Salvation

While talking with a friend of mine yesterday, we got on the subject of atonement. She is a proponent of the “ask Jesus into your heart” and that Jesus’ death on the cross was wholly sufficient for all people but we must “choose to accept” his sacrifice for it to be of benefit to our lives. While it’s something that’s often taught in churches, it’s not taught in the Bible. If it were so, Jesus would have asked that the paralytic man who was lowered to him through the ceiling, “ask Him into his heart” before he would be absolved of his sins. Instead what do we hear? Your sins are forgiven. Now go and sin no more. What was Jesus’ requirement for healing? That they have faith in His ability to heal them and, upon their restoration, he told them to go and sin no more. There is no man-focused acceptance required, but a faith that He is the only one who can bring you salvation from your troubles.

At my response to her, she stated that the gift of salvation is like a man who goes to a store and buys an item for you and leaves it at the counter. It’s wholly paid for but you cannot receive it until you accept it. This places the act of salvation firmly in the hands of the one to whom it is granted. It also, unfortunately, means that you can LOSE your salvation if you either decide that it’s not something that you desire and also if you are found unworthy of the gift. She also stated that anyone who goes to hell, is sent there because of their refusal to accept Jesus’ sacrifice in their place. This goes directly in opposition to scripture that teaches that we are secured by God, and not ourselves (Jn 6:35-37,10:27-29; Rom 8:1,35,38-39,11:29). We cannot out sin the grace of God and once God has transformed our heart and filled us with new desires (Eze 36:26), we will be bound to God by HIS sacrifice on our behalf and it is HIM who upholds and sustains us in this new covenant.

A better (though weak) analogy is that you are guilty of a capital crime. You’ve been caught, found guilty before the court and are now awaiting your execution when a man whom you do not know says that he loves you so much that he is willing to take your place in the electric chair so that you may go free. Against your own guilt which you know you carry, and your desire to see justice fulfilled on you, the judge agrees to this man’s proposal and he is executed on your behalf. The work is complete, justice is fulfilled and you are set free, no more under debt to the law. You may wish that he did not give his life for yours and you fully understand that you are not worthy of his sacrifice, but it has been placed upon you and you are granted redemption from your sins against the court. In the same way, Jesus has taken our place on the cross and has died the death that you and I deserve for our crimes against God.

If anything, our only participation in this act of salvation comes as we are the object upon which the grace of God is bestowed. God is the one who saves us, against our nature, from His wrath, by His grace, and for His glory. Men are not cast into the eternal hellfire for their refusal to accept Jesus. The demons fully acknowledged who He is and proclaimed it loudly before Him (Mt 8:29; Mk 3:11,5:7; Lk 4:41,8:28) and we know that they are not saved because hell was created FOR them (Mt 25:41). Who knows more than they do that He is the Christ, the son of the living God? He created them and they saw Him in power when they were cast down to the earth. If all we need to do is to accept his teaching or his authority, who is more prepared to enter into heaven than they? Our salvation is not based upon a mental ascent to His power in our lives, nor a religious acceptance of his teachings. It is, as it has always been, reliant upon His work on our lives and when He changes our hearts from being self-serving to thankful appreciation of the work that He has completed for us, in our stead. It is through our trust (faith) in Him to complete the salvation that He has promised. Men are cast into hell for their sins as they are judged based on the product of their lives (Eze 18:4; Rev 20:12-13). It is the Christian who can take comfort in this, knowing that we stand before God, cleansed from our sins. If I had to stand before Him in the knowledge that my own ability to hold onto the salvation that He has provided for me I would be deeply concerned. I loudly proclaim with the great hymn writer Edward Mote:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name.

On Christ, My solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

I remember my second baptism. My wife and I were recently married and, assuming that this was what responsible parents do, we found religion. We started attending a local church using the Willow Creek (“seeker-sensitive”) model and became members. As part of that membership, they recommended that we be baptized as a sign of our “rededication” to the Lord. Our church rented a large heated pool for the afternoon and about 40 people all lined up and were baptized. There was a neat little dinner held afterward and all in all we had a great time. Once we were in the car and on the way home, however, it became very serious for me and I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if it will stick this time”.

