of this wonderful change that happens to us when we enter into salvation:

“Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green
Something lives in every hue
Christ-less eyes have never seen!

Birds with gladder songs o’er flow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know as now I know
I am His and He is mine.”

(Stanza two of, I Am His And He Is Mine – Wade Robinson, 1838-1877)

This change then, this new heart that God gives to us at conversion is a miracle, totally transforming our lives, raising our spirits from the dead and making us alive unto God. “No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:11-14, emphasis added).

A Radical Change

This new heart that God gives us at salvation not only makes us a new creation on the inside, but it also brings about a radical change of lifestyle on the outside, where “old things have passed away” and “all things have become new.” God does not use words without meaning. God always means exactly what He says. If “all things” are not literally becoming new in our lives, not just inwardly, but outwardly, as a result of our conversion experience, then we have very good reason to doubt the validity of that experience. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “The grace of God that does not change you is not the grace of God.” This radical change of lifestyle in a true believer is basically what this book is all about, (and also what the “Lordship Salvation Controversy” is all about). True salvation will be, must be, seen in the life. The Apostle Paul had this to say about the change in his life after his conversion, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is radical! The old Paul was gone. The new Paul now lived a different life altogether.

(It needs to be said, that, while true conversion does change us inwardly in our relationship with God in a moment of time, outward changes are progressive and lifelong. The internal changes come first-our love for God and His Word, the love, joy and peace that flood our souls over sins forgiven and guilt removed, but only as we feed upon the Word of God, converse with Him in prayer, fellowship with other believers in a sound church will we experience the progressive growth of sanctification in which old habits and old sinful patterns are replaced with new, holy, patterns. No two new believers have exactly the same sanctification experience. For some outward changes are almost immediate, for others it is more gradual, but for all there are changes. Without this ongoing, lifelong, transformation, both inwardly and outwardly, any claim to salvation is false. “The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18).)

Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Most assuredly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The transformation that takes place at conversion is so radical and life changing that Jesus compared it to being “born again.” Every human birth is a radical and abrupt transition from one mode of existence to a totally new and different one. We leave the dark protected world of our mother’s womb and enter into the bright and dangerous environment of the world outside. The new birth is no less radical.

As surely as our sin nature will, in time, manifest itself following our birth into this (natural) world, so will our new nature, in time, manifest itself following our birth into that other (spiritual) world. The sin nature we all receive from Adam in our first (natural) birth cannot be hidden; it will always manifest itself in various acts of sin. In the same way, the new nature we all receive from God in our second (spiritual) birth cannot be hidden; it will always manifest itself in various acts of righteousness. If we say that we have been born again, but our life does not evidence this “new creation,” this “radical change,” where we cease living a self-centered life and begin to live a God-centered, others-centered, life, a life accompanied by good works, then whatever our experience may have been it was not true conversion.

A.W. Tozer, often spoken of as The Twentieth Century Prophet, who was greatly used of God in his day, and still is through his writings, said in relation to this change of heart and life that is manifested in genuine conversion:

“Plain horse sense ought to tell us that anything that makes no change in the man who professes it makes no difference to God either, and it is an easily discernable fact that for countless numbers of persons the change from no-faith to faith makes no actual difference in the life…”[1]
In the same vein, Bishop J.C. Ryle, (well known English churchman of the nineteenth century) had this to say about justification and consequent sanctification in his great work, Holiness:
“Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men”.[2]
This truth of a changed heart which always results in a changed life that is seen by, “the eyes of men” is so very important, and yet it is a truth that is neglected and ignored by today’s evangelical church. Because of the easy believism that is prevalent today as long as one claims to have “received Christ,” or to have made a “decision” they are embraced as fellow-believers regardless if they manifest a changed life. The result of this unscriptural lack of emphasis on what God’s Word clearly teaches about true conversion, the church is filled with unsaved, “intellectual” believers, whose hearts have never been made alive in Christ, and whose unchanged patterns of living bear mute testimony to their unchanged hearts.

How do you know for sure that you are a possessor of eternal life and not just a professor? Ask yourself the following, “Do I have a:

- compassionate love for Christ?
- hunger to know God’s Word?
- deep longing to live a life of complete obedience?
- deep longing to be holy?
- desire to live submissively and humbly?

Scripture makes clear that sanctification will always follow justification, and that good works will always follow salvation—“Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to confirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8, emphasis added).

I love what Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in southern California said once in a Sunday morning sermon: “I have never seen a salvation. I have only seen the result of one.” (Emphasis added)

My prayer is that God will enable all who read the following six evidences of genuine conversion to be ruthlessly honest as they encounter the many heart examination questions that are asked throughout.

Evidence of Genuine Conversion

In light of God’s commands to us, just how are we to “examine” ourselves, and “prove” ourselves, and “know,” and “make certain” of our salvation? Since it is clear from Scripture that God desires us to know we are saved, He has, in His goodness, also placed in His Word various evidences of salvation by which we can examine our hearts and know the validity of our faith.
If the miracle of becoming a new creation in Christ has happened to you then you will desire to live as Christ lived, and because of this God-given desire your life will manifest various evidences, found in Scripture, that this transformation has indeed taken place.

The following six evidences, taken from Scripture, are not exhaustive but are set forth with the earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit will use them to illuminate your mind and heart and give to you a true understanding of your relationship to the Triune God.

Chapter One

God’s Love in the Heart

The first evidence of saving faith is:

1. A true believer possesses God’s love in their heart.
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given unto us” (Romans 5:5).

The first and most important evidence of salvation is a supernatural love given to us by God. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is given to us at salvation, and that when He comes to live within us He pours out the love of God into our hearts. This is not a human love; it is God’s supernatural, agape, love—the kind of love that is God’s alone, and is, in the Bible, a definition for God—“for God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is a love that has two-dimensions—love for God, and love for mankind.

Before we look at these two dimensions it is important to say that the love given to us by God at salvation is not to be defined, primarily, as a feeling—e.g. the “warm fuzzies,” or as the Mormons say, “a burning in the breast.” Feelings are deceptive because they are common to all mankind—Christian and non-Christian, and are subject to fluctuation. Multitudes who profess salvation in Christ are deceived into believing they are right with God because they become emotional over spiritual things. Tears may well up while listening to a baptismal testimony, or a powerful sermon, or a stirring piece of Christian music, but emotional experiences are no guide to our spiritual condition. Thomas Boston in his profound Puritan Classic, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, said concerning salvation and emotions:

“There may be a wonderful moving of the affections in souls that are not at all touched with regenerating grace. When there is no grace there may, notwithstanding, be a flood of tears, as in Esau, who ‘found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears’ ” (Hebrews 12:17).[3]

To equate feelings and emotional experiences with spirituality can open the door to deception and doctrinal errors of all kinds. The modern-day Charismatic movement is a prime example of this danger. While God’s love in our hearts certainly does affect our emotions, in scripture love is predominantly defined as action, not emotion, “God so loved¼that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16, emphasis added), “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word” (John 14:23), “Love is patient, and is kind…does not behave rudely…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, emphasis added). The above scriptures concerning love, expressed both positively and negatively, deal with what we do rather than how we feel. The real test of God’s love in our hearts is not determined by our emotional feelings or experiences, but by how we live out our profession of faith day by day. The Apostle John made clear what the result of God’s love in our heart ought to be, “My little children let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18, Emphasis added.)

Let’s look now at the first of two dimensions of supernatural love that God imparts to us—our love for God.

Love for God

No one, apart from the experience of a spiritual new birth, can love God in the way He requires and deserves. As was pointed out in the Introduction, the transformations that are simultaneous with a genuine conversion experience is a new creation of our nature, and a radical change in our lifestyle, and the later follows the first as surely as night follows day. The immediate proof of salvation is a love for God that was not present before. This is a miracle. No one is born with a love for God, or His truth. “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). We not only do not love God naturally, but actually are in active opposition to Him, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10, emphasis added).

We may have been brought up in the Church, believing and knowing all about God, and may even have made a profession of faith in Christ at some point in our lives, and still be unconverted and lacking a genuine love for God. It is all too possible to know God in the head only! This is a fact for countless numbers within “the Church.” These “Christians” are persuaded of the facts of the gospel and do not doubt for a moment the essential doctrines of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. These people believe He is the Son of God, that He died for their sins, and that He is the only Savior. In other words, they are orthodox, and yet they may be on the road to hell! How can this be! It is possible because head knowledge alone is insufficient for salvation. Matthew Henry, well-known Bible commentator of a bygone era, said, “Strong convictions often come short of sound conversions.”

The Word of God tells us to “set our affections on things above” (Colossians 3:2 KJV, emphasis added).True religion is always an affair of the heart! If a man’s religion doesn’t change a man’s heart affections and make him live differently then perhaps all he has is “religion” and not the real thing. The Old Testament agrees throughout with the New in regards to this truth. In Psalm 112:1 we read, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments” (Emphasis added).This change in our affections is so patently true in Scripture and in the real life experience of saints down through the ages that Jonathan Edwards, that great theologian of the Great Awakening in America, wrote a whole book, 382 pages long, titled: Religious Affections, in which he made unarguably clear that when God’s Spirit enters a heart He changes its affections; not just superficially, but essentially, and eternally!

The title of a powerful gospel tract reads: “Missing Heaven by 18 inches.” This distance, it points out I inside, the distance between heaven and hell, is the distance between the head and the heart! How tragically true this is for untold numbers of people. Multitudes believe the facts of the gospel who have never allowed those facts to change their hearts through a full surrender and commitment of themselves to Christ as their Savior and as their Lord. They may not doubt that He is Savior, but have never crowned Him as Lord.

And here again with that statement we are smack up against the Lordship Controversy. Jesus is not just our Savior, but our Savior and Lord. If He isn’t the Lord of your life don’t tell me that He is your Savior. Regeneration is a one time event and doesn’t come in stages. The only way I can believe He is your Savior is by what I can see He has done in your life! “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9, 10 NEB, emphasis added). Confessing Jesus as Lord is every much a part of saving faith as believing in your heart is.

Genuine love for God, that results in a transformed life, is the wellspring and fountain of all else in the Christian life. It is the chief of virtues which is why Scripture says it is the fulfilling of the whole law (Romans 13:10).This is why it is first in importance. It is this love for God alone which enables us to obey the first and greatest commandment in the law, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5). As love for God is first in importance it is consequently the first and greatest test of salvation. It is a sure and certain proof of new life, for it cannot be imitated. Jesus taught there would be tares in the church that would be hard to distinguish from the real thing. There are many in the professing Church who appear, outwardly to men, to be true believers, but only those who know God (not just intellectually, but in their hearts) can truly love Him as the law commands. To love God like this is completely impossible to fallen man until God sovereignly imparts this love to our hearts. John Piper, in his excellent book, God’s Passion for His Glory, quotes Jonathan Edwards in regards to this miraculous change that takes place towards God at conversion:

“The first effect of the power of God in the heart in regeneration, is to give the heart a Divine taste or sense; to cause it to have a relish of the loveliness and sweetness of the supreme excellency of the Divine nature.”[4]

What Jonathan Edwards was really saying in the above quote is that at conversion we, in essence, fall in love with God! We are attracted, in love, to Who He really is in all His glorious perfections. This “Divine taste or sense,” these lofty thoughts of God cannot be experienced by the natural man.

