If I could stamp my foot to emphasize it, if I could pound the pulpit, understand that nothing is more important than what we have in front of us here today. Are we left to just guess whether we're really saved or not?
Is it fair to state with certainty, I'm a Christian? Well today on the Truth Pulpit, Pastor Don Green will show you that we can and should know we belong to God. Don is continuing a series titled So You Call Yourself a Christian and he's beginning a message called The Gospel in Miniature. Hi, I'm Bill Wright and Don's here right now with some opening remarks.
Don? Well friend, I just want to encourage you to listen today so that you can grasp the basic essentials of what it means to be a true Christian. You know, it's hard to avoid those teachers who give false ideas and false security about the Gospel. I want you to know the truth for yourself straight from scripture. And so a clear summary of the Gospel is just ahead here on the Truth Pulpit.
Thanks Don. And friend, we'll be in 1 John chapter 4. So if you would, turn there in your Bible as Don continues teaching God's people God's word from the Truth Pulpit. We've come to chapter 4 verses 13 through 16 in 1 John. Notice the emphasis at the beginning and the end of this passage on the word know.
We are designed to know. 1 John chapter 4 verses 13 through 16 where he says, By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him and He in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him. That beautiful picture that John so often talks about, the idea of an ongoing abiding in the reality of God, an ongoing reality of God abiding in us through His indwelling Holy Spirit. We are meant to know as Bible believing Christians. We are meant to know that these realities are true. The question is how do we know? It's not by anything external.
It couldn't be that. We see too many examples of scripture which would contradict that. The question is what is it that we look at and what you see is that the reality, how you know is measured by your response to what God has revealed in His Word.
It is a measure of heart attitudes, heart affections that we are to look for. In the sequence of thought in this passage, I'm just going to introduce this by way of overview and then we'll unpack it kind of point by point. The sequence of thought in the passage is this. We know that we have eternal life or you could say we know that we abide in God because He has given us of His Spirit. He's given His Spirit to us. That's how we know that we abide in God.
Now that raises a question. That's an invisible, intangible reality. How do we know that we have the Spirit of God? Well, we know that we have the Spirit of God because we confess that Jesus is the Son of God and we dwell in love. Your response, your belief, your confidence in Christ is one of the marks of the presence of the Spirit of God in your life because Jesus said the Spirit testifies to me. Your love, your presence of love for God and love for other believers is another mark of the presence of the Spirit. And so you kind of unwrap this like the skins of an onion. We know that we abide in God.
Peel that back. How do we know that? Because we have the Spirit. How do we know that we have the Spirit? Because of the way that we confess Christ and the presence of love in our hearts.
That's the direction of this passage. And so we're going to look at four elements that you can examine your heart of that promote true assurance. And really as you look at these four elements of true assurance, what you're going to see is you're going to see a miniature presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ wound up in these four verses 13 through 16. How do you know that you're a true Christian? How do you know that you're going to pass through the waters of serious judgment and come out safe on the other side? How do you know that your soul won't be cast into perdition but instead will be received into the glories of heaven?
How do you know these are the things that you look for? And I've got to tell you, I've got to tell you that the possibility, the conscious reality that some of you wouldn't be there with me when I myself go into heaven just weighs on my heart really heavily. I want all of you to be there. I want all of you to know Christ. I want all of you to understand the glories of salvation and for these things to be real to you. And I can't take it for granted that that's the reality of your heart, the reality of who you are. And all I can do is show you what scripture says and then implore you and exhort you and encourage you and beg you to take these things seriously, to examine your heart and to know that they are true in your own life. Because these are indispensable marks of true Christians that show that you have eternal life. We're going to look at four things and your attitude toward four things, your love for four different elements of spiritual reality.
And the first one that we're going to look at is, let's put them in the form of a question. What is your attitude toward the revelation of scripture? What is your attitude toward the revelation of scripture? What do you think about the Bible?
Do you love the 66 books of the Bible? Do you love God's word? Is it important to you?
Is it dear to you? Because that's one of the marks of a true Christian. That's one of the things that God gives to true believers when he saves them, is he gives them a love and a desire for the word of God.
Now, this introduces the first mark to prove the reality of your faith. True believers accept the apostles' teaching. They receive it. They welcome it.
They submit to it. Look at verse 14, where the apostle John says, we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Let's just focus on that first half of the verse here. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son. Here's the we here. The we that is being spoken of in verse 14 is not you and me.
It has nothing to do with you and me. This is talking about the testimony of the apostles. We know that has to be the case because John starts out in verse 14 saying, we have seen.
