Christianity 201

April 18, 2015

Being Assured and Giving Others Assurance of Salvation

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I chose this to run today simply because we don’t hear enough these days on this topic, the assurance of our salvation. The author is Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings whose writing first appeared here four years ago, and you can click the title below to read this at source.

How can I have assurance of my salvation?

This is a common question many Christians have. I think it stems from the reality that we are saved by grace through our faith. In the minds of most people (for many years this described me as well), being “saved by grace through faith” feels like salvation was out of our hands. This means salvation is a gift from God, and we receive this great and wonderful gift through our belief.

The problem with viewing salvation this way is that there is no tangible standard for us to know that we have truly received the gift of salvation. If it was based on what we did, at least we could keep a score card on our behavior so we could know if we were living up to the right standard.

Without a tangible standard, many people rely on a subjective experience to tell them that they are saved. The problem with this is that over time the feeling of the experience fades, and we are left with the same question: Am I saved?

Life is going to take us through a series of ups and downs. In one moment we feel like we are close to God and that our salvation is secure, but the next moment we wonder if God has abandoned us. If we are going to rely on a subjective experience as evidence for our salvation, then we are going to constantly doubt our salvation. What we need is an objective standard to tell us that we are saved, and thus give us confidence of our salvation.

The way I moved away from the constant roller coaster of doubt and certainty of my salvation was to focus on God. Our salvation begins and ends with God and His grace, and therefore I can know I am saved because of God. The apostle Paul wrote,

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6; NLT)

We can trust God to save us and mold us into the people He wants us to be.

Why can we have this confidence? This confidence comes from the fact God is a Covenant Keeper and we are in a covenant relationship with Him. Deuteronomy 7:9 says,

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (NLT)

Being in a covenant relationship with God gives us assurance of our salvation. How do we know if we are in a covenant relationship with God? We enter into a covenant relationship with God through faith and repentance as expressed through baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-8). The New Testament is clear on the importance of baptism, and baptism is always connected to the ideas of faith and repentance. That means without faith and repentance (trusting in God and declaring your loyalty to Him alone) baptism is meaningless. Baptism is the means of entering into a covenant with God when it is accompanied by faith and repentance.

The guarantee God gives us that we are in a covenant relationship with Him is the Holy Spirit. The sign that the Jews were in a covenant relationship with God was circumcision, but through Jesus that has changed. The apostle Paul wrote;

“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” (Ephesians 1;13; NLT)

The Holy Spirit circumcises our hearts and sets us apart as God’s people.

If we break the terms of the covenant, these terms are summarized in the two great commandments of loving God and loving people, God promises to forgives us (1 John 1:9). He also gave us a way to renew our covenant with Him: Communion. We enter into the covenant by being united with Jesus, the covenant sacrifice. In communion we affirm our intention to be part of God’s covenant by consuming the body and blood of the covenant sacrifice (Luke 22:19-20).

The objective standard of being in a covenant relationship with God should give us assurance of the salvation that we have.

Another way we can be certain of our salvation is through life change. We can’t follow Jesus and be guided by the Holy Spirit without our life being changed. As we reflect on our lives we should be able to see that there is a change that has happened.

The book of 1 John was written to help us to be confident about our salvation:

“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.” (1 John 5:13; NLT).

One of the common themes through the book is the love that we have for each other. For instance 1 John 3:14 says;

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (NLT)

If we want to know whether or not we are saved, then the evidence is going to be seen in the love we show to other people.

Can we be confident that we are saved? Yes, we can live with confidence, knowing that God has saved us. This confidence doesn’t come from a subjective experience that may fade over time. Rather, it comes from the objective standard of God’s faithfulness. We can know we are saved because God keeps His covenant. Our hope for the future can be a confident hope because it is founded on the covenant faithfulness of God, and that is the firmest foundation we can have for our faith.

Check out more of Paul’s writing at Paul’s Ponderings.

October 13, 2015

Convicted

Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

Is it just me, or is conviction of sin a topic that you don’t hear preached as often as it once was? Apparently we’ve only looked at this topic here once before. Another one, which I see we’ve covered more frequently, is assurance of salvation. Still, I find certain themes are just not heard in the modern church. When was the last time you saw an altar call for people wanting assurance?

