Introduction: Salvation does not come through the Law (Gal. 2:21). Yet, Jesus promises to transform a true believer into a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Jo. 3:3). Jesus further states that you will know a transformed believer through their “fruits” (Matt. 7:16, 20; 12:33; Lk. 6:43-44). Here, David reveals several signs of a transformed believer. These include: (1) seeking after God, (2) integrity, (3) honesty, (4) fearing God, (5) faithfulness, (6) love, and (7) perseverance.
First, as a sign of his faith, David pleaded to know how someone could abide in God’s presence. A person who constantly seeks after God’s presence or fellowship is one of the most important signs of a transformed believer. Such a person’s faith is never stagnant. Second, David described the outward signs of a true believer as someone who walks in God’s fellowship. This includes integrity and righteousness. Third, David also stated that the outward signs of a true believer include honesty and refraining from slanderous comments. Fourth, David further stated that the outward signs of a true believer include fearing God by avoiding evil. The fear of the Lord is defined as “hating” evil. Fifth, David also stated that the outward signs of a believer include someone who keeps their oaths or vows. Sixth, motivated by love, David also reveals that a true believer does not charge interest to the poor or take a bribe that would hurt the innocent. Finally, David promised that the person who does these things “will never be shaken.” When you live by faith these signs should be visible, and God will help you to persevere.
David pleaded to know how to abide in God’s presence. Despite the power that he enjoyed as king, David longed most for the day when he could dwell in God’s presence: “A Psalm of David. 1 Lord, who may reside in Your tent? Who may settle on Your holy hill?” (Ps. 15:1). David always sought out ways to draw closer to God in his faith.
The desire to be in God’s fellowship is an important sign of transformed believer1
David’s greatest desire was to dwell with God forever. Although David’s question implied uncertainty, he knew that he would dwell with God forever: “Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps. 23:6). This was also his greatest desire: “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.” (Ps. 27:4). “For a day in Your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:10). Through faith in Jesus, all are guaranteed the same promise (Jo. 3:16).
Constantly seek after God’s fellowship. David’s greater fears also occurred when he could not feel God’s presence: “You have seen it, LORD, do not keep silent; Lord, do not be far from me.” (Ps. 35:22). “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near; for there is no one to help.” (Ps. 22:11). “God, do not be far from me; My God, hurry to my aid!” (Ps. 71:12). During Job’s trials, he stated that his greatest lament was his perceived loss of God’s fellowship: “2 ‘Oh that I were as in months gone by, as in the days when God watched over me; 3 when His lamp shone over my head, and by His light I walked through darkness; 4 just as I was in the days of my youth, when the protection of God was over my tent; 5 when the Almighty was still with me, and my children were around me;”’ (Job 29:2-5). Job and David were heroes of the faith because they always sought after God. God also wants you to desire to constantly draw closer to Him.
Through faith, Jesus offers you His fellowship. You cannot earn God’s fellowship through your acts. What Jesus offers is a “free” gift that He offers through grace: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23). Your faith alone can bring you the blessing of Jesus’ fellowship: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). But merely accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is not enough to be in fellowship with Him. There are plenty of people who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior but then make no effort to walk with Him. To maintain your fellowship, your faith must be accompanied by a willingness to accept Jesus’ invitation for a deeper relationship: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Are you accepting Jesus’ invitation to seek out real fellowship with Him?
