Salvation

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

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (8/11)

Note the result of such a practical approach to love: “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (vv. 19-21). The assurance that you are a Christian–that your faith is the real thing–will come by your love. The Greek word translated “assure” (peitho) means to pacify, tranquilize, soothe, or persuade. You can soothe yourself as you stand before God that you’re a true Christian if you see love in your life.

Now your love won’t be perfect, but it will be there. Let that bolster your assurance, for John warned that your heart or conscience may try to incriminate you and make you doubt. The fallen flesh has the capability to play games with your mind. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, may seek to exploit that tendency. In whatever your heart condemns you, you can be assured if you see love in your life. You may doubt your salvation, but God never does because He is greater than your heart and knows all things.

Perhaps you’re going through doubt and struggling with your assurance. Do as John said and go back to the love of your life: Examine whether you love other Christians as evidenced by deeds of kindness and sacrifice. If that’s characteristic of your life, be soothed, be pacified–for no matter what your heart may do to condemn you, you can be sure of your salvation. A condemning conscience can rob you of your assurance because it looks only at failure. But God is greater than your conscience; He looks at your faith in Christ.

The apostle Peter, after denying Christ three times, had a worse time than any of us can imagine with a condemning heart. Jesus came personally to assure him. Three times in a row He inquired gently about Peter’s devotion. In desperation, Peter replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17). We too can appeal to the love God sees in our hearts. It’s not perfect but, again, it’s there. And it will express itself through deeds of kindness and sacrifice to others. Jesus told Peter to reveal his love by taking care of the church. It’s natural for the Christian to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). Your love for fellow Christians is a benchmark of the Christian faith, and solid grounds for assurance. Refuse to let your heart condemn what God does not.

:: 8 – Do You Experience Answered Prayer? ::

Another source of confidence and assurance is this: Whatever we ask of God “we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). You can know you’re a believer if God answers your prayers. The only way that can happen is if you keep His commandments, and the only way you can do that is if you belong to Him. As John says in verse 24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.”

In a similar passage John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (5:13-15). God always answers prayers that are according to His will. Obedient believers know His will as stated in His Word, and tailor their prayers accordingly. The answers that result bring about confidence and assurance.

God is more eager to answer the prayers of His children than they are to ask. I suspect there’s a certain disappointment in God’s heart because He would do so much more than we ever ask Him to do. Think of the blessings and assurance we miss out on!

Now there are many people who pray to God, but don’t even know the God they’re praying to or what His will is. God is under no obligation to answer such prayers. We learn from the Psalms that He doesn’t even hear them (cf. Ps. 66:18). But those of us who see answers to our prayers can know we have eternal life. One of the many good reasons to pray fervently and faithfully is to enjoy the assurance that answered prayer brings.

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

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (7/11)

:: 7 – Do You Love Othe Christians? ::

In 1 John 3:10, John mentions two obvious facts. One, as we just saw, is that “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.” The other is that neither is anyone “who does not love his brother.” To amplify that point, let’s go back to a key section we missed in our progressive study of John’s letter: “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (2:9-11).

To say you’re in the light–or you’ve seen the light–is to claim to be a Christian. If so, your life would certainly show some of the life patterns of Christ. Loving fellow Christians is one very basic pattern. To be in fellowship with Christ is to experience and express love. If you claim to be a Christian but do not even like Christians, your claim is a sham. You are in fact walking in darkness, not in the light.

Loving fellow Christians comes naturally to the believer. As Paul said to the Thessalonian church, “[Regarding] the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). Nevertheless, he went on to encourage them to “excel still more” in their love for one another (v. 10). As believers, we haven’t loved as fully as we ought to love, but we have loved. And we don’t need to be taught to love because it’s instinctive, implicit, and inherent within our new nature. As we learned in Romans 5:5, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts.”

Jesus went so far as to say, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It is basic to our Christian life that we have the capacity to “fervently love one another from the heart,” as Peter expressed it (1 Peter 1:22). And it’s a love that goes beyond mere feeling to encompass dutiful responsibility, sacrificial service, and sensitive concern.