But back to conviction. A few weeks ago a friend shared with me after church that he felt God was impressing something on his heart. As he talked, I was reminded of the movie The Color Purple (which I haven’t seen and I’m not necessarily recommending) and the song, “Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Something.”

Can’t sleep at night and you wonder why
Maybe God is trying to tell you something
Crying all night long, something’s gone wrong
Maybe God is trying to tell you something

Have you ever felt conviction? At Acts 17:11 Bible Studies we read,

The first work of the Holy Spirit is the conviction of sin. If we are temples of the Spirit, His presence, His name in us will convict us, and others, of sin. We will feel more affinity towards those who, like us, long for more conviction, repentance, and the power of God to live a life that will stand the test of fire.

Often there is confusion between the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting us, and work of the enemy in condemning us. This is from the website of Marriage Missions:

It is important for those of us who are born again Christians, to know that there is a huge difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the condemnation of the enemy of our faith, because it can affect how we approach life.

Please, let there be no confusion. The Holy Spirit works to convict us to push away from the ensnarement of sin (doing that which is wrong) and towards God in freedom. The condemning spirit of the enemy of our faith works to push us away from God in shame and condemnation, so we are more prone in hopelessness, to continue to do what we should NOT. (emphasis added)

In researching this topic, I found a very lengthy article at the website Outside the Camp. Here is a summary of the middle section, which deals with the operation of God’s Spirit in our lives:

  • The Holy Spirit regenerates
  • The Holy Spirit sanctifies
  • The Holy Spirit gives freedom
  • The Holy Spirit gives belief of the truth of the gospel
  • The Holy Spirit speaks of and glorifies Christ
  • The Holy Spirit gives access to the Father
  • The Holy Spirit gives love, peace, joy, and hope
  • The Holy Spirit causes people to confess the true gospel and keeps people from confessing a false gospel
  • The Holy Spirit is a guarantee of heaven
  • The Holy Spirit gives assurance of salvation
  • The Holy Spirit causes obedience
  • The Holy Spirit joins people to the true church

So the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit is just one of many things He brings. Paul writes to Titus:

3:5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (emphasis added)

But the initial repentance and confession at the moment of salvation is not the end. Sanctification is a process; a life-long process. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says,

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Nathan Bingham writes:

Regeneration is a momentary act, bringing a person from spiritual death to life. It is exclusively God’s work. Sanctification is an ongoing process, dependent on God’s continuing action in the believer, and consisting of the believer’s continuous struggle against sin.

Different denominations teach different things about how and when this works. In one church I attended, they spoke of “Saved, sanctified and filled with the spirit.” Was that the order in which these occur? The phrase “second blessing” or “second work of grace” is often used. But in other churches, the gift of tongues (or more generally, the filling of the Spirit) is called the second blessing. For this, we turn to that great theological source (!) that is Wikipedia:

According to some Christian traditions, a second work of grace is a transforming interaction with God which may occur in the life of a Christian. The defining characteristics of this event are that it is separate from and subsequent to salvation (the first work of grace), and that it brings about significant changes in the life of the believer.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught that there were two distinct phases in the Christian experience. During the first phase, conversion, the believer received forgiveness and became a Christian. During the second phase, sanctification, the believer was purified and made holy. Wesley taught both that sanctification could be an instantaneous experience, and that it could be a gradual process.

Regardless of your theological take on the subject of sanctification, I hope and pray you have moments where you are open to the voice of God speaking to you about sin in your life. This conviction is a gift from God, though often we don’t see it as such. Maybe God is trying to tell you something.

