Elaine had this question for me and I thought you might join in on the discussion.
Elaine asked me:
“If a person refuses to let go of the sin or doesn’t recognize that she or he is living in sin—adultery, homosexual lifestyle, drunkenness, lying, etc., do you think the person has a relationship with Christ?”
Short answer: Lost people will act lost.
We should expect people who do not know God to act in a way that demonstrates their unregenerate condition. That should be no surprise to us. But what is confusing is when we know individuals who claim to have a relationship with Christ, but there is no visible evidence of a life change; there is no obvious transformation.
Can a true believer actually look like a lost person?
I think so, for a season anyway, otherwise the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have included the warning of discipline for sinful believers. But only the Holy Spirit knows whether that person actually belongs to Him. I can’t see into their heart to know.
And only the Holy Spirit can open the spiritual eyes of the unregenerate, we can’t cause that to happen, but we can demonstrate a winsome love, be gracious and humble in speaking truth, and be on the front lines of prayer for those who are lost (and may not even yet realize they are lost).
We need to demonstrate that same level of compassion and prayerful fervor for the loved one who claims to know Christ but lives like a lost soul.
If a person refuses to respond to the truth of God’s Word, rejects His authority, is unwilling to repent of sin (sin that is clearly spelled out in Scripture), that individual is what Scripture refers to as a child of wrath.” That is where we all begin–we are all born as sinners (children of wrath).
Ephesians chapter 2 spells it out pretty clearly:
[box]And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eph. 2:1–3)[/box]
We all, by nature, by birth, are “children of wrath” and we deserve punishment for our sins. We naturally will live selfishly, foolishly, and indulge the lust of our flesh. But, God does something miraculous when we come to Christ; He mercifully gives us new life (which includes new desires):
[box]But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:4–10)[/box]
What is difficult to determine is whether the person who claims to be a Christian is truly lost, or if he or she has walked so far away from God that they no longer look like a Christian. They don’t desire God’s Word, have no appetite for the things of God, live selfishly and without real regard for God or others. When that’s the case, if they are truly a believer who has become hardened to their sinful condition, Hebrews 12 says that God will bring discipline into their lives, just like a loving father will discipline his child.
Paul warns about being a Christian but living like a lost person:
[box]As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ . . .
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
But you did not learn Christ in this way . . . that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:14–24)[/box]
We are not called to be the “Holy Spirit” in their lives or to bludgeon our loved ones with the Word. That will not draw them to Christ. There is a fine line that must be walked, actually it is walking in the Spirit, where we speak truth in love and serve that one in the humility of Christ while we watch for opportunities to share the gospel wisely.
Join me in praying for loved ones who claim to know Christ, but may only have received “head knowledge” without a true heart change. Let’s also pray for those who know Christ but have wandered so far from Him they’ve lost their way in sin.
Who wants to offer the first prayer below?
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