The Fullness of the Gospel, pt.2
(This lesson was taught at North Christian Church on 11/29/15, as part of a wonderful series on "The Gospel, Salvation, and Sanctification". For more information please visit www.nccdighton.org)
The Fullness of the Gospel, pt.2
We started talking about the Fullness of the Gospel.
And its “fullness” was revealed to us in several ways: in terms of its presentation, in terms of its reality, and regarding the Person of Jesus Christ.
Let’s do some review first, and we will go fairly quickly through some key points.
We first noted telling both sides of the story…
Man, being a sinner, needs to realize the situation he is in, before he can turn to Christ as Lord and Savior.
The Magnitude of the Gap.
Notice in Peter’s two gospel messages, in Acts 2 and 3, he elaborated on the guilt of the people, and their rejection of the Holy One from God, namely Jesus Christ. He elaborated on their sinfulness, and the huge gap between them and God. THEN Peter gave the solution, even waiting until they asked for it!
And Peter even said that Jesus came to turn us from our evil ways, which includes not only sin, but self-sanctification; that our own ways CANNOT save us or preserve us.
The Magnitude of the Gap.
The difference between a man’s self-righteousness and God’s perfect righteousness is as high as the heavens are above the earth. Isa 55:8-9, 64:6
People may reject it, but they need to understand the dire situation they are in, before they will turn to Christ from the heart, in faith.
Then hopefully, they too might say : "Brethren, what shall we do?", like they said to Peter.
Another unfortunate reality is this…
The Gospel message today is often made about the individual and their comfort, not about the need to satisfy the Lord's perfect demands, and His majesty and righteousness.
Some well-meaning Christians dilute the gospel into something that bandages someone’s wounds, for selfish reasons (i.e. to feel better), not for peace with the Lord God Almighty.
Often the deep, sinful nature of a person’s selfishness is never addressed. The deeper need of reconciliation with a holy, righteous God, on His terms of unconditional surrender, is never addressed.
This is one reason Jesus said that a man must deny self and follow Him. “Self” is the god of every man and woman, without Christ.
They might not admit that, but its true.
Much of what mankind says and does is for the benefit and comfort of self, in some way. It’s generally "all about me", and not about what God wants.
And that’s why, in all actuality…
Saving faith is a surrender of the heart to God, which means repenting from self-sufficiency or self-sanctification, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, instead. Rom 10:9-10
As Jesus said in the first words of His public ministry in Mark 1:15c; "repent and believe in the gospel".
In other words, turn away from self/sin, and turn to Christ to be saved.
And so, we can be messengers of this concept, as the Lord was.
Again, Saving faith is a surrender of the heart to God, which means repenting from self-sufficiency or self-sanctification, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, instead. Rom 10:9-10
We also discussed how we can be used by the Lord in sharing His gospel… and how it is totally a privilege none of us deserve.
In witnessing to others, we let the light of Christ shine, by both our words and actions. And that doesn’t require our ability, but simply our humility. It just requires our willingness to be used by Him. Then, we watch Him go to work through us.
And instead of worrying about the wording of our gospel presentation (which is really relying on human effort/wisdom), we should instead be focused on building a relationship with others, and being a friend to them, whether they immediately accept the gospel or not.
If we relate to people by Christ's love, they will see it.
As the scripture says, “don’t worry about what you are going to say”, the Spirit will fill your mouth. Luk 12:11-12
Focus on the relationship, not a preconceived presentation.
We need to learn to be human, and real, and give others a chance to enter our lives; not just be robotic Christians who give the gospel and run.
It’s about relationships, and in fact the whole Bible is about relationships.
We are to be witnesses of the Person of Christ, and if we represent Him, we should act like Him, passing on His care and love for others, in relationships.
And if you have a difficult time with this, may I suggest you remember all that He saved YOU from! (and make it personal, because it is!)
Have trouble loving your enemies? Remember, He didn't have trouble loving YOU, when YOU were His enemy! Rom 5:10, Col 1:21
Remember what He did for YOU?
He who is forgiven much, loves much, Luk 7:47. It will be EASY for you to love others who don’t deserve it, even your enemies, IF you remember how much He forgave YOU of.
