It is a common christian claim—that one is saved because he “turned his life around,” or because his desire to obey commandments sufficiently proves his salvation, because, why else would he want to “do God’s will”?
The claim is then carried forward, logically, that, since there is a desire to obey things stated in scripture, it is obviously the Holy Spirit who is doing the leading, and that means the Holy Spirit has been received. However, if the Holy Spirit has not testified directly to a person that he is a child of Yah, then the Holy Spirit has not been received.
The rich young ruler desired to live according to commandments, and he indeed lived that way. Was he saved?
Does the Holy Spirit lead unbelievers to belief? Of course He does. But, obeying commandments is neither the evidence that one is born again, nor is it the means to be born again.
When the Holy Spirit actually indwells a person, which makes that person a believer in the Father’s eyes, His leading in the person’s life will be focused on crucifying his flesh, not on the law of Moses. The more a person who is indwelt by the Spirit yields his will to the Spirit, the more fruit of the Spirit will be on display. The more a person who is indwelt by the Spirit yields his will to his flesh, the more he will look like the world.
However, in either case, the person is indwelt by the Spirit, which means his redemption is eternally sealed. In either case, such a person has eternal life. The evidence of salvation is NOT how one lives, or even how one DESIRES to live. All those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit have the choice to feed the spirit or feed the flesh, and that choice invariably produces consequences that are inescapable. But, those consequences have nothing to do with eternal destiny, because those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit have been given eternal life—guaranteed by the evidence placed within them.
In Matthew 7:21-23, we see christians. These are people who believed with all their hearts that they were saved—they lived as if they were saved, and did many wonderful things in a name they thought was Messiah’s name. They were so sincere in that belief that they still thought they were saved when they stood before Messiah.
But, He told them to depart from Him because He never knew them (He didn’t say that they didn’t do all those wonderful things). Now, who do you think was responsible for those people believing they were saved when they weren’t? Was it the Holy Spirit who led them to that belief? Or, was it the master deceiver?
The thief on the cross believed and confessed Messiah before men. After that, he was TOLD he would be in heaven. End of story. Finis. He did not have to show that his life was changed outwardly to be saved.
Those who assert that he WOULD HAVE lived a changed life, had he been able to come down from the cross, are adding to scripture, and they are adding to salvation. Making such a claim reveals that one does not actually understand what salvation is, or how it is obtained.
For more information: The Way of the Thief