There are thousands, perhaps millions of people who believe they are Christians who will never enter heaven. This is not my evaluation but the clear teaching of Jesus Christ Himself.
Christ spoke of those who “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15 NASB). It is not the outward clothing but the inward heart that indicates a true believer.
Only God can perfectly evaluate the heart. But what is the only way to potentially know the difference between a professing believer and a real believer?
A true believer has a surrendered will that yields spiritual fruit.
A Surrendered Will
Before a person comes to Christ, they are living according to their own will. They are in control of their lives. They are the lord and master.
At some point, God begins to convince them of “sin and righteousness and coming judgment,” which Jesus said is the Spirit’s work (John 16:8-11). They realize they are separated from God because of their sin and they need Christ … that the result of following their own will and plan is disastrous.
Then, in a work done by God and through the hearing of the gospel, He reveals to them that Jesus Christ died on the cross to take care of this problem. They have a change of mind regarding their lives and direction (repentance), and they trustingly cry out for Christ to save them (faith).
With this step of faith, there is also a very natural and spontaneous surrender of the will, if real repentance and faith have taken place. “I don’t want to be in control any longer. I want Christ to be in charge.” This surrender creates a life that gives evidence of true salvation.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21).
The evidence of true salvation is a person who follows Christ. A follower follows from the inside out—from a convicted, repentant, believing heart. This is not perfect in this life, as they still deal with temptation and a weakened flesh; but the trajectory of their life is after Christ. And this leads to the second evidence of true salvation.
A Yield of Spiritual Fruit
Twice in this Sermon on the Mount passage (Matthew 7:15-23), Jesus proclaimed, “You will know them by their fruits.” Spiritual fruit is outlined for us in several places, but most clearly in Galatians 5:22-23:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
These are not external qualities only, but those which flow from a person in whom the Spirit of God dwells and who is walking by the Spirit’s leadership and power. None of these qualities are human; they are divine. And when you see these fruits in spiritual power, it is evidence that there is One residing in a person who is producing His life through them.
A Final Test
Jesus never spoke of our salvation in terms of merely a past experience. It is a present reality. Here are two questions we must answer:
- Through repentance and faith, have I trusted in Christ alone for my salvation and, as a result, surrendered my will to the will of the Father?
- Is there—not perfectly, but continually over time—evidence of spiritual fruit in my life? Is Christ in me producing His life through me?
It is a healthy exercise to test yourself and to ask such questions in your life, because nothing is more important in your life now than your eternal destiny. Paul calls for such evaluation and states the acid test of true salvation in 2 Corinthians 13:5—
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
Is Christ in you?