Let's just keep it real simple, real basic. Let's keep the cookies on the bottom shelf. Does being like Christ matter to you or not? When someone close to you confides that they're concerned about whether they're really saved, you can take that as a pretty good sign. After all, one telltale sign of a non-Christian is that they feel quite confident in their own worthiness for heaven.
So what are the criteria for real assurance of salvation? Hello again, I'm Bill Wright, and welcome back to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Don continues teaching God's people God's Word. Today, Don continues a series titled, So You Call Yourself a Christian. Last time, Don told us that genuine believers fear God, confess their sins, and trust Christ alone.
Today, he'll give us two more tests to apply to our own lives. We're studying in 1 John 2, so turn there in your Bible as we join Don now in the Truth Pulpit. Look at 1 John 2, verse 20. You, he's speaking to true Christians, you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know, you have the Holy Spirit. Chapter 3 verse 1, see how great a love the Father has bestowed on us that we would be called children of God, and we are. We're the children of God, not the children of the devil anymore.
We're in a new family. That changes things. Chapter 3 verse 9, notice a little phrase at the end here. No one who is born of God practices sin because his seed abides in him and he cannot sin.
Why? Why can he not continue in sin like that? Because he has been born of God. Chapter 3 verse 24. Chapter 3 verse 24.
What I'm showing you here, what I want you to see is the presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Chapter 3 verse 24. The one who keeps his commandments abides in him and he in him. We know by this that he abides in us by the Spirit whom he has given us. He's given us his Spirit it says. And finally one more, chapter 4 verse 13. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us because he has given us of his Spirit.
Now what does this mean? It means that in true salvation there has been a real spiritual change that has taken place. You cannot see that change. It is an intangible change.
We only know it through the revelation of the holy scriptures. But what God is saying in his word is, is that when he saves someone he actually changes them. He gives them a new nature, a new heart by which we mean that there are new affections, new desires, a new life and conformity toward the things of God that comes because he has breathed life into you, so to speak.
It is an invisible change but it is a real change. And because there is now in a Christian, there's now a new spiritual life principle animating everything that he thinks and does and what motivates his heart. And it's because God guarantees and does that work that we can know that in someone who is truly saved their life will change.
It's because they're new now. The old things have passed away and there is a new principle of life at stake, a new principle of life at work would be a better way to put it, from the moment of your conversion because God has put his Spirit in you. And that's why those of you that are Christians maybe got saved a little bit later in life.
That's why you can see such a clear demarcation between the person you were and the person that you now are. That's why you used to not care about the Word of God or be hostile to it and now you love it. It's not because you on your own power made a change in your thinking, it's because God changed you and did a work in your heart.
Now that whole principle is a study all of its own. It's the theological doctrine of regeneration and we're going to study that in the future. But for now I just call that to your mind. I call that change to your mind, that principle of new life to your mind because it undergirds this fourth question that we need to look at. As you're asking yourself, you call yourself a Christian, good.
I accept that at face value when you first say it to me. I'm not one to go around and immediately question everyone's claim to Christ. So what an awful way to live that is, is if you had to prove your salvation to me.
What you need to do is prove your salvation to yourself and make sure it's real. Do you fear God? Do you confess you're a sinner? Do you trust Christ alone for salvation?
Here's the fourth thing and this is where it gets into the kitchen of life. Point number four, do you keep God's commands? Do you keep God's commands? Salvation has an ethical impact on your life. It changes the way that you live. And the reason that it changes the way that you live is because God changed you in salvation. He gave you His Spirit and as a result of that, the presence, get this, this is really not that difficult to understand. If God has given us His Spirit and in whatever sense the Scriptures mean, the Spirit has taken up residence in our life, then that's going to work itself out in the way that you live. God can't suddenly show up in your life and that not have a change on things. We're talking about the holy, powerful God of the universe. Well if He steps into your life, you can expect things to change.
Well the things that change in large part are the way that you live. Look at chapter two, verse three as we move on now into new material in 1 John. John says the Bible, the Bible says, God speaking through the Apostle John says, by this we know that we have come to know Him.
Oh that's the whole question we're talking about, isn't it? How do we know that we really are a true Christian? He says if we keep His commandments because the one who says I've come to know Him and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him. Now based on what we've said so far, it's obvious that John is not telling us how to become a Christian in this verse. We've already said that we're sinners.
We can't keep the law of God and save ourselves. So he's talking about something different here. He's not telling us how to receive salvation. He's saying how you can know that you are a Christian.
It's a whole different issue. You see, true salvation produces in the heart of a Christian a love for God's Word. He delights in the law of the Lord. True salvation brings you to love God's Word. God gave you a new heart that is tender to the things of His Word that wants to obey it. You see, God brought you into His spiritual family, gave you His Spirit for the express purpose that your life would begin to conform itself to the character exemplified in His Word and more particularly the character exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ. There's a purpose to salvation that transcends you going to heaven or hell.
