“Are we mistaken and even misled in presuming people are saved who have not allowed their relationship with God to take hold and grow? What about someone who’s never experienced meaningful changes in his or her life?
“For example, what if I pray for salvation and say my heart belongs to Christ and yet I maintain a sexual relationship with a woman who’s not my wife? If I’ve demonstrated no change – I don’t pray (disdain relationship with God), ignore my Bible (don’t want to hear God speak), avoid church (reject connection with Christ-followers), and am disinterested in or loathe to grow closer to Christ (perhaps my life is even the same as it was before)…am I truly a Christian?
“Thankfully, God is the only and final judge. He knows whose faith is genuine…Through it all, Paul’s words once again ring loudly in my ears: ‘If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’
“Four other words scream through my brain, as well: ‘I never knew you.‘
“These are horrible words to consider – maybe the most terrifying in the Bible. Jesus spoke them while teaching on a mountainside:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
“Is Jesus saying it’s all about a perfect score? If I don’t always do the do’s and avoid the don’ts…is it possible I could miss eternity too?
“The answer is no….Change does not bring about salvation – rather, genuine salvation produces change in us as God patiently works it all out in us, with us, step by step.
“Here’s something that troubles me: Too often when believers exhibit no change in their lives or revert to former lifestyles, we refer to them as ‘unsanctified believers’ or ‘carnal Christians’ (or the like). Based on my research, not theology, the term carnal Christian appears to be useless with regard to discipleship and genuine faith.
“From a scientific standpoint, if no behavior separates the ‘carnal Christian’ from the non-Christian, there’s no such thing as a carnal Christian. Rather, that person made a profession of faith but remains (persists, still is rooted) in sinfulness. Again, only God can judge the heart. But where there’s no changed behavior, there’s reason to suspect there is no genuineness of salvation.
“Here’s what Jesus said:
“Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“The test of true life in Christ is spiritual growth, not verbal profession.”
-from the book Unstuck by Arnie Cole & Michael Ross