Monday, June 13, 2011

How To Tell If Someone Is Saved

Do you know what's gonna happen to you when you die? For three-quarters of Americans, Heaven is their destination because that many people identified themselves as Christians in a 2008 report by the American Religious Identification Survey. Despite a ten percent drop from nearly two decades ago at the time of the report (1990), 76% is still a healthy percentage of people who have admitted, believed, and confessed that the Christian God is the one true God and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Then again, there's a difference between a professing Christian and a practicing Christian.

It's easy to call yourself one when you go to church regularly, donate a percentage of your income to the church or charity, and say all the right things to the right people in the right settings. But Christianity is different. It's not what you do, it's how you do it that speaks volumes about your character. Anybody can put up a front, but only a true, biblical Christian will tear down that façade and do the aforementioned activities at will without a hitch.

So, how can you spot fact from fiction? Well, shy of having the Man upstairs Himself explicitly tell you, the answer is not that black and white. The next best thing to do is to evaluate the person you think lives not by the Christian faith based on my top-five criteria below. Ask yourself...

1) Do They Have A Change Of Heart?
The Christian way of life is like metamorphosis. People start out – figuratively speaking – as fat, ugly catepillars. In time, they build a cocoon, and here is where Jesus makes His entrance into their hearts... if they let Him. But should they do so, they'll emerge a beautiful butterfly, soaring to new heights on the wings of faith.

What I hope you get from this cheesy analogy is that being a Christian changes you from the inside out. WWJD? doesn't become a cliché acronym, it becomes a practical way of living. No longer will life be focused on carnal pleasures nor monetary desires nor retribution. No, there are greater purposes worth pursuing.

All of a sudden, people who're truly saved will want to read their Bible, want to go to church, want to get involved in mission trips, and want to spread the Gospel to all the corners of the world. 'Coz in the end, that's the true calling in life for those who desire the Lord. One may have their limitations, but that should never stop them from wanting to do good.

2) Do They Love As They Live?
One of the central themes in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, is in God's love for humankind. People love because God loved us first. And it's more than just sexual love (eros), one of the four types of love. There's familial love (storge), friendly love (philia), and unconditional love (agape). In this day and age, most people who are non-Christians or Christians in name only will pick one type of love, usually eros, and use that to measure their successes (or failures) in life. True Christians will not champion one over the other, but rather, they will seek all four to play an active role in their lives.

This is not to say that people can't have their dislikes and disagreements between themselves and others. It just means that, in spite of each other's differences, there's a sense of respect that translates into one of four types of love because every human being is an equal, so to habitually rebuke anyone for no just cause shows an absence of true love. They simply have no empathy, no heart.

Perhaps the easiest way to test this out is to surround the individual in question with a domestic animal. As I mentioned earlier, people can act real well in front of each other. But put someone up against a pet, and their true colors will show. Sure, some people may have a dislike for certain animals due to allergies or repressed feelings, but it's impossible for one to genuinely loathe any pet without showing the baseness of their soul. If one can't treat a defenseless animal with dignity and respect, how can they truly love a fellow human being on any level? In short, they can't because it's not there and it will never be there without the love of God in their heart.

3) Do They Have Nothing To Hide?
Okay, technically, this is difficult to define, since everyone has their own skeletons in the closet. What I mean to say is that true Christians live with no overarching shame hanging over their heads.

This means they have no good reason to sacrifice time spent with friends, family, and other acquaintances. There would be no good reason to hesitate when asked about a particular topic out of curiosity. There would be no good reason to declare certain areas, both tangible and intangible, off-limits without a justifiable excuse. And for that matter, there would be no good reason to live life like they're the only ones on the planet that matter.

The controversy is in deciding what is one's personal business and what isn't. The way I see it, anything that involves personal contact is open access into one's life. For instance, if one has a colleague they've known for a long time and he or she becomes increasingly defensive when asked simple questions, then something must've happened recently to stroke their ego and withdraw from society, as if denial will be a sufficient cover up. It isn't and, like it's been said before, the cover up is always worse than the "crime" itself.

