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…

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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…

Examine Yourselves (part 2)

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 part one of Examine Yourselves if   you’ve not done so.)

There use to be a television show called Myth Busters; it may still be airing, I don’t know. Anyhow, this show  took common cultural myths and proved them to be either true or false. I’d like to utilize this format and look at a few common myths there seem to be in regards to salvation. (Sometimes, a good way to find out what something is is to first understand what it is not.)

It should be understood that salvation is not merely about making me the best me I can be. In the western church many have reduced salvation to a self help fix all designed to make me feel better about myself.  Our need for salvation has more or less been reduced to believing that I need to come to Jesus because I’m damaged, and if  I come to Christ; I can reach my full potential, I can achieve my divine destiny.  PLEASE DON’T CLICK AWAY JUST YET!!

I heard a “Christian” song the other day and the gist of it was, “Jesus, help me to believe I am beautiful enough for you to have died for.” No beloved, its not all about me! Jesus died on the cross because I have sinned against a holy God, because in my sin; I am alienated from Him. Jesus offered Himself not because I haven’t reached my full potential as a human being, and not because I’ve let myself and others down. No, Isaiah tells me that I  have sinned against a holy God, the best I can be is as filthy rags ( literally, like the rags from a woman’s menstrual cycle) when compared to His holiness, and the suffering Messiah came to bear our sin and be crushed by the judgment of a holy God. Salvation isn’t about getting me back into right relationship with myself; it is about getting me back into restored communion with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.

Remember Genesis 3? Remember the “serpent’s” comments: “Did God really say you’d die if you ate the fruit from that tree? You wont die! No, you’ll know what He knows; you’ll be just like Him.” And what happened? The same thing that’s happening today: We want to know what God knows. We want to see what He sees. The god in me needs to be realized. We say what Adam and Eve said, “Lord, we want to be like You, we wouldn’t mind being You; we just don’t want You.” Many have reduced the gospel to just a means by which we can realize our own divinity. The cross and the blood are an offense, and no longer culturally relevant.

Please don’t misunderstand me. When you come to Christ, you will most definitely begin to understand who you are, why you were created, and what God has purposed for you. The way you look at yourself will forever be changed.  I’m just trying to say that salvation is not a self-help program. We have been led to believe that everything is about us, when in reality; its all about Jesus- even our salvation (Colossians 1: 13-23).

To be continued….