This is one of the trickiest questions to ask and answer when evangelizing others. It’s important to answer this question because there’s no point in progressing further in discipleship if the basic premise of faith in Jesus isn’t there. But it’s challenging because, while people can easily say that they believe the gospel, does that mean they really believe?

Here are some principles to remember when trying to make this call.

We don’t judge hastily.

We have imperfect knowledge in this lifetime.

In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tell the Parable of the Weeds. A man owned a field of wheat, but his enemy planted weeds among the wheat. When the man’s servants offer to pull up the weeds, the man says, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” (verse 29)

This speaks of the children of God growing up among people who are not God’s children. The parable illustrates that it’s not always easy to determine which is which. So we don’t want to rush our judgment. We don’t want people who have really been saved to doubt their salvation.

The parable ends with the assurance that the owner of the field knows who the real wheat and weeds are and they will be sorted accordingly.

True salvation will always have evidence.

We don’t judge hastily. But also know that true faith has evidence of change. It can be seen in the lives of others. In Acts 11, a number of people got saved in Antioch. The apostles sent Barnabas to investigate if it was true and verse 23 says, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,…”

Barnabas saw the grace of God. Whatever it was, real faith has evidence.

So how do we balance the two? We don’t want to judge hastily, but we know real faith has evidence of change.

We look for progress.

The most consistent sign of salvation is progress. That’s why we always encourage new believers to continue in their faith. In the passage above, Barnabas “exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord….” In many other verses, new believers are told to continue in the faith, to stay connected to God, and to work out their salvation.

As new believers do this, the evidence of their life change is seen, including:

  •       Loving God and not the world (1 John 2:15-16)
  •       Bearing spiritual fruit (James 2:17)
  •       Craving God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2)
  •       Confessing sin (1 John 1:8)

 

The list goes on.

In short, don’t judge right away. Instead, encourage people to continue in the faith so you can see evidence of their changed life.