Before conversion every person’s life is centered on self. It cannot be otherwise, because, “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). While many may claim love for God and Christ, if that claim is rooted only in a head knowledge and mental ascent to the facts, their daily lives, if revealed for all to see, would be exposed as not God-centered. The way they live would not support what they profess to believe. This is not to say that everyone professing faith in Christ is living in gross sin, but if it were possible to get inside their minds (which God, of course, can) we would see that their thought life does not habitually ascend up to God in loving communion and fellowship throughout the hours of each day. Behind closed doors we would soon discover that they do not habitually nurture their souls in consistent, daily, searching of the Scriptures, in times of prayer, in the reading of good Christian books, along wth the thanksgiving of continual praise in their hearts. They will not be fully committed to the church in faithful attendance, or in Christian service. They do not regularly seek out opportunities to practice good works, nor give proportionately of their income to the Lord’s work, and they do not have a heartfelt burden to share the gospel with others. In short, they do not live the whole of their lives unto God.

What else is it to be a Christian? If the gospel doesn’t change us profoundly from the way we lived before our professed conversion then our professed “conversion” was merely an ascent to a set of facts which have not yet made the 18 inch trip to our hearts. All who have come to know Christ, the Bible says, are “new creations.”

Sadly, for many, God is in reality only a dutiful, even necessary, addition to their already busy lives, but He is clearly not the center, out of which all else derives purpose and meaning. This is not salvation but deception. Every born again child of God should be able to say, from the depths of his, or her, heart with the Apostle Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21, emphasis added).

Jesus gave us a “litmus test,” so to speak, concerning love for Him. He said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…He who does not love Me does not keep my words” (John 14:21, 23, 25, emphasis added). This is plain talk. There is no mistaking what Jesus said, or what He meant. In the eyes of God, love and obedience are one and the same. Genuine love for God means obedience to Him. If there is no consistent obedience there is no love regardless of what we say. If our personal (behind closed doors) lives, as well as our outward public lives, are not radically different from before our professed conversion, then our verbal expressions of love to Christ are meaningless. If you are saved you will delight in obeying Him, and God’s interests will have a place of priority in your life. If you are not keeping His commandments, living your life fully under His Lordship, you don’t love Him, and if you don’t love Him you might want to ask yourself if you really know Him? Blunt? Yes, but it is the Word of God.

So much more could be said, but any person, who is brave enough to be fully honest with himself, or herself, knows the true condition of their heart. We all know what the motivating drive of our life really is, whether it is God and His glory, or whether it is self and our interests. A simple list of our priorities will usually supply us with the answer. Who, and what really has first place in your heart? Do you go to sleep at night with a sense of God’s grace and goodness to you, and do you greet each new day seeking His face? What is the first item on your list when you get up in the morning, after you do whatever you do to get fully awake? Is it time with the Lord, even if your personal schedule only allows you a very limited time? Our do you switch on the TV, or the radio, or read the newspaper, etc., etc.? But some will say, “This all sounds like law not grace—are we not free in Christ? Is it fair to judge someone by these kinds of things?” My reply, in all love, (seeking to be sympathetic to demanding schedules and unforeseen circumstances) is that this very question in itself is revealing to a true child of God—for to them, putting God first in all things (which requires discipline for us all) is not a duty but a joy! These things we are speaking about may seem small and insignificant, and bring out the charge of legalism-but only in the eyes of those who do not know God. Is it not the small, hidden, unseen, things that really reveal the spiritual state of our hearts?

A heart, in which the Spirit of God has done a true work of grace, will agree with Matthew Henry, “When the law of God is written in our hearts, our duty will be our delight.”
Only the miracle of the new birth can bring about this kind of a transformation. Love to God, in the big and in the “little” things, has always been the experience of regenerated men and women down through the ages. David, “[the] man after God’s own heart,” voiced the heart inclination of all truly converted souls, “Oh, how I love your law! It is my mediation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

Question: Are God’s interests, or self-interests, the real priorities of your life? Is God “in all your thoughts” as you live the whole of your life unto Him? Is He the center around which all else revolves? Do you seek His face daily in His word and prayer—not out of duty, but out of love? Can you say that you love God? If so, does your professed love prove itself genuine by your desire for obedience—obedience which is seen in a holy life, in faithful, sacrificial, service, and by good works? Does the anticipation of someday hearing from His lips, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 5:21) motivate you to an even greater love and obedience? All these things, and more, are only realities in that heart in which the love of God dwells.

Love for Mankind

Following our love for God, the second dimension of God’s love in our hearts is our love for mankind. This love for others is also expressed in two ways—our love for fellow believers, and our love for the lost.

Love for fellow believers:

Next to our love for God, a true believer will love all those who love God. Jesus said our love for one another, within the fellowship of His Church, would be an identifying mark of being His disciple, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another” (John 13:35, emphasis added). This is another clear evidence by which we can judge who is, and who is not, a Christian.

While we are to love all men, the Lord is speaking specifically in the above verse of our love for fellow believers. He says that the world at large will bear witness to the genuineness of our faith by our love one for another within the body of Christ. One cannot profess to be a follower of Christ and yet remain apart from the life of the Church. The New Testament knows of no such Christian who is not connected with an local body of believers. We are commanded by God to, “not [forsake] the assembling of ourselves together,” and “through love [to] serve one another” (Hebrews 10:25, Galatians 5:13). Our love, says the Apostle John, is not to be “in word or in tongue” but in “deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). In other words, talking about loving others is one thing, but it is only the demonstration of love that authenticates our words. How can we say the love of God is dwelling in our hearts if we have no real desire to identify in a vital way with God’s people; or to serve God through serving His people? If we are not vitally connected with a body of believers, doing our part, using our spiritual gifts in faithful ministry, it is indicative of one of two things: either we are backslidden, or we are not saved.

Question: In what way do you love the Church—the body of Christ? Is your love in “word and tongue” only, or in “deed and truth?” What deeds can you point to? Are you using your spiritual gifts to serve in some way? Do you give joyfully, and generously, out of what God has given to you so that God’s kingdom on earth can advance? Do you love to talk with other believers about the things of God? Do you look forward to Sunday services, and being with God’s people? Are Sundays, and other times of fellowship with believers times of growth and blessing in your life? If God’s love is dwelling in your heart you can answer all of these questions with a yes.

(Many, if not most, evangelical churches have dropped the evening service. Why, you might ask? I believe it is indicative of the spiritual climate of today’s Evangelical Church. Is it because we have lost our first love? Are we so ungrateful for God’s abundant blessings, and is God so marginal in our lives that we cannot even devote one day out of seven to Him? If your church still has an evening service, do you attend, or do you often stay home? Some will say this is splitting hairs, and being legalistic, yet I sincerely believe these kinds of questions are often symptomatic of the state of our hearts.

Our love for the lost

The true child of God not only loves God and other believers but also loves all men. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4: 7, 8, 11.)

The second greatest commandment in the law requires us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), and Jesus went even beyond our neighbor, “But love your enemies” (Luke 6:35), He said.

We are by nature self-centered, but through the new birth we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and since “God is love” (1 John 4:8) He reaches out to love all men (cf. John 3:16, Romans 5:8) and we too will have this same love for the lost, “because as He is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). All Christians are commanded by Christ to witness to the lost (Mark 16:15). This love for sinners is supernatural. A burden for souls is Godlike, and is also one of the evidences that we ourselves have experienced His saving grace in our hearts.

The Apostle Paul said, in regards to sharing the gospel, “the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The love of Christ for lost mankind compels us to share the gospel. If that burden is not yours something is wrong. Charles Haddon Spurgeon in his book, Being God’s Friends, had this to say about 2 Corinthians 5:14:

“We often hear people quote that passage as, ‘The love of Christ ought to constrain us,’ but that is a corruption of the text. The Apostle tells us that the love of Christ does constrain us. And if it really enters the heart it will do so. It is an active, moving power, influencing the inner life and then the external conduct.”[5]

Knowing Christ and sharing Christ are inseparable. If we know Him we will experience His burden for the lost, and that burden will “influence” our “inner life” and “external conduct,” moving us to action.

Being used of God to bring another person to a saving knowledge of Christ is one of life’s greatest joys. There is nothing greater we can do for another human being then to introduce them to the only One who can forgive their sin, take away their guilt, and change their eternal destiny! No true believer can rest content with a life that is not sharing Christ with others. Not all Christians are called by God to be Evangelists, but all are called to evangelize! Some people are by nature bolder and less inhibited than others, but we must overcome our timidity in obedience to Christ and out of compassion for the lost. Eternal souls hang in the balance! May we never forget that one of the most blessed facts about heaven is also one of the most horrifying facts about hell—both are eternal!

If you are a true believer, and yet have little burden for the lost, then you are a disobedient Christian (or not a Christian at all!) and you need to repent, put aside your fears, and ask God to give you courage and the right words to share the gospel. Make time to learn how to share the gospel and then obey! We do not have to be expert Theologians to share the Good News. Sharing Christ is essentially being a witness to what He has done in your life.
Let it be said too, that, having a burden for souls does not mean that we must be under some compulsion to share the gospel with everyone who crosses our path. The Holy Spirit, if we are sensitive to His leading, will bring us divine appointments. Sharing Christ in His power, and in His timing, is a successful witness, regardless if it brings that person to a decision. We just need to be sensitive to those we meet on a daily basis, and we must not be ashamed of the gospel. We do not want to force doors open, but at the same time we want to enter the ones He does open. Remember too, face-to-face sharing of the gospel isn’t the only way of reaching the lost. It should be included in our witness, but tracts, letters, giving, praying, etc., are also ways to share Christ.

Our love for others, in summary, is first and foremost a love for their spiritual welfare—for believers to edification, and for unbelievers for their salvation, yet, because God is love, a true believer, who is a partaker of God’s nature, will live a life of love, apart even from solely evangelistic motivations, as worthy and as important as they are. The Bible says we are to, “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2, emphasis added). The character of love is self-sacrifice. A true evidence of conversion is a love that is manifested by us in the daily course of our lives, —kindness, patience, gentleness, words of comfort and cheer, concern for the poor, various good deeds, and giving of our time and energy so that someone might receive a blessing (to Christians and to non-Christians). These are all indicative of genuine salvation. These things will be true of us because it is the nature of God to love, and we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). If we are sharp, harsh, and unkind in our words, and show little of a “gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4), if we don’t seek to serve others, and be a blessing wherever we may go, then we do not have the love of God dwelling in us. Love (demonstrated love—love in action) is true Christian living, and is a witness to others that God has done a transforming work of grace in our hearts

Question: Do you demonstrate a love for the lost? Do you have a burden for the eternal souls of the men and women, and boys and girls all around you? Are there names of people on your heart at this very moment for whom you are praying? Are you seeking to share Christ with them? Does your heart ache at the thought of loved ones, friends, neighbors, and even your enemies spending an eternity in hell? Do your tears ever flow over their hopeless plight? Does the awful realization of eternal punishment move your heart to warn them? Do you fervently pray for the unsaved in your family, and outside it? Do you invite them to church? Do you make use of gospel tracts, write letters, visit, and give of your finances to reach them?” Are you walking in love before all men? Are you a blessing or a source of friction? Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, emphasis added). Notice what Jesus says will happen to those who follow Him. He said, I “will make you fishers of men.” If you are not “fishing for men,” then, how can you say you are a follower of Jesus? If the above activities and heart attitudes are not characteristic of your life, then you need to ask yourself, “Am I a true believer?”

