Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Non-Christian "Christians"

By Dennis Pollock


For today's devotional, I want to start with a question, and then we will look at several verses of Scripture that should definitively answer that question. The question is this: If you think you are a Christian and profess to be a Christian, does this automatically mean that you are truly a Christian? Some would say, "Of course. If you profess to be a Christian, it must be that you believe in Jesus. And since believing in Jesus is the only prerequisite for being saved and entering heaven, anyone who professes to be a Christian must in some way or fashion believe in Jesus and therefore must truly be a Christian."


This seems logical, but what does the Scripture say? And does Jesus weigh in on this matter? He does, but He expresses a different view. In Matthew 7 Jesus warns:


Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)


For many, this entire passage is problematic, to say the least. They do not like it, they do not want to hear it preached, they do not like to read it, and they wish Jesus had never said it, or Matthew had never put it in his gospel. But of course, Jesus did say it, and Matthew did include it in his gospel record. To make matters worse, Jesus' words are so plain, and His meaning so obvious, it gives almost no wiggle room for anyone to suggest there might be an "alternative meaning" other than the one which any reasonable man or woman might understand.


Sin "Practitioners"


Jesus does not say anything about faith here. His condemnation of these folks is that they "practice lawlessness." Surely these people are, at least in some sense, believers. If a man or woman says to Jesus on the day of judgment "Lord, Lord" how could they not be believers, at least in their own minds? And when they were living on earth, they were preaching in Jesus' name, casting out demons in Jesus' name, starting churches in Jesus' name, and were up to their necks in Christian activities, all done in the name of Jesus. Had you gone to them in those days of their frenetic Christian ministry and asked, "Do you believe in Jesus?" They would have thought you were crazy! They might have said, "What do you mean, 'do you believe in Jesus?' Can you not see that I am doing all kinds of ministry in His name? If anyone ever believed in Jesus, it is me!"


And yet on the day of judgment, these people who worked in His name and professed His name, and preached Him to others are told by Jesus, "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." While proclaiming Jesus and being involved in many Christian activities, they had lived wicked, selfish, immoral lives. Though surely, they must have had some kind of faith, at least a mental faith in Jesus, and thought that they were believing Christians. Jesus tells them there was never a relationship to begin with. He does not say, "I used to know you, but now I don't." He tells them, "I never knew you." With all the trappings of Christianity that they carried throughout their lives, there was no heart relationship. There was no divine connection and their ungodly lifestyle reflected this. As James might have said, they had a dead faith, faith without works, faith without morality, faith without life transformation.


This passage, all by itself, without any need for corroborating verses, answers the question: "Can one think he is a Christian and yet not be a true Christian?" Case closed, drop the mic. There is no room for "Yes, but" or "What about," or "But Paul said…" There is precisely zero wiggle room here, no possible interpretation except to believe what the words of Jesus clearly say. Let me give you a couple of other verses.


Don't Be Fooled!


Let us now consider a verse from the writings of the apostle Paul, the one whom many believe taught us that faith requires no accompanying lifestyle transformation. Paul writes "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived." (1 Corinthians 6:9). And then, just to make sure that we do not miss what he is saying, Paul gives us a list of people who will not go to heaven; he breaks it down into different categories of sinners. He mentions sexually immoral people, idolaters, thieves, drunkards, and other types of sinners who will never be allowed into heaven, or as he puts it: "will not inherit the kingdom of God."


Notice the words "Do not be deceived." Why would Paul say that? Because, knowing that we are saved by grace through faith, some have concluded that they can go right on lying, stealing, and living filthy, sexually immoral lives, while depending on their "faith" to save them. Paul declares that these folks are deceived. They suppose that since Jesus has forgiven their sins, past, present, and future, there is perfect freedom to lustily indulge in sin of every kind. Sure, they may be a fornicator, but they are a Christian fornicator. They may shoplift here and there, but they are sanctified shoplifters. And when they do these things, they feel no guilt nor any need to confess their sins to God or to ask Him to forgive them. All their sins have been forgiven by Jesus already, and they can march through life, like little, naughty soldiers, lying as much as they want, sleeping with whomever they want, and watching their beloved pornography every day. Grace covers it all. To them, Paul's words apply "Do not be deceived. The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God."


Professing One Thing, Living the Opposite


In writing to Titus, the apostle Paul says about certain ungodly people who identify with Christianity "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." (Titus 1:16). Notice he says "They profess to know God." These folks are not total unbelievers. Anyone who professes to know God is declaring they are a Christian. They are saying things like "hallelujah" and "praise the Lord." So, with their mouths, they are declaring themselves Christians, but with their lives and their behavior and their lack of morality, they are denying God. They are professing theists but practicing atheists. They might pass a theological test with flying colors, believing all the right things, but they would fail a lifestyle test." And in the words of Paul these wretches are "abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." You can profess with your mouth, while you deny with your life.


There are Christians today that fit into this category, and sadly there are even some ministers like this, even occasionally pastors of large megachurches. They speak glowing words about Jesus, and even appear to be doing great things in the kingdom of God, and yet sometimes revelations come out that they were living a double life and were involved in blatant and constant sexual immorality. While they practiced their ministry in Jesus' name, their lives were filthy and did not match their loud, confident professions of faith in the Savior. Perhaps some of them will come boldly before Jesus at the Judgment Day, saying, "Lord, Lord," only to be told, "I never knew you."


To sum up what the Bible teaches on this subject, I think we could condense these truths into two simple thoughts. First, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. There is no disagreement about this. Every evangelical freely acknowledges this. But second, behavior and morality do matter to God. Anyone who shouts grace, grace and faith, faith, but lives like the devil is not in a safe place with God. Those whose faith in Jesus is genuine and is of the Holy Spirit will receive an overwhelming desire to live a godly life. They may stumble here and there, but they will repent, ask God's forgiveness, get back up, and move on with the Lord. "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13).


For a full listing of all articles, written and audio, go to our Devo Catalog Page.



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