This wasn’t my first run-in with religion. I was baptized at 4 years old at Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colorado. My parents were devout Lutherans, attending service every week, becoming members, going to prayer meetings and Bible studies. My mom first taught Sunday school then became the Sunday School director. I memorized all the same stories we’d have every year and eventually was even able to predict the text of the sermon based on where we were in the Liturgical calendar. During the next 10 years we were at church every week, rain or shine. In that time I dedicated myself to Jesus probably 40 times. I “said the sinner’s prayer” with weeping many times, sometimes under the fear that “if I were to die and I didn’t know Jesus then I’d never see my parents again”. Other times it was because I was afraid of punishment. The single similarity that marked each one was my undying commitment to myself. No one had explained “repentance” to me outside of “changing my mind in relation to Jesus”. I did, however, see the difference between my relationship with Jesus and how other people referred to Him. I knew that they had something that I didn’t and, while it intrigued me, I just figured that God was working on them in a different way than me and I let it go.

The problem in each of these cases was a misrepresentation of the gospel. I was told that Jesus died so that God could put me into Heaven. The pivotal point was on me and my righteousness before God – that I was so fabulous that God surrendered Jesus so that I could be in His presence. I never understood that. Then the language about “falling away” made sense to me because I thought that it was merely about me and my goodness and that I could always just ask “Jesus into my heart” and “accept HIM” and everything would be alright. I could run that razor’s edge between sin and sanctification with my “get out of Hell free” card in my back pocket containing the “sinner’s prayer” embossed in gold.

It took God taking away from me everything I held dear before He finally got it through my head that it wasn’t about me, but it was always about HIM. It was about God’s righteousness, and for that Jesus was pleased to die on the behalf of sinners who would repent of their sinful lives and turn to Him for salvation. It wasn’t about ME accepting HIM, but God accepting ME because of what Jesus had done for me.

Through all of my previous experiences I had become just another false convert to Christianity. Another man who follows my chosen religion because it provided a salve for my conscience and gave the reigns to my salvation to ME alone. True Christianity, however, requires that we surrender our “right” to be right to Jesus alone. My commitment to myself and to my own besetting sins was so strong that I was unwilling to open my hand on those things to Jesus and to allow Him to transform my whole life. I was like a man who married his wife and promised to love her and her alone forever, but who refused to quit an addiction to prostitution. God rightly rejected my “commitment” until I rejected everything that hindered our relationship. I needed to have my commitment to sin broken and to be tied instead to Jesus, and His work on our behalf, to be acceptable to God. That’s why I hate the language that states we must “accept Jesus”. No – it’s God that must accept us and He does so through our humble rejection of our own works to save us and our trusting (and subsequent following of) Jesus.

My last baptism, two years ago with my son, was a baptism marking the end of myself. I was no longer trusting in my own works to save me, nor did I trust in my baptism to “stick” and to hold me firm in this commitment. I leapt into the deepest parts of the ocean of God’s grace, trusting that God will keep me firmly bound to the salvation that He provided for me. My transformation in the way I act, speak, and think has happened as a result of this faith that He has provided for me. I am no longer the man I used to be and I know that it’s not my actions that have caused this transformation to take place but instead it is the natural result of a changed heart and mind that came through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in my soul.

So, in my daily reading, I came across 1 Peter 1 today and stopped on verses one and two.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

~ 1 Peter 1:1-2

For those who don’t know, my mind tends to follow specific lines of thought. I see patterns and follow them through to their end. This is how my mind read that after stripping out the parts that, while historically significant and describe the intended audience, are, in my mind, in the way of the text itself:

Peter (author), an apostle of Jesus Christ (authority),

To those who are elect {…}, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood (intended audience):

May grace and peace be multiplied to you (specific blessing).

Now, where I was caught was on that “intended audience”. Peter is writing to the elect. Who are the elect? Let’s break that down:

They are those who God foreordained, through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit are now empowered to serve Jesus Christ and are forgiven their sins by the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

It is to those people who Peter is asking that God would “multiply His blessings of grace and peace”. While we Calvinists (read: Biblical Christians 😉 ) understand that God has predetermined those whom He will save from our own desires and path to Hell, we also understand that Jesus had said that there will be many people who are fakers – people who follow along in service, attend Bible study, even lead ministries and worship God with the most fervor that you’ve seen, but they are merely false converts who God will shuffle off in the day of judgment. Think about it – the parable of the ten virgins, the good catch, and the wheat and the tares (weeds). In each instance, there are those who thought that they were in the party of the righteous but were really never part of it to begin with. They never “KNEW” Him, and He never “KNEW” them. How can you tell if you know Him?

