Here are five questions, clear questions, that you can ask yourself to see if your confession of Christ is real. Perhaps the most frightening words to contemplate will someday emanate from God Himself.
Depart from me, I never knew you. And the Bible makes clear that many who think they have the assurance of salvation are sadly deceived. So how can we have real assurance? That's what Pastor Don Greene will show us on this edition of The Truth Pulpit. Hi, I'm Bill Wright, and Don continues to teach God's people God's Word. Don, this is as fundamental a topic as you can get, isn't it?
Well, it sure is, Bill. My friend, I know from experience what it's like to be mistaken about salvation. For many years, I thought that I was a Christian when I wasn't.
And now, today, I don't want you to be in that position. You know, it could very well explain why you're struggling spiritually. You claim to be a Christian, but you're not. Over the next two days, we're going to see five biblical tests that will help you know whether you are a true Christian.
I encourage you to consider each and every point that we've got to make. We're here to help you on The Truth Pulpit. Have your Bible handy as we join Don Greene now in The Truth Pulpit. I've titled this message, So You Call Yourself a Christian. Well here are five questions, clear questions, that you can ask yourself to see if your confession of Christ is real. You don't want to be in that realm of this self-deceived.
Those who are absolutely sure that they're saved, but they're not. Here are some questions that can kind of pierce through our delusions, pierce through our false perceptions, and based on clear teaching from the Word of God, give you a sense of clarity about the reality of your salvation. And when it's clear to you, you're secure. When it's clear to you, you're confident.
When it's clear to you, you can walk in the light with basically undistracted by the things of this world. And that's how you have spiritual victory in this world as you go through life. First question, number one, it's not what you think. First question, number one, do you fear God? Do you fear God? That's the first test of being a Christian. You see, God is positively true and holy. He is absolutely opposed to deception and sin. He will not allow sinners into His presence, unforgiven, unclean sinners will never see the face of God. Look at 1 John chapter 1 verse 5. For those of you that have been with us, this is going to be a little bit of review from things that we looked at several weeks ago.
I trust that it will go fairly quickly here. But we said that verse 5 is the cornerstone of this entire book. This is the foundation upon which everything else is built. This is the message John says in verse 5. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Let's stop right there. God is holy and those who walk in darkness have no participation in His life. And listen, there are countless people all around you, all throughout the ages of time since Christ was here, countless people saying, I have fellowship with God. By which they're saying, I'm a true Christian. And yet, John says in verse 6, they walk in the darkness. Their lives are marked by sin, not the pursuit of holiness. Their lives are marked by an indifference or hostility to the Word of God, preferring their own thoughts over the mind of God. Their life is not driven by Monday through Saturday, their mind and life are not driven by the light of God's Word and the holiness of God's character, rather it's marked by conformity to this world.
And what John says here is that people like that are in darkness. They are lying. They are not practicing the truth, and what is their great lie like that? Their great lie is to have a life of sin while simultaneously saying they have fellowship with God, that they participate in the life of this holy God. That's the lie.
That's the utter lie. And it is the lie that so many in the American church today have swallowed and imbibed, and it is the lie that is going to be the fruit of the destruction of their souls, to think that they can mock the holiness of God like that with their lips confirming His holiness, confirming that they walk in the light while actually they live in the darkness. Jesus said in Luke 646, why do you call me Lord, Lord, and yet you do not do what I say? Why this travesty? Why this mocking of my name on your lips? I am a holy God, he says.
If you know me, why don't you obey me? Really not that complicated, is it? This isn't difficult.
This isn't conceptually difficult at all. But here's my point, the question, do you fear God, is designed to elicit a sense of self-examination in your life as to whether these things matter to you and whether they cause you a sense of fear and trembling, the thought of God's pristine holiness, and God being a judge, and God actually judging the thoughts and actions of men, does that cause you to respect and revere Him, or can you just go on your life in your little way and indifferent to those realities? If you're indifferent to those realities, if these things don't drive your thinking, kind of hard for you to say with sincerity that you really fear God, isn't it? Yeah, I mean, let's just be honest. Let's not play games with one another. There's too much at stake.
This is just far too important for us to play games with. You know whether someone is playing a game with Christianity or not. If you would look at yourself honestly in the mirror, you would know whether you're playing a game with Christianity or not. Where has obedience to Christ cost you?
Where has it made a difference in decisions that you've made? Proverbs 1.7 says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It is not true that the most important, the first law of spiritual life is that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That's not true.
That's false. The first point, the beginning of knowledge, the Scripture says over and over again is the fear of the Lord. And so you have to start there in evaluating your life. Do you fear God? Does His holiness influence you?
