I have heard and been party to many conversations about “What does ‘saved’ look like? How many bushels of ‘fruit of the Spirit’ must one produce before they prove they are saved? If someone is oppressed or in the grip of a stronghold are they saved? Etc.” If you are asking these questions, you are assuming that at the moment of salvation, our perfection in Christ is instantly and completely manifest in us. This is not the case. Even for those who, for example, experience immediate deliverance from an addiction at the moment of their conversion; they will still have a lot of flesh to overcome. Philippians 2:12-13 – Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. I think Shrek said it well when he explained to Donkey that he is like an onion in that he has many layers. We also have many layers. We are dimensional and complex beings.
Think about the process of raising children. It is a long, slow process that takes many years; more years for some than others. It also requires the cooperation of the child. There are not many shortcuts to be taken. There is little difference when we are born again in Christ. We are spiritual infants. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! The old things we knew in our hearts and minds are to be replaced. We begin a new process of transforming our minds. Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 2 Corinthians 3:18 – And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. These verses indicate a process of transformation.
The difference between being born as a physical infant and being born again as a spiritual infant is this; a physical infant is a clean slate. There are no bad behaviors or toxic thoughts to unlearn. A spiritual infant has already catalogued years of learned behaviors and thought life. The number of years and the quality of behaviors and thoughts is different for everyone. Therefore, the process will be different for all of us. How do we answer those aforementioned questions, then? We don’t. We are not, that I’m aware of, instructed to determine another’s salvation or lack thereof. In fact, we are instructed in Matthew 7:1-2 – Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. We ARE instructed in Galatians 5:14 -For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In case you are wondering who your neighbor is, refer to the passage in Luke 10:25-37. Even more challenging: Matthew 5-43-45 –You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
The Lord used the scene at the Last Supper to drive this home to me. He was explaining that one of His disciples will betray Him and turn Him over to His enemies. The disciples looked around at each other wondering which one of them it was. This indicates that Jesus’ treatment of the traitor was NO DIFFERENT than that of the others – regardless of the fact that Jesus knew the heart of Judas all along. He showed love to them all. That’s how He rolls. It’s His M.O. It’s the basis of all He does. Isn’t one of the most quoted scriptures this one? John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Our ultimate goal as a Christ-follower is to become Christ-like. 1 John 4:19 – We love because he first loved us. In order to be a channel of His love, we must pursue, cultivate and nurture our individual relationship with the Lord and fully participate in and cooperate with our own process. Our response to the offered gift of salvation and our process of working it out should be the focus of our examination. Matthew 7:3 challenges us with this –“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
And then it goes on to say in verses 4-5 – How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. As you progress in your process, as you are victorious in overcoming, you may be called to come along side someone else to encourage them in their process. It is so important to listen for the Lord’s direction in this. Recognizing the struggle in another is not the green light to jump into their boat. Dealing with that issue may not be next on God’s agenda for them or you may not be the one to help them. If we are not led by the Lord, the plank we pull out of our own eyes could be the weapon the enemy uses to set back or even destroy our brother.