David stated that true believers walk in integrity and righteousness. According to David, the outward signs of a believer who seeks after God includes integrity and righteousness: “2a One who walks with integrity, practices righteousness,” (Ps. 15:2a). Paul later confirmed that a person transformed in their faith seeks after the “righteousness” that is part of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17). As one commentator explains: “David also knew that righteousness is expressed in the way we treat one another. We might have thought David would have given greater priority to religious obligations such as sacrifice or purification ceremonies – which certainly have their place, but are useless without the practical godliness of being good and honest and honorable to neighbors and friends. In these words of David, we also see the deeper work of Jesus Christ, who commanded us to not only love our neighbor and friend, but also to love our enemies and those who spitefully use us (Matthew 5:44). (David Guzik on Ps. 15) (Italics original).2
A transformed believer should act with integrity and only speak the truth3
A transformed believer acts with integrity in all his dealings with others. In Old Testament times, God warned his people not to cheat or deceive others. This frequently took place in commerce. Before modern times, the primary means for calculating a fair price in commerce required a scale. God’s people were warned that severe punishment awaited them if they manipulated the scale to increase their profits: “35 ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.’” (Lev. 19:35-36). “13 You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15 You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Dt. 25:13-15). “You shall have just balances, a just ephah and a just bath.” (Ez. 45:10). “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov. 11:1; 20:10; 23; Hosea 12:7). Persons who defraud consumers will also face God’s judgment (Micah 6:11). God also wants you to walk with integrity. When no one is watching, do you act with integrity and honor God?
A transformed believer fears reaping the consequences of deceit. When Job’s friends falsely accused him of deceiving the poor, he proclaimed that if he had acted with deceit he would “sow” the consequences of his actions by having his crops “uprooted.” (Job 31:8). The prophet Micah later gave a similar warning: “You will sow but you will not harvest. You will tread the olive press but will not anoint yourself with oil; and tread out sweet wine, but you will not drink any wine.” (Micah 6:15). Although the wicked may temporarily escape judgment, God will one day bring every act to judgment. Do you conduct yourself knowing that no evil act can be hidden from God?
David stated that believers should be honest and do not slander others. According to David, another sign of a believer seeking after God is seen through the desire to be truthful: “2b and [He] speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, nor do evil to his neighbor, nor bring shame on his friend;” (Ps. 15:2b-3). Jesus is the truth: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”’ (Jo. 14:6). “[G]race and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (Jo. 1:17b). If you are following Jesus, you should only speak the truth.
A godly person only speaks the truth. Solomon warns that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21) and that “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” (Prov. 15:4). “Your word is truth.” (Jo. 17:17(b)). “For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.’” (Is. 63:8(a)). “You shall not . . . deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25). Will you speak God’s truth to others, even if it might cause you embarrassment?
A transformed believer is honest in dealing with others. One of the signs of a transformed believer is the desire to be honest in their dealings with others: “11 ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.’” (Lev. 19:11; Ex. 23:1-2). Stealing violates God’s Eighth Commandment (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28). Lying also violates God’s Ninth Commandment (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20). Lies and deceit are among the six things that God “hates.” “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: . . . a lying tongue, and . . . a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16-19). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.” (Prov. 22:22). Satan is the father of all lies and deceit. When you lie, you are under his influence: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). Are you honest in all your personal and business dealings with others?
Take God’s warnings about slander and gossip seriously. God also warns believers not to slander or gossip about others: “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people; and you are not to jeopardize the life of your neighbor. I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:16; Ex. 23:7) Thus, no matter what the reason, you should never engage in lies, slander or gossip. Small lies can ultimately lead to more damaging ones. Ultimately, they grow into judgment. Gossip also damages others. Do you gently correct others when they gossip? Or, are you the one who gossips?
Lies and deceit lead to even worse sins. David warned his enemies that their evil would only grow if they failed to repent (Ps. 7:14). God’s warnings about small unchecked sins leading to even worse sins and consequences are repeated throughout the Bible: “You have conceived chaff, you will give birth to stubble; My breath will consume you like a fire.” (Is. 33:11). “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:15). If there is any small sin in your life, don’t let it grow into a worse sin. Instead, repent of it and turn back to walking with God.
David stated that true believers fear God by avoiding evil. Another sign of a person seeking after God is evidenced by showing respect for Him avoiding what He calls evil: “4a a despicable person is despised in his eyes, but he honors those who fear the Lord;” (Ps. 15:4a). Tolerating evil in your life slowly pulls you off your walk with God. If you love evil, you also are not in fellowship with God: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 Jo. 1:6). God instead commands: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-5).
