I have never questioned a person’s proclamation of faith, but lately I have noticed that for some, life choices and proclamation don’t match.
So here was my question: How far from God’s truth can a true Christian live?
Because the word “Christian” is often defined differently by different people, I use the word “true” for two reasons:
The apostle James reminds us that just believing in God doesn’t grant one salvation, when he says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder”( James 2:19).
Likewise, there is a difference between someone who acknowledges Jesus as the Christ and proclaims to live by His moral principles, and someone who accepts Jesus Christ as his own Lord and Savior and surrenders his life to Him.
I know that only God knows a person’s heart (Luke 16:15), and that as Christians we fall dreadfully short of righteousness, yet when we sin, the heart should be in conflict as Paul’s is when he writes in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” It is evident that Paul doesn’t want to live a sinful life. His desire is to live a righteous one.
One of the steps to accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is repentance: to know what we are doing is wrong, be convicted of that, feel godly sorrow over it, and then change our behavior. So true repentance would seem to indicate a change in behavior and lifestyle, while remaining willfully disobedient would bring a person’s declaration of faith into question. For instance, if a soldier claims allegiance to his commanding officers but then doesn't obey commands or show honor to those officers, I think people would question the sincerity of his allegiance, and rightly so.
In addition, we are charged “to put off [our] old self, which belongs to [our] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
We are in no position, have no right to, and are not tasked with judging someone else’s salvation; God is the ultimate judge, but we have the responsibility to take the litmus test to ourselves. Each of us needs first to look inward and check the condition of our heart. Then we need to look outward to see if our actions and life choices truly reflect what we say we believe.
By the way, I had the question wrong. It isn’t “how far from God’s truth can a true Christian live?” It should be “how far from God’s truth would a true Christian want to live?” The answer is “not one millimeter.”