If we suspect that someone we know who claims to be a Christian may actually be a false convert, how should we address them? What are some realities that we should be mindful of?
Speakers: Jesse Barrington, Tim Conway, Mack Tomlinson, Nate Pickowicz
Mack: In what way is it appropriate to address a professing believer who appears to be a false convert?
Nate: Preach the Gospel to them. I mean, we kind of answered that a little bit a few minutes ago, but I think you're making a judgment about another person's faith. They seem to be a false convert. I don't know. I've interacted with folks before that they say they were a Christian. There were some things in their life that don't seem to add up. To a certain degree - not all the way - but I'm going to talk to them as a believer and impress on them the same mandates that any other believer would have. Well, you know, when you're in your prayer closet, when you're repenting of your sin, how's your walk? How's your faith in Christ? And you just bear down on them with a Spirit-filled mandate to do the things that believers do. But again, opportunities to just share the Gospel again with them because I guess if you're being made aware of the possibility, you're finding out some way, in some sinful way or some gap in their testimony, there are opportunities to tell them: well, I've noticed this about you. Well, that's interesting, you know. You impress them on it. I mean, I don't think we have any reason to hold back and press on them and say, well, if you're a Christian, then this is true for you. And if at a certain point, they say, well, I don't know if I am a Christian, then you can say let's address that problem too. I had a husband and wife - the husband professed to be a believer for twenty years or whatever. Eventually, it was deemed pretty obvious that he was not a believer. And one of our counseling sessions toward the end before they ended up getting a divorce - a biblical, sadly, divorce, he said, "Well, I don't even know if I'm a Christian anymore. I don't even know." I said, well, I'm glad you're being honest. And then began to minister and tell him what the Gospel was again and call him to repentance and faith. And to this day, I still pray he does come to faith. But I don't think it changes much. You just have to see through some of the subterfuge. Hope that's helpful.
Mack: Any added comments?
Jesse: We're looking for evidences of life and I think we have to distinguish between evidences of life in Christ versus maturity in life in Christ. So we need to be careful here. So I would affirm everything you just said, brother. And then I would add: make sure you're not looking for maturity in Christ versus evidences of life in Christ. And that can be hard to distinguish and take time. You don't want to discourage a genuine, fragile believer by telling them they're not saved. That's not your role. And so be careful in that.
Tim: In 1 Thessalonians 5, you have some people in the church specifically identified as being unruly, weak, faint. And I've often wondered, if we had the most unruly or the most weak Christian that ever lived and they were in our church, how many in our church would probably think that perhaps they're not saved? You know, Paul speaking to those Galatians, they keep going down that same road. He's talking "separated from Christ" and "fallen from grace" and it's not a good direction. You perish in that direction. And yet, he talks to them as being brethren. You have the Hebrew letter written to people that are drifting, and yet they're charitably called - the Corinthians - very charitably called brothers. Was Paul wise enough to recognize that perhaps some of the Corinthians weren't saved? Or perhaps some of the Galatians weren't saved? Of course. But he sets forth that truth, and that truth is as applicable to those that are believing and are weak, those that are believing and straying, or those who may be deceived.