2 Cor 7  “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”


The opening verses in today’s devotional are from 22 Bible Verses about Conviction of Sin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 22, 2015

Mercy to Those Who Doubt

Late last night, I was re-reading a 2013 article at the blog Parchment and Pen by Michael Patton dealing with doubt. It drew me to verse 22 of Jude:

Jude 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

The Reformation Bible Commentary states:

The exact Greek text of these verses is disputed, and it is hard to tell whether two or three groups of sinners are in view. Whatever the textual solution, Jude clearly recognizes that different pastoral strategies are to be employed with different people. Some can profit from gentle counseling (Gal. 6:1). Others will require confrontation or action of some sort, to pull them “out of the fire.”  (emphasis added)

That sets the tone I believe for anything you read in other commentaries on this verse. The Asbury Bible Commentary states:

Despite his vigorous exposure of the opponents’ errors, in vv. 22-23 Jude calls the church to evangelize them. Jude holds out the evangelistic hope for renewal, even to selfish schismatics who upset congregational fellowship and mission. Jude’s prescription of edification for the saints and evangelism of the schismatics is an effective antidote for contemporary church fights as well.

which seems to reflect that “doubters” would refer to Jude’s opponents or those unevangelized.

But Matthew Henry sees this referring to “brethren” who have fallen into error.

He directs them how to behave towards erring brethren: And of some have compassion, etc., Jude 1:22, 23. Observe, (1.) We ought to do all we can to rescue others out of the snares of the devil, that they may be saved from (or recovered, when entangled therein, out of) dangerous errors, or pernicious practices. We are not only (under God) our own keepers, but every man ought to be, as much as in him lies, his brother’s keeper; none but a wicked Cain will contradict this, Gen. 4:9. We must watch over one another, must faithfully, yet prudently, reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us.

(2.) This must be done with compassion, making a difference. How is that? We must distinguish between the weak and the wilful. [1.] Of some we must have compassion, treat them with all tenderness, restore them in the spirit of meekness, not be needlessly harsh and severe in our censures of them and their actions, nor proud and haughty in our conduct towards them; not implacable, nor averse to reconciliation with them, or admitting them to the friendship they formerly had with us, when they give evident or even strongly hopeful tokens of a sincere repentance: if God has forgiven them, why should not we? We infinitely more need his forgiveness than they do, or can do, ours, though perhaps neither they nor we are justly or sufficiently sensible of this. [2.] Others save with fear, urging upon them the terrors of the Lord; “Endeavor to frighten them out of their sins; preach hell and damnation to them.” But what if prudence and caution in administering even the most just and severe reproofs be what are primarily and chiefly here intimated–(I do but offer it for consideration); as if he had said, “Fear lest you frustrate your own good intentions and honest designs by rash and imprudent management, that you do not harden, instead of reclaiming, even where greater degrees of severity are requisite than in the immediately foregoing instance.” We are often apt to over-do, when we are sure we mean honestly, and think we are right in the main; yet the very worst are not needlessly, nor rashly, nor to extremity, to be provoked, lest they be thereby further hardened through our default.—“Hating even the garment spotted with the flesh, that is, keeping yourselves at the utmost distance from what is or appears evil, and designing and endeavoring that others may do so too. Avoid all that leads to sin or that looks like sin,” 1 Thess. 5:22.

I suspect Matthew Henry has more there than was in view in the article that I read. The short Jude passage raises rich and complex issues. Michael Patton was dealing more with the issue of assurance of salvation which we looked at here recently and also here. Looking at people — especially in the Reformed tradition — who have seemingly crossed the line of faith but lack assurance that they are among the elect.

The question is Can one be absolutely sure that they are a believer and how important is this assurance in their walk with the Lord? Many Christians don’t believe an individual can be assured of their ultimate salvation. Many believe one can lose their salvation. Catholics believe that “mortal sins” (really nasty sins such as adultery,  rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary, or missing Mass without a valid excuse) can cause a Cathlic to lose their salvation. Arminians and Wesleyans believe one can cease to believe, thereby forfeiting their seat in heaven. Therefore, from the perspective of those who don’t believe salvation can be lost, these belief systems cannot offer any assurance. The criticism would be that no one could ever be sure, until death, whether or not they are saved. After all, what if I decided to sleep in on Sunday and then immediately died of a heart attack without repenting? How do I know for sure if my faith is going to last until the end? For Catholics, the fact that one cannot be assured of their salvation is dogmatized.

…Ironically, for the Catholic, to believe that one can be assured of their salvation would be the means by which they lose their salvation!

He continues,

There are three primary reasons Christians doubt. The first has to do with objective intellectual issues. These doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, Christ’s resurrection, and even God’s existence (among other things).  Another group doubts God’s love and presence in their lives. The last group doubts their salvation and the reality of their faith. These are always wondering if they have true saving faith or a false faith. This last group lacks assurance.