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.

~ John 14:19-21

Jesus makes it clear – those who keep His commandments are those whom He knows. Does that make our salvation one based on works? Not at all! The New Testament is replete with text to the contrary, the most often quoted is Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Even in James 2:14-26 where the brother of Jesus states “Faith without works is dead”, he is not making the point that if you fail to work for Christ He will abandon you, but instead the point is made that our works are the evidence of Christ living within us. Paul drives this home with his illustration of the Gentile Christians being grafted into the olive tree of God’s salvation through the Israelites in Romans 11:11-24: Our salvation is in the root of God’s justice and righteousness, purchased through Christ’s work on our behalf, and we are merely broken from our own sinful man-centered tree and grafted in against our will into a tree of salvation. We are then fed by this tree through the work of the Holy Spirit who then produces fruit in us.

That is the sign that a graft has taken – that it produces fruit. Not out of its own will, but because it is fed by the root and the fruit comes naturally. Don’t feed the homeless because it will buy you salvation – do it because Jesus fed you while you were His enemy and now that you have been reconciled to Him, you want to show His love to those that hate Him as you once did. Don’t clothe the poor because it makes you appear holy before your friends – do it because Jesus made sure that you had your needs met when you refused to acknowledge every good thing He has given to you and now you are able to do the same to those who also are selfish in the same manner that you were. It is through this empowering of the Holy Spirit that we are able to enter into His salvation, not one purchased by our own works. This same empowering enables us to seek to serve Jesus Christ with right motives and a desire to see Him exulted instead of ourselves.

This two verse introduction into Peter’s book clearly defines the Trinity as the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and reveals the nature of our salvation, how it is acquired, and how we live it out.

Man, I can’t wait to read the rest of this chapter… 🙂

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor, because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Psalm 22:22

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”Psalm 18:2; Isa 8:17, 12:2

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Isaiah 8:18

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely is it not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of god to make propitiation for the sins of the people. for because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
~ Hebrews 2: 8-18

The only thing that the devil has on us, as an adversary against us before God, where he makes his claims against us daily is our own sin. While being the father of lies, his claims have no merit without the facts of our own sins to back them up. When Jesus died on the cross in our place, a full payment was made for our sins. They existed no longer and therefore carry no more weight for the enemy to use against us. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It no longer exists.

Imagine that you’re a criminal who stands before a judge. There is forensic, video, and eye witness testimony that places you at the scene of the crime, all the evidence points to your guilt. You did, indeed, commit the crime, and you know this. You also know that the judge, jury, and now everyone in the world, know that you committed the crime. There is no question as to your guilt. Verdict has been offered: Guilty. The judge now pronounces your punishment: Death.

Has justice been served? No. You merely have been tried and found to be at fault. Justice is not complete until the judgment has been fulfilled. The day of your execution comes and the crowd gathers to watch you die. This is the point that brings justice over your crimes. The acts you’ve committed cannot be repaid in full, in the same way that you can’t “un-murder” someone, “un-steal” an object, or “un-rape” someone, but the justice comes in the payment for the crimes. At the last minute, as they are about to strap you into the chair, someone who has been following your case from the very beginning comes in and asks to speak with the judge. After some careful deliberation between the members of the family, the governor, and the judge, the man comes into the execution chamber, takes off his clothes and puts on your clothes. He then is led into the chamber, is strapped into the chair, and is electrocuted, willingly, on your behalf. His death is agonizing to watch and obviously inflicts great pain before he dies, but justice has finally been served. You are instructed to put on the man’s clothes and, after you do so, the doors to the jail cell swing open. You are free to go. This man, whom you had never known, has transferred to you, the entirety of his estate, and now everything that he was part of, is now applied to you.

