Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Test yourselves to see if you are of the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians. 13:5). My wife pointed out last week that my article, “Are You Sure of Your Salvation,” might be received in one of two ways. She suggested some might misunderstand and conclude I am teaching a works oriented salvation—nothing could be further from the truth! Then she suggested others might believe I am teaching one can be saved and then lost—a biblical impossibility. Maybe you concluded something different. But the truth is I purposely left out any application from the previous article in order to cause you to stop, think about and evaluate your own life, and determine if indeed you are counted among the redeemed. My reasoning is that there is no more as important an issue than that of one’s eternal destiny. A lot of things in this life we can get wrong—but not this. So I will ask you again, are you sure of your salvation? And I will follow up with this question—how do you know? How can you be sure of your salvation? Paul wrote, “Test yourselves to see if you are of the faith.” I believe the Bible teaches several ways we can test ourselves to see if we are of the faith. Some of these ways are objective, others subjective. I will discuss three in this article, others in future articles.
First of all, does the Holy Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you belong to God? In other words, do you experience the internal work of the Holy Spirit? Paul wrote, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). John wrote, “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24). He later wrote, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). The first thing that happens to us at salvation is the Holy Spirit indwells us, forever sealing us as children of God (see Eph. 1:13-14). Elsewhere, the Bible refers to this indwelling, occurring at the moment of salvation, as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 11:16; 1 Cor. 12:13). This baptism of the Holy Spirit is not some “second blessing” that comes later but is something that occurs at the very moment of salvation, when one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling them gives evidence of salvation. So, does the Holy Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you belong to God? Paul wrote, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
Secondly, do you believe and obey God’s Word? I do not know how many professing Christians I have met that express doubt in God’s Word or only give it lip service. One of the primary identifying marks that you are a true born again believer in Christ Jesus is that you believe God’s Word and obey it. John wrote, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:3-5). I cannot help but think about some people I know who believe because they walked a church aisle and prayed the “sinner’s prayer” they are saved—never mind they do not believe and obey God’s Word. Notice John said, “By this we know Him.” It is by our faith in and obedience to God’s Word that we know we belong to God.
A third way of testing yourself to see if you are of the faith is that of being sensitive to your sin. Do you have a continual sensitivity to the sin in your life or do you just live any way you want to live, assuming you will go to heaven when you die? A true believer is sensitive to the sin in his or her life. John wrote, “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 is 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” (1 John 1:8-10). If you are able to sin against God in a continual, habitual way then it is highly possible and quite probable you do not know Him—or worse, He does not know you. This is the case with many so called believers who think they are right with God because they walked a church aisle or prayed the “sinner’s prayer”, were baptized or had some charismatic experience but do not give evidence of a changed life. About these, John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). “Test yourselves to see if you are of the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you" (2 Peter 1:10-11). Are you sure of your salvation? This is an important question. All throughout the New Testament we are warned not to assume we are on our way to heaven. The teachings of the apostles are clear—make certain about His calling and choosing you. But how do we do this? Many wrongly assume they are on their way to eternity with Christ because they are members of a certain church or denomination, regularly attend church, walked an aisle, prayed the "sinner’s prayer", signed a card, raised their hand, were baptized, "had a special revelation from the Holy Spirit" known as a "burning in the bosom", or had a charismatic spiritual experience. But none of those things are valid proofs for affirming your salvation. The New Testament teaches two ways we can be sure. These are sound doctrine and holy living.
If one is going to be sure of his or her salvation, then sound doctrine is essential. Doctrine, of course, means teaching. We must be sure our understanding of the Bible’s teaching particularly that of who Christ is and how salvation is obtained, is sound. In other words, theology matters. John wrote, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). Paul wrote, "He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard" (Col. 1:22-23). I can remember a couple friends from my first year of college who attended a church that taught in order to be saved one had to have the words "In Jesus name" said over them at their baptism followed by the experience of speaking in tongues. Obviously, such teaching goes against the very heart of the gospel—that salvation is by grace through faith (see Eph. 2:8-10). Quoting Romans 10:13, the pastor of this church insisted that, "Calling on the name of the Lord will not get you saved. It is a good step but it will not get you saved." Basically she called God a liar for it is He who said through the Apostle Paul, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). My point in all this is that this church clearly had a misunderstanding of the Doctrines of Christ and Salvation. As a sad result, they proclaimed and believed "another gospel" (see Gal. 1:6-9).
Just as important as sound doctrine is holy living. In fact, holy living is the key to being sure you possess salvation. Jesus said, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit" (Matt. 7:18). His point is if you see consistent and habitual corrupt fruit in your life, it is safe to assume you are a corrupt tree. In other words, true salvation produces holy living which in turn produces good fruit—the fruit of righteousness. This is Peter’s point in 2 Peter 1:1-11. The reality of our salvation leads to responsibility. The reality is that salvation is a gift of God’s abundant grace received through faith (1:1-2). He has given us everything we need to live a life of holiness (1:3-4). Because of this, it is our responsibility, not to earn our salvation, but to be sure we possess it. Notice he says we are to do so diligently: "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love" (1:5-7). Verse 8 is the key: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." That means those things should be not only present but increasing in a believer’s life. The absence of such qualities is cause for alarm. This is why Peter said, "Therefore brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble" (1:10).
