What kind of things do and do not prove the genuineness of saving faith?
Churches today are filled with people who hold to a faith that does not save. James referred to this as a "dead faith"-meaning a mere empty profession (James 2:17, 20, 26). Paul wrote to the people in the church at Corinth to test or examine themselves to see if they were truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). As important as it was in Paul's day, how much more important it is for people in our churches today to put their faith to the test and to make sure they have not been deceived.
But where do we start? By what criteria do we determine true from empty faith? What are the distinguishing marks of genuine saving faith? Surprisingly, there are a number of popular standards or tests that really don't prove the genuineness of one's faith one way or the other. So before we look at the tests that prove genuine faith, let's take a look at some popular tests that neither prove nor disprove the genuineness of one's faith.
Here is a list of seven conditions that do not prove or disprove the genuineness of saving faith. One can be a Christian and possess these things or one may not be a Christian at all and still possess them. While they don't prove or disprove one's faith, they're important to know and understand so you will not be deceived.
Seven conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith.
1. Visible Morality - Many who possess visible morality know nothing of sincere love for God. Whatever good works they appear to possess, they know nothing of serving the true God and living for His glory. Whatever the person does or leaves undone does not involve God.
2. Intellectual Knowledge - Another condition that can be misleading is intellectual knowledge. People can possess an intellectual understanding and knowledge of the truth and yet not be saved.
3. Religious Involvement - Religious involvement is not necessarily a proof of true faith. According to Paul there are people who possess an outward form (a mere external appearance) of godliness but who have denied the power of it.
4. Active Ministry - It is possible to have an active and even a public ministry, and yet not possess genuine saving faith.
5. Conviction of Sin - By itself, even conviction of sin is not a proof of salvation. Our world is filled with guilt-ridden people.
6. The Feeling of Assurance - Feeling like you are saved is no guarantee you are indeed saved.
7. A Time of Decision - Many people have prayed prayers, gone forward in church services, signed cards, gone into prayer rooms, been baptized, and joined churches without ever experiencing genuine saving faith.
Nine conditions that prove genuine saving faith.
1. Love for God - First of all a deep and abiding love for God is one of the supreme evidences of genuine saving faith.
2. Repentance from Sin - A proper love for God necessarily involves a hatred for sin that leads to repentance. The man who loves God will be grieved over his sin and will want to confess it to God and forsake it.
3. Genuine Humility - True saving faith comes as a little child-humble and dependent. It is not the man who is full of himself who is saved, but the man who denies himself, takes up his cross daily and follows Christ (Matthew 16:24).
4. Devotion to God's Glory - True saving faith is manifested by a devotion to God's glory. Whatever believers do, whether they eat or drink, their desire is to see God glorified.
5. Continual Prayer - Humble, submissive, believing prayer is mark of true faith. True believers have a personal and private prayer life with God. They regularly seek communion with God through prayer.
6. Selfless Love - An important characteristic of genuine saving faith is selfless love. If you love God you will not only hate what offends Him, but you will love those whom He loves.
7. Separation from the World - Positively, believers are marked by a love for God and for fellow believers. Negatively, the Christian is characterized by the absence of love for the world. True believers are not those who are ruled by worldly affections, but their affection and devotion is toward God and His kingdom.
8. Spiritual Growth - If you are a true Christian, you are going to be growing-and that means you are going to be more and more like Christ. Life produces itself. So examine your life. Do you see spiritual growth? Do you see the decreasing frequency of sin? Is there an increasing pattern of righteousness and devotion to God?
9. Obedience - All true believers are called to a life of obedience. Jesus taught that every branch that abides in Him bears fruit (John 15:1-8).
How can we know our faith is genuine? Examine your life in the light of God's Word. Do you see these characteristics in your life? Do you have a love for God, hatred for sin, humility, devotion to God's glory, a pattern of personal and private prayer, selfless love, separation from the world, the evidence of spiritual growth and obedience. These are the real evidences of genuine saving faith.