So here comes the test: Do you characteristically love other believers? If you claim to be a Christian but have no love in your heart for those in the church or any track record of meeting their needs, then the apostle John says this to you: You’re in the dark in spite of your claim to be in the light. Love is a test of divine life. It signifies you have crossed over from darkness to light. This is how 1 John 3:14-15 putsit: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

Do you honestly care about other believers or are you cold, uncaring, and indifferent? Do you have a desire to reach out and meet their needs? Those who don’t care are spiritually dead, characterized by an ongoing hatred. In our sophisticated age, that is manifested not so much in vitriolic hostility as in an utterly self-centered approach to life. People who continually focus on themselves and couldn’t care less what happens to anyone else are of their father the devil, who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). As believers, however, “we know love by this, that [Christ] laid down His life for us” quite the opposite of the devil’s murderous character. Therefore, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

John defined love as making sacrifices for others, perhaps even to the point of martyrdom. How do you respond to the opportunities you typically have to sacrifice your time, treasures, and talents? Are you happy when you come across a person or ministry in need, and you’re able to provide money, time, prayer, a commodity, a skill, or a sympathetic ear?

What about enjoying the privilege of fellowship in general? Do you look forward to being with fellow Christians and talking with them, sharing with them, discussing the things of God with them, studying the Word with them, and praying with them? Do you have a desire to take the resources God has given you and apply them to someone else in the family of God? That’s evidence of love, as John went on to explain: “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? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (vv. 17-18).

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

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (6/11)

Now let me clarify something here. I frequently receive letters from anguished Christians who doubt their salvation because they can’t seem to break a sinful or unwise habit. They most often write about smoking, overeating, and masturbation. They fear their struggle with such things means they are locked into a pattern of sin. But John is not saying that the frequent occurrence of one particular sin in a person’s life means that person is lost. Rather, he clarifies his meaning in saying that a true believer cannot practice lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The Greek term used there (anomia) literally means living as if there were no law. A person who rejects God’s authority doesn’t care what God thinks about his habits, and is obviously not a Christian.

A Christian, however, has a drastically different way of relating to God. He or she is no longer a slave to sin, but has offered himself or herself as a servant to the Lord (Rom. 6:14, 17-18). A true Christian can still sin, and may even do so frequently, but sinning frequently is not the same as practicing sin. In 1 John we see that a true believer can do the first, but not the second.

Why is that the case? Because the true believer “abides in Him” (1 John 3:6). Not only does Christ’s death take away our sin, but also His ongoing life in us breaks the sin pattern. No longer are we perpetual sinners in thought, word, and deed–as we were before we were saved. We now have the option to do good. If we find ourselves sinning, contrary to the good we desire to do inside, we are much like the apostle Paul in Romans 7–and he’s a great person to be associated with! Yet because of the abiding presence of Christ, our struggle will decrease as time goes on. We will always be acutely sensitive to sin, for as we have seen, that’s one of John’s tests of saving faith, but sin will be less of a pattern in our lives. Christ lives in union with us to provide a new pattern–a pattern of righteousness.

A pattern of sin, however, signals a union with the devil: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (v. 8). The devil is a sinner and nothing but. Everyone who is associated with the devil is a sinner and nothing but. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil by rescuing people who are in bondage to sin. That means those who’ve really been rescued will not continue in the state they’ve been rescued from. A habitual pattern of sin indicates that a rescue has never taken place. To claim otherwise is to denigrate Christ by implying His death didn’t accomplish what He set out to do–destroy the works of the devil by rescuing people from sin.

In addition, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: any one who does not practice righteousness is not of God” (vv. 9-10). The believer has been born anew by the Holy Spirit. The seed He plants is a new nature, a new life principle, a new disposition. just as a seed planted in the ground produces a distinct kind of life, God’s seed produces a righteous life in us that breaks the pattern of sin. And don’t worry: that seed cannot die, for the Word of God tells us it’s imperishable (1 Peter 1:23). Born of the Spirit of God, the believer cannot continually sin.

John just provided us with four viewpoints in analyzing the sin in our life: the work Christ accomplished in His death, His ongoing life in the believer, His destruction of the devil’s works, and the regenerating work of the Spirit. Every way you look at it, the pattern of habitual sin is broken. What does that mean to you personally? If you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life, that’s evidence of holy affections. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is, as John said, “obvious” (v. 10). If you practice righteousness, you’re of God. If you don’t, you’re not. Plain and simple. If you see victory over sin in your life, if you see righteous motives, righteous desires, righteous words, righteous deeds, and if you’re not all you ought to be but certainly not what you used to be, then you have eternal life, so enjoy it.

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

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

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