If those things Peter mentioned in verses 5-7 are a reality in your life then you have cause for assurance. But if they are lacking, verse 8 is clear; you become indistinguishable from one who is unsaved, robbing you of your assurance, and implying a sobering reality—you do not belong to God. So, are you sure of your salvation? There are a lot of things we can get wrong in this life—but not this. "Test yourselves to see if you are of the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5).
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”(John 8:24). A radical change—the Emerging (or Emergent) Church—continues to sweep evangelicalism. We are told this change is necessary if we are to reach the post-modern generation. Unfortunately, this change has left many Christians starving for God’s Word in their churches and chapels. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for these change agents to label as judgmental and out of touch those who resist the movement away from Christ-centered preaching and Bible teaching. The utterly shameful fact is this movement proclaims a different gospel from that of the Apostles “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3), and is deceiving many with a false hope. For Emerging Church leaders, the Bible is more about doing good works, as God’s people, for the benefit of all people; it is not about revealed truth. A tragic result is they end up with a Jesus far removed from the one revealed in the Scriptures.
The false “gospel” being preached today says that Jesus came to save people from a lack of purpose, lack of happiness, or from living a stress filled and problem filled existence. The New Testament pattern is gospel preaching (which includes the person and work of Christ and the need to repent and believe) followed by nurturing the flock with the whole counsel of God. The gospel must answer four questions—who Jesus is, what He did, why we need Him, and what He expects us to do. Otherwise, Jesus said, “you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). This is a far cry from the “gospel” preached by Emergents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—a lot of things in life we can get wrong, but not this. Eternity is at stake. So the question is, “Who is Jesus and Why does it Matter?”
Paul told the Philippians of Christ’s pre-existence with God and as God : “He existed in the form of God” (2:6). In his second letter to the Corinthian believers he wrote it is Satan who “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4). So, Jesus is God who became human without ceasing to be God. But what did He do? Paul wrote, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus died for yours’ and my sins, which answers the next question—why do we need Him? To the Roman believers Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…For the wages of sin is death” (3:23; 6:23). We need Christ’s atoning death and subsequent resurrection because we need His righteousness over our own to be found blameless before a holy God. So, what are we to do? Exactly what He expects us to do: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:9, 13). This is the gospel—but you won’t hear it in any “Emerging” congregation nor will you read it in any “Emergent” manifesto. For some strange reason, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not boldly preached, the message of the blood atonement is overlooked, and the verse-by-verse teaching of God’s Word is absent. Perhaps this is because it really is offensive to preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
So why does it matter? Because, “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all 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” (Acts 17:30-31). The certainty of future judgment is the reason Paul laid before us the necessity of repentance. This is in keeping with Jesus’ words, “for unless you believe I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Like Jesus, Paul proclaimed that we must “repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). In other words, it is not merely mental assent to certain facts about Jesus. It is belief that results in lives actually changed. Regardless of the radical change taking place around us, the gospel will always remain the same—that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And it is faith in this crucified, risen, ascended Lord that is required of all who desire salvation. This is the message of the Apostles—“God is commanding all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). There are no exceptions.
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Each and every day we are nearing the Rapture of the Church and the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th Week. Living to see these events, and to witness God’s Word fulfilled in our own lifetime, is a desire that many Christians have had throughout the history of the church. In fact, many Christians over the course of the last 2000 years fully anticipated that Christ would indeed return in their own lifetimes. However, this perpetual expectation of Christ’s return has exhausted the hope of many Christians throughout the ages. In addition, a large number of false prophets have set dates which led to initial excitement and to eventual disillusionment. It is no surprise that today, even Christians are asking the question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” The promise of His coming is found all throughout Scripture. Jesus promised He would one day return for His church, conclude His program for Israel, and establish His Kingdom on earth. We know this will happen because of the Bible’s track record concerning fulfilled prophecy. There are over 1000 predictive verses in the Bible concerning around 737 separate matters. Over half of these predictive verses have been literally fulfilled in history. This gives us tremendous confidence the rest will be fulfilled just as literally and completely as the others! The prophecies concerning the Second Coming will not occur in a vacuum. This means God will set the stage for the fulfillment of all end-times prophecy. As we review 2008, I want to share five primary trends that I believe are strong indicators that the hour of Christ’s coming for His church is near—“right at the door” (Matt. 24:33).
The first trend began well over 100 years ago. It is known as Aliyah, and refers to Jewish re-gathering to the Land of Israel. It began prior to the rebirth of Israel and has accelerated since Israel became a nation—the fulfillment of millennia-old prophecy (see Isaiah 66:8). Born on May 14, 1948, the modern nation of Israel remains an enigma to the world. The Jewish people's successful struggle for nationhood against all odds was seen as a miracle by the nations, and a fulfillment of ancient prophecies to students of the Holy Bible. Despite this, there are many today who teach the modern reality of the nation of Israel is nothing more than an accident of history and has no bearing on Bible prophecy. Many of these teachers are in the church! The amazing thing to me is that they ignore huge portions of Scripture to arrive at their position. Even more amazing is that they would continue in their foolishness even after seeing the sovereign fulfillment of Bible prophecy on May 14, 1948 and its continuation to this day as Jews return en mass to the Holy Land, thus fulfilling Aliyah! Furthermore, the re-establishment of Israel as a nation is a prerequisite to the fulfillment of end-times prophecy. Without an Israel, no end-times prophecy could be fulfilled and Jesus could not come back.