Chapter Two


The second evidence of saving faith is:

2. A true believer lives an obedient life.

“Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him”
(1 John 2:5, emphasis added).

We have spoken already of the importance of obedience, now we want to look in more depth at obedience as an evidence of salvation.

In the above scripture the Apostle John speaks very plainly about how we can know we have genuine faith, a faith that assures us “that we are in Him,”—saved and on our way to heaven. What is it that gives us this solid assurance? The Apostle answers in just four words, “Whoever keeps His word.” How much plainer could that be? There is nothing difficult about knowing if you are one of God’s children. God’s children are obedient! Those who don’t belong to God are not obedient! True biblical faith always produces a life of obedience to the commands and teachings of Scripture.

The prevalence in today’s Evangelical Church of a “No Lordship” salvation is foreign to the New Testament. In John 3:36 we read, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” In this verse the Holy Spirit sets forth faith and obedience as synonymous with having eternal life; they are the co-equal components of genuine saving faith. All who truly believe will obey, and only those who obey truly believe.

This second evidence of obedience is so crucial, especially in the Evangelical Church today where anyone and everyone is in the fold if they have followed the right procedure, and said the right prayer. In the Bible, faith and obedience are synonymous terms in describing a true believer. Faith in the gospel that proves genuine is not a faith that only believes the facts of the gospel, but a faith with subsequent heart obedience to those facts! Immediately some will say, “You are getting dangerously close to a works salvation!” Not so! In the statement above the words, “proves genuine,” and subsequent, are key words. Scripture is very clear to make this distinction concerning faith and obedience. Obedience always follows faith, never precedes it. Faith in Christ alone must come first, but once saving faith in Christ is exercised, the only way our faith is proven genuine is by the works that subsequently follow.

The cry of the Reformation, “The just shall live by faith alone,” championed by Martin Luther, is only one side of the same gospel coin. The other side was succinctly stated by fellow Reformer John Calvin, who said, “Faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” (Emphasis added). What a great statement! What a powerfully true condensation of what the Word of God teaches from start to finish! Calvin is not contradicting Luther, but only proclaiming what Luther himself also believed, and what Scripture plainly teaches, that, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

The Apostle Paul, whose words in the book of Romans produced saving faith in the heart of Martin Luther, and the Apostle James’s words on the relation of faith and works, were not in conflict with one another. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone, apart from works, as Paul wrote. But from man’s limited and fallible vantage point (since men cannot see into the heart) salvation can only be verified before men as genuine by the works that accompany it, as the Holy Spirit inspired James to write.

In the epistle to the Hebrews we read concerning the life of Jesus Christ, that: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Notice, what the inspired writer is saying: Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (emphasis added). Faith and obedience are so closely associated in Scripture that anyone not familiar with these two parallel truths might almost conclude from this particular verse that God grants salvation only to those who obey Him, as if obedience came first and then salvation. But we know it cannot be teaching this or it would pervert the gospel. Instead, this verse is a marvelous and powerful illustration, as we have been pointing out, of the inseparableness of faith and obedience.

What this verse is teaching is: the nature of eternal salvation, which Christ gives to believers, is characterized by obedience. Obedience is the sign and seal of our faith in Christ as Savior.

(There is only one sense in which obedience does precede salvation and it is that we must obey the command to repent and believe if we are to be saved, yet so that no man will boast in God’s presence, God gives even the capacity to repent to us—“For by grace are you saved, through faith, and not that of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” “Not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 2:4, emphasis added).

The Son of God, (who was perfect and without sin) took on true humanity, and “learned obedience” (Hebrews 5:8) as an example and pattern for all future recipients of salvation who would “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). As Jesus was obedient, we likewise follow in His steps as obedient children. The saved, in the above verse in Hebrews 5:9 are literally called the “all who obey Him” (Emphasis added). This is our designation; it is who and what we are! Obedience defines a Christian!

German pastor, and author, Dietrich Bonhaeffer, who suffered imprisonment under Adolf Hitler, once said: “Only he who believes is obedient; only he who is obedient believes.” This is not double talk, but gospel truth! It is only the saved (“he who believes”) that are able to render the obedience that God requires, and it is only the “obedient” who give proof that they truly believe! (Bonhaeffer did not write out of theory, but out of real life experience; having paid for his obedience to the gospel with his life as a martyr for Jesus Christ).

Scripture identifies Christians as those who obey God, and non-Christians as those who do not obey God. The Apostle Peter, in contrasting the lost and the saved says in 1 Peter 4:17, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” Peter could have said what he did in a number of ways. He could have said, “What will be the end of those who have not believed on Jesus Christ?” Or, “What will be the end of those who have rejected the gospel, etc., etc?” Instead he chose to designate the unsaved as “those who do not obey the gospel of God.” We obey it first by believing it, and we manifest that we have believed by continuing to obey! Salvation and obedience in Scripture always go together.

The fallen human mind is skilled at self-deception. It is all too easy for us to fool ourselves. Those who are deceived about their salvation are often under the delusion that they are living in obedience. What then defines the obedience of true saving faith? “What did Christ mean when He said that those who love Him would obey Him?” How can we know if we truly are living in obedience, and are not simply deceiving ourselves? As in everything in the Christian life it is not our opinion, or anyone else’s opinion that matters, but what does God’s Word say?

To most unbelievers obedience is doing certain things, and not doing certain things. For example, if you ask an unbeliever if he, or she, is going to heaven a common answer will be, “I hope so.” If you probe further, and ask why God should let them into heaven, they will say something like, “Well, I have lived a good life,” or, “I haven’t murdered anybody,” or, “I never committed adultery,” or, “I don’t cheat or steal,” etc. etc. This is the standard reply from an unbeliever. They do not understand that true obedience to God is not avoiding certain bad things, and doing certain good things. God doesn’t have a good and bad ledger in heaven by which He adds up the score, and in the end determines by this who He allows into Heaven.

I would like to point out here that there are different levels of unbelievers just as there are different levels of believers. Not all believers are at the same level of spiritual maturity, and not all unbelievers are at the same place in their spiritual understanding either. There are unbelievers who have little or no Bible knowledge, no church background, who still feel that (if there is a God) they are okay before Him. They believe, as mentioned above, that God has some type of scale or balance system in heaven by which He will weigh their good deeds against their bad deeds. Then there are unbelievers who are churched but who belong to a liberal denomination that has long since departed from sound doctrine. These individuals may attend church regularly, be active in social good deeds, read their Bibles, pray, etc., but have never seen themselves as lost sinners. They too feel they will make it to heaven. After all, they believe in God, go to church, do good deeds, etc. Then there is a class of unbelievers within the Evangelical fold—whose spiritual condition is the primary motive for the writing of this book. These are the “tares among the wheat.” They may have been taught from their youth the true gospel. They may have made a “decision” for Christ at some point in their lives, and even be active within their local church. Concerning these, in His parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord said not to pull them up because in so doing the good seed might be uprooted; so similar are they in appearance to the wheat. (Cf Matthew 13:24-30)

If Jesus said the Church would have tares in it, how is it that we are to distinguish the tares from the wheat? Tares, agriculturally, are very difficult to distinguish from wheat because they look so much like wheat. The key is in the harvest. Tares are worthless for food, they bear no real fruit. This is exactly how it is in the spiritual realm. Professors in the true Church who have never allowed their head knowledge to become heart knowledge are very similar (outwardly) to true believers. They “know the language.” This is not to say they are knowingly hypocritical, but they bear no real and lasting fruit. That is why Jesus said of His Church, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). Tares in the spiritual realm profess repentance just as true believers do but they will lack the genuine fruit that always accompanies repentance. Paul’s message to both Jew and Gentile in the book of Acts, and for us today, is, “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20, emphasis added).

These “tares among the wheat” are often offended if anyone expresses concern about their spiritual walk. This in itself may be an indication of their deception. All who truly know the Lord ought to be grateful for another brother or sister who cares enough about their souls to confront them in the spirit of Galatians 6:1.

For the true believer obedience and a life of fruitfulness is not a list of do’s and don’ts but an inward desire that springs out of a transformed heart—a new heart that delights in obedience, even in the little unseen things that only God knows about. As I have stated earlier, it is possible to believe all the right things, even do right things and still be lost. The difference is the indwelling Christ Who totally changes our sin nature and produces in us holy aspirations and longings that are simply not true of those who have not experienced the new birth, no matter how evangelically orthodox they may be.

Key words having to do with obedience is an “inward desire” mentioned above. This is the answer to our question, “How can we know if we are living in obedience and are not deceived?” A true believer desires to do God’s will, and delights in it. An unbeliever, at heart, does not—no matter how religious, or how well instructed in sound doctrine he, or she, might be. For the unbeliever, deep down inside, obedience is the performance of a duty, that duty may make them happy, but we don’t serve God to be happy, or to have good feelings. For the believer, deep down, obedience is a joy-an all too insufficient sacrifice of love, which flows from a heart of grateful praise for so great a salvation. Yet, because believers also are still in the flesh, obedience involves discipline, and at times we do grow weary, but nevertheless it is a “sweet” discipline never a religious duty. A true believer eagerly longs to live a life that is pleasing to God. In the inner man, the new man, we delight in obeying God as the Apostle Paul so cleared stated in Romans 7:22, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.”(NASB). Obedience, for the Christian, is positive, not negative. It is not trying to avoid doing wrong, but delighting in doing good! In contrast an “evangelical unbeliever” tries to obey because their head tells them it is the right thing to do, and that it is the right way to live, but this obedience does not arise out of a true love of righteousness. With the Psalmist a true believer will always agree, “I delight to do thy will oh my God…Your law is within my heart” “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 40:8, 119:97, emphasis added). This inward desire then, that God implants in us at conversion, is a crucial test of our conversion experience.

The reality, and the evidence, of this heart change that produces obedience is perhaps nowhere more graphically illustrated than in the Judgment of the Nations, in the Olivet Discourse, in Matthew 25:31-46.

