Well, God was gracious enough to see us through another night. So, now I want to take up where I left off in yesterday’s post. Lest anyone think I am merely riding a “hobby horse” please take note that I am responding, with genuine grief, to a letter sent to Grace Partners concerning an individual who “apostatized” from the faith. The question I left hanging yesterday, was what do you do when someone responds to a gospel presentation? In reality the question is how do you tell if someone is genuinely saved? It is interesting to me to have received this letter at the same time that I reached the chapters detailing the controversy and dismissal of Jonathan Edwards from his pulpit in Northampton. The reigning issue of his controversy was his growing concern of admitting non-repentant and non-regenerate communicants to the Lord’s Table who claimed to have had religious experiences. It is obvious that none of us can tell if a convert is genuine or not. God has reserved the true knowledge and condition of one’s heart to himself. There are no “tests,” “surveys,” Barna Reports, or such that we can use to gauge the genuineness of a conversion experience. All we can do is rejoice, pray earnestly, disciple biblically, observe the fruit of the Holy Spirit and wait. I think one of the most difficult passages to not only interpret properly, but to accept is found in Luke 8; The Parable of the Sower. Of the four seeds sown, only one had true or real life. We know that because only one produced fruit. It is fairly obvious to us when we share the gospel and someone flat out refuses it or rejects it that they were not converted (doesn’t mean that they may not be someday.) It is harder for us to understand and accept when someone seems to accept the gospel and hangs around for awhile until trials, tribulations, or testings come their way. We must be absolutely careful with our presentation and the motives that we extend to people for accepting Christ and the gospel. If they are in it for what they can get, then when they don’t get they will leave. (Might not be good English but it is the truth) It is much harder when someone responds with great joy, looks like the real McCoy, sounds right and then digs in and serves or ministers just like you and then abandons the faith. Matthew 13 tells us, among many things, about the parable of the weeds, or the tares. It is amazing that people can and do have counterfeit gospel experiences. It is tragic and heart breaking to realize that this Lord’s Day you may sit and worship next to someone who really does not know the Lord and is actually counterfeit. God knows the heart but we can examine lives in order to effectively minister to people. If there is no evidence of any fruit for a lengthy period of time, we may need to go back over the gospel with in humble and earnest prayer. We may need at times to confront people who are lingering in sin or disobedience. We who are strong may need at times to find those who are weak and in need, as Galatians 6 states, and put our arms around them and help them through their sin, or problem, or difficulty. I grew up in a “fundamentalist” sect that for all practical purposes lived the motto – Win-em, Wet-em, and Work-em! Anyone who made a profession was considered instantly and for all times to be a believer and they were thrown into Christian ministry immediately. Rarely was there any waiting period, watching period, or disciplining period utilized in order for these “converts” to prove to be genuine and to grow. So, as we grow verbose, we can not know for absolute certainty the heart of anyone. We can be patient and take some time and look for evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can be selective and patient in using people or placing them in ministry. After all, does anyone remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he said, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.” (I Tim 5:22 ESV) Even then, it seems that someone can “receive it with joy…believe for awhile…and in the time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13 ESV) That is tragic.
Perhaps Steve is genuine and God will grant him repentance. Perhaps he was merely seed on rocky soil that had no root and eventually through testing proved himself to be a tare. Only God knows.