Examine Yourselves (part 7)

     If you haven’t read parts 1-6 of this series I encourage you to do so. We have explored certain “myths” surrounding the concept of salvation and have come to understand that in order for one to truly “be saved,” there must be repentance and faith. Last time we looked at what repentance means sola scriptura ( by scripture alone), now; let’s take a look at what it means to have true saving faith.

         The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 12:6). If it is impossible to please God without it, we must make it a priority to know what faith is. The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). So, if faith is the vehicle through which we are saved, we must understand just what faith is; in particular, saving faith. What is saving faith?

        “Saving faith may be defined as a response to God’s call by the acceptance of Christ with the total person- that is, assured conviction of the truth of the gospel, and with trustful reliance on God in Christ for salvation, together with a genuine commitment to Christ and to his service.”[1]  This saving faith can be distinguished into three aspects: knowledge, assent, and trust.[2]

            1) We must be aware of what we are to believe.

            2) We must whole heartedly agree with the gospel.

            3) We must trust with our entire being.

 All of that may sound kind of mechanical and static, so; let’s see if we can bring it to life with the following example:

        Someone has told the story of the man who was walking back and forth across Niagara falls on a tightrope. Well, he walked across the falls a couple of times and the people were all amazed. Returning from  the other side for the final time, he turned an asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can walk across the falls blind folded?” Every one responded with cheers, “We know you can, let’s see it!” He then proceeded to ask that a wheelbarrow be brought up to the platform. He turned to the crowd and said, “Let’s see who truly believes I can do it. Will some one come up and climb into the wheelbarrow and let me push you across as I walk the falls?” There’s a big difference in saying you believe and getting in the wheelbarrow. If you’re going to get in the wheelbarrow, you definitely need to be aware of what/who you’re putting you faith in, you’re gonna have to wholeheartedly agree that the man’s words are true (i.e. his claim that he can get both you and he across blindfolded), and you are most definitely going to trust with your entire being.

            Misunderstanding saving faith can be dangerous. The Bible clearly teaches we’re saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.[3] The argument by many is that since salvation is through faith alone, there is no need for any works. However, the book of James reveals that it is the presence of corresponding works which qualifies saving faith (James 2:14-26). James points out that Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac revealed that he was indeed in possession of saving faith.  “Lip service, with no manifestation of the fruit of faith is not saving faith.’[4]

Conclusion

         We have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we saw that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ. And finally, in part five we came to our last “Myth Buster” and found that nowhere in the Bible is someone inquiring as to how one is born again told to just “ask Jesus to come into your heart.”

We have come to understand that true salvation involves repentance and faith. An exploration of the meaning of faith and repentance should serve to further the already present witness of the Holy Spirit that we are indeed the children of God, or else, convince us that our conversion experience is altogether lacking or perhaps disingenuous. And finally,we have learned that salvation is not a one time event, something we did a long time ago; it is an ongoing, right now, present tense relationship with Jesus.

We have entitled this series Examine Yourselves, so; let’s examine ourselves. While this is by no means a definitive list,based on what we’ve learned; I’ve created a list of questions that will at least help us begin to examine ourselves:

1) Has my life truly changed direction?

2) Have I turned away from sin and towards God; and, am I continuing to do so?

3) Has my outlook on life as well as my behavior truly changed?

4) Do I have sincere remorse over my sin?

5) Am I presently looking to God and relying on Christ to keep me free from the dominion of sin?

6) Do I truly believe that Christ came, incarnate God (God in the flesh), and died for my sins and rose again from the dead?

7) Am I “in the wheel barrow” so to speak? (Remember the story above.)

8) Is my life marked by a continued commitment to service, and works which bear evidence of the reality of my faith?

Well, that’s it for the Examine Yourselves series. “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13)


                1. Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 140.

