I recently officiated a funeral for a man I didn’t know. I met with his children to make preparations for the funeral service. They indicated that their father had made a profession of faith in Jesus as a young child but had little do with the church or spiritual things for the next 60 years. The fact that they had to look online for a pastor pretty much told me all I needed to know.
God alone knows the condition of the heart. But what are we to make of such a man? Does a person simply have to mouth a few words in order to be saved? Does it really matter how a person lives? Can we say with any degree of confidence that he was genuinely saved? Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But Scripture is also clear that our faith should not be alone. In other words, genuine faith has observable characteristics. Jesus cautioned that if the tree doesn’t produce fruit, it should be cut down. James left no doubt when he said, “Faith without works is dead!” If one’s faith is not accompanied by a change of life, it is not genuine faith.
The Anglican Bishop, J.C. Ryle, lamented that so many church-goers of his day lived ungodly lives. And as a result, the reputation of the gospel was damaged. “Worldly people sometimes complain with reason that ’religious’ persons, so-called, are not so amiable and unselfish and good-natured as others who make no profession of religion.” Ryle wrote these words in 1877. And sadly, we live in an age of nominal Christianity. Many call themselves Christians but their lives give little evidence.
A person who is genuinely saved is both justified and sanctified. These two realities always go together. They immediately receive the righteousness of Christ and are brought into a right relationship with God (justification). But they also are progressively transformed in such a way that their life is increasingly marked by righteousness (sanctification). When people are gathered at your funeral, will there be observable evidence that you were a genuine follower of Jesus?
Photo credit: https://www.barracks.marines.mil/Photos/igphoto/2000716389/