Just prior to establishing His thousand-year reign on earth Christ assembles the nations before Him, and separates them, putting the sheep (the saved) on His right hand, and the goats (the unsaved) on His left. He first blesses the saved and invites them into His eternal kingdom, listing all the good works they did for Him by ministering to others. He then pronounces the lost to be cursed and sends them away into the punishment of eternal fire, listing all the good works they could have done, but failed to do for Him by not ministering to others. It won’t matter in that day what men had “professed” to believe, but how they actually lived out what they professed to believe! Our deeds will either support our claims of faith or deny our claims. “By their fruits you will know them” Jesus said. (Matthew 7:20). It is quite easy to deceive men, but we can never deceive God. He sees all our deeds, or lack of deeds, but more importantly He sees the true motive of our hearts behind everything. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
An important distinction needs to be made in regards to works, and might even sound like a contradiction, it is this: True faith will always produce good works—but good works, in themselves, are not necessarily the evidence of true faith. When we stand before God His judgment will be completely just. For unnumbered multitudes it will be their lack of good works that will be the telling proof of their true heart condition, but for multitudes more, within the pale of Christendom (both liberal and evangelical) even the good works they will have done will not be the evidence of their salvation. Their sentence of doom will be in contrast to the Judgment of the Nations above! This sad fact is revealed by Christ in Matthew 7:21-23. In verse 22 Jesus says that on the Day of Judgment there will be certain people who will say to Him, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and in your name done many wonderful works?” Imagine this, here are people who have “done many wonderful works” in the name of Jesus! Surely these are His children! But shockingly, Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (v 23). How can this be? This passage of Scripture tragically reveals that it is possible to identify with the Church, believe sincerely in Christ, think yourself to be a Christian, even do many good works in His name, and still not be one of His own! How important it is to look carefully into our hearts to ascertain from where our true motives spring. Only those whose hearts have been regenerated (not intellectual assent or doctrinal correctness) will hear Christ’s “well done” on that day.

Non-believers can, and do, perform good works, but they are not good works born of the fruit of the Spirit, (with a capital S), but are works of the human spirit. All good goes back to God as its source. Human goodness, finds its roots in that original image of God in which we were created. Good works are commendable and beneficial, but they do not earn nor verify a relationship with God.

Someone who is unsaved may receive genuine pleasure from doing good deeds, and may even feel that God is pleased with them, but God can never accept the works of the unregenerate as having spiritual merit. The works of the unconverted fall into the class of “social do-goodism” (a phrase coined by pastor and author, John Piper). Only the works that arise out of a regenerated heart are acceptable to God. This is hard for sinful man to swallow, but God says, through the prophet Isaiah, that, “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, emphasis added). And in Psalm 14:2,3 we read, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no not one!” (emphasis added). So it is important to understand that even good deeds, which are certainly better than evil deeds, are not conclusive evidence of saving faith. As I said before I will say it again, “All who are truly children of God will produce good works, but not all who perform good works are truly children of God.

People in every age have claimed to be Christian who have never been born again. Multitudes are willing to embrace the teachings of Christ who are unwilling to make a heart commitment to His lordship over their lives. It is one thing to say you believe in Christ, and even do good works in His name, but it is quite another thing to make Him the Lord and Master of your life. The call of Jesus to salvation in Scripture is always to His Lordship as well as Savior. They cannot be separated. To do so is a perversion of the gospel. Let the “no-Lordship” theologians protest if they will—this is the gospel! May the Lord have mercy on any who would add or subtract to it!

It is so very possible to deceive yourself into thinking you know God, yet in reality be a stranger to a vital, living, relationship with Him. If you haven’t guessed it by now this is the theme of my book! There are so many within the evangelical fold who have done all the “right things,” who believe the “right things,” who say the right things, and yet have never bowed the knee and come by way of true repentance, with a deep awareness of their wretched state before a holy God, and with a desire to fully abandon their sin, and to submit to Christ as Lord in all things.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a book titled: Holy Affections. In these two words he knowingly, or unknowingly, capsulized what takes place in regeneration. No unsaved person-from the pagan in a remote jungle, to the “orthodox unbeliever” within the Evangelical fold, ever has holy affections. Holy affections are only born of the Spirit in a recreated heart. It is possible, even common, to have a human love for Christ, to be genuinely inclined towards Him and drawn to Him because you have been taught, and persuaded, of His perfections within a sound, biblical, church. One can read their bible, pray, and do good deeds, and not do so out of holy affections, but because their mind informs them that Christianity is the truth. But the mind and the heart can be worlds apart—as far as heaven and hell are apart. Innumerable lost souls will be in hell who believed the right things, whose minds were informed, but whose hearts were never renewed.

What are the signs that one has holy affections? Every person’s heart contains the answer to that question. Solomon said to “keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). How simple yet profoundly true this is! What is the inclination of your heart at the deepest level? Is Christ truly your life? Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21.) Is He really all things to you? Would you gladly give up all things, even those things most precious and dear to you, in order to have Him? Would you make the exchange if it meant that all things in this life were taken from you in order to have Christ, as has been the experience of countless saints down through the ages? These questions call for deep down, honest, soul searching, answers, not superficial ones. Eternity in either heaven or hell is the issue.

The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). I beg of you, my friend, do not allow your heart to deceive you. It will, if you allow it. Ask God to grant you the grace to honestly examine your heart. Ask Him for the searchlight of His Holy Spirit to look deep within to see if those “holy affections” are there which are granted from above. This is not something we work up, but is truly a gift of God like all else in the Christian life. “Then will I give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord” (Jeremiah 24:7, emphasis added).

Question: Look at your life, “Are you an obedient Christian? Jesus said, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Just what kind of Christianity is yours? Is it the armchair variety, or the soldier variety? Are you saying, “Lord, Lord” but doing little for the kingdom of God? Or is what you are doing born out of a human affection for Christ instead of a true “holy affection” born of the Spirit of God? Have the facts of the gospel, which you claim to believe, ever traveled the distance from your head to your heart? If these things are not a reality to you then perhaps you may not be a Christian.

Chapter Three


The third evidence of saving faith is:

3. A true believer bears spiritual fruit.

“By this my Father is gloried, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8, ESV).

We have spoken much already concerning good works in relation to the second evidence of saving faith, which is obedience. Now we want to go even deeper into the subject in this third evidence of genuine conversion.

A true Christian is a fruitful Christian, one who is “full of good works” as was said of Dorcas in Acts 10:36. The New Testament often uses the words “fruit” and “good works” in relation to our salvation. We need to ask, “Just exactly what does the Bible mean when it speaks of a believer’s fruit and good works? Is there a difference between them?”

Fruit and Good Works

The word “fruit,” when used in connection with believers in the New Testament, carries two basic meanings. First, the word fruit can be used to describe inward virtue that is wrought in the heart of believers by the Holy Spirit, i.e. “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22. Secondly, the word fruit, is used to describe outward good works a believer does in serving Christ—“That you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10, emphasis added).

We will look first at fruit as inward virtue:

Inward virtue

In Galatians 5:22 the Apostle Paul lists the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, quoted above. This list of virtues is, in reality, the nature of God Himself who indwells every true believer. While even unbelievers show forth some reflection of God’s nature (since mankind was created in His image) the fall terribly distorted that image. It is only in the life of a Christian that these God-like virtues can come into their fullest manifestation. These are not human produced fruits, but the supernatural fruit of the indwelling Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 will be the experience of every true believer, “But we all…beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image” (emphasis added.) If we claim salvation but our lives do not reflect this ongoing transformation then our claim is empty.

Question: Has there been an unmistakable transformation in your life? Is it obvious to a lost world that something is different about you, about the way you live and relate to others? Can fellow Christians see a reflection of the likeness of Christ in you? While we all fall short of Christ-likeness, can you, as well as others, see growth in the inward and outward fruits of the Spirit? Are you growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? The Apostle James says to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). Are you able to find joy in your trials, because you know God is sovereign and good in all He does and allows? Have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s power to walk in love, even when others treat you unfairly, or unkindly? Do you forgive others, or do you harbor a grudge? Unsaved people do not know this kind of living. When faced with trials they can only “grin and bear it,” so to speak, with greater or lesser success, but it will only be the fleshly success of “mind over matter.” Only the indwelling Holy Spirit can produce God-like virtue in us. The “flesh,” Jesus said, “profits nothing” (John 6:63).

We will look now at the second usage of the word fruit as descriptive of outward good works:

Outward good works

In Galatians 5:6 we read, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Emphasis added). John MacArthur, author, radio speaker, and pastor of Grace Community Church in Southern California, had this to say in commenting on this verse in The MacArthur Study Bible,

“Saving faith proves its genuine character by works of love. The one who lives by faith is internally motivated by love for God and Christ which supernaturally issues forth in reverent worship, genuine obedience, and self-sacrificing love for others.”[6]

This is a wonderfully definitive statement, and really covers much of what I have been saying up to this point. The true believer is “internally motivated” by their “love for God,” and this motivation is “supernatural,” it doesn’t come from the human spirit. This supernatural love, for and from God, produces in the believer the fruit of “reverent worship,” “genuine obedience,” and a love for God and “others” that is not in word only but also in deeds of “self-sacrifice” on their behalf. This is faith indeed!

In passing, it is significant to make mention that Pastor John MacArthur, who is quoted above, has written an entire book with the title: Faith Works. Indeed, it may be said, that a faith that doesn’t work is not true faith. George Whitefield, that powerful eighteenth century evangelist, who was so mightily used of God during the Great Awakening in America, had this to say in regards to faith and works, “A true faith in Jesus Christ…fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis added.)

Salvation, though freely offered, is not without cost. God gave His only begotten Son, and we, because of “His unspeakable gift,” will give ourselves back to Him in self-sacrificing service—not to pay Him for our salvation, but out of love and gratitude for saving us from an eternal hell, and for giving us the indescribable privilege of fellowship with Him—here on earth and in heaven forever. If you claim to know Christ but rarely leave your “comfort zone,” giving little of your time and effort in demonstrating the love to God you claim to have, then your claim is just so many words.

As night follows day, so good works will follow salvation. Abraham Booth is quoted as having said,

“By obedience to the commands of God, we evidence the sincerity of our holy profession. By this our faith is declared genuine before men…Whoever [confesses] to believe in Jesus and is not habitually careful to perform good works, his faith is worthless, barren, dead.”

This principal is repeated so often in Scripture it would make a long list of verses—here are just a few:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, emphasis added).

“That you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10, emphasis added).

“In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works”

“Remind them…to be ready for every good work,” “Affirm constantly that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 2:7, 3:1, 8, emphasis added).

“Things that accompany salvation…your work and labor of love…in that you have ministered to the saints.” (Hebrews 6:9, 10, emphasis added).

Notice the last verse in this short list—“Things that accompany salvation…” (Hebrews 6:9). I italicized the word “accompany” because Scripture is making it clear that our “work and labor of love” is an accompaniment of salvation. In other words, where there is true salvation, good works and labors of love will be present.

The Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:3 makes this marvelous statement, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who called us to glory and virtue.” In God’s mind and plan for fallen man justification and sanctification always go together. They make one complete package. One cannot exist without the other. Lordship salvation antagonists will protest this as departing from grace, but they miss the truth here altogether. All who are justified (born again) will progress unto sanctification (holy living) and no one lives a sanctified life who is not first justified. If Christ is presented in His entirety, as the Lord Jesus Christ, then sanctification ensues immediately upon salvation, and is itself a sure evidence of true salvation. To present Him as Savior only is half a gospel, and sadly all too many “decisions” are made on half a gospel, and half a gospel is no gospel! How many people are in the church who made some sort of a decision based on half a gospel, who came to Christ for what He could do for them, but who never came broken and humbly at His feet as the Lord and master of the rest of their lives? When no real lasting fruit follows such “conversions” it too is the evidence, not of true salvation, but of a false assurance. God’s saving power gives to us “all things” having to do with “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). The word “life” is what God does within us at salvation—giving us His life, regenerating us, giving us a new nature; and “godliness” is the expression, the outworking, of that new nature through godly living. No one ever received life from God who did not express it outwardly, that would be impossible. “The Life of God in the Soul of Man” (the title of Jeremiah Burroughs soul-searching little volume) is not an unfruitful transaction. That would make the Omnipotent God impotent to change the human heart! This is why the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter joins “life and godliness,” because they cannot exist apart from each other. Anyone claiming to know God (having received His “life”) who is not outwardly manifesting “godliness” through holy living has never received the life that God gives.
The Bible says that one of the purposes God gave us His Word is to equip us for good works. In that familiar passage on the inspiration of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 the Apostle Paul says that among the several reasons Scripture is profitable to us is so that, “the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This being true, it is accurate then to say that God gave us His word to make us fruitful—fruitful in good works. True believers live changed lives, lives bearing both inward and outward “fruit.”

The Apostle James also deals very pointedly and powerfully with this issue of works and true saving faith. In his eminently practical epistle he asks the question, “What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and has not works; can faith save him?” (James 2:14). He goes on to answer his own question by giving an imaginary illustration of someone who is cold and hungry coming for help to a professing Christian. In response to this needy person the professing Christian says, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled” (v.16), but doesn’t give them anything! James then asks the obvious, “What does it profit?” (v.16). The answer of course is, it profits nothing! James summarizes his argument by saying, “Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone” (v.17). The Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is making very clear that the person who claims to have faith, but who does not demonstrate that claim by their good works, in reality possesses a “dead” faith—a faith that cannot save.

Remember who is saying this dear reader! These are not man’s words, but God’s! The only way anyone can claim to possess genuine faith is to have a faith that works! Anything less is a dead faith!

In Titus 2:14 we read that God redeemed us in order to have for Himself, “His own special people, zealous for good works” (emphasis added). Again, how much clearer or specific could God get! By way of simple logic, Scripture says that God saved us to have a special kind of people, who are zealous (eager) to do good works. God succeeds in all of His endeavors, so if God saved us to “have for Himself” a “special” people who would be “zealous for good works,” then anyone professing faith in Christ who does not have some measure of zeal for good works is simply not one of God’s “special” (redeemed) people! (The only possible exception to the above logic is that of a true Christian living a disobedient life).

It is not possible to miss the clear teaching of God’s Word concerning faith and works, and yet the church is full of people who claim to know God, to be saved, born again, and on the way to heaven, whose lives are absent of spiritual disciplines, and godly activities! The old adage holds true here: “What you are speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say.” To quote again from that Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

“How sad it is that some talk about their faith in Christ, yet their faith is not proved by their works! …A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ; the new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself—body, soul, and spirit, to the Lord Who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service.”[7]

So significant in the mind of God are our labors of love for Him that the good works we do during our life here on earth have all been planned beforehand in eternity past. Scripture says that, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis added). How significant is that! The English word “prepared” (“ordained” in the KJV) is the Greek word proetoimazo, which means, “to fit up in advance.” This truth is not only an amazing statement of the sovereignty of God but another clear evidence of true salvation. If God has, before we were born, “prepared” the good works that we will do for Him here on earth, then anyone claiming to be a Christian who is not involved in ongoing good works is giving testimony that he, or she, is not among those who are “His workmanship,” faithfully living out the “good works” which “God [has] prepared beforehand.”

Jesus made it abundantly clear in the gospels that every believer bears fruit. For some it will be “thirtyfold,” for some “sixty,” and for some a “hundred” (see Mark 4:20), but all bear fruit for this is one of the identifying marks of a believer. “When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified; and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine” (John 15:8, [Amplified version] emphasis added).

Question: Does your life manifest inward fruit and outward works? While even the most spiritually mature Christian will fall short of God’s perfect standard of holy living, nevertheless, can you say in true sincerity that this is the bent and desire of your heart? What good works can you point to in your life? When was the last time you visited someone who was sick, or wrote a letter of encouragement, or made a phone call to specifically minister to someone? How often do you seek to share the gospel? How often do you give out a gospel tract because of your burden for the lost? In what ways are you serving Christ in your church? How much money do you give to God’s work? If you have to think long and hard about these questions in order to come up with a few good deeds, this is not what the Bible is referring to when it says that God’s “special” people are “zealous” for good works. For the true believer good works are the normal Christian life, and they flow joyfully, and naturally, out of a redeemed heart. If these kinds of things are not descriptive of you then you have every reason to ask yourself, “Am I really a Christian?”

If after reading this far you are beginning to think to yourself “this is awfully repetitive,” may I say, “it is intended to be?” I am seeking to drive home the crucial connection between faith and works. I am repetitive only because Scripture is repetitive. If the inspired Scriptures repeat over and over, in different settings and ways, that a faith that does not bear inward and outward fruit is not true faith, then to miss the point is to ignore God’s warning and perhaps lose your soul!

(In order not to discourage anyone, it is understood that not every believer has the same amount of free time. Retired people, part-time workers, some students, etc., will have more time to devote to the Lord than others who have a more demanding schedule. Many single moms with children under foot scarcely have time to eat and sleep! Many fathers are in jobs that require after hours work and travel. The Lord knows all this, and He looks on the heart. If changes can be made to allow more time we should make them. If we cannot, God knows and understands. Yet, most everyone will have at least some time to cultivate inward and outward fruit, and if you don’t then your priorities are upside down. We all need to make a living, but God expects us to put His Kingdom first, and then He has promised to meet all our other necessary needs—not our wants. If you are too busy to serve God you are too busy.

Chapter Four

Habitual Sin

The fourth evidence of saving faith is:

4. A true believer cannot live in habitual sin.

“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest” (1 John 3:9, 10).

The importance of the above verse as an evidence of genuine faith cannot be overstated, but first, we need to make it clear that this passage is not teaching that Christians are without sin in their lives. In 1 John 1:9 we read, “If we [referring to believers] confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” The Apostle is not talking about being sinless, but if taken in its context we see he is speaking about committing sin habitually.

In the verses immediately preceding verses 9 and 10 we read: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness…” (verse 3). “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous just as He is righteous. He who sins (practices - implied) is of the devil…” (verses 7, 8).

This is a crucial test of the new birth. There is no mistaking what the Word of God is teaching in these verses. The Apostle John is making it absolutely clear that the matter of continuing to sin (habitually practicing sin) or not continuing to habitually practice sin was how we would know who was, and who was not, a Christian. But John goes even further and says that a Christian “cannot sin.” What does this mean?

This statement embodies two marvelous truths:

First, positionally, God sees every believer clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. In God’s eyes is wonderfully true that He sees us in Christ as sinless, not in our daily lives, but in our standing before Him. When we are “born of God” God imputes the holy life of Christ to our account, wiping the slate clean of our past, present, and future sin. When He looks on those who are “in Christ,” no matter how imperfect we still are, He sees only Christ and His righteousness. This is what salvation is—His righteousness for my unrighteousness! Those who have been placed in Christ through the new birth are “partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Peter 1:4) and are holy, spotless, and undefiled in His sight. This is pure grace! It is our only hope of entering heaven—“Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In this sense alone is it true that a true believer “cannot sin,” i.e. commit any sin which God will hold against him and thus exclude him from heaven. (Those who would abuse such marvelous grace and kindness from God by asking, “Why is it important to live a holy life if the grace of God covers all our past, present and future sin” show themselves to be of a wrong spirit).

Secondly, and what the Apostle is referring to when he says a Christian “cannot sin,” is that while experientially (in every day life) Christians can and do sin, no true believer can continue to go on living in a habitual pattern of sin. (In other words no one who is born again can go on living in the same old habit patterns of sin after conversion as before conversion.) The “seed,” spoken of in verse nine as remaining in the believer, is referring to the very life of God—that eternal holy life which, in the person of the Holy Spirit, takes up permanent residence in every new converts heart—and is the same indwelling Holy Spirit who is the One who restrains the believer from living in unbroken sin. The true Christian cannot live in a habitual pattern of sin because in Christ he has died to sin, not just judicially but actually. “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2). It is not possible for a true believer in Christ to live in unbroken patterns of sin as they once did before coming to Christ. If they are so living, they make God out to be a liar, and give testimony to all that they do not possess His holy “seed” within.

It is our natural tendency, due to our fallen nature, to justify and defend ourselves, to seek to put the best construction on our sins and failures. “He who covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy (Proverbs 28:13). When reading in Scripture that a Christian cannot habitually live in sin our natural tendency is to think of the grosser sins, such as murder, stealing, lying, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, etc., and say to ourselves that since I do not live that way I must be ok in God’s eyes. In doing so we conveniently forget that in God’s eyes all sin is heinous and worthy of His judgment. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Being unkind and unloving are sins deserving of hell just as murder and adultery are. In taking stock of our lives and in making a genuine assessment of our true spiritual condition we must not allow Satan, or our own fallen hearts, to blind our eyes to what ‘habitual” sinning actually is. To live in habitual sin has to do with the whole of God’s law. That which we consider less important sins are not so in God’s eyes. For example, the Scripture says we are not to, “[forsake] the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some is…” (Hebrews 10:25). This is just as much a command of God as, “Thou shalt not kill.” The point I am trying to make is this—to live in habitual sin has to do with keeping all the precepts and commands of God, not simply what we might consider the more important ones. Therefore, if we are habitually unkind and/or unloving, or are habitually spasmodic in church attendance, then we are habitually sinning in these areas just as much as someone who habitually lives an immoral life or who habitually lies and steals. True believers do not habitually violate any of God’s precepts and commands, they cannot live this way.

If you are a true believer you will not consider any sin insignificant. If you have been examining your life, as you have been reading this book, and excusing yourself in any way, as if you were the exception to the plain teaching of scripture, then it may be a sign that you are not a true believer. Instead of excusing ourselves, the attitude of a true believer is expressed by the psalmist, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end, give me understanding and I shall keep Your law; indeed I shall observe it with my whole heart. I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love” (Psalm 119: 33, 34, 47). When the Holy Spirit puts His finger on our lives true believers repent and obey, unbelievers excuse themselves and continue on in their self-deception.

To be very specific: if Christians cannot sin habitually what are we to say about those in the church who claim to be saved but are living together? — (a sin our culture, and sadly many who profess faith in Christ are practicing). Well, the Word of God is either true when it says that a Christian “cannot” live in habitual sin, or it is not true. Since God cannot lie, and means exactly what He says, the only conclusion we are left with is that those who practice sin in this way are not Christians! I know of some who while claiming to know the Lord habitually lived a sexually impure life, who could unblushingly, before a watching world, take trips abroad with their partner, rent out a spare room in their home to the opposite sex, even bring their sexual partners to church with them (as if that was some kind of a witness) and yet who evidently felt ok about all these things!