This is what Jesus has done for us. You are now crowned with glory and honor as, through His taking our sins upon himself and dying on our behalf, we have swapped positions. He, now the criminal, bears our guilt unto the firm execution that the law of God demands. He MUST be executed for God’s judgment to be fulfilled, and for justice to be served. His execution is agonizing to watch, even these 2,000 years later, and painful in its entirety – over 15 hours He is tried, beaten, mocked, insulted, whipped, had his beard ripped out, spat upon, punched, pierced, and eventually, without mercy, nailed to two rough pieces of wood where he eventually asphyxiates under his own weight. This, the spotless lamb of God, wholly unlike anything that this world has ever seen, has taken upon Himself the sins of the world.

Does that mean that He’s taken ALL the sins of the world? Can’t be. I mean, it’s POSSIBLE, but that’s not the case. If He had taken ALL the sins, then the universalists would be dead on the money: “You don’t need to know the name of Jesus to be saved, because He already paid for your sins before you were born.” If that were true, why then is there the constant claim that we must repent of our sins and trust in the work that Jesus has performed on our behalf. When Jesus first started His ministry, what were the words that He used?

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. ~ Mark 1:14-15

God is just and, as such, He cannot punish two people for the same crime. Either Jesus took all the sins away, and no one has any more guilt before God, or He took only the sins of those whom God the Father had given to Him John 17:6-19. Yet we see that people will be sent to the lake of fire in the final judgment before God for their crimes before Him:

“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire ~ Revelation 20:9

and

“But as for the cowardly (those who walked away from the faith because of the fear of what others would say about them or fear for their lives), the faithless (who did not believe in the promises that God has given to them and distrusting God), the detestable (those who have committed abominations before God), as for murderers ( even idle words spoken in anger and not repented of – Mt 5:21-22), the sexually immoral (this is a given, but a quick reference can be found here, sorcerers (those who are involved in the occult and drugs), idolaters (anyone who places anything before their relationship with God), and all liars (This means everyone – because if you weren’t caught in any of the sins before here, then you are caught in this one. This is the net that catches all the stragglers. If you’ve never, EVER lied, then you’re free and clear here – I’ve never met someone who hadn’t lied in their life), their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death ~ Revelation 21:8“.

As we can see, God still punishes plenty of people. Not for their lack of faith in Jesus, but for their sins they have committed. Had they forsaken their sinful lives and abandoned all of their lusts and desires at the cross of Christ, then trusted in Him alone to save them from the wrath of God to come, they would be in the book of life and would be spared from the just punishment of God’s wrath on them for their sins.

How can you tell if you’re one of those whom He has chosen to save? You want to be saved, so much so that you are willing to abandon everything you have and everything you are to be near to Him. You are wholly convicted and you understand that there is nothing that you can do on your own to save yourself and you rely on God alone to save you from your sins. That’s how you can know that you’ve been chosen for salvation. It may not come today, or tomorrow, or even a year from now – but when it does come. Know that this was orchestrated by God since before He began the work of creation which brought this universe into existence.

May you carefully consider these things today and, if you feel convicted over it, talk to God. He alone is the only one who can save you from the wrath to come. Jesus, His Son, has paid for your sins on your behalf. Stripping your guilt from you, and along with it, the only thing the enemy could use to bring accusation against you before God the Father.

Most readers of Themelios will be aware that the word “perfectionism” is commonly attached in theological circles to one subset of the Wesleyan tradition. As far as I can tell, the numbers who defend such perfectionism today are rather depleted.

So begins an editorial by D.A. Carson on Perfectionism. The perfectionism that he is referencing in these, his opening sentences, is also called “entire sanctification” whereby a person who is saved by God can attain true, sinless perfection in their lives by their own will and God’s enabling grace. This is simply false – there is no perfection this side of the veil of death. We get glimpses of true perfection in the work of Christ revealed to us in scripture. Similarly, we see the shadows of it in our own lives while the Holy Spirit does His work in us by progressively striping off the layers of our sinful passions and idols like a huge rotting onion to enable us to do the work that God has placed before us. Perfection in this life? No way. Perfection in the glory with Christ? Guaranteed!