            2. Ibid., 140-143.

            3. Tim Riter, Twelve Lies You Hear In church, (USA- David C. Cook Publishing, 2004), 18.

4. R. C. Sproul, Essential truths of The Christian Faith, (USA- Tyndale House Publishers, 1998), 187.

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Examine Yourselves (part 5)

Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out parts 1-4 of Examine Yourselves  if  you’ve not done so.)

We are continuing our study into how we can know that we have eternal life. We stated in part one of  Examine Yourselves that sometimes the way to help discover the reality of what something is, is to first consider what it is not. Previously, we have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we saw that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ. And finally we come to our last “Myth Buster,” and like I said; this one may be the biggest of them all. Drum roll please…….. Here it is:  Nowhere in the Bible do you find someone inquiring as to how one is born again being told to just “ask Jesus to come into your heart.” Take a moment and Google  it- it’s not in there.

Nowhere in the Bible will you find Paul, Peter, or any of the other Biblical preachers in the New Testament telling folks that salvation is merely asking Jesus to come into your heart. After Peter preached his powerful sermon in Acts 2 and the people asked, “What must we do?” Peter didn’t tell them to ask Jesus into their hearts as their personal savior; no, he said, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus…” Some are perhaps truly saved after responding to an invitation given in a church , and some are without a doubt truly born again, but; according to the Bible, genuine salvation is a result of repentance and faith. Yes, we must understand that “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8), but; true saving faith is always evidenced by a lifestyle of repentance. Over and over we find the prophets of the Old Testament extending God’s offer of salvation, calling for the people to repent and return to God with honest sincerity. And in the New Testament the apostles, evangelists, and even Jesus himself preached: “Repent and believe!”

So many today have been led to believe that just because at one point in their lives they walked an isle, shook some preachers hand, and prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” and asked Jesus to come into their hearts that they are in Christ. This is not necessarily so. We must understand that true salvation is a response (an ongoing, continual response) to God’s grace in faith and repentance.

We have reached the conclusion of our “Myth Buster” look into what salvation is not. We have seen that while salvation will indeed address the way you feel about yourself, while you will understand why you were created and who you are, while you will keep the commandments, while you will prophesy, cast out devils and do mighty exploits in his name, while all these things are surely benefits/aspects of salvation; they must not  be confused with salvation itself. Salvation is not necessarily the result of a prayer prayed at some point in the past when we asked Jesus into our hearts. No, we are beginning to understand that salvation is an ongoing, right now, living relationship with Jesus, and that this  is evidenced by repentance and saving faith. As we get into our next segments, we will seek to understand what is meant by the terms repentance and saving faith.

To be continued…

Examine Yourselves (part 4)

Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out parts 1-3 of Examine Yourselves if   you’ve not done so.)

We are continuing our study into how we can know that we have eternal life. We stated in part one of  Examine Yourselves that sometimes the way to help discover the reality of what something is, is to first consider what it is not. Previously, we have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we will see that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ.

Later, as we get further into our study, we will discover how Jesus taught us that a true relationship with him is a right now, on going, present tense reality. One can be aware of and acknowledge the reality of certain facts and not be impacted in any real way. Think for a moment of all the things you know to be true. How many of these truths are impacting the right now of your life?

Let me try to illustrate what I’m talking about by using an example out of the Old Testament  story of Saul & David (I Samuel 23-26). Remember David had fled for his life, fleeing from a tormented, jealous king who had every intention of killing him. You will find in reading this story that twice David spared Saul’s life. Saul’s response to David’s mercy went something like this, “David, David, is that you? Is that your voice. You are a better man than me in that you have spared my life. I have sinned, played the fool and committed serious error.” See, Saul knew he was wrong. He knew he had sinned, but; if you read the story in its entirety you find that he never changed his behavior. Simply knowing and acknowledging the facts did not impact his life in any authentic lasting way.

Looking in the New Testament we find another example of someone who knew the truth in the person of Herod. John 6:20 says this, “for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.” (NLT)  Herod knew the truth, but it had no real impact on his life. He was not changed by what he knew. Herod went so far as to protect John for a while, he even seemed to enjoy the effect John’s preaching had upon him, but; he remained the same old Herod. I’m sure you remember how this whole thing ended up with John’s head on a platter.

