Ray Comfort, co-founder of the Way of the Master ministries, has a funny line he uses in one of his messages about what he calls “modern evangelism.” In this fictitious story, he tells of meeting a man who says he “was saved as a young person but drifted away from Lord as I got older and spent several decades involved with sins like thievery, adultery, alcoholism, drugs and murder, along with a few other things I’d rather not mention.” Ray tells this funny story to illustrate the point that many in America will still profess salvation despite living the bulk of their lives in out and out rebellion.
That said, I do believe that a real Christians can struggle with sin for many years and can commit virtually any sin that an unsaved person can commit. However, I also believe the Bible teaches very clearly that, in general, a truly saved person will live differently than he would have if he didn’t know Christ. Our reading today in 1 John offers several such proofs of that statement. For example, 1 John 4:6 teaches that true believers will have discernment in picking through all of the religious voices of the day but will be able to discern the real truth of God and His Word. A genuine Christian will not get wrapped up (long-term) in unbiblical cults and sects due to the discernment that God gives us. Two verses later in verse 8, we see very clearly that if someone does not have a heart of love, that person does not know God. In other words, if I claim to know Christ, I should be seeing evidence of a supernatural love in my life that wouldn’t be there otherwise. That’s not to say I can’t live at times in selfishness and greed but as a general statement, the life of a genuine Christian should exhibit a real element of selfless love. Along those lines, 4:20 says that if I say I love God but hate my brother, I am a liar. Wow, you can’t get much clearer than that.
Moving on to chapter 5 and verses 2-3 we see clear references to the fact a real child of God will “keep His commandments.” The word “keep” has the idea of guarding or holding onto. Again, not that a Christian couldn’t potentially wander far from God but I don’t believe He will not let one of his own live decade after decade in out and out rebellion. No, a real believer will hold onto his commandments. So let us have discernment as we talk to others. Just because someone has a “testimony”, we shouldn’t rush to give that person assurance of something that, according to 1 John, he or she may not genuinely have.