This should make it easier to be gracious to people, even to those that act against us, so long as we don’t think too highly of ourselves. We are all sinners saved by His grace.
And then, with this attitude, we can tell of His marvelous deeds done on our behalf.
We are to make an issue out of the Lord Himself; His Person. It is personal!
I’ll often say to people when giving the gospel, “do you realize who Jesus Christ really is?”
"Do you realize He is God in the flesh, and He willingly became a man to die for you?"
That's the issue, isn't it? HE is the issue.
Remember when Jesus asked the disciples this question? -
Luk 9:20 " And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God."
We are to testify that Christ is who He says He is, and that includes the reality that He is Lord, of all people, and that also must be recognized as part of the fullness of the gospel.
People need to realize they must adjust to the Justice of God, and thus the need for “repentance for forgiveness of sins” being proclaimed in His Name. Luk 24:47
When a person repents of his sinfulness and guilt, he is adjusting to the Justice of God. He is humbling himself, and agreeing with God’s thinking.
And let us remember, even repentance is a grace gift from God, granted to the humble heart...
Acts 11:18 "When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."
Part of the gospel is calling people to repentance; to admitting they are wrong and sinful, and they can’t save themselves.
Understanding the magnitude of that reality makes fertile soil; it makes someone ready to trust in Christ to save their lives.
Another way to put it is this:
The fullness of the Gospel must emphasize our need for reconciliation with a perfect, holy God.
As the Spirit mentioned earlier, it’s FIRST about God and His majesty, not about man and his comfort.
And the main content of our message should be Christ and God, not our personal journey to faith, although the Spirit might use that too, at times, as part of building a relationship with someone.
A certain message has been committed to us; a word of reconciliation to the entire world. 2Co 5:19
2 Cor 5:18-20 "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
God is offering reconciliation, or peace, to the entire world, through Jesus Christ.
So, we must make an issue of the need for reconciliation with God, when sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those who are spiritually sleeping in this world (those without Christ) need to be made aware that as sinners, they DO NOT have peace with God, and they CAN’T have peace with God on their own merits!
They need to be made aware of the need to repent, admitting the guilt of their sinfulness, and submitting in humility before a holy and righteous God.
Who did Jesus come for, after all? Why did Jesus subject Himself to becoming a man? For Sinners. And what did He lead them to? Repentance. Luke 5:29-32
Luke 5:29-32 "And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Repentance is the reality that the sinner is called to. And as we’ve been seeing, that’s part of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It's good news for one to admit he can't please God on his own! What a relief it is to accept that!
It's an unbearable load off his shoulders. And the humble person will embrace that truth, and turn to Christ.
People first need to realize that as sinners they NEED reconciliation with a Holy God, and THEN there's the Good News that Someone has paid their debt. The fullness of the Gospel starts with God’s Justice, and then flows to His love.
You and I owe God a debt that is impossible to pay, but Jesus paid it for us. He was the only One who could satisfy our perfect Father in heaven.
As we’ve been learning, if there is nothing to repent and be saved from, there is no need to turn to Christ and trust in Him.
The Fullness of the Gospel.
This is why Jesus said “deny yourself” and “follow Me”, Mar 8:34. "Self" is in the way. One must be willing to turn away from self-reliance/sin (repent), before they can trust in Christ for salvation (believe). Mar 1:15
Your soul can only face one direction - either towards self or towards Christ. The decision to turn from self to Christ must be made, to receive the gift of eternal life. Joh 1:12
Joh 1:9-13 "There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
And we are His messengers, and His witnesses, of this concept. And understanding that general concept allows us to be good messengers, and the Spirit can then use us in a mighty way.
In a book called “Tell The Truth”, by Will Metzger, he reminds us of the following:
“Understanding that God, not us, is The Evangelizer (the one who brings results) is wonderfully liberating. This makes witnessing an adventure in which we merely ride along with God as He moves out.”
If this is our attitude, we can be bold and transparent when giving the Gospel, like the apostles were throughout the book of Acts.
The apostles simply boasted about Christ, and His Person, and the righteousness and love of God.