What is God’s standard for those who profess His name? “Only let your [conduct] be worthy of the gospel…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 1:27, 2:15, ESV, emphasis added). “Let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Scripture is clear—a habitually sinning lifestyle is not possible for a true believer. If you are living this way now, or have lived such a life in the past, you are deceiving yourself that you are a Christian—regardless if you can point back to a conversion experience. You may have gone through a “religious experience” when you “received” Christ, but your heart was not changed. An occasional stumble in a moment of weakness is not in view here. It is possible for believers to give into temptation and fall into sin, even gross sin, but to continue habitually living in sin is not possible, and simply means that such a person is not saved.

Chapter Five

God’s Discipline

The fifth evidence of saving faith is:

5. A true believer will experience God’s discipline.

“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

The fifth evidence of salvation is closely related to the fourth. God disciplines His children when they persist in sin. If the sin is public then the church at large is commanded by God to discipline its sinning members. Yet in spite of God’s plain command church discipline is largely ignored in evangelical churches today. It is a sad commentary on the state of the Evangelical church to have to make such a statement, but it is the truth. It is the rare church today that obeys God in this matter. How dare we effectively eliminate the Word of God for our convenience! Discipline is not pleasant, either privately by God towards His sinning child, or publicly in cases of church discipline. Pleasant or not, God uses discipline with each of His children and it is commanded for the church by our Lord—see Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Corinthians 12:14-13:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
If the church will not obey God in this matter we shall have to give an account for it when we stand before Him. He is not bound, though, by our faithlessness. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). God will always deal with sin in His children. “God is not mocked”—“be sure your sin will find you out” (Galatians 6:7, Numbers 32:23).

As was discussed in the fourth evidence of saving faith, it is not uncommon today to hear something like the following concerning someone who claims to be a Christian, “But I know so and so who is a Christian and he has been living with his girlfriend for years!” What are we to say to this, or to any kind of habitual sin, not just sexual sin? We have already established that Scripture teaches that a Christian cannot continue to live in habitual sin. In discussing this issue a little further there are two things that need to be said regarding habitual sin and the claim of faith in Christ:

First, we know that believers do occasionally sin, (occasionally is the key word here) and every true believer who does, and who refuses to acknowledge their sin and repent, and turn from it, will, according to Scripture, come under God’s discipline. The defining verses on this truth are found in Hebrews 12:5-8. In verses 5 and 6 the writer of Hebrews quotes from Proverbs 3:11, 12, “My Son do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” (Emphasis added).

The second thing that needs to be said regarding this is found in verse 8 of Hebrews 5, “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (emphasis added). It is clear from Scripture that “all” of God’s children experience His hand of discipline when they continue in the practice of sin. And any who are “without” God’s discipline are illegitimate children. In other words, a true child of God cannot get away with sinning, and if they are getting away with it (continuing to sin without experiencing God’s discipline) then God says they are not His children! Strong words from the living God that all professors of faith in Christ need to take to heart!

It is important to pause here, lest we discourage or mislead any genuine believer who may be struggling with a particular weakness, or sinful habit. While a true believer can fall into sin, true believers cannot remain in sin. .True believers will be grieved over their sin, and no true believer can find rest of heart while living in sin. This grief, produced by the indwelling Spirit, is in itself an evidence of salvation. If there is a genuine relationship between God and us there will be genuine sorrow and grief over anything that separates our spirit from His. If God is our true Father, then we, as His true child, who possess His holy nature, will hate sin, and when we do sin we will despise it in ourselves and grieve over it. This grief, as I said, is an evidence of salvation. Unbelievers may undergo a guilty remorse, but not Spirit-borne grief.

If you despise the sin that separates you from God and experience genuine grief over it-rejoice, for it marks you out as one of God’s own dear children, and rather then be discouraged and doubt your salvation, repent and stop sinning!

On the other hand, it is equally true—if you continue to practice habitual sin without the grief produced by the Holy Spirit, and yet are confident that you are a Christian it is a huge red flag that you are sadly deceived.

In what ways does God discipline His true children (apart from church discipline) when we sin? It will always be first by a convicting conscience, which is immediate and persistent in a true believer. If conscience is ignored, then God is not without means to bring about the desired repentance—be it sickness, financial loss, trials, various misfortunes, and ultimately even death. God is longsuffering, and no one knows how long He will patiently deal with His rebellious child before He takes more drastic steps, but one thing is certain from scripture—no true believer can continue to go on living in habitual, known, sin without experiencing God’s discipline.

If we choose to ignore the voice of conscience we will eventually dull its convicting power. This is a very serious and alarming state to arrive at. If we become insensitive to our conscience it will only make it easier for us to sin. If what once convicted you doesn’t seem to bother you much anymore, you are playing a very dangerous game with God that will have serious consequences. If you have been ignoring the voice of conscience you need to immediately repent of your rebellion against the Holy Spirit, and plead with God, as King David did when he confessed his sin with Bathsheba, to, “restore a right spirit within [you]” (Psalm 51:10).

God’s dealings with King David provide us with wonderful insights into the function of conscience in a believer. This is graphically illustrated in the life of David in Psalm 32:3, 4. In this psalm he describes his inward struggle when he stubbornly refused to acknowledge his sin with Bathsheba, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” True believers will experience, as did David, that inward groaning, heaviness of heart, and lack of vitality when they refuse to acknowledge their sin. An accusing conscience is nothing less then the disciplining hand of God in our lives, and we ought to rejoice in it for it is one of the evidences that we are in His family—receiving a Father’s correction. No child of God lacks this convicting work of the Spirit. The late Adrian Rogers, pastor and popular radio speaker on the program Love Worth Finding, had this to say in a radio message concerning sin and heart conviction: “If you can sin and forget about it you are not saved.” A simple and straightforward statement, but oh how true! The difference between a true believer and someone with false assurance will be this inner, subjective, experience of true sorrow and grief over sins committed. A true believer cannot escape the voice of conscience and will heed it, repent and turn from sin. An unbeliever may feel remorse ,even deep remorse, but because they do not possess the indwelling Spirit they are able to eventually ignore their conscience, forget it, and continue in their sinful patterns of living.

If you can sin, and continue sinning; if there isn’t a smiting of conscience, an ongoing unrest in your spirit that grieves you to the point of confession, and putting away your sin, but instead you continue on in a pattern of sin for months, even years, without the obvious, intervening, discipline of the Lord—this is a clear indication of a heart in which the Spirit of God does not dwell.

If you find the above paragraph is generally descriptive of your experience, then, my dear friend, you are deceived about your salvation. No true child of God can live in a pattern of sinning for very long before God’s hand of discipline intervenes.

But what about a Christian who is truly saved and yet persist in sin? It is possible for a believer to continue in a condition of sinning for a time; this is possible because God is longsuffering, but His patience does have an end. The Bible teaches that a Christian who refuses to repent of sin may eventually be judged by death (cf. I John 5:16 and I Corinthians 5:5). This, of course, is God’s ultimate discipline, and it is tragic. God alone knows when the time arrives for this final step. I have personally witnessed this tragedy in the life of a brother who was involved in a sexual sin, and after it became known to the Church he remained unrepentant, refusing the gracious working of God’s Spirit in his life, and even though he was very young, he developed cancer, and God took him home within a very short time.

An important word of caution is in order here: It needs to be pointed out that just because a Christian is going through some of the above-mentioned trials, such as sickness, financial loss, misfortune, etc., it does not in any way, necessarily, imply that God is disciplining them. Trials and sufferings are the human lot, and God uses suffering in all of our lives to conform us into the likeness of Christ. Only God, and the person undergoing a trial, know whether the cause of their suffering is due to unconfessed sin. If a brother or sister is undergoing trials in their life and it becomes known that they are involved in open and public sin, then the church is instructed in Matthew 18 to exercise church discipline, and we “who are spiritual” (Galatians 6:1) are to help in restoring them, but we must never assume that God Himself is judging a brother or sister simply because they are experiencing trials. In Scripture some of God’s choicest saints, e.g. Job, Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and the Apostles to name just a few have undergone severe trials which were not due to any unconfessed sin.

To tie together and summarize evidences four and five, we see the following truths in relation to habitual sinning and salvation:

1. A true Christian cannot live in a continuous, habitual, state of sinning (I John 3:9).
2. If a true believer commits sin they will be grieved over their sin, (if they haven’t dulled their conscience) and will find no rest of heart until they confess their sin and forsake it (Psalm 51).
3. If a true believer continues to sin they will experience God’s discipline, and the above grieving, as well as the discipline are in themselves evidences of salvation (Hebrews 12:5-8). (This evidence is referring only to personal and private discipline by the Lord. When public church discipline is exercised it does not imply the sinning person is a true believer.)
4. If a true Christian continues to sin, and does not repent and turn from their sin the word of God teaches that such disobedience could ultimately lead to an untimely death (1 John 5:16, 1 Corinthians 5:5).
5. If someone claiming to know Christ continues to commit sin, day after day, month after month, year after year, and God does not intervene with discipline, then Scripture plainly teaches that such a person is not a true child of God, but is illegitimate and thus deceived about their salvation. (Hebrews 5:8, I John 2:3, 4).

Question: What is your experience when you sin? Do you identify with David’s struggles in Psalm 32 above? Is your spirit immediately grieved? Does your conscience trouble and grieve you? Do you lose the peace you once possessed? Are you aware of broken fellowship between yourself and God? Do you find yourself avoiding bible reading and prayer? Is church attendance, and being around God’s people, something you no longer enjoy? If you persist in sinning does God intervene in your life through discipline? True believers will find they can identify with all the above experiences.

Chapter Six

Longing for His Coming

The sixth and final evidence of saving faith is:

6. A true believer longs for the second coming of Christ.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Every true child of God “eagerly” waits with longing for the return of Christ. Randy Alcorn, in his wonderful little book on heaven, In Light of Eternity, (subtitled: Perspectives on Heaven,) had this to say about a believer’s attitude toward heaven:

“The more we understand this world is not our home and the more we lay up our treasures in heaven, the more we will long for heaven and the more content we’ll be to leave earth behind. God doesn’t expect us to long for death—He does expect us to long for heaven.” (Emphasis original).[8]

As believers we are not at home in this world, and hardly a day passes without our thinking of our heavenly destination. We say from the heart with the Apostle Paul, “I am hard pressed…having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Paul was torn between two worlds as true believers today are. We long for His coming and long at the same time for the salvation of our unsaved loved ones before He does come.

This book began with the first and greatest evidence of salvation, which is the evidence of love—love for God and love for our fellow man. This love, given to us by the Holy Spirit at conversion, is what motivates the heart of a true believer to be heavenly minded. A common cliché that is quoted concerning some Christians is that, “He, or she, is so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” This should never be true of a believer! The more heavenly minded a Christian becomes the more earthly good he or she should become! We are saved to serve God and others, not to be idle, and our longing for heaven ought to make us better fathers and mothers, better husbands and wives, better parents, better employees and employers, better citizens, etc.

