Consider the following testimony which is typical of hundreds we have received through the years:
“Having taught in my church’s Christian school, I truly believe that out of an enrollment of 40-50 kids, most likely more than 95% were lost. It breaks my heart to see so many young people have a head knowledge of Christ, but they have never truly believed from the heart. What concerns me even more than that is that many parents and even church leaders seem to not want to acknowledge the reality of the situation. We comfort ourselves with the fact that our kids memorize Bible verses and come to church, when in reality most of them come because Mom or Dad make them, and then during the services most of them are sleeping, laughing and talking to their friends, or checking their cell phones. Most youth groups in Independent Baptist Churches are an absolute joke. My wife and I spent 20 months on deputation visiting Independent Baptist Churches, and we could not believe some of the things we were seeing from the youth groups. It is high time that Independent Baptist churches face the issue of our unconverted youth, because if we don’t our churches are headed for disaster.”
I know this by experience. I grew up in a Baptist church and professed Christ at about age 10 or 11, but I wasn’t saved. I had no inner motive and compulsion to do right. I had zero personal love for the Bible. I broke my parents’ rules, snuck around, lied, pursued every worldly thing, and found a way to do what I wanted to do. As soon as I could, I left home and “followed my heart.”
The missing element in my life was repentance toward God (Acts 20:21), and this is what is missing in the lives and hearts of many young people. I “believed in Jesus,” but so do the devils (Jam. 2:19). In fact, the devils tremble, which is far more than the average “Christian” young person does! I knew about Jesus and believed in Him, but I did not surrender to God’s authority. That is the essence of repentance. The sinner has rebelled against God and broken His law, and he must repent of this. Repentance is a change of direction in the heart. It is not a change of life; it is a charge of heart that results in a change of life. Two great biblical examples of repentance are the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:17-19) and the idolaters at Thessalonica (1 Th. 1:9).
Parents and church leaders need to look for clear evidence of salvation. We are warned about those who “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
Some biblical evidences of salvation are the following:
- A life-changing conversion experience (Jn. 3:3; Mat. 18:3). Salvation is not praying a sinner’s prayer and receiving a “spiritual birth certificate.” It is a new birth experience! If there is no change, there is no salvation. In every case, the New Testament examples of salvation are dynamic conversion experiences (e.g., the woman at the well, the Prodigal Son, Zacchaeus, the 3,000 on Pentecost, Cornelius, Paul, Lydia, the Philippian jailor, the Ethiopian eunuch).
- Personal knowledge of the Lord (Jn. 17:3; Mat. 11:28-30; Gal. 4:6). Salvation is not a reformation or a new religion. It is to know the Lord personally, to walk and talk with Him as Lord and Saviour and Father and Friend. It is to cry, “Abba, Father” from a converted heart. Many young people in churches are like Samuel who knew not the Lord (1 Sam. 3:7). Jesus warned about those who profess Him as Lord, but He says to them, “I never knew you” (Mat. 7:21-23) and “I know you not” (Mat 25:12)
- Love for God’s Word (Jn. 8:47). The saved person will have a new desire for and understanding of the Bible. Attitude toward the Bible is one of the clearest evidences of one’s spiritual condition.
- Love of righteousness (1 Jn. 2:3-4). The saved person will have a new love of righteousness. He still has a fallen nature and is still tempted to sin, but he wants to obey God. David Sorenson, a pastor’s son, made a profession of faith at age five and was taught to tell others that he was saved. But he says, “I had no interest in the things of God. I only went to church because my dad was the pastor. I didn’t care about the Bible.” At age 20 he was saved in Bible college and his life changed. He began to love the things he used to hate and to hate the things he used to love. There will be a change in attitude toward authority: toward parents and teachers and church leaders. The first thing I did after I was saved was get right with my Dad. When we speak of love of righteousness, we are not talking about any sort of sinless perfection Christian life. The born again child of God has new loves and new hates and a clear new direction, but he still has the “old man” (Eph. 4:22-24) and he still sins (1 John 1:8). Further, believers do not grow at the same rate and surrender with the same intensity or bear the same amount of fruit (Mat. 13:8).
- Looking for Christ’s return (1 Th. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 9:28). Consider the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mat. 25). The five wise virgins had oil for their lamps and were prepared for the bridegroom’s coming. The five foolish weren’t prepared and the bridegroom said to them, “I know you not” (Mat. 25:12). Consider the Parable of the Servants (Lk. 12:35-48). Of the servant that didn’t watch we read, “The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. (Lu 12:46).
- Divine chastisement (Heb. 12:6-8). The saved person can and does sin (1 John 1:8 - 2:2), but he does not do so without compunction as before salvation. He has an indwelling Divine Disciplinarian who does not let him get away with it! There is even a sin unto death for those who harden themselves against God’s discipline (1 John 5:17). David almost committed this sin, but avoided it by repentance (2 Sam. 12:13). The chastisement is first of all from within (Eph. 4:30). The saved person will have a sensitivity to sin and a conviction about sin.
What about the carnal Christian?
We see the carnal Christian in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. The carnal Christian is a born again saint who has fleshly elements in his life. It is not a person who merely professes Christ with the mouth but does not show evidence in his life. The Corinthian believers were zealous Christians. They were “zealous of spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:12), though they were misusing them.
What about Lot?
Lot was a carnal believer who made unwise decisions that resulted in sorrow and destruction, but Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2 Pe. 2:7), and unlike his wife and children, he obeyed the angel and fled Sodom. Lot is not an example of a worldly teenager in a church that professes Christ but secretly loves the filthy conversation of the wicked.
Salvation is not difficult. It means to come to Jesus, but when you turn to Jesus, you have your back to the old life. That is repentance. It is like a man and marriage. When he receives one woman as his spouse, he has his back to all other women. Jesus taught that it is impossible to have two masters (Mat. 6:24). You cannot have Christ and the world.
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