Does it impact you? Are there times where you think about holiness and it makes you shiver? If it does, that's comfortable proof that your claim to know Christ is real. If it doesn't, you have to ask yourself, where have I even begun in spiritual life? If fear is the beginning and I haven't known anything of this fear, maybe I'm really not a Christian after all and there is a threatening judgment ahead of me. We have to think this way. There's too much at stake.
I can't pretend this isn't true. I can't ignore this and be faithful to your souls. So do you fear God? Secondly, do you confess that you are a sinner? Do you fear God? Point number one. Point number two. Do you confess that you are a sinner?
This is really... I love the sheer force of the logic of Scripture that drives you to think this way. If you have the holiness of God as a cornerstone, then it's obvious that a question about your personal sin is going to follow right on the heels of that because a proper respect for the holiness of God will expose your sin to your understanding and consciousness. Look at 1 John chapter 1 verses 8 through 10. In light of the fact that God is holy, if you have any sense of the holiness of God at all, it's going to expose your sin by contrast, inevitably.
And that's what John goes right into in verses 8 through 10. Look at the verses with me. He says, if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He's faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us. Look, it's right there on the pages of Scripture.
Someone who could respond to the holiness of God and say, I'm innocent of violating His holy character. My life does not bear the marks of one who has fallen short of the glory of God. Or here's the favorite manifestation of that, I think I'm good enough to go to heaven. Anyone who talks like that, what they're really saying is, I'm not a Christian.
That's what they're saying. If someone says, I think God will let me into heaven, I'm good enough. Well listen, that is a perfect equivalent of saying, I don't know God at all.
Because John says it right here. Look at verse 8, if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. Verse 10, if we say that we've not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us. People who deny sin are people who are denying Christ. People who think they're good enough are saying, I don't need anyone else to save me.
That's what they're saying, I'm good enough on my own. Why would I really need Jesus? That's utter darkness speaking. Notice verse 9 by contrast, John weaves the contrast right in there. He says if we confess our sins, He's faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You see, my friends, true Christians, true Christians understand and know that they have broken God's law irretrievably. They have broken God's law and brought guilt down upon their souls that they cannot erase, that they cannot cleanse themselves from.
No one who thinks the good in their lives outweighs the bad is a Christian because a Christian understands that his sin is so great and so vast that nothing could save him but the blood of Jesus. So only those people who realize they are lost miserably hopeless sinners could possibly be Christians because anyone who thinks anything differently than that is denying the reality and the guilt of sin. And this is one of the devastating impacts of the gospel on the human heart. The gospel forces you to acknowledge that. The gospel says that your confession of sin is necessary before you can be forgiven.
And what that does is it leaves no room for human pride in the process. You can't say, I'm good enough and be a Christian because you're not. That's just a false lie that all of your self-esteem teachers over the past 25 years have fed you to try to make you feel good about yourself when really if they were serving you, they'd be bringing you to the Scriptures and say, you have broken the law of God and you have guilt on your souls and you need to seek Christ for forgiveness or you will be eternally lost. The Scripture is clear about this. Jesus Himself said in Luke 5.32, Luke 5.32, He said, I've not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. What He means by that is that people who regard themselves as righteous, who regard themselves as good enough, I don't have anything to say to them. You see, I came to call those who are desperately aware of their own sinfulness and know they need a Savior when you're in that position, I'm calling you to myself.
That's the second question. Do you confess you are a sinner? Do you believe in the throne room of your heart that you do not deserve to go to heaven?
In fact, let's take it one step further. The true Christian is the person who says freely and openly, not only do I not deserve to go to heaven, the truth about my life is I deserve to go to hell because my guilt against God is so great and He is so holy and I fear Him so much that I realize that I'm miserably lost. I have to be saved by someone else because I cannot save myself. There is nothing good in my hands by which I could save myself. My righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God. There's none good, no, not one, and I'm not good, I'm bad, I'm guilty, and I need a Savior. That's what we mean when we say that you're a sinner, not a superficial, oh, I've made some mistakes in life, no, no. Have you incurred guilt on your soul because you've broken the law of the holy God?
That's the question. Do you confess that you're a sinner like that because that's what we're talking about. Now third question, there's hope in the midst of all of that, of course. The gospel is a message of hope, but it starts with bad news.
You've got to have the bad news before you get to the good news. Well that's the bad news, you're a sinner, you're guilty, you need a Savior. A true Christian understands that and confesses it. Question number three, do you trust Christ alone for salvation? Do you trust Christ alone, oh, that word is so important. Do you trust Christ alone for salvation?
We sang about it. The true Christian is someone who trusts in the righteousness and shed blood of Jesus Christ alone as the only way that He could be accepted by God. God, I am not good enough, follow the logic of this. We're just going through the passages here and making a few brief explanatory comments.