But how do we deal with the knowledge of our sins that our conversion produced within us and the acknowledgement that we’ll never be wholly sanctified until we reach Heaven? As I’ve often told others, each willful sin that we commit is another layer of flesh torn from our beloved Savior or another stripe added to His sensitive and hanging flesh as the Roman Soldier releases all of his energy on the bone and glass embedded leather straps of the flagellum. Each sin that we knowingly run toward, despite our conscience screaming at us to turn away wrath or lustful desires, is another agonizing breath that Jesus must struggle toward, bearing His weight on bare bone and torn flesh to lift Himself – opening recently closed wounds and exposing them to the air again, before finally breathing His last. How can we, as Christians, not seek perfectionism in our daily lives, and how can we not be flattened in horrid understanding as we realize that our fleeting moment of pleasures in our sins have now brought Jesus more agony and torture in our stead? It’s with this understanding that Carson’s quote ties me directly to his editorial:

Precisely because their consciences are sensitive, they are often ashamed by their own failures—the secret resentment that slips in, the unguarded word, the wandering eye, the pride of life, the self-focus that really does preclude loving one’s neighbor as oneself. To other believers who watch them, they are among the most intense, disciplined, and holy believers we know; to themselves, they are virulent failures, inconsistent followers, mere Peters who regularly betray their Master and weep bitterly.

D.A. Carson then, as usual, unpacks the thought process beautifully that leads to this understanding, then provides information that, while not entirely comforting to those who understand this mentality so dearly, at least reminds us that it was for this that the cross bore God on that Friday afternoon. The article, while not bringing total comfort, reminds me that God’s grace has already covered my sins and that, while horrid and disgusting to myself and God, it is in light of these things that God chose to save me. That He stepped into time and placed Himself in the breach to take the full punishment for my sins so that God would be glorified in His righteous judgment and so that all eyes would turn to Him and acknowledge His kindness and mercy.

May I seek perfection in this light, and may God continue to lift me out of my despair over my personal sins so that I may glorify Him while I still draw breath.

The point of proclaiming the Gospel isn’t to bring people to the Jesus who loves them or so they can “be happy and fulfilled”. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not exist to make your life better, nor does is it fit to be sold in such a way that makes it seem like it’s doing you a favor or filling some need in your life. The reason that we share the Gospel with the damned is to share with them their place before the King of Kings, who created the universe and has appointed a day in which He will judge mankind. Our job, as those who are called out and saved by His hand and by His grace, is to go to the mountain top and proclaim that EVERYONE is damned before God, and that NO ONE can get there on their own merit. It is by fully surrendering yourself to Jesus Christ alone that you are saved. When you do that, you are no longer your own person. Your “born again” experience releases you from the responsibility of your life because you are now a slave to the God who purchased you with His blood. No longer is it “your time”, but His. No longer are they “your finances”, but His. No longer are they “your desires”, but His. Perseverance is not your goal, but your battle cry. Sacrifice is not something you do, but something you ARE. Your life and everything you are now belongs to Jesus Christ. If you are not willing to submit to His ultimate authority in your life then you are not going to be saved when He comes in judgment against the nations. Jesus did not live the perfect life that neither you or I could ever live, then suffer physically and spiritually the full weight of an eternity of eternities of punishment so you can be pleased with yourself. He did this to purchase you from God the Father and to set you apart for His purposes here on Earth. If you reject this salvation that He provides, you will be left to fend for yourself on the day of judgment. What can you bring to the creator of the universe to justify yourself when you sin against Him? What can you do that will repay Him for your life of self indulgence and unwillingness to honor Him even in your thought life? Who are you to stand before the God of all creation and even attempt to speak in your own defense?

HT: Tony “The Lawman” Miano

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (11/11)

To do that, John said to test for two things: confession of the divine Lord (1 John 4:2-3) and commitment to the divine Word (vv. 4-6). If you study the cults, you’ll detect a pattern. Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and the like attack the person of Christ and then postulate a substitute or addition to the Bible, such as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, The Book of Mormon, or The Pearl of Great Price. True believers won’t believe such lies. They have a resident truth teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit (I John 2:27).

I listened to a radio program recently where a man was propagating a religion I never heard of before. It didn’t take me long to discover he was not representing the truth. I was immediately put on guard by the way he skewed one brief biblical statement at the beginning of his message. I continued to listen rather intently until he was finished, whereupon he declared the existence of a great prophet who is the instrument of God to bring great truth to humanity. What he said did not square with Scripture. I knew it was error because the Spirit of God has convinced me about salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone and the veracity of Scripture. I knew I didn’t need some prophet of modem times to give me the truth.