The whole purpose in this life is that your life would be transformed into the image of Christ. Now look, look, as we're talking about this question, how do I know if I'm a Christian or not? Ask yourself this question, does being like Christ matter to me or not? Let's just keep it real simple, real basic.
Let's keep the cookies on the bottom shelf. Does being like Christ matter to you or not? Because if it doesn't, there's no way for you to think with sincerity, with clarity that you belong to the family of God.
There's just no way. Think about it in physical terms. We have our physical families and the second generation looks a lot like the first in one way or another. Understand that part of the providence of God and weaving that into the physical world is the reality that we would take that and say, oh, it must be like that in the spiritual realm as well. Somebody who's born of God is going to somehow resemble the character of the one who gave birth to Him.
A person who is living a flagrantly sinful life with no sense of compulsion or conviction, who can just openly live in unbroken sin is showing that they have no imprint of the life of God in their heart. It's so clear. It's so obvious because God is holy and if God gives birth to someone spiritually, He's going to give birth to something that bears some kind of family resemblance to what? To holiness.
That's why John can say this with such definitive language. Look at it again in verse 3. By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments.
Well, the Lord Jesus Christ said, I always do what's pleasing to my Father. If though if we've been saved by Christ to be like Christ and somehow His Spirit dwells within us, then there's going to be some echo of that in our own lives. And not just in your outer life, beloved. Oh, get up on the second step for emphasis.
These are my steps of emphasis for those of you that are new here. It's not just in your outward life. What the Scripture is teaching us is, is that a true Christian wants it to be true in his life. It's what you want. It's what you desire is to be like Christ, to be faithful to Him, to love Him, to proclaim Him to others. If those desires are utterly foreign to your soul, on what basis, given the principle of family resemblance, on what basis do you possibly think that your salvation is real? On the other side, for those of you that have those desires but mourn because you fall short, look, we're all in that boat. None of us have reached perfection. That's waiting for us in heaven. It's not perfection that is the proof of this test.
It's what the direction of your affection is. What is it that you desire? What is it that you're pursuing in life? What John is saying is that true conversion will result in a pattern of obedience to God in His Word. Your heart will be inclined toward God's Word even if your perfection is absent. What we're saying here, beloved, is really significant.
It's a direct challenge to a lot of historical teaching in certain circles. A profession of faith in Christ that does not produce a changed life is not real. It's not true. Someone who says I'm a Christian and can live without any desires for God's Word, any love for Christ, any kind of obedience to Him is someone who's not a Christian.
That's not me. That's what God says in His Word. Look at it again in verse 4. The one who says I've come to know Him and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him. Verse 5 and 6, but whoever keeps His Word in Him and keep is not in the sense of keeping it with perfection.
It's a sense of guarding it as a treasure. Whoever keeps His Word in Him, the love of God has truly been perfected. And by this we may know that we are in Him. The one who says He abides in Him ought Himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. There's going to be a replication of the pattern of the life of Christ in every true Christian. And the characteristics of the character of Christ, that humility, the love, the obedience, the prayerfulness in one way or another is going to be manifested in the life, not of the super-Christians of every Christian. That's what God's Word says. That is the lifestyle that marks a man or woman who has received new life from God. Okay, hard question here. Does that mean that if I'm struggling with sin, a particular besetting sin, that I'm not a Christian?
That's not what we're saying. Paul said in Romans 7 that he struggled with sin. And look, look, the more you grow in Christ, you realize that the struggle with sin is hard.
It's difficult. It requires sustained, persistent commitment to make incremental advances in your spiritual life. What you've been saved from in sin, what Christ has saved you from in sin, was not a superficial force that had you by a toenail and was just kind of barely tripping you up.
He saved you from a principle of sin and disobedience that had a grip on your heart that would not let go. And the remnants of that resistance and rebellion are still scattered in our fallenness. We're not made perfect yet. And to purify ourselves from that is not easy.
And the reason I'm saying that here is that your sense of assurance would not be shaken for the wrong reason. Of course your struggle with sin is hard. It was hard for the Apostle Paul. The reassuring thought in that is that the struggle matters to you.
Do you get that? It's the fact that you want to be holy. If only you could be holy, you would set all of that behind. The fact that you want holiness in the midst of the struggle is the surest sign of the reality of the presence of the Spirit of God in your life that you could ask for. Because that is not a natural desire.
Men, you and I naturally would go after sin. The fact that there's something in us resisting it, even though the struggle is hard, is a sign that there is something different, something new, something holy, something supernatural at work in your life. And the only way that that's present in your heart is if you've been born again. And so, don't fall down in discouragement that the struggle is hard. Realize the fact that you desire to engage the battle is a sign that you're a soldier on commission from Christ Himself. And praise the Lord for the salvation He's given to you in Christ.
Now, point number five. It's not just whether you keep God's command. Point number five, point number five, do you love Christians?
Do you love Christians? This is such a sweet principle for us to think about. John has talked about the presence of obedience in verses three and six as being the mark of a true Christian.