You can see this in the text for yourself. God, I understand, follow the logic here. God, I understand that you're holy and that you can't have sin in your presence. God, I understand that I bring sin to the table in everything that I think, say, and do. It's all tainted, it's all fallen.
God, it can't be good enough for you. And I'm miserably lost in that condition. You look outside yourself. You look beyond what you can do or what you have done. You realize that your promises to reform in the future, even if you kept them, would not erase the guilt of the past.
There's nothing you can do, beloved, to save yourself. And the true Christian realizes that the only means of forgiveness is found in what someone else did, someone who was perfectly holy, someone who paid the price. Let's see it in the Scriptures here. Look at verse 7 with me.
First John 1.7, he says, if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, you see you've got passions, desires, affections for holiness. That's the mark of a true Christian. What about the sin?
How has that dealt with? Verse 7, the end of it there, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. Look at verse 9 again.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Notice what's happening here. You are the direct object in the sentences there.
You are receiving the action. It's not something that you're doing to yourself. You're not cleansing your own sin. It is something that is done to you through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. His blood cleanses us from all sins. He forgives us.
He cleanses us. It is a work of God that He has done on your behalf that you're trusting in, not the works of your own hands to save you. Chapter 2 verse 2, He's the propitiation for our sins.
He's the one that's turned away the wrath of God. And here's what it means to be a Christian, beloved, in light of what we're saying. You understand that the Lord Jesus Christ, when He died on that cross, was there as a substitute for sinners.
Although you're the one who deserved the divine eternal paddle, so to speak, Christ interceded, He intervened, He stepped into your place, absorbed the punishment of God on your behalf, and then called you to repentance, called you to Himself, and the one who comes to Christ claiming no righteousness of His own, trusting that only Jesus can save me, but alone is the person who has been made right with God. There are no works that you can do to earn God's favor. There are no religious rituals that magically cleanse sin. Getting baptized never saved anyone. It did make them wet at various degrees of thoroughness, depending on the mode by which you were baptized, but it didn't save you. There's no works.
There's no ceremonies. There's only the blood of Christ. And so you must look to Christ. You must see your guilt and look up and out and say, Jesus, save me. Look to Christ and be saved. Look to Christ and be saved. Because God receives sinners in Christ, but only through Christ.
There is no other way. And so the question is, do you trust Christ like that? Have you abandoned any pretense of self-righteousness and said, my only hope is found in the righteousness and blood of Christ? That's what a true Christian, that's the definition of their life, are those affirmations. Now we're going to turn a corner here into new material for those of you that have been with us. See on that grounds, that grounds of forgiveness, the grounds of the cross, God accepts us based on the work of Christ on our behalf.
Now we're going to talk about something a little bit different. When someone is saved, when there is true conversion in a soul, there is more than an erasure of past guilt and the imputation of righteousness by which we mean that God accepts you as righteous because He accepts Christ's work on your behalf. There is something else that happens in salvation that is sometimes overlooked and that has the guarantee of certain results in your life.
When you were saved, when a true Christian is converted, God does more than take their name from the book of death into the book of life. At the moment of your conversion, God performs a spiritual heart transplant on you. He changes who you are. He gives you a new nature. He gives you His Holy Spirit to abide in you. And that is why, I'm going to explain this more, but it's because God changes your heart in salvation that there is such a difference in the life of a true Christian after His conversion than there was before. It's because there is a real spiritual change that takes place. You were dead in sin but God has made you alive in Christ. If you have ever been to a funeral home, if you have ever seen a corpse, you know physically speaking the clear difference between death and life. Well the Bible tells us to think about the reality of conversion, the reality of salvation in terms like that.
It's the difference between death and life. In Corinthians 5, 17, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away. Behold, new things have come. You've been born into God's family.
Everything has changed. Fearing God, confessing you're a sinner and trusting Christ alone for salvation. Those are the first three of five tests you can apply to your life to discern whether you're really in Christ. We pray you've been challenged to reflect honestly today and that you'll join us on our next broadcast. When Pastor Don Greene reveals the last two tests and concludes our current message called So You Call Yourself a Christian, that's also the title of a larger series that will also consider issues like apostasy, so stay with us on the Truth Pulpit. You can hear any part of this series again at your convenience when you visit our website thetruthpulpit.com.
You can download podcasts or find out how to receive CD copies for your personal study library. Plus, you'll find the link Follow Don's Pulpit. That'll take you to Don's full-length weekly sermons, not subject to the time editing we need for radio broadcasts. Again, that's all at thetruthpulpit.com. And by the way, may we also say thank you for your support of this ministry. Without you, this program would not be possible. I'm Bill Wright, inviting you to join us again next time when Don Greene continues teaching God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
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