I read the “Introduction” to Jonathan Edwards’ “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections” this morning and liked his list of what are and what are not the distinguishing signs of true grace.
Here is Edwards’ list of those things that are not.
1. That religious affections are very great, or raised very high, is no sign
2. That they have great effects on the body, is no sign
3. That they cause those who have them to be fluent, fervent, and abundant, in talking of the things of religion, is no sign
4. That persons did not excite them of their own contrivance and by their own strength, is no sign
5. That they come with texts of Scripture, remarkably brought to the mind, is no sign
6. That there is an appearance of love in them, is no sign
7. Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another, is no sign
8. That comforts and joys seem to follow awakenings and convictions of conscience, in a certain order, is no sign
9. That they dispose persons to spend much time in religion, and to be zealously engaged in the external duties of worship, is no sign
10. That they much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and glorify God, is no sign
11. That they make persons that have them exceeding confident that what they experience is divine, and that they are in a good estate, is no sign
12. That the outward manifestations of them, and the relation persons give of them, are very affecting and pleasing to the godly, is no sign
Here is a list that I came up with concerning what I would hold the Bible teaches to be the distinguishing signs of true grace:
1. Change of nature — to love the things of God that you used to hate and hate the sins that you used to love. You are a new person, with new desires and likes. You are changed! While you may be tempted with sins from the old life, you truly hate them in your spirit.
2. Freedom from committing willful sin — to have found grace in the Lord to not commit any willful sins at all. A willful sin is a willful act of disobedience against a known commandment of God.
3. Holy hatred of sin — the strong desire not to be put in harm’s way and to flee all unlawful desires of the flesh, eyes, and mind.
4. Devotion to God — you will love God with all your heart, soul, might, and strength.
5. Love your neighbor — you will love not only your Christian brother, but all men.
6. Concern for the spiritual welfare of others — to carry a strong desire to reach out to those who don’t know Christ and to win them to the Lord, and to be a blessing and help to other Christians.
7. Spiritually minded — a disposition to focus on spiritual things in your thoughts, conversation, and spare time.
8. Self-examination — an openness to examine yourself and your actions before the Lord to see where you can do better, and to receive instruction, correction, and reproof from the Lord.
9. Love of spiritual duties — you greatly enjoy prayer, reading of the Word, meditation, reading of spiritual books, worshiping the Lord in song, church meetings, and sharing the gospel whenever you can.
10. Fruitfulness — those that abide in the Lord will bring forth much fruit. You will be able to look back 3 to 6 months in your life and see that you are being changed from glory to glory. You will examine your spiritual life and be aware of your weaknesses, and be working on and growing in the need that God has revealed to you.
11. Restitution — the desire to make past wrongs right.
12. Humility — a spiritual realization that all graces and abilities you have, or think you have, are not yours but are on loan from God, who can remove them all in a moment. This causes you to not be lifted up concerning any abilities you have.
13. Correctable — the grace to be corrected without trying to correct those who are correcting you. To have grace to be corrected by those who have less grace than you do, or may even be weaker than you in the very area they are correcting you. To not defend yourself when you are corrected, but to prayerfully consider the correction before you answer.
14. Honesty — to not cause others to hold opinions that are not true, to answer questions honestly instead of beating around the bush, even when it will cast you or your position in a poor light.
15. Grieved by your lacks, errors, and mistakes — a truly repentant heart and tender conscience that desires to make all wrongs right and is careful to not repeat errors.
16. Carefulness — they are careful around the oppose gender, careful not to offend anyone, careful to be what God wants them to be.
17. Watchfulness — truly sees their dependence on the Lord for grace to be an overcomer. They are not high-minded and think they have the victory in the bag, but are prayerful and always taking heed lest they should fall.
18. Selflessness — seeking the well-being of others, always willing to help wherever they can, let others go before themselves, satisfied with leftovers.
19. Joyful — their cup is half-full not half-empty, the weather is always good, and life is good to them no matter what they are going through. Their rejoicing is in the Lord, and they feel His deep love for them.