There are a vast number of people who, instead of making Jesus Christ their standard and just obeying the Bible because it is the Spirit-inspired Word of God, only aim to keep up a respectable religious front for others. Instead of seriously asking themselves what the Lord and His Word require, they tend to look at the status quo professing church member and imitate them. They do that which is outwardly respectable, but not what is inwardly right, true, and holy according to God’s Word.
Standing beside each other a true convert and a sinner will talk and act differently, but a true convert and a false convert can look similar. The Bible says there can be quite a few outward similarities between them. It tells us that an unsaved “religious” man (false convert) can be strictly moral and seem prayerful in his outward life (Mt. 23:8) (Mk.12:40); zealous in religion (Mt.23:15); and even conscientious in doing what is expected of him (Mt. 23:23).
A false convert can also be making efforts to gain converts and give money for the work of religion (1 Cor. 13:3; Mt.23:15; Lk. 18:12). But none of these things are necessarily fool proof signs that he has definitely been converted.
Remember that the false convert is not a Christ rejecter. He stands beside you in the midst of the congregation or he could be a member of another congregation. What he has done is merely change his means of serving himself, from the secular to the religious. Either way, he is still serving himself. Unlike a false convert, a “baby” Christian being young in the Lord is selfish at first, but the love of God is now shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5), and his motive to live unselfishly for the Lord has been planted there. He only needs to grow.
“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
In God’s sight it is the heart that determines whether he is a true Christian or not. We can’t judge someone’s heart, but we can judge the fruit of his life. But if the heart is wrong, everything else is wrong, no matter what is done outwardly. Either your heart is set on serving Christ supremely or it is set on serving yourself supremely. You either belong to God or you do not.
But the most basic and fundamental message of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from our sins. The message to forsake our sins is not optional; it is an absolute necessity. It is as simple and clear as, “Surrender your will and live. Rebel and die.” No honest Bible scholar could justify the salvation of a man who still lives in sin. No definition of a Christian, that allows fellowship with sin and cost God His Son and Christ His life, comes from the Holy Spirit of God. He that practices sin has not been born of God.
“Whoever has been born of God does not (practice) sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot (practice) sin, because he has been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9).
What about “baby” Christians? Don’t they sin? As a new convert I remember sitting at a racquetball club after a workout and having a beer. My mentors, a young Christian couple, walked into the club at that time and later told me how disappointed they were in me. I had no knowledge of wrongdoing. If a “baby” Christian does not know that what he is doing is wrong, to him it is not sin. I was not drinking to get drunk, but enjoying a beer after a workout. In God’s eyes I was innocent.
If a “baby” Christian sins ignorantly, it is not reckoned as sin; if he sins knowingly, it is sin (Jas. 4:17).
My point is this: Although a “baby’’ Christian needs to grow spiritually his “growing” is not from partial repentance to then a commitment to complete repentance. All true converts who have come to genuine faith and repentance have forsaken all known sin, and are not knowingly living in sin. They have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus and their will is bent toward serving Him. They just need to “grow” now as they receive more light from the Word of God and discipline new areas of their lives that the Holy Spirit reveals to them.
If a “baby” Christian is struggling with areas of the flesh and wants to be set free and made right, then we are to instruct them and help them and work through with them in these areas. Once I was instructed and knew that drinking beer did not provide for a godly Christian witness and could be a stumbling block to others I immediately stopped and have not even had so much as a sip of beer since them. As a young believer and disciple of Jesus it was far more important to me to please the Lord than to please my friends or look respectable in the eyes of the world.
The problem has been that there are so many professing “Christians” in churches today who are living in adultery, fornication, homosexuality, addicted to pornography, drinking, smoking weed, are gossipers, slanderers, criticizing other Christians etc. and nothing is being said or done about it.
We are called by Scripture to teach, exhort, and rebuke in these areas. We are called to confront such ones who are living intentionally in sin, and with meekness instruct them as a means of bringing them to repentance (Mt. 18:15-17) (Gal. 6:1). If they refuse, we are called to take one or two others with us and confront them again. If they refuse again, we are to tell the church and break fellowship with them and/or turn their flesh over to Satan for destruction so their spirits might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5).
If more Christian pastors and leaders were thorough in following through with these steps we would have a far purer and more powerful church.
That’s what love would do.