They told about His works, His sacrifice, His resurrection, and His forgiveness.
Sharing the gospel should be a joyful opportunity, not a daunting task. Why is this? Because the Holy Spirit is with you, and He promises to guide you!
Food for Thought.
The Spirit of God will lead us into a different gospel presentation each and every time! God doesn’t need to repeat Himself in the exact same way, ever. And His Spirit lives inside of you, if you're a believer, knowing what each soul before you needs to hear.
Think about that dynamic.
If you read the Word of God daily, you will know what to say. You all know the general good news of the gospel, and because you read the Word, the Spirit has a lot to work with in your soul. Trust Him.
We should just be concerned about having the right heart, and sharing our love and admiration for Christ, and the Spirit will give us the right words for each person at each time.
He is faithful! He loves you, and He loves the person you are speaking to!
We've talked about helping people realize the magnitude of the situation, and how Peter did that for his Jewish brethren in Acts 2&3, and those Jews RECEIVED his harsh message of reality.
But Stephen was an example of a man who also bluntly told the religious folks the truth about their guilt, but they did NOT receive his message.
Various Gospel Presentations
Out of love for his Jewish brethren, Stephen shared his heart for them and for God, and he boldly laid before the Jews the depth of their sinfulness in Acts 7.
There are different ways to deliver the same message, and that depends on the Spirit of God, in the moment.
And after a full explanation of the scriptures, and how even the whole Old Testament progression pointed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Stephen then confronts them directly in the whole chapter of Acts 7 (what has the Spirit been saying to us? The whole Bible is the Gospel).
Acts 7:51-53 "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52 "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."
Here we see a harsh statement by Stephen, but apparently that's what these Jews needed to hear.
I’m sure he was hoping to hear what Peter heard in Acts 2; “brethren, what shall we do?”
But regardless, Stephen shared the Justice of God with those he loved, even though it was a harsh thing they needed to hear.
And the man of faith lets the chips fall where they may. For Stephen, it actually meant death. He died as a martyr for Jesus Christ.
Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit, and part of his gospel presentation was elaborating on the guilt of the people, and their sinfulness.
Various Gospel Presentations
But then in Acts 10, we have a humble crowd; Cornelius and his friends and family. They were already God-fearing, but needed to know about Jesus Christ and His Works. And so, Peter was called to visit them.
Peter’s message to them was more mild; more of filling them in on what just happened, and who Jesus Christ really was. Acts 10:34-43
And he told them that “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins”.
That's a different phrase than what was used in the other chapters we've mentioned.
Act 10:34-43 "Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36“The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39“We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40“God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42“And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
And what happened? Well, apparently while the group was still listening to the explanation about Jesus, they believed, because they received the Holy Spirit! Vs. 44
Would they possibly have received the Holy Spirit if they did not receive Peter’s message about Jesus? NO.
And so, it was the Spirit’s work, in convicting the people to accept the message they were hearing.
Faith comes from hearing, hearing the word of Christ. Rom 10:17
And these people believed, without a harsh declaration of their sinfulness, and without being given a direct command to repent!
Again, there's more than one way to present the Gospel and lead people to saving faith in Christ.
Various Gospel Presentations
One more example is in Acts 17:30-34, where Paul called all the men to "repent", and some ended up believing, without being given the direct command to "believe".
Acts 17:30-34 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them."
Some men joined him and believed, even though they weren't given the direct command to believe. Interesting.
Again, the Holy Spirit is the One in charge, and He's the One that convicts people of their need for Christ.
But what was Paul’s general, habitual approach to the gospel?
In other words, what was his regular pattern, in presenting the Truth?
Acts 20:20-21 "how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The basic tenants of Jesus’ Gospel were the same in Paul’s ministry; repenting and believing.
"repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."
If someone doesn't admit they are a sinner, why would they turn to Christ as Savior???
The Gospel of Jesus Christ can be given in a variety of ways, all meant to lead people to saving faith in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who is out in front, guiding men according to the situation. Acts 2, 3, 7, 10:34-43, 17:30-34.
I hope you find this as interesting as I do.