It may surprise you to know that just about every contact I have had with people who are doubting their salvation are Calvinistic in their theology. In other words, they believe in unconditional election. These are the ones who believe in perseverance of the saints. These are the ones that believe that we cannot lose our salvation! Yet these are the ones who are doubting their faith the most.

Their issue has to do with their election. Are they truly among the elect? If they are, they believe their faith will persevere until the end. But if they are not, there is no hope. But how are they to know for sure whether they are elect? Maybe their faith is a stated faith? Maybe it is false. The gentleman I talked to today was so riddled with doubt, he was having thoughts of suicide. “How do I know my faith is an elect faith?” He wanted assurance so badly, but felt that his Calvinistic theology prevented him from ever having such assurance.

He adds,

When we present the Gospel to someone and they say they have trusted in Christ, we do them a disservice to force assurance upon them. After all, how do we know that their faith is real? We don’t. Instead of assurance, maybe we should give them some of the Hebrews warning passages. Maybe we should speak to them as Christ spoke to the seven churches in Revelation: “to him who overcomes . . .” Maybe we should encourage them to “test their faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Maybe we should warn them that there is a possible disqualification. (1 Cor. 9:27). This may not fit into your thinking, but we all know there is a faith that does not save (James 2:19). Why not bring this up?

I encourage you to read the entire article.

January 16, 2015

Salvation By Works: Yes and No

The Message – Col 2:6-7 My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

The Voice – Col 2:6 Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.

Amplified – Col 2:6 As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving.

If you read nothing else here, don’t miss the first line of the reading which follows. Some people have a works-based faith. It’s not grace-based because it consists entirely of doing things. But some people, once they believe they have assurance of salvation by grace, end up doing nothing. Still a third group of people often realize that they have been guilty of living their lives in one extreme or other other, and end up swinging to the opposite position, but that leaves them still in the extreme. There is a continuum here, and the key is to find the balance in the middle.

E. Stanley Jones was one of the best-known Methodist missionaries (to India) and religious writers in the first half of the twentieth century. This is from Good News, a United Methodist website.

Devotional by E. Stanley Jones, Focus 3

By E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973)

You cannot attain salvation by disciplines*—it is the gift of God. But you cannot retain salvation without disciplines. If you try to attain salvation by disciplines, you will be trying to discipline an unsurrendered self. You will be sitting on a lid. The result will be tenseness instead of trust. “You will wrestle instead of nestle.” While salvation cannot be attained by discipline around an unsurrendered self, nevertheless when the self is surrendered to Christ and a new center formed, then you can discipline your life around that new center—Christ. Discipline is the fruit of conversion—not the root.

This passage gives the double-sidedness of conversion: “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7, RSV). Note, “received”—receptivity; “so live”—activity. It appears again, “rooted”—receptivity; “built up in him”—activity.

The “rooted” means we take from God as the roots take the soil; the “built up” means we build up as one builds a house, a character and life by disciplined effort. So we take and try; we obtain and attain. We trust as if the whole thing depended on God and work as if the whole thing depended on us. The alternate beats of the Christian heart are receptivity and response—receptivity from God and response in work from us.


* What are the spiritual disciplines? Here is a list to get you started. That list has 12 disciplines in total, this one contains more, but breaks it down into seven key areas. (Click the tabs at the side of the landing page.)

January 28, 2013

Three Assurance-Giving Metaphors

This is from a new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How To Know For Sure You Are Saved by J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; a book about assurance of salvation.  (Published by B&H Books.) Normally here at C201, all scripture references are in green — because the scriptures have life! — but because all the quotations today are the words of Jesus, I thought we’d revert to the familiar “red-letter” format.

Jesus knew how important it was for His disciples to be assured of His love. In the final conversation He had with them before He died, He used three metaphors that showed them how committed he was to them. They were about to go through hell on earth, and He wanted to give them something to hang onto that would sustain them in that hour of great tribulation.