Stop. Whoa, come out. The people who had actually seen Christ is a much narrower body of people than people who are professing believers today. You and I have not seen with our physical eyes, with our literal human vision, we have not seen Jesus Christ. The apostles had. As we had seen earlier in the passage, we're even going back to the very first verse of the book. John starts out by emphasizing the fact that we have heard these things, we have seen these things, we have looked at them, we have touched them with our hands. This whole book of 1 John is grounded on a physical interaction between the apostles and Christ and is premised on their physical senses being the means by which they received that which John is now speaking of.
He had seen him. And flowing out of his seeing, flowing out of his apostolic commission was his testimony. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. He's talking about what they as apostles did. This isn't about your and my testimony, as important as those things are. It can't be talking about that because we haven't seen Christ with our own eyes. So he's talking about himself and the apostolic circle, not a general Christian testimony to a watching world. That's important, but it's not what he's talking about here in verse 14. Now, let's think about this. Go back to the Gospel of John with me for a moment.
I want you to see this. We're going to kind of build a case here that will kind of lead you into the necessity of believing the revelation of scripture as being a mark of a true Christian. Go back to the Gospel of John, chapter 13. John chapter 13 and verse 23. The disciples were at dinner with Jesus, and as was the custom, they were lounging on the floor around a low table.
And the physical interaction was close and intimate. John here is describing what happened. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Look at verse 23.
This is John's self-reference to himself. He says there was reclining on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter gestured to him and said to him, tell us who it is of whom he is speaking. Jesus has said that one of the 12 was going to betray him. He's talking about Judas. And in verse 25, he, meaning John, leaning back on Jesus' bosom, said to him, Lord, who is it?
And Jesus answered, that is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him. The reason I take you to that passage here is for you to see and for it to be fresh in your mind that the apostle John's testimony is premised on the most intimate interaction with Christ that we could imagine coming out of the first century. He was right there with him. His head was on Jesus' chest. He had a personal experience, a personal interaction with Christ that was the foundation of his testimony, a testimony that was aided and abetted by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as well when he wrote the scriptures, when he wrote his books of scripture. But what I want you to see is that he saw him up close. He was far closer to Jesus at that moment than I am here in this pulpit to you.
He had a real physical basis upon which to give his testimony. And this was true of all of the apostles. Look over for another example at John chapter 20. John chapter 20, we're building to something here.
This is the day of the resurrection. John chapter 20, Mary Magdalene, verse 1, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, saw the stone had been taken away. Verse 2, she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved.
There's John's self-reference again. She said to him, they've taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they've laid him. And so they ran together. Verse 4, the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first. And watch this.
Watch it. Verse 5, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came following him and entered the tomb and he saw the linen wrappings lying there and the face cloth which had been on his head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. In light of what we're saying here, do you realize what that's saying? Do you know what that means when we read the book of 1 John?
Do you know? It means that we are reading the very words of a man who saw for himself first hand the empty tomb. The body was supposed to be there. The tomb had been sealed. It was guarded by Roman soldiers overnight but Jesus Christ was not there. When you read the book of 1 John, when you read the Gospel of John, when you read the book of Revelation, you are reading the words of one who saw with his own eyes the empty tomb. You are reading with your own eyes a man whose head was physically pressed against Jesus' chest. And the question for you to ask, if you are a true Christian, am I a true Christian or not?
The question is, do you believe that? Because if you question that, if you deny that, if you assault that, if you're indifferent to that, let me say that again, if you're indifferent to that, you're not a Christian. Because a true Christian is persuaded by and believes the testimony of the apostles. That is a mark of a true believer because it's what God puts in the hearts of his children. He saves us and he puts in our hearts a trust and a believing reception to his word. The apostles testify.
Think about it this way. Think back to what we looked at just a few weeks ago as we were studying the authority of the apostles. When you're looking at the writings of an apostle, don't ever let this slip from your mind. When you're reading the New Testament, you are reading the words of a man personally commissioned by Jesus Christ himself.
You do not have the prerogative to disregard it. To put that in a positive way, we as believers have the precious privilege of embracing it and believing it and loving it and setting our entire eternal destiny on the truth of what this word reveals. It is a clear distinguishing mark between a Christian and a non-Christian what they say about this word. And so I ask you for one more look at this just to be impressed with the magnificent nature of the apostolic testimony. Look at John 20, verse 27. Just a few verses down from where we read. This is the account of Thomas, doubting Thomas as some of you know him.
