What is the difference between Judas and Peter? When the time came, both of them failed Jesus. Judas sold him to his enemies, which led to his being nailed a cross. Peter denied even knowing him and fled when he was most needed. He fled when he promised that he would stay with him even if everybody else fell away. Yet Peter went on to write several books of the Bible and become a great evangelist and apostle. To him, Jesus said, (Matthew 16:19), “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” In contrast, of Judas, he said (Matthew 26:24), “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” How could one tell these two sinners apart? Further, how can I tell which one I am? I think there are at least 5 ways to tell if you are a false convert.
1 – You live in continuous sin. 1 John 1:6: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” If somebody comes into your congregation for the first time and he is flirting with the women, stinks of booze, is swearing at people, starting fights, the immediate perception would be that this man is lost. He is living in darkness. He is living in immorality. One who is born again will display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They will behave like a Christian. They will strive in everything that they do to imitate Christ. Thus, a sign that you have not been born again is that are living in darkness.
When you hear the word of God telling you about your lifestyle, it does not convict you. You do not think that you need to change. Instead, you get angry that somebody would dare tell you how you need to behave. After all, morals are subjective and you can decide how to live your life, right? They are just being judgmental, and we ought not judge lest we be judged, right? But Jesus said, “you shall know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16).
2 – You claim that you have no sins. 1 John 1:10: If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. In my encounters with atheists, I will talk to them about theological topics, and they will say that they think that the very concept of sin is a myth. Richard Dawkins said, “there is at bottom, no good, no evil, nothing but pitiless indifference.” The individual has free moral reign, and there is nobody to tell them that they are right or wrong. They justify their actions by their own reasoning. No matter what they do, they can find a way to make it seem right in their own eyes.
The problem is that our moral standard is very low. God’s moral standard is absolute perfect. God demands absolute perfection in thought, word, and deed of every single individual. All who fall short of this will be cast into Hell. But in an attempt to avoid this objective reality, people will say that there is no such thing as sin. Everything that they do, they look for a way to justify it in their own eyes. But Jesus said, (Luke 16:15), “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”
3 – You do not have love. John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Note well that this does not say that we must claim that we love them. In some cultures, fathers will not even tell their sons that they love them. Their love is implied in their actions. The son does not need to hear that the father loves him, because the son knows based on the actions that the father does. In exactly the same way, it is not enough to say that you love someone, and then picket a funeral of their loved one. We cannot claim to love them if we do not show that we love them.
So how can we show this love? Treat them as we want to be treated. If you do not have any food in your house, how much will you strive to get it for yourself? If your neighbor does not have any food in his house, how much will you strive to get it for him? Are these answers different? Then we fail this command that says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31).
4 – You do not read the Bible. Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” When was the last time you fed your belly? When was the last time you read the Bible? Which is more important, your Bible, or your belly? When Jesus wanted to resolve a theological quagmire, he would go to the word of God. He would condemn the Pharisees for nullifying the word of God with their tradition (Mark 7:13). Let me ask a question. What other ways are there to nullify the word of God? Suppose we do not read it at all. What sort of potency would it have in our life if we did not read the Bible? We nullify it by not reading it.
How can we seek the wisdom of God if we do not read his word? How can we say that we love God if we do not care what his word says, or care to seek his word? Did not Jesus read the Scripture? Indeed, everything in his life was based on the fulfillment of the Scripture (Matthew 5:17). If it is good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me.
5 – You have left the church. 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” When a person leaves the church, it is often not even a conscious decision. They do not always take a definitive stance that they are no longer Christians. Instead, it is just a series of small decisions. They would prefer to do other things than spend time with the body of Christ. They probably have a million reasons, all of which John summarized in the above verse. They went out from us, because they were not of us.
If you have left the church and do not care to return, that is good evidence that you have not really been born again. The Holy Spirit would have guided you and guarded your life and kept you on the narrow way (Hebrews 12:8-9). Thus, if you are really a Christian, you will remain a Christian.
If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!