His Beloved Children

In John 14:18, Jesus said,

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart - J. D. GreearA faithful father does not leave his kids wondering whether or not he loves them. When I go away on a trip, I don’t say to my kids, “Daddy will be back soon…or maybe he won’t. Maybe I’m not really your daddy at all. Maybe my real family lives somewhere else. You’ll just have to wait and see if I come back. Sit around and think about that while I’m gone and let that compel you to become better children.”

That would not produce love and loyalty in my children. It might produce a little fear-based obedience, but it’s only a matter of time until fear-based obedience turns into farther-loathing rebellion. If I don’t want my own children fearing they might be orphans, would God?

Do we really think we are better fathers to our children than God would be to His? Hardly. The love God has for us is the highest in the universe.  Jesus said,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” (John 15:9)

Jesus loves us like God the Father loved Him; and He wants us to have the same assurance with Him that He had with God…

His Betrothed

In that same conversation Jesus told His disciples,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14: 1-3)

Some have noted that Jesus’ language in these verses is laden with Jewish wedding imagery. In Jesus’ day, a young suitor would travel to his beloved’s home; throw a party, and request her hand in marriage. Assuming she said yes, he would return to his father’s home where he would begin construction on a room attached to the family living space. When their “place” was completed, he would return for her. Before he left, he would promise that he was coming back.

He did not want her to worry. Worry might lead to doubt, and doubt would cause here to be open to the advances of other suitors. He wanted her assurance to be so strong that she would not be moved by the flirtations of another…

…Jesus gives us, His beloved, that same confidence. He spoke to us in wedding language so that we would have the confidence of the wedding bride. Only in that confidence are we able to resist the enticements of sin.

His Friends

Finally, in John 15:15 Jesus calls His disciples His “friends.”

“No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”

Do you want your best friends questioning your loyalty to them? One of the greatest aspects of friendship is the feeling of safety that comes with it. You can be yourself around them and say what’s on your  mind without worrying about them betraying your confidence or abandoning you. You can give them access to the most vulnerable parts of your life without  any fear that they will violate them. Until you get to that point, it’s not really a friendship, or at least a very enjoyable one. True friendship only grows in security and trust.

I’ve had a few “friends” who broke my trust. I was never sure if they were guarding my reputation or trashing it. We didn’t remain friends very long. The friends I have developed the deepest bonds with are those I know I could trust with my very life.

Jesus wants us no less sure of His friendship to us. he said,

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

His commitment to friendship is no less than ours; it is infinitely more! Perhaps you’ve had a friend betray you or discover about you that led to their rejection of you. Jesus never will. From the beginning, He saw it all and chose us anyway. (John 15:16) When we revealed our worst side to Jesus, He bore our shame and consequences in our place. Friendship doesn’t get any more secure than that.

Those three images show us for certain that God wants us to be sure. He couldn’t have chosen three more intimate and precious relationships! We are His children, His bride, and His friends.

~Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, pp 18-21

Read a review of the book here

November 4, 2012

A New Take on APEPT

Ephesians 4:11-13

New International Version (NIV)

 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

It’s sometimes called “The Five-Fold Ministry of the Church.” Sometimes it’s just abbreviated as APEPT:  Apostle, Pastor, Evangelist, Prophet, Teacher.

It’s often applied as helping a church determine its vision and the particular models that church should utilize to fulfill the five-fold mission.

Many times it is presented in terms of “finding your spiritual gift” types of sermons. You are asked to look at your abilities and gifts and determine if you see yourself as an Apostle (literally ‘sent one,’ missionary, church planter) or Pastor (literally ‘shepherd,’ caregiver, prayer warrior, etc.) or Evangelist (or ‘proclaimer,’ one who spreads the ‘evangel’ or good news of salvation, or a Christian apologist) or Prophet (not one who ‘foretells’ but one who ‘forth-tells’ who speaks into peoples’ lives often utilizing gifts of knowledge and utterance) or Teacher (one who searches the scriptures and opens understanding of doctrine and application.)

You’ve been to places where this was explained, and perhaps you’ve tried to look at your own potential areas of Christian service in this context.

Some people, like Australia’s Michael Frost for example, believe that each church currently has all five of these giftings operating in different people. He would say it’s necessary to identify these people and then come alongside them and resource them and support them.