While fruitful service here should be true of every believer yet the deepest desire of our heart is to serve the Master in the glory to come, for then our service will be pure and sinless. For a professed believer not to long for heaven one of two things may be true: either their love for the Lord has grown cold, or he, or she, is not a believer.

Because we love Christ we eagerly look forward to being with Him; and we feel the emotion of the Apostle Peter when he said, “Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The very thought, says Peter, that some day our faith will be turned to sight is a source of inexpressible joy and glory to the believer.

To say you love God, and yet a longing for heaven is not a very real part of your Christian experience is to give the lie to your profession. When you met your wife and eventually fell in love with her you found you could not get enough of her presence—right? In fact, that is perhaps the number one reason people get married—they want to be with the person they love! It would be strange indeed, when you were courting your wife, if you didn’t anticipate with delight, the times you would be with her. If you didn’t look forward to those times, no matter how much you told her you loved her, your actions would speak louder than your words. In fact she probably would question whether you really did love her. It is no different when one is captured by the love of Christ. No earthly lover has ever come close to the supreme desirability of the person of Christ. The more one gets to know Him the more one longs to know Him, and just as an earthly lover has reason to doubt the affections of the one loved who placed no priority on being with them, so those who profess love to Christ but do not have a longing to be with Him in the heavenly home He is preparing for us, or who place no priority on times of study and prayer in personal, private, fellowship with Him, or in faithful public worship are not fooling God, “who searches the hearts” (Romans 8:27). A true lover of God understands Psalm 16:11, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

The desire for heaven is the realization that there, at last, we shall know Him fully, and be with Him forever. Every redeemed heart can understand the longing David felt when he said, “As for me…I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15). Then, and only then, will we be satisfied. Then, and only then, will we fully enter into the purpose for which we were created.

This desire, and longing, for heaven is not just thinking about heaven. In reality, it is not primarily “thoughts” of heaven that we are speaking of in this last evidence of salvation. Pondering (thinking of) the wonders and glory to come is certainly a very real part of “eagerly waiting for the Savior,” but the longing we are speaking of goes much deeper than our conscious thought life, and arises, as naturally as breathing, out of our re-created spirit. We don’t think about breathing, it is just something that is always there. We do not always consciously think of heaven, but the built-in desire for it is always there. This is so because as believers we are forever united to the Lord, and “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17)—and our true identity, our true home, is found where He is. This is why Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am” (John 17:24, ESV, emphasis added). What a humbling realization is this! We long to be with Him, and, wonder of wonders; He longs to be with us!

We are “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11) in this sinful world, and having, “tasted that that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:3) we know the best is still future. Earthly comforts and material possessions simply cannot provide the fulfillment we long for, and were created for. For us, the wells of earth are all “broken cisterns,” (Jeremiah 2:13) only, “In His presence is fullness of joy,” only, “At His right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Mere professors of faith in Christ simply do not experience these kinds of holy longings, which resonate in the heart of true believers. While they may profess to believe in heaven, they reveal what their true longings and aspirations are by spending nearly all of their time and energy on the things of earth. But for the believer it is different, “While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

If you are a believer but the anticipation of heaven is not a continuous reality in your heart and life then you need to ask yourself whether you have “left your first love” (Revelation 2:4), and have become enamored with this present world system, as did some believers in the Ephesian church to whom Christ spoke the above soul wrenching words. If this is true of you, then listen and respond to what our Lord goes on to say to them, and to His Church today, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (Revelation 2:5). “Remember.” “Repent.” “Do.” In other words believer, recall to mind (“remember”) your coldness of heart, ask for forgiveness (“repent”) for leaving your first love, and return (“do the first works”) to the fervency of the faith and love you once had for Christ.

Question: Is the hope of Christ’s return a ever present source of joy in your life? Do you long to see Him? Do the things of this world mean very little to you when compared to the eternal treasures that await you? Do you hold your earthly possessions loosely knowing that “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” (I Corinthians 15:52) you will leave them all behind for the real and lasting riches, or are your heart and desires firmly fixed on the things of this world? Does this longing to see Christ, as the Apostle Peter says, fill you with “joy unspeakable, and full of glory?”
My closing statement on this sixth, and last, evidence of genuine conversion might seem blunt but it is spoken in love and with the earnest prayer that God, through His Holy Spirit, may jar awake any who may be deceived about their eternal destiny:

“If the thought of heaven is not an ever present, joyous, realization in your experience, if you have a scant desire and longing for the life to come it may be an indication that the life to come, for you, may not be heaven.”

Concluding Thoughts

It is said that, “The path to hell is paved by good intentions.” How tragically true is this statement! There are countless multitudes, many of whom may be very sincere and good intentioned, who are sadly deceived about their eternal destiny. There will be no more shocking and tragic scene on judgment day than that spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 7:23 when those who have claimed to be His followers; who thought they were on their way to heaven, will hear Christ say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me.” Countless numbers on that day will find the gates of heaven shut to them. This tragedy of all tragedies need never happen to you. If your ears ever hear those unthinkable words the blame will not be His, for God has plainly told us in the Scriptures what genuine faith is, and how we can be sure we possess it.

What has been dealt with in this book has not been the opinion of a man; everything written herein is taken from Scripture. With much prayer and many tears over the several years it has taken me to write this book, I have poured out my heart concerning God’s own heart as recorded in His Word. Jesus divided all of humanity with the following utterance, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:3, emphasis added). Have you heard His voice as you have read this book? Has it brought joy to your heart, or has is disturbed your mind and brought nagging doubts? Do not let the enemy of your soul deceive you into thinking all is well if it is not. If even the slightest doubt exists do not give sleep to your eyelids until you settle forever this issue.

We have examined six evidences of genuine conversion, which in varying degrees will be the experience of every true child of God. These evidences are not given to intimidate anyone who is truly saved into doubting their salvation. No one but Jesus Christ was able to say, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29, emphasis added). Perfection is not attainable in this life, we all fail, yet we can all take heart and rejoice as we have seen, in spite of our failures, these six evidences of salvation manifested, in some measure, in our own hearts and lives.

In summary, the six evidences of true conversion that we have looked at are:

1. A true believer possesses God’s love in their heart.
2. A true believer lives an obedient life.
3. A true believer is a fruit bearing Christian.
4. A true believer cannot live in habitual sin.
5. A true believer experiences God’s discipline when they sin.
6. A true believer longs for the Second Coming of Christ.

Chapter Seven

Making Sure

Chapter seven concludes this book. If in reading this far your spirit has come under conviction that your life does not consistently reflect the evidences of true conversion seen in Holy Scripture then this chapter is by far the most important chapter for you because making sure of heaven is the most important thing in life. This is the one thing above all others we must be certain of. A “hope so” here won’t do, the possibility of deception is very real. Do not allow a head knowledge of the Savior keep you from a heart knowledge; one saves, the other damns.

Satan is a master of deceit. He has had, at the very least, 6,000 plus years to hone his tactics. If he could deceive Adam and Eve in their holy state, we, in our fallen state, are certainly no match for him. He is no fool, he can read, and he knows his ultimate fate is the lake of fire. Knowing this, his one aim, in his diabolical hatred of God and His Christ, is to damn as many souls as possible to take with him to his eternal punishment. He customizes his dealings with each soul according to their own particular weaknesses and temperaments. He has a huge arsenal at his disposal and unnumbered hosts of demons to do his bidding. Some people fall through drink, some through drugs, some through sex, some through riches and others through poverty, or power, prestige, pride-the list is lengthy, but he saves his sophisticated weaponry, and perhaps most effective, for the “religious.” No one is harder to reach with the gospel of repentance and faith than those who feel they are right (religious) before God. If anyone has ever encouraged you to “examine yourself,” i. e. your salvation experience, as the Apostle Paul commands us to do, and this has irritated you, or you have not taken this command seriously, feeling assured of your standing before God, then you are playing into the hands of the master deceiver. If there is one verse in the Bible Satan hates as much as John 3:16, it must be 1 Corinthians 13:5. If he can succeed in keeping you from examining your heart he stands a chance of deceiving you all the way through the gates of hell. If your salvation is genuine an examination will assure you, if it is not it may save you from the same fate as his.

If the Holy Spirit has used this book to arouse even the slightest doubt in your mind as to whether or not you are truly converted, then, for the sake of your eternal soul I beg you to examine your heart before God. Not later, not tomorrow, but now, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, emphasis added). Do not entertain the lies of the evil one with excuses. His lies are familiar—they go something like this:

“I am ok. I already accepted Christ.”
“I believe the Bible, and the story of the gospel.”
“I am not a bad person.”
“Nobody is perfect.”
“God knows I am doing the best I can.”
“God is too good and too loving to send me to hell.”
“I believe in Jesus; in His death and resurrection.”
“I pray every day, and read my Bible.”
“I taught Sunday School for years.”
“I go to church every Sunday, etc. etc.”

All these are good, the problem is they can all be true of you and you can still go to hell. Does that shock you! It ought not too. You say, “How can I believe in Jesus and in His death and resurrection and still go to hell? Simple, Satan believes that too, but his knowledge is only in his intellect, and multitudes of “religious” people within the “Christian fold” have only a “head knowledge” of Christ. How can one know if he has only head knowledge? That is the purpose of this book. The six evidences presented (and they are only some of the evidences in Scripture) should be true of your life in varying measure.

Satan will do anything he can to side tract us from the real issues of life, and to take our minds off the clear gospel message. No, you are not “all right” if these six evidences are not clearly seen in your life. No, as unkind as it might sound, you are an “bad person” if you are not converted. You may be “religious” and “good” in the eyes of men, but it was Jesus Who said to the most “religious” people of His day, “you are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Why did Jesus say something as shocking as that? It was because they were seeking to please God on their own terms. In reality it was a loving statement. If they would heed its warning it was meant to lead them from eternal hell to eternal heaven. There is no neutral ground, either you belong to God by coming to Him on His terms or you belong to Satan. Yes, it is true that no one is perfect, but God demands perfection if we hope to spend eternity with Him. This is why we “must be born again” for only then does Christ’s righteousness become ours. Only then do the doors of heaven swing open to us, and we become (in God’s eyes-through grace) as righteous as His Son, and “joint-heirs” with Christ (Romans 8:17). Scripture is unmistakably clear, it is not “doing the best we can” for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Our best efforts are “filthy rags” in His sight (Isaiah 64:5). Yes, God is “good and loving,” but He is also holy and just and must punish our sin—unless we have accepted His plan of redemption through the substitutionary death of Christ on our behalf. Even sincerely “believing” in the death and resurrection of Christ on your behalf will not save if it has never made the trip from your head to your heart, which can only occur through brokenness and repentance-a recognition of our lost condition, and a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

It is essential that we see ourselves as God sees us, as under the condemnation of His holy law, first, as members of a fallen race into which we are all born, and secondly, as willful violators of His law which we have all broken countless times. God’s verdict on the whole human race is clear and unmistakable, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” “There is no one who does good, no not one” (Romans 3:23, Psalm 14:3). No one will go to see a physician if he denies that he is sick, and no one can, or will, come to Christ (on His terms) for mercy if he refuses to agree with God that he is sinful and lost. We must open our eyes to the peril we are in each and every moment that we take a breath outside of God’s redeeming grace. It is only the infinite mercy of God that allows us to live another hour from the eternal punishment of the hell that we all deserve. While we are still alive it is to our everlasting benefit that we not “despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the “goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

As I said above, if there is even the slightest doubt in your heart then lay aside your pride, your religiosity, your sincerity and read this last chapter with the prayer that God would be pleased to reveal to you if you have been deceived.