The Lord never needs to repeat Himself! Just as each of His miracles was done in a different way when He was on earth, so His salvation message is tailored to different people, because each soul is different!
This should give us great freedom when witnessing to others, because the Spirit is truly in charge, and He will direct the speech those who are willing and humble. J
Now let’s move on to a different situation, in presenting the fullness of the Gospel…
What if you are dealing with someone that claims to be a new believer?
How should we approach them?
Maybe, instead of explaining more of the gospel to them, we should ask them “what’s it like?”, and let them talk.
Put the ball in their court, and give them the opportunity to confirm their faith, and share what Jesus Christ means to them.
You may be surprised by their answer, either positively or negatively! And THAT may tell you what to say next; whether to encourage their current faith, or to question their belief in ‘another Jesus’.
In other words, don't assume a new "believer" is saved. Don't assume they have accepted the true Gospel.
As scripture tells us, many people have a false gospel, or believe in 'another Jesus'. 2Co 11:3-4
2Co 11:3-4 "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough."
But let the one who claims he is a believer do the talking. Avoid prematurely telling them they are "saved" (after all, how do we know their heart?).
Being "Saved": Let that realization come from the Spirit Himself, as the Spirit gives them assurances as they see the fruits of a changed life. 1Jo 3&4
We’ve been learning lately about mere PROFESSION of faith vs. actual POSSESSION of the faith.
How can we avoid misleading a religious person into a false sense of security of being saved? (they might just be going through the religious motions, for one reason or another)
Who are we to do that, possibly giving a professing believer a vote of confidence, when they don’t actually possess Christ?
That’s why I am not one for "altar calls", as in some churches they call people up to the stage as a sign of their faith.
Where do we see that example in the scriptures? Is that in the book of Acts, in the early church? (honestly, let me know if you find that)
And where do we see a person leading another person in a salvation prayer; “repeat these words after me and you’ll be saved”?
Really? Just repeating words can save someone? A parrot can do that.
What if their heart’s not ready yet, but they repeat your words just to please you? And then, in your excitement, you tell them they are "saved", but is their heart still far from Him?
If so, you have helped that person live in deception.
Most importantly, if we don’t see that example given to us in the scriptures, why do it?
What we see throughout the book of Acts is the apostles declaring the truth about Christ, sometimes to individuals and sometimes to groups, and then those who believed the message followed them. And that’s it!
Do you see any type of convincing people in the early church? Do we see any type of human coercion?
Do we see the apostles telling people “you are now saved”? (I’m not talking about when Paul would write a letter to a church, but about how the apostles gave the gospel to unbelieving crowds throughout the book of Acts)
We're talking about the actual giving of the Gospel, and how to deal with those that MIGHT be new converts.
We see the disciples helping people understand the full gospel, throwing out the offer of salvation like water, and encouraging people to accept the message and go forward in the Word.
I looked up in a concordance the phrase “you are saved”, to see how many times that may have been said to a potential new believer.
Here’s the only verse that came up:
1 Cor 15:2 NIV "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain."
Here we see CAUTION in pronouncing someone to be saved, not assumption.
And there is a big “if” statement here. The genuine believer will follow Christ and His Word in his life, to some degree.
The genuine believer will “hold firmly to the word”, if they have true saving faith/trust in the Lord Jesus as Savior!
According to this verse, this is one characteristic of a person who is saved.
How many times do we assume a new person to be saved, possibly giving them a false sense of security?
God only knows, and I think the point of the Spirit is that we don’t need to do that. THE SPIRIT HIMSELF WILL GIVE THAT CONVICTION TO EACH BELIEVER. (as seen in 1John)
It's His job, and He's the only One that knows their heart.
One of the times Jesus DID confirm a person's saving faith was with the woman with the alabaster vial. And maybe, it was because there was clear evidence of her saving faith, before He made such a dogmatic statement about her salvation? (not to mention Jesus has all knowledge! J)
Maybe we should reserve this for Him, and His Spirit.
Luke 7:44-50 "Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 "You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48 Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." 49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?" 50 And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
The fruit of love was so obvious in this woman, so the Lord could reassure her of her salvation without hesitation.
