According to the post-modern American church world, the only damnable sin is being too certain of anything and nowhere is this cry louder than when a faithful disciple of Christ calls into question whether somebody is actually a Christian.
Of course, this is not as clear in every individual as it is in some.
The Bible is replete with commands to wisely discern when somebody is either a false professor or may be one of the elect, but has demonstrated that they are dangerously backslidden. Sometimes only God knows for certain, but the command to us is the same. “Remove the, at least for now, the evil person from your midst.” (1st Cor. 5)
Generally speaking, I believe there is a single litmus test that most reliably tells us what stance we should take in our interaction with those who profess the name of Christ.
What is their response to the Word? The Bible, The Scriptures.
Whenever I find myself in a debate, or even a conversation with a professing Christian about anything pertaining to life and godliness (2nd Peter 1:3) the first thing I ask them is whether they will believe the Bible no matter who or what it costs them or makes them wrong about.
If there’s any hesitation, I don’t waste God’s time except to tell them to repent and believe the Gospel. Even many who answer in the affirmative don’t really mean it, which becomes clear as they begin to understand what that may actually entail. What they really mean is that they will believe the Bible insofar as it agrees with what they already want to believe. At least with regard to the sticky idols, they have erected in their own hearts.
This is true whether it be of people or of principles. I don’t know how many exchanges I’ve had with somebody where they will agree enthusiastically with a list of solid biblical doctrine and or morality.
“YES!!! AMEN!!! THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD!!!” they say.
But when you put somebody’s face on it, you find out where they really are. Ask them how this squares with some goofball teacher they are quoting favorably on their Facebook page, a teacher who denies what they have just affirmed for instance and suddenly it’s: “well, we don’t want to be legalistic or judgmental”
That’s somebody who may or may not be one of the truly elect in Christ, but either way, that kind of emotionally driven inconsistency precludes them from my list of people I should take seriously. Especially if this is a pattern.
This can work the other way too. If I see somebody who is willing to apply clear biblical truth even to their family members or others closest to them, no matter how painful that may be, that’s somebody I take very seriously. It demonstrates that their commitment to God and His Word governs all else in their life and in fact IS their life.
There are also vast multitudes who when pushed will just say outright: “well, that’s just not the way I view a loving father god” for instance. That’s somebody with no credible testimony of salvation in Christ whatsoever.
The driving point here is that a person’s attitude toward the Word IS their attitude toward God in Christ.
It matters not if they live an apparently squeaky clean life, never miss church, and give generously to the poor. A heart that refuses to bow to the Word of Almighty God, is a heart that refuses to bow to God Himself. A heart that has been raised from death in Adam to new and everlasting life in Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit bows to God in His Word. We’re not talking about the Romans 7 war that every Christian fights. We’re talking about stiff-necked rebellion.
The best and most God-honoring use of your time can be made when these biblical principles are kept in mind. Anything you have to say that is worth a dime comes from God in His Word. If somebody won’t bow to that there is no use in arguing with them. You have eternally different standards.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;”