Fear God by hating all forms of evil. The heroes of the faith all feared God. In a pre-incarnate appearance, Jesus commended Abraham for “fearing God” (Gen 22:12). The Bible also celebrates Job for “fearing God.” (Job 1:1). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10; Ps. 111:10). Yet, fearing God does not mean that you fear that He will arbitrarily do something to you. It is instead defined as “hating” evil (Prov. 8:13). Fearing God also includes turning away from evil: “And to mankind He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to turn away from evil is understanding.”’ (Job 28:28). Do you “hate” evil things in the world? When you hate what is evil you protect yourself in your walk. You also become Jesus’ light to those who are trapped in darkness and bondage (Matt. 5:14-16).
God will not withhold any good thing when you fear Him by hating evil. Many think they are missing out if they live a life devoted to God. But He promises that you will never lack a good thing when you fear Him by hating evil: “Fear the LORD, you His saints; for to those who fear Him there is no lack of anything.” (Ps. 34:9). Is what God offers enough for you? Or, do you also crave the things of the world?
David stated that true believers keep their oaths or vows. Another sign of a believer who seeks after God is the desire to keep any vow or oath taken before God or other people: “4b He takes an oath to his own detriment, and does not change;” (Ps. 15:4b). A believer is God’s representative. A person who ignores their vows dishonors God.
A broken vow profanes God’s holy name. Until recent times, an “oath” or vow was done before God. God considers an oath or vow to Him so important that a believer who breaks an oath or vow to Him “profains” His holy name (Lev. 19:12). Thus, in Old Testament times, the penalty for a broken vow before God was death: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16). This law further applied to gentiles: “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16). “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Dt. 5:11). God therefore takes your oaths and vows seriously.
Jesus’ warning not to make careless vows before God. Many might be tempted to think that Jesus made all the law of vows unnecessary. He directly addressed this issue: “you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.” (Matt. 5:33). Yet, instead of saying that the law of vows no longer applies, He warns that it is better not to make a vow than to make one and break it: “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet . . .But let your statements be, ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’; anything else beyond these is of evil.” (Matt. 5:34-37; Jam. 5:12). Later, He condemned the people of His day who claimed that a temple vow had no meaning unless it was a vow made based upon the temple’s gold (Matt. 23:16). Jesus also asked that we count the cost before making a vow to Him (Lk. 14:28-33). This is why Jesus spelled out the cost of discipleship before someone chose to walk closer to Him as a disciple as opposed to a mere follower (Lk. 9:57-62). If God’s laws regarding vows no longer applied, Jesus would not have warned believers against breaking their vows.
Be faithful because God is faithful. As God’s representative, God wants you to be “trustworthy”: “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor. 4:2). Because God is faithful to you, you should desire to be faithful in your vows. Are you considered by others as a person who keeps their word?
David stated that true believers do not oppress the poor or innocent. David warned that a believer cannot claim to seek after God if he or she oppresses the poor or the innocent: “5a He does not lend his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.” (Ps. 15:5a.) Any actions that place others into bondage is abhorrent to God.
A transformed believer should desire to show God’s love to those in need4
God’s prohibition against charging interest to believers in need. Although commercial lending and lending to people with money was allowed, God prohibited the Jews from charging the poor interest: “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.” (Ex. 22:25). “19 You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20 You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.” (Dt. 23:19-20). “You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.” (Lev. 25:37). In cases not involving the poor, the Jews could charge interest provided they did not charge “usurious interest.” (Lev. 25:36). In contrast, charging interest to the poor who could not afford a loan or “usury interest” was a form of oppression that God abhorred: “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” (Prov. 14:31). “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” (Prov. 22:16). “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern.” (Prov. 29:7). “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). When the Jews first returned from Babylonian captivity, they ignored these laws. Some incurred usury debts and some parents were then forced to place their children into indentured servitude to pay off the family’s debts “we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already. . . ” (Neh. 5:5). This was a sad practice that parents resorted to when they were trapped into debts that they could not repay (cf., 2 Kgs. 4:1). When Nehemiah led the Jews, he preached that what the Jews were doing to each other was evil. Many of the Jews who remained in Babylon still had their families united. At the same time, the Jewish money lenders in Israel were forcing Jewish debtors to sell their sons and daughters into indentured servitude to pay off their parents’ debts.
