Read Matthew 13
I often find myself thinking, “Is that person a Jesus-follower?” At other times, I am asked to weigh in on my opinion of whether another person is a believer or whether a deathbed conversion was genuine. Some of those thoughts and questions can be dangerous because, well, I can be judgmental, you see. Meanwhile, that assessment can help me to know how to best approach another person.
So, how do any of us assess the faith of another? Two things come to mind:
- We can ask a specific question that invites others to share who/what it is they are trusting in for their salvation (1 Jn. 5:11-13).
- We can observe the fruit of their life (Matt. 7:19, 20).
In spite of our best efforts, we are limited in our ability to fully assess the spiritual status of another. That should not surprise us. Even Satan can cloak his true identity. Under his influence, false prophets can clothe themselves as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). And there will be people who seem to answer question #1 above with the right answer and seem to have convincing proof for assessment #2 above. But some of those people will be self-deceived.
While some of the evaluation indicated above can have benefit, separating people cleanly into camps of believers and unbelievers . . . of wheat and tares . . . can be challenging. Our attempts can be divisive, disruptive, painful, and just plain inaccurate. We do well to exercise caution in such assessments.
Thankfully, even our best assessment is not the one that counts. My friend, neighbor, family member, or acquaintance will not enter heaven because I deem them worthy based on things I hear them say or deeds I see them perform. God’s is the only opinion that matters.
People will be eternally judged/rewarded only on the basis of sincere saving faith, and only God ultimately sees that. In fact, as frustrating as it may seem, He often allows believers and unbelievers in this life to stand together without distinguishing between them. But the day will come when He will draw a line of distinction between the true believers (i.e. wheat) and those who are only pretending (i.e. tares).