One of the clear and consistent signs of genuine salvation is change. In fact, from the Gospels to Revelation, this thread is so clearly evident that I often find it amusing that people even argue the point (Matt. 7, Matt. 13, John 6, John 10, Romans 6-7, 2 Cor. 5, Hebrews 6, Hebrews 10, 1 John 3, to name a few). Even a simple reading of the last 27 books of the Bible reveal that God’s true children, over time, are changed inside and out by him. Theologically, it is called sanctification. Street-ologically (yes, I made that word up), you’re simply different than you used to be.
Knowing this, however, raises another question, one I am always asked after preaching on this issue (which I do quite frequently): Is change the ultimate test? Or, to phrase it in a more blatant way, if someone is changed, does that mean they are regenerated? How’s this for an answer – Yes, but mostly no. (With answers like that, I should run for office somewhere.)
I say “yes” in that fruit is the sign that we have the seed of God. But the rest of the answer is where the “no” comes in to play. We have to ask ourselves, “From what source is the fruit being produced?” Like it or not, the source of change is an integral part of the answer.
In Matthew 7, there was much fruit on display in the lives of the religious people; things like casting out demons, prophesying, and “mighty works.” We might even call this lifestyle an apparently changed life. But it was from a source that was unreliable. False. Plastic. Deceptive. The result? Not real change/fruit, only apparent change/fruit.
Likewise, two houses are contrasted in Matthew 7. And the one that was left standing – the one that was actually real – was the one that had the right foundation. Think source. The other one? Well, it got blasted in the storm and was proven to be nothing more than false. Deceptive. Plastic. Untrue. Why? Because its source was false. Untrue. Deceptive.
Essentially, the question is deeper than “Are you changed?” Quite frankly, there are many changed people. From Mormons to Buddhists to Muslims to New Agers, people all over the globe are “changing” and trying to become a better, even sometimes different, person. But the fact of change alone doesn’t tell the whole story. The fuller and deeper question is, “What is changing you?” We must at some point get to the foundational issue – the source of our change.
Jesus states quite clearly that all sources other than himself – religion, effort, fear, family, sincerity, etc. – will end up as empty wells and false foundations (Matthew 7:21). They will be proven deceptive. They won’t last. Only Jesus brings change in this life and into the next (John 14:1-6). It is thus wise for each of us to ask ourselves the full question – What is bringing about change in my life? What well am I drawing my water from? What foundation am I building my house upon? What vine am I connected to? Sure, change indicates something is happening. But only when you know the source of that change can you definitively say you are being changed by God and, consequently, owned by him.
This is why the Gospel matters so intensely and urgently. It is the story of the only real life-changer, Jesus. And without it, we have no hope of truly changing for the right reasons. No wonder Paul consistently points to the Gospel in his letters as the starting place for real change. He encouraged people to tell it, hear it, accept it, stand on it, confess it, cling to it, and even die for it. Which simply begs the question – does your changed life stem from the good news of Jesus Christ, the only God-man who died and rose again and is the exclusive way to God?
So yes, change is fundamental, but so is the source of that change. We need to be willing to answer both aspects of this issue as we examine ourselves to see whether or not we are “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).