And I'll just step into the middle of the story and remind you that after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples in physical form, in his resurrected body bearing the wounds of a mortal crucifixion in his living body, a living contradiction of what should have been mortal wounds. He shows them to Thomas in verse 27. And he said to Thomas, reach here with your finger and see my hands. Reach here your hand and put it into my side and do not be unbelieving but believing.
Thomas answered and said to him, my Lord and my God. You see, beloved, just from a purely human standpoint, just from a purely human standpoint, the apostles saw Jesus up close in time and space in a real historical human event that was not the product of abstract philosophy. It was not a vision. It was not a hallucination. This really happened. They really personally interacted with the Son of God who left heaven and was incarnated in earth.
They really did. Their experience with Christ was more real than our experience with each other because it was direct personal interaction with deity. What does all of that have to do with assurance? What you have to understand is that everything that we know about the gospel comes through those men. It comes through those apostles. You can't question, you can't deny, you can't reject the testimony of the apostles without throwing out the entire gospel itself. You can't have one without the other. You can't have the gospel without believing the Bible. And those wicked men, those wicked men who would undermine the authority of scripture in a myriad of ways, either through their sinful lives as they would stand up and presume to teach, or through their teaching that would undermine the authority of scripture, those wicked men are driving a wedge between the people that they teach and the reality of the gospel. You can't do that. You can't do that and maintain the claim to being a Christian.
And what false teachers can't do on a bigger scale, you can't do on a personal scale. You have to love this word more than you love life itself. This is what we spill blood over if we have to. To defend and uphold the truth of this word because this is our lifeline to God. We know nothing about Christ apart from these 66 books. And so a true believer understands that, receives it, believes it, and loves it. Look over at 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, and you'll see this brought out some more. 1 Corinthians 15, another resurrection passage. 1 Corinthians 15, verse 3.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received. Paul received this by revelation from Christ himself. That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures. And that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the 12.
See, there it is again, the apostolic circle. But notice how Paul wraps around his declaration of the gospel around according to the scriptures. The scriptures are the foundation. The scriptures are the place where we see the gospel revealed. And if you want to know if your sins are truly forgiven, if you want to know whether your salvation is real or you're one of the many who are merely self deceived, start with asking yourself, what do you believe about this book? Because it is in this book where God has made himself known, it is in this book through the apostles that God has revealed the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and there is no salvation apart from it.
And so, let me say this by word of what I hope will be rich encouragement to your heart. No matter what else is happening in your life, if you love and treasure the Bible and receive it as God's own testimony to his own character, to his own gospel, and that it is the very word of God that you hold in your lap, if that is your attitude toward the scripture, beloved, praise God almighty, that's the mark that you're a real one. If you think about the scriptures and you can take it or leave it, I'm not going to make a big issue, it's just not that important to you, what the Bible is, what the Bible says, oh beloved, fear for your soul, fear for your soul, because these cannot be matters of indifference to those who have truly been born from above. And so we see that our response to the apostolic testimony becomes one of the dividing points between true and false, true Christians and false Christians. And when you see yourself embracing the scriptures, you're seeing the mark of one who has truly been born again. You can tell a true Christian by his attitude toward the Bible.
And I wish that people who call themselves evangelicals made a bigger deal of this than what they do. So if you want to know if your salvation is real, start by asking yourself, what do you think about the revelation of scripture? John said, we've seen and we testify, that's where it starts. Turn back to 1 John now as we go on to our second point. 1 John chapter 4. You can tell a true Christian by their attitude toward the revelation of scripture. Secondly, you can tell a true Christian by his attitude toward, what we'll say, point number 2, the role of the Son.
The role of the Son. R-O-L-E, the role, the purpose of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 14 with me again as we look at the second half of the verse now. John says, we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Okay, we've said that we believe the testimony of the apostles. We believe that they were uniquely commissioned by Christ, and so we submit to their writings. That leads us to the next point of it. Well, what did they say?
What did they say? Well, John gives it in summary form right here in verse 14. He says, we testify the apostles are united in their testimony that God the Father has sent God the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Oh, there's so much packed into that verse, isn't there? Many people profess to be Christians, but they then proceed to hem and haw about what scripture emphatically says. As Pastor Don Green has reminded us today here on The Truth Pulpit, you really can't have it both ways.
To be a genuine Christian, you must come under the authority of scripture. There are three more main points to consider in this Gospel in miniature message, and those will come your way on our next broadcast. We do hope you'll join us then. Meanwhile, you can hear any part of this series again at your convenience when you visit our website, thetruthpulpit.com. There 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 needed 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 back next time when Don Green teaches God's people God's word from The Truth Public.
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