Perhaps you have been thinking to yourself, “Who can live like this; this is for the super-spiritual, not for common folks?” If this is how you are thinking then you have gotten the point! You cannot live like this; I can’t, you can’t; no one can! This is super-natural living! Only the new birth can supply the power for such living. For all men, even for the “religious” man, it is an impossible life. But for the redeemed, who possess God’s life, it is as natural as breathing. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (understood), but he who is spiritual (possessing God’s Spirit) judges (discerns) all things” (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15).

In the familiar narrative of Jesus and Nicodemus, in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus, in verse eight, makes a simple, yet profound, statement in regards to the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, He said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, Emphasis added). What was our Lord, in using this word picture, telling Nicodemus and us?

Jesus was saying that the experience of the new birth (when a lost person crosses that unseen line and passes “from death unto life,”—John 5:24) is a sovereign miracle that cannot be observed with the physical eye. Just as the wind is invisible, yet real, even so salvation, though not experienced visibly, is nonetheless real. We cannot see the wind but we know it is a real force because we can hear it, feel it, and see the evidence of its reality by the things it touches all around us. The same is true with everyone who is born of the Spirit. While the actual transaction of salvation is invisible the resulting evidences of salvation are not. Just as our ears hear the sound of the wind, and our eyes see it’s working, so the work of the Spirit of God in a human heart will become manifest in outward visible ways. Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Salvation changes everything! If you truly know Christ others will see that you know Him by the changes in your life the Holy Spirit produces.

God, in His goodness, as I have tried to show in this book, has caused to be written down for us evidences of salvation in His Word, so that by these evidences we might be able to “examine” and “prove” our own profession of faith.

The following summary statement embodies the whole purpose of this book:

If the evidences of salvation set forth in this book are present in your life then you can rejoice in the Lord with a grateful heart that you are among the elect of God. If the evidences of salvation presented are not present in your life then your greatest need is to prostrate yourself before God, pleading with Him to be gracious to you and to open your eyes to see your true spiritual condition, and to ask that He would grant you repentance, and genuine saving faith.

To face death without Jesus Christ means eternal existence in hell. This a tragedy too enormous to put into words. If it were possible to spend one second in that awful place it would be sufficient to cause any rational mind to “flee from the wrath to come,” (Luke 3:7) but one second there will be one second too late, for Jesus made it clear that, “it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). (Also see Luke 16:19-31) There is no second chance, no Purgatory. Death ends all opportunities to repent. Once a soul enters that abyss the gates of hell never again open. Tragically, according to the Word of God, most of humanity will not flee His wrath, but instead choose hell, (most unaware of their choice until it is too late) rather than submit their lives to Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus said, “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30.) To not embrace the gospel is to choose hell by default. I beg of you, for the sake of your eternal soul, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Who died for you, not to make this tragic mistake.

If you have honestly answered the many searching questions presented in this book, and you know that your life is lacking the consistent, clear, evidences of genuine conversion, then God’s mercy and grace are being extended to you as you read these words. Do not neglect His call.

All that God requires is that you come in true repentance, acknowledging your sinful condition, and recognizing that there is nothing you can do, in yourself, to please Him. God has provided full payment for your sin, placing the punishment you deserve on His Son—Who “gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). After His crucifixion He was buried, and three days later He rose from the dead in triumph over sin, the devil, death, and hell, and has become, “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

Many who read this will be totally knowledgeable of the gospel message and the way of salvation, but perhaps the Holy Spirit, through reading this book, has arrested your attention to the possibility that your professed faith, and your confession of orthodox doctrine, may be only head knowledge. If the Holy Spirit has shone His searchlight into your heart, the next question is, “Are you willing to turn from a head knowledge, to a heart knowledge?” Only faith in the heart is saving faith. “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13). Are you willing to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and as Lord? Are you willing to bow the knee surrendering yourself, and the whole of your life to Him?”

Contrary to most current, popular, methods of evangelism, Jesus never made it “easy” to become a follower of His; to the contrary, He made the conditions extremely hard, impossible actually to human flesh. He never sought superficial commitments, but made it very clear that those who desire to come to Him must, “sit down first and count the cost” (see Luke 14:28). He is not looking for fair weather, “armchair” disciples. Becoming a Christian will cost you everything—it may even cost your life someday. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, emphasis added). Pastor John MacArthur, quoted in this book, has written many books, among which one carries the title: Hard To Believe. That title flies in the face of the “easy believeism” of our day, but then Pastor John has never sought to win popularity contests, but has committed his life to explaining the plain truths of Scripture.

When we come to Christ we must take Him for Who He is. He is the Savior, but His full name is, The Lord Jesus Christ, and we must receive Him in the fullness of that name. We cannot take Him as Savior, but back away from Him as Lord. It is not true, as is so often taught, that all that sinners need to concern themselves about is coming to Christ for forgiveness and God will deal with them at some later date concerning His Lordship and full control of their lives. This is often referred too as the “second blessing,” or “full surrender,” or the Keswick, “let go and let God” teaching, as if full salvation comes in stages, or steps! This is man made doctrine, and totally foreign to Scripture! No-Lordship advocates will argue this point, but the Scriptures always, in the context of evangelism, present Christ as both Lord and Savior-in that order! Arthur W. Pink, a classic Reformed theologian of the twentieth century, stated the case very well:

“Saving faith consists of the complete surrender of my whole being and life to the claims of God upon me…it is the unreserved acceptance of Christ as my absolute Lord, bowing to His will and receiving His yoke. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Colossians 2:6). Yes, mark it well that Christ is “received” as Lord. Oh, how far, far below the New Testament standard is this modern way of begging sinners to receive Christ as their own personal “Savior.” If the reader will consult his concordance, he will find that in every passage where the two titles are found together it is always “Lord and Savior,” and never vice versa.”[9]

That quote alone should put an end to the Lordship Controversy, but the hearts of men are stubborn and it seems, willfully blinded. It might be asked, “What lies at the root of this erroneous teaching?” Our answer would be that much, if not all, of this blindness can be attributed to biblical illiteracy. It is sad that we have to apply to brethren the words of Jesus, intended for and spoken to His enemies, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you…‘in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’ (Matthew 15:7, 9).

We do not receive half a Savior. We cannot take Him as Savior today, while cherishing our self life, and think that at some later date we will go the rest of the way and commit our all to Him. It is truthfully quoted: “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” There is no “easy believism” anywhere in the Bible. An easy believism is the devil’s pathway to false assurance, not heaven. God’s call to salvation is always a call to a total, lifelong, commitment to loving, obeying, and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Anything less than this is not the true gospel, and is not saving faith.

A word of warning is so important right here. It is at this crucial juncture in the conversion experience that Satan desires to work his deception in order to lure as many as he can into a false commitment. It is so very crucial to make crystal clear that “saying a prayer” does not equal salvation. God is only interested in the heart, and if true conversion takes place the evidence, the proof, of that conversion will be obvious and visible by a transformed life, a transformation that bears witness to a transformed heart.

It is not us who “decide” to come to Christ, as was so commonly preached in the past, and is still common today. Yes, it is true that, “As many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12), but we must never forget that God is sovereign in salvation as He is in all His dealings with men. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him,” and, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 6:44, & 15:16, emphasis added). Faith to believe the gospel is a “gift”—Ephesians 2:8, and our part is to respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit, and we can be assured that if we come to Him in sincerity and truth He has promised that He “will by no means cast [us] out” (John 6:37). We may think we “decide” but He “presides.” Our coming is only because of His choosing.
If you understand all this, and desire to come to Christ, as your Savior and as your Lord, you can pray to Him right now in your own words, or you can pray the following prayer, making it the sincere expression of your heart:

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I confess that I have broken Your holy laws, and justly deserve Your judgment. I acknowledge that all my own attempts to live a godly life have fallen miserably short of Your perfect standard. I repent of my sin, and I turn from it. I believe that Jesus Christ alone died for my sin, in my place, and I receive Him into my heart as my Savior from sin, and as the Lord of my life. I surrender myself wholly to You, and I desire, with Your help, to follow and serve You until my life on earth is over. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

If you have prayed this prayer sincerely God, Who is faithful to His Word, has promised to forgive your sin, “For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Once you become a believer it is the start of a whole new life and the following things are absolutely vital and necessary for your spiritual growth:

1. Talk to God, daily, in prayer, and let Him talk to you through His Word—the Bible.
2. Find a Bible believing Church, where the whole Bible is taught—a church where the pastor is a qualified and committed expositor (who not only gives topical sermons but a verse by verse study) of the Scriptures, who through sound theological training, and diligent study, has earned the right to be heard.
3. Be a witnessing Christian, telling others how they too can find eternal life in Christ.
4. Tell someone (another believer) about the decision you have just made.

One last word to true believers—if you are a believer and your faith is genuine then the evidences presented in this book will have borne witness with your spirit that you are a child of His, and you can rejoice in the assurance that you are among the elect whom God has “chosen…before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

If you are a true believer, but these evidences of salvation are not what they should be in your experience, then you may have left your first love The issues at stake are worth heart examination. I trust the Holy Spirit has awakened your conscience as you have been reading. Do not turn a deaf ear to His gentle prodding. If He is speaking to you and you do nothing about it, it will only open the door to more severe dealings, since as His child He loves you and will not let you walk away from Him. If you are truly saved your salvation is secure, but a worldly Christian will never know the full joy and assurance that salvation brings. What is the remedy for a lukewarm Christian life? There is only one, and the hymn writer knew exactly what it was:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”

The only remedy for worldliness, and lukewarmness, is a passionate love for Jesus Christ. Christ is the “author and finisher of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2) “the alpha and omega,” “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6). He is everything we need for time and for eternity, and once we catch a glimpse of His infinite perfections, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim.”

(The author can be contacted at richardbarton37@hotmail.com)

[1] Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, (Wingspread Publishers © 1966) p.30-33.
[2] J.C. Ryle, Holiness (Reprint, Durham, England: Evangelical Press, ©1979), p.29-30
Chapter One
[3]Thomas Boston, Human Nature In It’s Fourfold State, (London: The Banner of Truth Trust) p.209
[4] John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Books) p.111
[5] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Being God’s Friends, (Used by permission of Whitaker House © 1997) p.102 (http://www.whitakerhouse.com/).
Chapter Two
[6] John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, (Word Publishing) © 1997, p. 1797
[7] C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 56 (reprint, Pasadena, Tex.: Pilgrim, © 1979), 617
Chapter Six
[8] Randy Alcorn, Reprinted from, In Light of Eternity. Copyright © 1999 by Eternal Perspectives Ministries. (Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO) All rights reserved, p.160
Chapter Seven
[9] Arthur Pink, Practical Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Publishing Group, © 1974), p.20