The second trend began unfolding with World War I but has accelerated in recent years. This trend is known as Alignment. It refers to the alignment of nations predicted in Scripture for the last days. World War I resulted in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which had ruled the Middle East for centuries. World War II resulted in the realization of the nation of Israel and those nations surrounding Israel we know today to be intense enemies of Israel, denying her very right to exist as a nation. Since 1948 and especially in the last 15 to 20 years we have seen the collapse of the former Soviet Union which is giving rise to the Russia prophesied in Ezekiel as a major end-times player. We are seeing the reunification of Europe and the nations surrounding the Mediterranean rising to form a union that looks exactly like the ancient Roman Empire—a major last days prophecy! We see Russia entering into military and economic agreements with nations named in Ezekiel 38-39, a 2600 year-old prophecy that calls for an Iranian led, Russian armed confederacy of six nations that will come against Israel to try to destroy her in the last days. We have never seen anything like this in recorded history—until now. This is indeed astonishing!
The third trend is known as Anticipation. By this, I mean the anticipation for a comprehensive Middle East peace. It seems this one trend is in the news more and more these days. Even as 2008 concluded and a new year dawned, there were “wars and rumors of wars” raging in the Middle East with Israel’s offensive against the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza. A recent news headline captured the world’s quest of an elusive Middle East peace: “Obama Inherits Century-old Headache in Mideast.” The problem with the quest for Middle East peace is that God has promised this land to the Jews in an everlasting covenant. Any attempts to divide God’s covenant land, especially the city of Jerusalem, will incur God’s ire (see Zech. 12). A pseudo-peace is coming and will be brokered by a world leader the Bible describes as “the prince”. He will guarantee a 7 year covenant of peace with Israel that he will break midway through (see Dan. 9:27). The quest for peace in the Middle East today indicates the lateness of the prophetic hour. Jesus is coming soon!
The fourth trend is known as Arrangements. The Jews are making arrangements for and are ready to rebuild the Temple! The Bible clearly calls for a third Temple in the last days. Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and John all prophesied a third Temple. They were looking specifically to the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th Week (see Dan. 9:24-27). Jesus, Paul, and John all looked back to Daniel’s prophecy on this as the key to understanding end-times events. Each indicated the Temple would be in full operation by the middle of Daniel’s 70th Week, also known as the Tribulation. Did you know that sixty-three of the 103 implements used in Temple worship have been completed? Furthermore, in 2005, the Israeli rabbinical council involved with the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin called upon all groups involved in Temple Mount research to prepare detailed architectural plans for the reconstruction of the Jewish Holy Temple. They are closer than ever to laying the cornerstone and initiating construction. Something major will need to happen before this becomes a reality and I am convinced God has “something major” on the horizon! The question I have is will true Christians be here to witness it?
A fifth and final trend, and probably the most frightening, is that of Apostasy. This is referring specifically to the professing Christian church. Paul wrote, “It will not come unless the apostasy comes first” (2 Thess. 2:3). This is a trend I thought I would never see in my lifetime but it has begun unfolding in recent years and 2008 saw a dramatic increase. There is a movement known as the Emerging (or Emergent) Church Movement that is clearly an apostate movement. It is a movement that questions or outright denies the very foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. It is a movement that is incorporating Medieval and New Age pagan practices that they refer to as “Vintage Christianity”. I, along with others who are watching this movement, often refer to it as “the Road to Rome.” It is so named because it is a resurgence of religion in world affairs, the growing influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and the movement of other professing Christian churches back towards Rome. This resurgence is attracting people who are primarily looking for an experience—and it is deceiving untold millions! I cannot help but think about the words of Paul: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:7-10). The world has already begun experiencing what these “signs and false wonders” will be like. We see this deception in the so called “Mary Apparitions” such as the Fatima appearances in Portugal in 1917 and others of recent years—appearances that contradict Scripture in more ways than one! We saw it during the Presidential Campaign when millions of professing Christians were deceived into voting for “the one”. Furthermore, this apostasy is nothing more than a substitute for the true gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—salvation by “grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8).
As we look through the lens of Scripture back over the events of 2008, we see clearly that God is setting the stage for the final fulfillment of all prophecy. These trends, along with other world events, such as the political and financial upheaval we are witnessing, natural disasters, and the worldwide spread of the gospel, tell us the return of Christ for His church is very close. I believe He will return at any moment. The “mockers” keep asking, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Well, based upon the signs of the times and the ever increasing mocking, I would have to say that “the promise” is near—“right at the door” (Matt. 24:33). So the real question is, “Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air?” Have you been saved? Have you repented of your sins, believed and obeyed the true gospel of our Lord and on Savior, Jesus Christ: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
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