Love is the great sign of a person whose had saving faith in the Lord. Love is the great proof, or evidence, of one's saving faith. 1Jo 3 & 4, Joh 13:35
Joh 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
God's love is a fruit that grows in the believer.
Ultimately, it is the Lord that knows the heart of a man, and only He knows who is saved and who is not.
The Spirit has been deepening our understanding of regeneration, namely, what it means to be "born again".
And the deeper we understand the Gospel and its repercussions, the more powerful, God-centered gospel we will present.
Rather than watering down the Gospel, we need to get deeper into things like reconciliation and regeneration.
We’ve been learning the characteristics of a genuine believer; or the telltale signs of one who possesses Christ, according to scripture.
And what has this done but strengthen our faith and our resolve in Who Christ really is? And in His unrelenting truth, and grace?
Will Metzger: “Regeneration and conversion are words to describe two different ways of viewing salvation. Regeneration is viewing salvation from God’s side; it is an instantaneous impartation of new life to the soul. We may or may not be conscious of the exact moment this happened to us.
Conversion, on the other hand, is viewing salvation from our perspective. It is a process of the entire work of God’s grace from the first dawning of understanding and seeking, to the final closing with Christ in new birth. For some, this is a period of years; for others merely an hour. We respond in time to God’s action in eternity.”
Not understanding the conversion process that people may take can be harmful.
Well-meaning Christians may interrupt the process God is putting people through, "helping" them along to saving faith in Christ, but they may not be ready.
We must remember, the Spirit doesn’t always work according to our time table, even though we’d like Him to.
There is a pattern in conversion, but God does not limit Himself, as we saw throughout the Word the various ways people came to salvation.
It helps to realize that people are not always regenerated, or born again, the first time they begin calling on the name of the Lord. (i.e. the demon-possessed woman following Paul, and those the Lord said He "never knew", and Simon the sorcerer…. )
We mustn’t jump to conclusions and give people a false sense of security, when they may only in the "seeking" stage, even though they may look the part of a believer.
To confuse the first workings of the Spirit in them as saving faith could be a big mistake.
Of course, we do not want non-Christians being deluded into thinking they are saved before they actually are born again. (i.e. – look how John addressed the Gnostics who denied their sinfulness in 1John. They may have been IN the church, or at least they were living among genuine believers)
Our forefathers made some helpful distinctions in this area.
They called an unbeliever, who had no signs of being receptive, a “sleeping sinner”.
When they saw someone starting to respond to the Spirit’s working, and starting to learn and listen, they called them “seeking sinners”, or “awakened”.
They would then look out for a true positive response towards Christ’s work on their behalf; such as a conviction of their own sinfulness, and an active call on Christ to be saved, which would result in the sinner willingly exercising repentance and faith. (humility/surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ)
Isn’t it interesting the evidence that presents to us? When a person surrenders to Jesus Christ in this way, that’s a sign they had genuine faith.
Or when a person expresses their own love for Christ, like the woman with the alabaster vial, there’s a good sign of saving faith.
Remember the story I shared with you months ago, about a female friend of mine marrying someone who SAID he was a believer?
Well apparently, he was only a professing Christian at the time.
Years later, when he was struggling with his weakness, he went to a pastor for guidance, and he said he came out of there saved.
And you know what? You can see it in his heart. He's a change person.
When you talk to him about the Lord, it’s no longer a nominal response. You can tell by his conviction that he now has a relationship with the Lord, and that his heart is changed.
This doesn't mean you can judge the salvation of others, or that you will always see their heart in the actions. But hopefully, we aren't prematurely assuming people to be saved, who may still be "seeking" only.
That's the main point.
So, each of these ‘stages’ reveals a different relationship with the Creator.
For example, the “seeking sinner” may have God-consciousness, but he is not convicted about Christ, or his need for a Savior, yet.
The problem is the tendency in modern Christianity is to rush someone into the kingdom at the slightest sign of interest in spiritual things.
Someone starts seeking, or even going to Bible class, and we assume they have surrendered to Christ as their Lord and Savior.
