William Wildblood has set of a train of thinking with his latest post.
He highlights that there is a spiritually-lethal moral self satisfaction among the mass of (mostly) well behaved people; and he discusses how genuine Christianity is attacked so viciously, and in ways that are hard to resist - probably because there are important lessons for us to learn from overcoming such attacks.
This paragraph, in particular, provokes me to ponder:
You may have been told that you only have to believe in God and your salvation is assured. It's not that simple. Belief without inner transformation is nothing. After all, as James famously says in his 2nd epistle, even the devils believe. You have to convert that belief, which can be likened to an architect's blueprint for a house, into the actual building and you must construct that yourself. So, belief is something that must be constantly tended and deepened.
I have a somewhat different way of thinking about this, because it seems to me that there are some people - perhaps many people - who are constitutionally unable to make solid progress in their behaviour. They are maybe impulsive, maybe addicted, maybe over-influcned by others - but for whatever reason they are repeatedly backsliding, to the extent that they make no overall spiritual progress.
Such people are no use, indeed dangerous, as spiritual or lreligious leaders; and they are probably people that we would be happy to avoid; yet they are nonetheless, 'saved' so long as they believe and follow Jesus - at least, that is my understanding of what the Fourth Gospel tells us.
One common pattern of this is repentance. If such a backslider knows that it what they are, if they acknowledged that they are of this nature - if they repent their weakness and wickedness and remain followers of Jesus (and do Not deny, excuse or advocate their sins as virtues - so common a practice in modern mainstream culture) - then they are assured of resurrection to eternal life - every bit as solidly as a lifelong saint of exemplary behaviour.
It is even possible that such a chaotic and badly-behaved person may learn more, in a spiritual sense, from his mortal life; than does one who is (apparently) blessed with steadiness of purpose and absence of temptation.
(This could, presumably, be why such pre-mortal souls have chosen such mortal lives; and why our creator has provided such lives. For instance, these may be souls that most need to experience repeated failure.)
But this positive outcome would only be the case insofar as he genuinely acknowledged his own problems and failures and continues to aim at the highest ideals.
As always, it is what we learn from experience that is primary: no experience has value in itself (after all, Judas Iscariot knew Jesus personally); any experience may have value when learned-from.
Note: As always, it is he inner motivation and the world of thinking that is primary; and the observable world of behaviour and language is secondary.
Yet - despite this inwardness of reality - we must each and all judge and act-upon the spiritual state of others, in order to navigate through life.
And although we cannot infer from his behaviour and language alone, the state of another Man's soul; we can (to the degree necessary, and insofar as our own motivations are honest, and truth-seeking) intuit that state: we have (if we can locate and acknowledge it) the knowledge we need.