I remember an illustration of a drug addict talking to a Christian minister saying, “Pastor, do I have to stop using drugs before I accept Jesus Christ?” The pastor answered, “No!” Surprised, the young person quickly clarified, “Pastor, I don’t know if I heard you right but I said, ‘Do I need to stop using illegal drugs first before I surrender my life to Jesus Christ?” The pastor unmoved by his previous statements once more said, “No!” This time, the young guy was already confused that he desperately asked, “What do you mean by that pastor? I am already confused.” Quickly, the minister explained back to him but this time using an illustration stating, “Do you need to clean yourself up before taking a bath?” This time, the young person understood fully well that he need to give his life to Jesus first then let the Lord transform him.
Some Christians mention this phrase after leading a person to Christ saying, “Now that you are saved there should be changes in your life.” But isn’t that pushing the individual to transform himself rather than God transforming him? Once a new believer have not seen any immediate changes in his life or found themselves trap in their habitual sins then they start questioning if they truly are saved in the first place. It is as if the barometer of salvation becomes good works not their faith in Jesus Christ.
This is one reason why there are a number of individual who doubt their salvation after committing themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Let us be careful not to verbalize to any person if he/she is saved after accepting the Jesus Christ in his/her life. It is not right to play the role of being a “God” as if we fully know the heart of a person. Only that person involved and God Himself knows whether there is real surrendering of the heart or not.
It is very important to have the person read the passage in the Scripture so they will get their assurance from God’s word rather than the words of their pastor, spiritual mentor, or discipler. We need to be careful that it must not be our words that should give them the assurance of eternal life. Rather it must be the word of God from the passages that they read. Sadly, many new believers are bunking on the words of men rather than the word of God as explained in the pages in the Scripture. This is why many believers today are ignorant of the word of God when asked where in the Scripture does it say that they are saved. I observed many Christians say the words, “Now that you accepted the Lord you are already saved” without helping the one they’re discipling to make their own conclusion from the very passages they are reading from the Scripture. Those are my observation. We should help new believers get their assurance and evidence from the Scripture rather than our words as their disciplers.
We should avoid pressure on the new believer that comes from our personal demand for transformation. Rather, we should gently remind them in this way, “Now that you accepted Jesus Christ then let the Holy Spirit transform you based from what the Scripture says in Phil. 2:12-13. After all, it is not you who will transform yourself but it is the Lord who will change you.” You may show him 2 Cor. 5:17 that says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Since it is only God who knows the heart, we can only conclude that a person is a professing Christian based from two external evidences, that is, orthodoxy (sound doctrine) and orthopraxy (sound living). However, it is also possible to be a professing Christian but not truly saved. This is why we need to disciple carefully to help them understand what real salvation and genuine transformation is all about. A person who profess to be a follower of Christ will surely learn to hate and depart from all forms of iniquity.
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 2 Tim. 2:19, ESV
I write these things 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, ESV
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Tim. 4:16, NIV