How can we tell whether or not we are truly saved by the Holy Spirit? Many of us have at one time been “false converts,” believing that we were good to go when in fact we had not been regenerated at all. I was a false convert for a dozen years! Is that your story as well? Here’s a great article about this posted by Berean Wife:
Help! I think I might have fallen for “easy-believism”. Can I know for sure? Yes, you can. Here are six signs that you might not have really believed in Jesus Christ when you think you did. All of these signs are discussed in the parable, which Jesus told in Matthew chapter 13 known as the “Parable of the Sower”. This parable is unique, because Jesus not only told the parable, he also told the disciples the meaning of the parable. Before we learn the six signs of a false conversion, read the “Parable of the Sower” from Matthew chapter 13.
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.
4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.
6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what as sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (NIV)
Now for the six signs of a false conversion. These are all taken from the “Parable of the Sower”.
Sign #1 – Immediate Joy That Doesn’t Last
Jesus says that a sign of a false convert is a person who is immediately filled with joy upon hearing the gospel message, but followed by a quick fading away. There are two problems inherit with immediate joy that doesn’t last. First, the joy is immediate. Second, the joy doesn’t last. Let’s examine these two things more closely.
First, the joy is immediate. There is no sorrow that precedes the joy. A person who has truly come to faith in Jesus Christ has faced the conviction of their sin. This conviction of sin shows in a person through a broken and contrite heart. Many people who hear the modern gospel message only hear about the joy of eternal life, and they accept it gladly. They have never heard and come to understand the need to repent of their sins. They don’t know the wrath of God that they have been saved from.
Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (NIV)
Joel 2:12-13 “‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (NIV)
Second, the joy doesn’t last. This person may exhibit spectacular growth for a while, but over time the joy fades, and the person falls away. This is the person who hasn’t “counted the cost”, who hasn’t weighed all the issues.
Luke 14:26-30 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” (NIV)
Sign #2 – No Roots
False converts have no “roots,” that is, no foundations in faith and Christian learning, so they “dry up” like a plant with no roots. The Parable of the Sower, as recorded in Luke, states that these plants wither because they have no moisture. Roots are designed to gather in water and nutrients. Without these, the plant cannot live. Similarly, we as Christians must also have “roots” that seek out what we need to make us thrive as Christians – things like prayer, Bible reading, Biblical teaching, and fellowship.
Sign #3 – Unwillingness to Face Persecution
Notice in the Parable of the Sower that it is the intense heat of the sun which causes the plant to wither (verse 6). Jesus tells us that this intense heat in our lives is the heat of troubles, persecution, and times of testing. These things drive a true believer closer to Jesus, but they cause the false convert to wither and fall away. In either case, the worst thing that can happen in a person’s life is never having to face the intense heat of troubles and persecution.
Sign #4 – Preoccupation with Worry
The Parable of the Sower tells us that there are people who hear the gospel message and initially respond to it, but then fall away because they are more preoccupied with the worries of this world than with pursuing the kingdom of God. When our attention is fixed on the worries of this life, the gospel gets choked out of our life like thorns choke out good plants.
Matthew 6:31-34 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)
Sign #5 – Preoccupation with the World
The Parable of the Sower tells us that there are other people who hear and respond to the gospel message, but then fall away because they are preoccupied with the pleasures this world has to offer. They are deceived by the glitter of wealth, possessions, and fame. And these things, which seem pleasurable for a season, choke out the gospel message.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)
Sign #6 – No Fruit
The true believer must bear fruit in his or her life. What exactly is this fruit that we should expect to see? The Bible answers this question for us quite well.
First, there is the fruit of repentance.
Matthew 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (NIV)
Second, there is fruit of good works.
Colossians 1:10 “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work” (NIV)
Third, there is the fruit of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Hebrews 13:15 “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (NIV)
Fourth, there is the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)
Fifth, there is the fruit of righteousness.
Philippians 1:9-11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” (NIV)
What does the Bible say about the so-called “Christian” who bears no fruit? The Bible says that they will be cut down and cast away into the fire.
Matthew 3:10 “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (NIV)
John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (NIV)