You don’t have to be a seminary graduate or an expert on cults and world religions to distinguish truth from error. If you aren’t swayed from the basic truths of Christ’s divine person, work, and Word, that’s evidence of genuine saving faith.

:: 11 – Have You Suffered Rejection Because of Your Faith? ::

This eleventh and last test is painful: “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Cain hated Abel and murdered him. Why did Cain do that? “Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous” (v. 12). Have you experienced animosity, hostility, rejection, bitterness, alienation, ostracism, prejudice, or outright persecution from representing and advocating what is right? If so, that’s a sign that you belong to One who suffered the same way for the same reason.

The fact is, to the worldly, you as a Christian “have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Cor. 4:13). You’re a threat to their belief that this world is all that’s worth living for.”They are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). However, Scripture says, “[Be] in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you” (Phil. 1:28). When suffering on account of your faith, don’t say, “Can I really be a Christian? Things are going so badly–I wonder if God cares.” Rather, if the world is persecuting you, say, “Isn’t this truly wonderful! It’s pretty clear who I am.”

I’ll never forget one night many years ago when I was called to the church office to deal with an emergency. I arrived to find one of our elders struggling with a girl who was obviously demon possessed. She was evidencing supernatural strength. She flipped a heavy steel desk over onto its top and the two of us together were unable to restrain her physically. Voices that were not her own were speaking out of her. The first thing they said when I arrived was, “Not him! Get him out! Get him out! We don’t want him here.” It encouraged me to know that the demons knew I was not on their side.

That was a very confirming night for me. When the world and the spirit of Satan behind it come after you, you too have the right to be confirmed if you’re hated because of righteousness. Now, if you’re hated because you’re obnoxious, there’s no virtue in that! “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20). Part of that favor is being assured of your salvation.

The apostle John gave all the tests that he did to give the true believer a biblical basis for confidence. Let’s review his spiritual inventory: Do you enjoy fellowship with God and Christ? Are you sensitive to sin in your life? Do you obey the Scriptures? Do you reject this evil world? Do you love Christ and eagerly await His return? Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? Do you love other Christians? Do you receive answers to your prayers? Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Can you discern between spiritual truth and error? Have you suffered on account of your faith in Christ?

If you pass those tests, you can have confidence before God. After all, John wrote what he did so “you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). There’s no reason for you to go through your spiritual experience in the dumps, yet thousands of Christians do. Please don’t be one of them.

“Is It Real?” – An Article from Dr. John MacArthur

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (10/11)

:: 10 – Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error? ::

So far we’ve taken nine tests for determining the presence of saving faith. In the tenth is the one time John actually used the word test: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3).

Every false religious system in the world violates that test. Adherents of such systems consistently attempt to undermine the biblical truth about who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished–that He is Savior and Lord, who came in human flesh to be “delivered over because of our transgressions, and … raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Christ? That is the watershed issue of the Christian faith.

False teachers “are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6). John was saying a true believer will listen to the truth and not deviate into error about Christ’s glorious person and work. Suppose someone says, “I used to believe in Jesus Christ, but now I’ve seen the light: Christ really was an angelic being–or an emanation from God, a divine spirit without the human element, or just a man and not divine.” Any such heresies reflect an unregenerate heart.

From the moment of your salvation, there’s one thing you’re clear about and that’s who Christ is and what He did, or you wouldn’t be saved. It’s the Holy Spirit who made that clear to you. This test is not moral or experiential but doctrinal. True believers know truth from error because the Spirit of Truth indwells them. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” John says, “is born of God” (1 John 5:1). That’s the same doctrinal test again. When you believe the right thing about Christ, you’re born of God.

It’s good to be a believer, but it’s also good to be skeptical. As John says, “Do not believe every spirit” (4:1, emphasis added). For the sake of your spiritual life and health, don’t believe everything you hear, see, and read. Instead, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” That requires the ability to think biblically. The Greek text implies conducting a rigorous, ongoing examination of whatever and whomever you expose yourself to. Why go to all that trouble? “Because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the most famous stories of antiquity. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over ten years, but were unable to conquer it. In exasperation Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed gift to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to let their fellow soldiers into the city. The soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and burned it to the ground. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception. Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses filled with false prophets.

Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God and into destructive error. Today’s church is in a particularly severe state of confusion because of its weak doctrine, relativistic thinking, worldly methodology, inaccurate interpretation of Scripture, lax internal discipline, and spiritual immaturity. What is sorely needed is spiritual discernment–the skill of separating divine truth from error (1 Thess. 5:21).

Perhaps you are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery, you carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you’re highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess a plethora of domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you’re an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?

“Is It Real?” – An Article from Dr. John MacArthur

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (9/11)

Some believers struggle with being assured of their salvation because they have scant experience concerning answered prayers. That comes from a skimpy prayer life. What a tragedy! If you’re in that situation, reverse it immediately. I don’t want you to miss out on the blessing and comfort that answered prayer brings. Looking back on my life, one of my greatest sources of assurance is seeing that God has answered many of my prayers through the years. That He answered is evidence that He hears me, which is evi≠dence that I abide in Him and He in me.

Have you had your prayers answered? Is that a pattern of life for you? If so, you have eternal life. Have you prayed for an unbeliever and seen that person come to Christ? Have you prayed for someone in great distress and seen God turn the situation around into blessing and joy? Have you sought God about a void in your life and seen Him fill it? Have you prayed for forgiveness in a clear conscience and received it? Have you asked God to enable you to present His truth to an individual or group and experienced His grace to do so with great clarity? Have you sought power in proclaiming the gospel and experienced it? Have you asked that God would help you lead someone to the Savior, and He did? Have you sought contentment amidst trying circumstances and experienced God’s peace as a result? Have you asked the Lord to help you know Him better and experienced greater intimacy with Him after going through some hard lessons? Those are all indications that you belong to Him and He to you.

:: 9 – Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit? ::

First John 4:13 develops that theme of belonging to God: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” The first thing the Spirit did was “testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (v. 14). If you confess that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and have committed your life to Him, that was the Spirit’s doing. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t know who Christ is and you certainly wouldn’t confess Him as Savior and Lord. Have you experienced that ministry of the Holy Spirit? If so, that’s evidence of being a true child of God.

Another vital work of the Spirit is His illuminating your understanding of Scripture. John, speaking of the Spirit, said, “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and … teaches you about all things” (2:27). Paul explained that “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God … that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:10, 12). When you read the Word of God, is its meaning illuminated to you? Do you understand what it says? In fact, do you sometimes understand it so well you wish you didn’t understand quite that well because of the obvious implications? Is it relatively clear overall? Now I’m not talking about obscure passages that we all struggle with, but consider the effect that reading the Word has on you. Ask yourself, Does it convict me when I’m sinful? Does it make me rejoice when I’m worshiping God and seeking to advance His kingdom? Those are signs of the Spirit’s illuminating work in your life.

Let’s look at other ministries of the Spirit. What about fellowship with God? It is the Spirit who leads you to cry out “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6) as a sign of your intimacy and communion with God. What about praise? Who is it that lifts your heart to praise and adore God? Who is it that compels you to sing with meaning and devotion? In Ephesians 5:19, Paul explains that the filling of the Spirit leads to “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” What about the fruit of the Spirit, which Paul describes as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control”? (Gal. 5:22-23) Those attitudes are spiritual graces. Have they graced your life as a whole?

Have you ever ministered in a spiritual way through helping someone, giving to someone, or speaking to someone about Christ? Those are evidences of the Spirit of God. Do you actually experience His ministry in your life? In Romans 8:16, Paul explains that “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” Now don’t expect Him to whisper into your ear, “You’re a Christian, you’re a Christian, believe Me you’re a Christian!” There’s no audible voice, nothing esoteric or mystical, but something very concrete. He bears witness by providing you with evidence of His presence in your life–by illuminating Scripture to you, drawing you into fellowship with God through prayer and praise, producing spiritual fruit to grace your life, and enabling you to minister effectively to others.

If the Spirit is in your life, that’s evidence that you abide in God and He in you (1 John 4:13). So be assured. Don’t let your heart condemn you, damn you, tell you you’re not a believer. Recognize the Spirit’s work in you. There’s no reason to doubt and be unstable.

“Is It Real?” – An Article from Dr. John MacArthur

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