Today, I want to look at it differently. I want to consider what your church needs. I want to ask you what type of gifted person you need right now personally. (Be sure to click the linked verses in each section.)

I/We Need an Apostle

This means, that we’re looking for a “sent one” to come into our community who wants to do ministry or just shake things up. Right now, where I live, I often speak about “watching the horizon for some young buck to appear over the horizon with a guitar slung over his shoulder, who is interested in doing a church plant, so that we can support them in what they want to accomplish.” Maybe you need someone to help you with an existing ministry project. Maybe you’re a pastor who needs help. Maybe you need someone with an expanded vision who can give you the extra kick you need to get something done for The Kingdom. (See Romans 10:14)

I/We Need a Pastor

I know this applies to so many of you reading this. You need someone to put their arm around your shoulder, or give you a good hug. Someone who will pray with you. Someone who will walk with you through a tough time. Maybe you’re in a church led by a rancher, but you really need a shepherd right now. Maybe you’re alone and just need to know that someone cares. In a megachurch world, we tend to focus on great preaching at the expense of great pastoring. You need someone to pray with you for help, for wholeness, for healing.  (see I Peter 5:2)

I/We Need an Evangelist

Maybe someone you know hasn’t crossed the line of faith, and you’re praying for someone to step into the picture who can help close the sale. Maybe you’re having a tough time defending the faith with people who are closed or apathetic to the Christian message. Maybe it’s you, yourself, who isn’t clear on how salvation happens, or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran of this whole church thing, but suddenly riddled with doubts and needing assurance of salvation. You need to connect with someone with the heart of an evangelist. (See Romans 10:14 this is a different take on the reference for Apostle.)

I/We Need a Prophet

Either individually or as a church, you know you need someone who will speak into your life or the life of your congregation; someone not afraid to tell it like it is; someone possessing insights that can only come through supernatural words of knowledge and wisdom; someone willing to identify sin.  (See I Corinthians 12: 7-11)

I/We Need a Teacher

You know when you’re hungry. You know when you’re thirsty. Sadly, many individuals and churches are dying of thirst and dying of hunger; ironically, at a time when more Bible study resources, courses and Christian colleges  are available than have ever existed at any time in history. There are, to be sure, some great Bible teachers out there, but in many local churches, there has been a weakening in the richness and substance of Bible teaching. You know when you’re getting milk when your body craves meat. (See Hebrews 5:12-14 also Luke 24:27)

God gave these gifts to Christian leaders — and the rest of them — because he knew that we needed them individually and collectively. Seeing the available list of gifts can help us identify what particular needs should presently be met in the hours, days and weeks to come. Perhaps now, you’re clearer on what specifically to pray for.

~Paul Wilkinson

October 3, 2011

Well… I Hope I’m Saved…

For the past several days,  Ferrum, VA pastor Terry Covey at the blog Seeds of Faith, has been dealing with the issue of “assurance of salvation.”  It was once more frequent that people would respond to altar calls because they needed assurance, perhaps it’s time for churches to return to this subject.


It is sad that some who profess to be a Christian are uncertain of their salvation. ‘I hope I am saved’, they say. They believe that no one can know for sure until they die. What a great risk they are taking. After death it will be too late. Our eternal destiny will already be settled and there will be no turning back. We need to know for certain that what we believe is biblical and that it will take us to heaven.

With that in mind, consider these words from the Apostle John –

1 John 5:13 KJV These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

John says that the purpose of his writings is to give us rock-solid security of our salvation. These things have I written that you may know with confidence that you have eternal life. What can we know and why can we have confidence? Over the next few days we will consider some of these important truths.

1. What We Can Know With Certainty

A.  We can know with certainty concerning the character of God

Earlier in this same letter John wrote –

1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

By stating that God is light, John is saying that God is perfectly holy. Light is a symbol for purity and darkness is a symbol for sin. Other portions of scripture support this truth about God’s character:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Is. 6:3)

“Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.” (Ps. 99:9)

“A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut. 32:4)

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. (Ps. 18:30)

Can God’s character change? Can He sometimes sin or tolerate evil?

Malachi 3:6 KJV For I am the LORD, I change not…

When Moses ask God His name, the LORD replied – “I AM THAT I AM.” (Ex 3:14) Some interpret this name to mean –

“I will be in the future who I am in the present
and who I have always been in the past.”

