A reader sent me a video of a message on James 2 by Pastor J. D. Greear. In that message, Greear commented on Jas 2:13, saying, “There is no way that you could receive the kind of mercy that God gave you in forgiving your sins and then withhold mercy from others” (see here at 25:45). He then went on to give an illustration of a man run over by an 18-wheeler who had not a scratch on him. He said that’s impossible. “There’s no way you could get hit by that kind of force and stay the same” (27:45). His point is that there is no way that a person could be hit by God’s saving power and stay the same. Born-again people look and act differently than do unsaved people.
Is he right?
Do born-again people look different?
Can you tell if someone is born-again by observing him for a few hours?
Can you tell that you are born again by observing yourself for a few hours?
The answer to all these questions is “No.” There is no guarantee that a born-again person looks different from unbelievers.
How do we know?
The Bible tells us so.
Paul rebuked the believers in Corinth because many of them were still living like the unbelievers in Corinth: “for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor 3:3). The word mere is not in the Greek. They were acting like natural men (1 Cor 2:14). They were acting like unbelievers.
There is no promise in Scripture that believers look different.
You will never have assurance of your salvation if you base it on your behavior. You will be on a lifelong quest. It will be an impossible dream. Why? Because believers sin (Rom 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10). We all fall short of God’s glory.
J.D. Greear is a great speaker. He is warm, and he engages the audience. However, he holds to Lordship Salvation, which comes through in his preaching. He says that to be born again, you must commit your life to Christ, turn from your sins, and follow Christ.i And if your life does not prove that you’ve been radically changed, then you show that you were not hit by the power of God.
Having good intentions is not enough. If we distort God’s Word, our preaching is not good news.
i See J. D. Greear, Gospel (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2011), pp. 47, 244-45; Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2013), pp. 56, 61, 79-81.