We've gone over that lightly today. Salvation has another impact. It's not just in the realm of obedience. In verse seven through nine, we see that salvation produces genuine Christian love for other Christians. Look at verse seven, chapter two, verse seven. John says, beloved, I'm not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, verse eight, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in Him and in you because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Okay, okay, John, get to the point, would you? What's the...what are you saying?
Oh, yeah, let me say it. Verse nine, the one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. But verse 10, the one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. Let's stop there and think about what he's saying. He's talking about the commandment to love. He's no longer talking about obedience as the principle of true spiritual life. He's talking about another aspect. He's changed the subject. He does this throughout the letter.
We'll come back to all of these topics as we continue through the book. That's why I don't have to deal with it all right now. Obedience is the mark of a true Christian. So is love. It's not an either or, it's a both and. When John says this commandment is a word which you had heard, he's referring to the fact that this was a principle that was in the Old Testament as well. People sometimes have a totally wrong conception of the Old Testament as if it were only a book about the wrath and judgment of God.
That's totally false. That's a total misreading and superficial understanding of the Old Testament. Even in the book of Leviticus in chapter 19 verse 18, Leviticus 19 verse 18 it says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. So it was embedded right into the Old Testament.
And so it was an old principle in the sense that it was long established from the law that they had known from Moses for the past prior 1500 years or so. Now, he says, I'm not writing a new commandment to you when I'm about to talk to you about love. Look at verse 7 again. I'm not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning.
He's talking about this commandment to love. It's nothing new. And yet it is something new.
Verse 8, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you. Okay, here's the realm in which it's new. Here's the realm in which it's new. It's new in Christ and it's new in your salvation.
There's a new realm for it's outworking. The principle is the same, but in the unfolding of God's chronological plan, love has been taken to new dimensions in our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ we see that love moved God to die for sinners.
Wow, that's love. In Christ and in believers we see that there's a new manifestation of love in that love marks life in the church. Love marks relationships among believers in a way that was new compared to the Old Testament. It's a fresh application of the old commandment, that's what he's saying. Oh beloved, these are weighty issues. It's always that way in the Word of God. It plows our hearts and makes us think on deep things that we're not accustomed to.
But here's what I want you to see. If you find yourself really severely convicted by what we've talked about here, do you fear God? Do you confess your sin? Do you trust Christ alone? Do you obey God? Do you love Christians? If those questions convict you and you find yourself saying, you know what, this is foreign to my experience.
I don't know these things. Just be honest with yourself. Be honest before the Lord. If you find yourself convicted in that way, realize that God may be showing you mercy this very day to open your eyes to your lost condition so that you would repent from your former way of life and turn to Christ and give yourself to Him. Come to Christ. He won't turn you away. God brings you under this kind of teaching and convicts you so that you would know to turn to Christ and to flee to Him for salvation at the same time, beloved.
Understand this. John wrote to encourage true believers with these things. He wrote so that we would know that we have eternal life. He didn't write these things to further shake us from our assurance. He wrote these things to reinforce them.
Come back and see. And look, you can honestly, you can look at your life and you can say, you know what, I do fear God. It matters to me, His holiness. I do admit that I'm a sinner. A true Christian openly admits that. So it's not the fact that you sinned in your life. It's the fact that you openly confess it that would show the reality of your redeemed heart. You don't have to say, I obey God perfectly to say, you know what, I do walk with God.
That's the desire of my heart. You don't have to be involved in 15 activities a week to prove that you love Christians. You know whether you have a natural affinity for the people of God.
The question is, do you see the direction of these affections in your life enough to say, this is real. This has motivated me over time. If that's you, beloved, take it on God's word, you have eternal life. Your faith has overcome the world. God has saved you and has you destined for glory.
And that's reason enough to rejoice. No matter what happens today, in the next two months, or in the four years beyond that, when we orient our thinking toward these realities of eternal life, then everything else pales by comparison. And that is the joy and the victory the Scripture leads us to as those who know Christ. Praise God.
That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, concluding the first message of a series titled, So You Call Yourself a Christian. We've been challenged today to consider whether we keep God's commands and desire to do so. Also, how's our love for the brethren?
Quite a bit to digest the past couple of days, but we've covered questions that are really vital to contemplate. Pastor Don Green has much more to come in this series here on The Truth Pulpit, so be sure to be with us. In fact, Don, tell us what to expect in your next message. Well, Bill, we're going to deal with the whole matter of so-called Christians who walk away from Christianity. Friend, you've probably known someone who did that, someone who looked like a Christian at one time but now has nothing to do with Christ or Scripture.
We'll evaluate that from Scripture next time. Be sure to join us. Thanks, Don. And friend, to get ordering information about free CDs for this series and for more about this ministry, just visit thetruthpulpit.com. There, you can also find a link to Don's Facebook page and much more. That's all at thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you next time as Don Green continues in his ministry of teaching God's people God's Word here on The Truth Pulpit.
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