Because God’s character never changes, we can know with certainty that whatever He promises He will perform. Consider this great promise of God regarding the security of our salvation.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

B.  We can know with certainty the condition of man

What do we know about the condition of man? Consider these portions of scripture:

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way , they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

What is the condition of man? How does the Bible describe his character? Is anyone righteous? Is there anyone who can go to heaven because they are a good person? How many among us have sinned?

But the Lord is not condemning everyone. Surely there are some good people. Consider what Isaiah the prophet wrote about the religious people of Israel-

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…

When comparing ourselves with each other we think that we are pretty good; yet when comparing ourselves to God, even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.

The Apostle Paul is a perfect example of this. Before Paul was saved he was a very religious man. He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Yet note Paul’s words concerning his true spiritual condition.

Philippians 3:4 I once had confidence in the flesh too. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. 7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

As far as any other man could tell, Paul was doing everything anyone needed to get to heaven. Paul the Pharisee was blameless. He dotted all of his ‘i’s’ and crossed every ‘t’. However, how did view himself in light of the character of God? Paul considered his righteous deeds to be like filth. The actual word used here mean – ‘manure.’

Dear friend, this I can tell you with certainty – you are not good enough to go to heaven. Regardless of how religious you may try to be, you will never match the character of God. In order for anyone to go to heaven, we must come to the same conclusion as Paul –

Philippians 3:8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

“All of my religious deeds are nothing in comparison to God. I must have the righteousness of Christ!”

The reason some question about the certainty of salvation is because they are depending upon their own sufficiency to merit heaven. “What if I do this or what if I don’t do that?” Yet the certainty that scripture emphasizes is not based upon man, but upon Christ.

C.  We can know with certainty the condemnation awaiting sinful man

Some people think that they will have to wait until they stand before God in order to know whether or not they will be permitted into heaven. Yet the Bible tells us with certainty that mankind is sinful and the destiny awaiting him is eternal condemnation.

One night a very religious man came to talk with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he wanted to talk about miracles. But notice what Christ said.

John 3:36 He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. (KJV)

Some people believe that God has a giant balance or scale in heaven and that in the end God will weigh the good against the bad in order to determine whether or not someone is worthy of heaven. But that is not what the Bible teaches. According to scripture, what determines our eternal destiny is our personal relationship with God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is reinforced in this same passage.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

He that puts his faith in Christ is not condemned. But he who does not put his faith in Christ, is condemned already. He is condemned because God is holy and he is sinful.

Dear friend, you will never earn your way to heaven. You will never be good enough. Consider once again these words from Jesus.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? For more information, go to: HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

D.  We can know with certainty God’s plan of salvation

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Note that the certainty of salvation is based upon believing on the name of the Son of God. What does it mean to believe on Jesus’ name?

It is more than believing that there was someone called Jesus. Note these words found in the Bible.

James 2:19 You believes that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

The demons believe that there is one God. The demons also believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Matthew 8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Mark 1:24 Saying , Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

The demons believe ‘in’ Jesus, but they do not believe ‘on’ Jesus. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they believe that they are sinful and worthy of judgment. Yet they do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

John says that we must believe ‘on the name’ of the Son of God. Names carried great importance in scripture. Names often identified someone’s character. Names also established authority. To act ‘in the name’ of someone meant to act ‘in their authority.’ To believe in the name of Jesus means to believe that He has the authority to forgive sins.

Scripture teaches us that God’s plan of salvation requires us to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Regarding such faith, Jesus said –

John 3:18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


That represents four solid days at Seeds of Faith, and at the end of part four, having looked at the “what”, we look at the “why.”


2. Why We Can Have Confidence

The questions some might ask at this point are – “Why can we know these things with certainty? What gives us such confidence? Aren’t we being a bit arrogant to think that we can know that we are saved?” These are very important questions and therefore we need to know with certainty that we have the right answer. We can know these these things with certainty because every principle I have shared with you comes straight from the pages of scripture.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Therefore to say that we cannot know with certainty whether or not we are saved is to question the authority of Scripture.

~Terry Covey, Seeds of Faith