In John 3  we find the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came inquiring of Jesus by night. He says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do the signs you do unless God is with him.” I love Jesus’ response, ” I’m telling you the absolute truth, unless you are born again you can’t see the kingdom of God.” Here  we find a very learned and religious man saying what he thought he knew about Jesus, and Jesus goes on to tell him that one must born again and totally turned into a new creation to truly know and see the Kingdom. Unless we are born again, unless we are totally and completely impacted by Jesus, we don’t even know what we think we know. (On a side note, there is so much talk about the Kingdom today, but; unless we are born again, we don’t even know what we’re talking about.)

The point of all this is if we truly know, if we truly believe, our lives will show it. Once, while preaching a sermon, I wanted to illustrate the fact that authentic knowledge and belief is always accompanied by corresponding action, so; I put it like this (In hind- sight I could’ve picked a better illustration): “If you folks believed, if somehow you knew that I was going to take out a shotgun and just start blasting away (for just a millisecond I saw questioning uncertainty and a little, ‘Has he finally gone crazy’ look in their eyes); you would all run!” True, perhaps in the society we live in that’s not the best example I could have used, but; you get my point. If you really know something, if you really believe something; your life will show it.

So, we see that salvation is not merely knowing the facts and acknowledging them as being true. One can know the truth about many things and yet have no serious interaction with it. One can know the truth about Jesus and yet have no true communion with him.

We said back in part two of this series that we would approach these sections on what salvation is not in a Myth Buster kind of way, and; the next section may indeed be the biggest Myth Buster of them all.

To be continued…

Examine Yourselves (part 3)

Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out parts 1&2 of Examine Yourselves if   you’ve not done so.)

In part two of Examine Yourselves we discussed the fact that salvation is not merely a self-help tool designed to help me be all that I can be. I’d now like us to understand that while salvation most definitely involves obedience and doing; it is not simply keeping a list of do’s & don’ts.

Jesus said in Matt. 5:26 that unless our righteousness surpassed that of the Pharisees we would not enter the kingdom. The Pharisees kept the letter of the law, but missed the Spirit in the law. Remember, they knew that it was a sin to commit adultery, but; Jesus said, “You’ve missed it. We’re talking about the heart and faithfulness here and if you lust after a woman in you heart; you’ve already committed adultery with her. Or, everyone new that murder was forbidden by the law of Moses, but; Jesus said, “No, you’ve missed it. We’re talking about the the heart and love.  In your anger, hatred, and unwillingness to be reconciled to you brother; you have broken this command.

Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39,40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;  and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” The Jews were hanging there hopes on the law of Moses and Jesus said, “No, you,ve missed it! Moses was talking about me! Come to me and know eternal life.” Eternal life is not just about keeping a list of rules and regulations- it’s knowing the one true God, and Jesus whom He sent (John17:3).

In John 18 we read of the events leading up to the crucifixion. Verse 28 tells us, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” Did you catch that? The Jews were determined to keep their feast of Passover and would not enter into close proximity with a gentile (i.e. Pilate) lest they be defiled and therefore unable to partake in Passover. They were good rule keepers, but; they were blinded to the fact that the true Passover Lamb was standing right beside them! Like the Jews of Jesus day we often substitute a real relationship with Jesus for cold, dead, ritualistic religion.

When we look at Matthew 7:21-23 we find, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ So we can see that knowing Jesus (salvation) is not simply doing a bunch of miraculous things either. (Hmm, it’s possible for the miraculous to occur even though there is no true relationship with Christ.)

Let’s close with some words from Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees: “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,  and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:3-14 NASB)

We will see that true salvation does indeed include obedience (doing), but, we must understand that while one who is in Christ will surely do; doing, in and of itself, does not mean one is in Christ.

To be continued…