Believers should never place another person into bondage. Because God freed His people from slavery, they were expressly prohibited from selling each other as slaves: “If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. . . . For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale.” (Lev. 25:39, 42). If a person did properly receive a loan, indentured servitude amongst the Jews was available for persons who had nothing else to offer to repay a proper loan. God allowed for this out of the “hardness” of people’s hearts (cf., Matt. 19:8). In these circumstances, He protected servants from cruelty from their masters (Lev. 25:53; Ex. 21:20-21, 26). Also, if a kinsman came to redeem the servant’s debts, God required that the servant to be immediately freed (Lev. 25:26, 48). If no kinsman redeemer came, God still required the master to free the servant at the beginning of the seventh year or during the Jubilee year, whichever came first (Dt. 15:12; Lev. 25:39-42, 54). When Nehemiah led, he did not need to wait until either the seventh or a Jubilee year to free the servants. The loans were void both because they were given to the poor and because they involved usury interest.
Jesus calls upon believers to lend to the poor, even if the loan might not be returned. The rules on giving to the poor did not disappear with Jesus’ death. Jesus also commands that you give to those in need, even when you don’t expect to be repaid: “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.” (Lk. 6:34). “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:44). “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” (Lk. 14:13). “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jo. 3:17; see also, Prov. 28:5; Jer. 22:3; Ezek. 18:21; Zech. 7:9; Matt. 23:23; Jam. 1:27). Are you giving freely to those in need without expecting a return? Is your church giving to persons in need?
Don’t allow your giving to return a person to bondage or addiction. Although Jesus calls upon believers to be generous, He also cautions: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matt. 7:6). In the parable of the prodigal son, the wayward son had to hit rock bottom before he realized what he had given up. If someone had enabled him by constantly giving him money to squander, he never would have realized his mistakes (Lk. 15:11-32). Are you over extending yourself with your borrowing?
Love should guide all your interactions with others. Everything that Jesus commands should come naturally if you are guided by love: “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jo. 13:34-35; 1 Jo. 4:7). If someone is suffering around you, show them Jesus’ love.
Be cheerful in your giving. God also does not want you giving to the poor if it is done with sadness or a feeling of obligation. He instead wants you to be a cheerful giver: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Chron. 29:9). Is giving a joy for you? Or, do you view giving as a burden that you can only afford in good times?
David stated that a believer who did these things would persevere. Finally, David promised that a person who seeks after God in these ways could endure any trial: “5b One who does these things will never be shaken.” (Ps. 15:5b). When your heart belongs to God, He will strengthen it: “For the eyes of the LORD roam throughout the earth, so that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chr. 16:9a).
A transformed believer who walks in God’s righteousness will also enjoy His protection5
Persevere when God tests you, and He will bless you in the end. The Apostles celebrated that they were deemed worthy to suffer for Jesus through persecution (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:14-16). The Bible also celebrated Job for his endurance through his trials (Jam. 5:11). Trials allow believers to become more obedient in their walk: “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8). Trials also allow Jesus to prune the parts of a believer’s life that are not of Him: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (Jo. 15:2). Trials further allow God to build perseverance, character, and hope: “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;” (Ro. 5:3-4). Furthermore, God will bless those who endure their trials with a crown of life: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Jam. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). Thus, you are called upon to celebrate the growth that your trials produce (Jam. 1:2). If you are deemed worthy of suffering for God’s greater plans for good (Ro. 8:28), it is an honor that will be forever celebrated in heaven (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:14-16). Finally, if you seek after God, He will also give you the strength to endure whatever trial that you face.