But maybe they are just looking, curious even, or maybe they’re just one of those people who likes to gain knowledge about everything they can, but never commits to anything.
Just because someone goes to church doesn’t mean they have trusted in Christ from their heart.
I don’t know if it's because Christians want to count numbers, or take credit, or what, but either way it’s a bad tendency to try to rush people into the kingdom of God.
Salvation is a heart issue between each person and the Lord, and nothing can change that truth, and no one should get in the way of God's working in their soul, not even well-intentioned pastors and believers.
We can be there to answer questions, and encourage them, but we should not proclaim they are "saved".
We don't have the right or the wisdom to do that.
Even Jesus was cautious at times with certain people, not giving them a false hope, but even testing the spiritual conviction of his would-be disciples (i.e. Nicodemus, and the moral rich man).
There were many in the scriptures that would profess faith in Jesus, or would follow Him for a short time, but then they would go away, and Jesus would often challenge them and push them away!
He wouldn't accept a false faith, or people coming to Him for the wrong reasons.
Read the Gospels!
The faith of many people was found unproven in the end, just as we see in the parable of the soils.
As Jesus said, the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Mat 7:14
We should point people to a personal Savior – not just to the meaning in life, peace of heart, etc... because the problem at hand is personal sin against God (Jer 29:13).
There is a problem that must be clearly presented.
Instead of “enticing” them with promises of blessings, ensure they understand God’s wrath against sin!
And that they need to turn to Christ from the heart.
Jer 29:13 "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."
It needs to truly be a “come to Jesus” moment, because saving faith is of the heart. Rom 10
It is between each person and the Lord.
True salvation not only secures the forgiveness of rebels, but their obedience as well. Heb 5:9, Joh 3:36
We've been seeing this for a while now in our studies.
Heb 5:9 "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation"
Joh 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
One sign of saving faith is some type of obedience to the Lord and His Word.
You can't judge what's going on in another's heart, but this is a way to know you are saved.
The repeating point of the Spirit is that saving faith will show itself, being evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, especially evidenced love, and certain other "markers", as in the letter of 1John.
For example, if we are believers, we have the Spirit living inside of us. Therefore, we will produce His fruit in our lives.
Gal 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
Now “love” is NOT ALWAYS active in the believer’s life, as in whenever he sins, and all believers still sin. See Romans 7. But we are talking about LIFESTYLE, and an apparent new life from the new nature within the believer.
Love is one of the key signs someone has been changed by Christ.
As the Lord said in the parable of the sower, the believer WILL produce some type of fruit in their lives, whether "a hundred fold, sixty fold, or thirty fold." Mat 13:8
Mat 13:8 "And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."
Signs of Salvation
If some of those ‘markers’, such as obedience and love, aren’t there in someone's life, they might only be a professing believer. Remember, it is possible to believe in vain! 1Co 15:2
1Co 15:1-2 "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain."
Here are a couple possible examples of false believers:
In Joh 2:23-25, we see personal witnesses to Jesus’ miracles who ‘believed’ in His name. But, there may have been a lack of saving faith/trust in the Lord, evident in the fact that Jesus wouldn’t entrust himself to them.
Now, believers continue to sin at times too. So, it's possible the Lord's lack of trust in mankind includes believers and unbelievers.
John 2:23-25 "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man."
Another more convincing case of a mere profession of faith is in John 8, where we see a group of people described as believers, but they do not hold to Christ’s teachings, and in the end try to stone Him to death!
Signs of Salvation.
Jesus was trying to convict them that unless their deeds matched their claim of a faith it was not real faith. Joh 8:30-59
30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. 31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
(in other words, if you don’t continue in His Word, you are not truly disciples of His)
33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 "I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father."
39 They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 "You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God."
(Notice, if you're really a child of Abraham, you'll do his deeds. If someone if a true believer, they will do the deeds that come with true repentance.)
42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."
48 The Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" 49 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death."
(a salvation issue presented here by the Lord, “never see death”. here again, we see obedience as a sign of genuine saving faith.)
56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." 57 So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" 58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.
These so-called “believers” in vs. 30 and 31 tried to kill our Lord. This is more evidence that faith is revealed by its works.