This can span many areas, from extramarital (or premarital) affairs, to actual white-collar crime, to mismanaged finances, among others. Since these are incidents that occur between the person in question and at least one other individual, ignoring these issues do nothing to advance one's faith. If anything, it reveals vanity in motion because it means one doesn't trust God enough to get them out of their own mess. God never promised an easy life, but He did promise to forgive us if we own up to our faults for perpetuating our own selfish agendas.

4) Do They Care About Humanity?
This is a vital condition to living the way as Christ did. Caring for humanity means more than the people who live in your neighborhood, or your town, or your state, or even your own country. It means treating and looking upon people of different nationalities, skin tones, and even creeds with dignity and respect. Racism, jingoism, bigotry, and other forms of prejudice are not becoming of a Christian.

Here in the United States, anyway, I see a lot of people who speak so highly of themselves just because they've got a big house, or a big car, or a big bank account. These are also the same people who, most likely, don't care about the rest of the world's problems because, in their mind, America is the world, and everyone else are sub-human. Even without the big house, big car, and big bank account, those who are struggling to survive in the U.S. are many times richer than a few billion people who happen to be elsewhere in the world (outside of America). So for any American to say they have it rough shows they don't care about people who spend their lives in poverty in far less ideal circumstances.

In this day and age of social media and technological gadgets that change with the seasons, everyone in the free world has the capability to promote themselves, but too often, the focus is on the self and not the realization that most others would never imagine gadgets like smart phones, tablets, and touch-screen MP3 players exist. It's not that I don't think people in advanced countries are ignorant to the plight of others the world over. Rather, people become too complacent when everything's handed to them, may it be paid for or free. When that happens, they lose track of world issues, which is just as bad as contributing to them in the first place. People who step up in the name of Christ will not sit back and merely reflect upon the situation. They'll take a stand and recognize their blessings. If that means living with minimal material possessions, so be it. 'Coz in the end, we're merely stewards of this Earth for a short time.

5) Do They Take Accountability?
Of all, this may be the most quintessential factor in evaluating one's stance as a Christian. There will come a time in everyone's life where a lie will (inevitably) do more damage than healing. It's not a matter of if, but when, the situation arises. At that point, one of two things can happen: fess up and assume full responsibility for all that has happened, or continue to ignore the situation and repress its existence like a bad dream.

Look, I know it's very easy to hide behind a cloak of denial, repeating that whatever problem will come to pass. And the sad part of it all is that virtually everyone accused of wrongdoing will declare their innocence. That's fine. But it doesn't have to be a lie in order to dodge impending punishment. It can be the little things, like not doing one's share of the chores when housing with roommates. Any situation where there's an out can lead to being "safe," no matter how big the pickle to ensue.

There's an old saying that goes, "You can't get out of debt by borrowing money." In the same way, you can't expect to defer a lie by telling more lies. It just won't work. I also know that it is human nature to stick around for the good times and run away from the bad. But again, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. For those who constantly look for ways to get cheap one-ups in life or see to it that their mistakes are taken by someone (or something) else, theirs is a lifestyle that is antithetical to the Christian way of life. A real, God-fearing individual will own up to their shortcomings, no matter how big or small, because we are imperfect by nature. To accept this reality is to receive God's grace. In so doing, those who are genuinely saved will carry out their lives with a greater purpose than ever before.

Ultimately, this list is not meant to condemn any one person or group of people to Hell. No one on this Earth has that power. This list is also not meant to suggest that every true Christian will act the same way. Who knows? There may be practicing Christians out there who are naturally introverted, pessimistic, skeptical, or chauvanistic, but they carry out their lives on their own accord with few people in the know. That's certainly a possibility.

I must also point out that I believe in eternal security, which means that once one is saved, then one is forever saved because for anyone to lose their salvation would be contradictory to God's character. Ergo, one can claim salvation and continue to live life as if nothing happened, and they'd still be assured a spot in Heaven.

But to that, I say this. Unlike most world religions, Christianity is a dynamic relationship between one and God. If you're truly a Christian, you can't be the same person now as you were before you received Christ nor even the person you're expected to become in time should you keep the faith. Granted, born-again Christians will have their doubts and insecurities about life as it progresses, both this one and the next, and that's fine. But in the end, actions speak louder than words. Not only will that be the standard by which the rest of the world will judge you now, it will be the standard God will use on your Judgment Day.

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