Questions #13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, February 28, 2010.
If you’ve ever read the Puritan writers you know they seemed to have been obsessed with the question of assurance. They were intense naval gazers! Introspection was a hobby. Constantly questioning their own motives and thoughts. Contrast that with the vast number of folks who today boldly, with great certainty claim to be saved in spite of the fact their life gives no evidence of it. I’ve met scores of people who recall with great fondness and detail how they “walked the aisle” and “gave their heart to Jesus” years ago but have no interest in the church or the things of God today. They rest in the assurance of their “decision” or their “baptism” but are unrepentant of their unbiblical lifestyle and their lack of involvement in the things of God. “Houston, we have a problem.”
There is great comfort in knowing that God is at work in His people. That the God who saves is the God who delivers. That the One who began the good work in you, will complete His work. In spite of our weakness and failings, in spite of our faults and unbelief we are stumbling towards glory and by God’s grace we will get there. But that is only true for those who are genuinely born of the Spirit of God. I understand that I cannot stand as anyone else’s judge and determine conclusively whether they are in or out of God’s Kingdom but I can and must speak the truth of the Scripture. And the Scripture warns of “false” professions of faith. Last time we talked about assurance, I want to follow up on that this evening. Specifically I want to talk about how we know we belong to Christ.
Salvation on God’s Terms
The place to begin is to ask what are the terms of salvation? What is required of those who are saved? This assumes what the Scripture says about man, his creation by God, his fall and the consequences of that fall.
- Creation in the image and likeness of God.
- Perfection in the Garden.
- Adam & Eves relationship and their relationship with God.
- The temptation of the Serpent.
- The rebellion.
- The cost.
- The curse.
- God’s remedy.
What is abundantly clear throughout Scripture is that we come to God on His terms. We do not come to God in a manner of our choosing. We are the offenders. We are guilty. What must we do to restore things, to make things right? God, as Sovereign and as the offended party, sets the terms.
So what is it He requires?
Jesus himself came preaching, “Repent and believe the gospel…” Mark 1:15.
We find the same thing from the apostle Paul the other New Testament writers.
Repent and believe.
This means two things:
- The man who has been born of God will hate sin and turn away from it (repent).
- The man who has been born of God will love righteousness and truth.
Paul expresses it this way: But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
It must also be noted that these are not one time events.
This is not a matter of saying, “I once repented and believed.”
This is on-going.
It is a lifetime of repenting and believing.
In other words it is something you do and continue to do.
The Lasting Result of Such a Salvation
What is it that happens to those who repent and believe?
The Bible is clear – they are sanctified.
When we think about a person being a saint we think – moral perfection.
But that is not its primary meaning.
The primary meaning is “set apart” or “set aside for a specific purpose.”
In the OT when a pot was “sanctified” it was set apart for a sacred use. When it is set aside for that sacred use it is not used for anything else. It was, from that time on, devoted to God alone.
In salvation God’s men and women are set apart for God alone.
Unlike the men and women around them who serve other gods – they serve God alone.
This setting aside is done by God, not by the individuals.
This is critical – when God sets us apart He gives us new hearts.
This new heart results in a complete change of “heart” toward sin.
What we once loved, we now find repulsive.
We develop a growing disdain for sin and unrighteousness.
This disdain for sin is not because it harms us but because it is offensive to God.
Sin was once a delight for us (because it satisfied a desire/longing) now it is a burden.
This new heart also causes us to love truth and despise false teaching.
We say, along with the apostle Paul, “Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Ro. 3:4).
God’s truth becomes more important to us than anything else.
To the point we are willing to die for the truth.
- The early martyrs
- The Reformers
Now understand this “truth” is not just a bundle of doctrinal affirmations.
John 14:6 – it is Christ himself.
If a man does not trust and love the Lord Jesus, that man is not a Christian regardless of his testimony or what he professes.
You must ask yourself – “Do I truly love Christ?”
“Am I certain that I have believed in Jesus?”
But wait, isn’t it wrong to question? NO!
Listen to Peter:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9
Peter is saying cultivate these things, grow in these characteristics.
Then note what he says next:
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11
Peter is not talking about how to be saved.
He is telling us that there is a way to confirm to ourselves that we belong to Christ.
This is about determining whether my conviction is sound or delusional.
How can I know I belong to Christ?
Not by asking if I’ve “made a decision.”
Not by turning to my baptism certificate.
Multitudes will claim but of those and wind up in hell.
Rather I must apply the tests of Scripture.
That is the things Peter talks about here and what John says in 1 John.
- The doctrine test – 1 John 2:22-23
- The love test – 1 John 2:9-11
- Test of obedience – 1 John 2:3-6
We are to strive toward holiness. We will not achieve perfection but we ought to progress in godliness.
Consider John 14:21, 23-24:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
Jesus answered him, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
Some Tough Yet Vital Questions
Do you live to please God or to please yourself?
Do you hate sin and love righteousness?
Do you hate sin because it offends God or because it hurts you or people you love?
Is there a clear distinction between your life and the lifestyle of unbelievers?
- Eph. 2:8-9
- Eph. 2:10
Do you trust Christ or truths about Christ?
Are these questions unsettling? If so that’s good. Not because I want to create doubt or confusion but because it is necessary to test gold to insure it is genuine. Gold is not placed in the fire to destroy it but to purify it. The same is true of our faith.
Do you want God’s way in your life? Do you trust Him to work His way in you?
Do you truth Him with your circumstances?
Ask yourself, “Do I want what God wants, even when I don’t know what it is?” Or do you need to know what God wants to do because you can say, “yes”?
Don’t answer that quickly. Think through the implications and then respond.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37