Genuine faith produces good fruit of some kind, while spurious faith is revealed by NOT keeping His Word, and possibly even attacking our Lord (even if only with words).
As Jesus said, "you will know them by their fruits".
The Bible instructs people who say they believe in Christ to make sure they perform the deeds that come with true repentance. For that is the proof that their faith is genuine, Mat 3:7-10, Luk 3:7-14, 19:8-9, Joh 8:39-42, Acts 26:19-21. (if you read your Bible, in context, you'll see this is a consistent message; from John the Baptist, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Apostle Paul, and the letters of James and John)
In other words, make sure your faith is real, and you're not just playing a religious game and fooling yourself.
And this is NOT about a works program to earn salvation! That’s the mistake some major denominations make, putting the cart before the horse.
It’s about FAITH, and people living in self-deception, and not even being truthful with themselves. Have you ever not been truthful with yourself?
We often deceive ourselves, so we don't have to change our comfortable lives.
We are told to test ourselves, to see if we are in the faith. And it is possible to "fail the test", which means not really being "in the faith", but playing some type of religious game. 2Cor 13:5
2 Cor 13:5 "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?"
And as the Spirit has been telling us lately, if you see signs of saving faith in your life, such as obedience and especially love, then rest on that! Be assured of your salvation if you see those good things in your life, because your salvation IS accompanied by good deeds, even in the heart.
A true believer will be assured by the Holy Spirit within them. 1John
Now, back to the idea of performing deeds that keep with repentance...
Luke 3:3 "And he (John the Baptist) came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;"
Then he challenges the crowds: do you really want to repent, or are you playing a game?
Luke 3:7-14 "So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' (as we just saw in John ch. 8!) for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 "Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
(the lack of good fruit proves a lack of genuine, saving faith)
10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" 11 And he would answer and say to them, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" 13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."
Here, John the Baptist gives them some practical examples of what true repentance looks like.
Again, John the Baptist was saying, if you’ve really repented, bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Otherwise, you are just fooling yourself. (see the book of James)
Don’t deceive yourself and just check a box!
The Lord is looking for true repentance and faith.
He even called out the "believing" Jews we just read about, in John 8:39.
John 8:39 "They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham."
And the Apostle Paul gave the same instructions with the gospel…
Acts 26:19-21 "So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. 21 "For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death."
Paul, the apostle of grace, declares the same thing as John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, it's a warning, to see if we are truly in the faith.
As we read through our Bibles, there is no way around the fact that true repentance produces certain good deeds in us. And if not, there is a problem with one's faith in the first place.
2 Cor 7:10-11 "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter."
True repentance means a broken, changed heart; and therefore good deeds are done in humility, as it cannot be helped.
In a similar way, if you have God's love, it cannot help but express itself. And what is that? A key sign of saving faith:
Gal 5:22-24 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
This is the "proof of your faith" Peter was talking about in 1Peter 1.
Another interesting example of producing good fruit as a sign of true repentance/faith is in Luk 13:1-9.
I never saw it like this before...
Luke 13:1-9 "Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
6 And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' 8 "And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"
Notice again, the connection between true repentance and bearing good fruit. Jesus told the Jews to repent, and then he told them this parable about the fig tree as an example of its proof.
And as we’ve been seeing from many different scriptures, genuine repentance and faith are evidenced by good fruit of some kind in the believer’s life.
Otherwise, we might be looking at a spurious faith.
Let's close in prayer:
"Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for another wonderful day together as your family, fellowshipping in your Word.
And if anyone is listening right now who has never trusted in the Lord Jesus for their salvation, we ask Father that you graciously help them turn to your Son.
You are a sinner, as we all are, and you need a Savior. Repent of your sinfulness, turn from your self reliance, and turn to Christ as your Lord and Savior. He is there right now waiting for you to surrender.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." -Acts 16:31
It's between you and the Lord.
Father, we thank you for anyone who has believed today for the first time. We welcome them to your family, as your children, adopted by Your grace.
Please bless us as we go Father, we praise your Name, for all you do, and for all you trust us with.
In Christ's precious Name we pray, by the power of the Spirit.