As always the Christian life is one of balance, while holding onto various core truths and realities. We can boldly and with conviction proclaim the gospel of Christ. But at the same time we must always stay on our knees and seek to stay humble and broken before our Lord. That is the right sort of biblical combination we must all strive for.
In this life, the Christian sees through a glass darkly as the Apostle Paul told us (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus there are many things we just do not fully know about, or can only guess at. But on the other hand, there are some vital truths we can depend upon and fully embrace and affirm. The Christian can have certainty in key areas, while admitting partial knowledge in others.
In this regard, I just posted this on the social media a few moments ago:
Here are three couplets you can pretty well bank on:
We can test a person’s faith by two things:
-What they profess to believe (their doctrine)
-How they live their lives (their fruit)
Still, there will be surprises in heaven:
-Some folks we did not think would be there will be
-Some folks we were sure would be there won’t be
This should instill in us two things
-A profound and constant humility
-A steadfast desire to proclaim the truth of the gospel with certainty and conviction
Hopefully no believer can find real fault with anything said here, but let me tease all this out a bit more anyway. As to how we know if someone is a follower of Christ or not, the New Testament consistently gives us two main sorts of tests that we can make use of.
The importance of adhering to right doctrine is paramount. Believe the wrong things and you are not a Christian – or are a cultist or heretic. What we believe matters. As Peter could say with absolute conviction in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Or as John put it (more than once):
1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Not everything we believe is true, and some things we believe are false and will send us to a lost eternity. But of course the way we live provides another good clue as to whether or not we really belong to Christ. As Jesus himself said in Matthew 7:15-20:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
So we should expect to see some good fruit in the genuine believer.