June 28, 2010

How Do You Know If You Are Really Saved?

How do you know that you know Christ? Do you know that the Bible tells us how we can be sure that we truly know Him?
If you want to know for sure whether or not you know Christ; if you want to be assured that you will not be in the crowd which He tells, "Depart, for I never knew You", then first read the letter in the Bible titled 1 John. Depending on your Bible, it is only about four or five pages long.

Ch. 1 The Redeemed acknowledge sin and repent. They walk with integrity in obedience to the Word of God.
Ch. 2 The Redeemed keep Jesus commands and walk as He walked. The Spirit has anointed them with the ability to be renewed in the knowledge of Christ which has been revealed from the very beginning and has not changed. It also empowers them to stop conforming to the ways of the world.
Ch. 3 The Redeemed no longer pursue sinful behavior as a way of life, they strive to live as Christ, loving each other practically, as Christ loved us. They continue to believe in Jesus' name as the sole source of redemption, and the Spirit gives them peaceful assurance of their salvation.
Ch. 4 The Redeemed love God in response to being loved by Him, not in attempt to be loved by Him. This love overflows into our human relationships, as opposed to trying to love others in order to please God.
Ch. 5 The Redeemed have a personal trusting relationship with their Father based on their confidence in the security of the eternal life given to them in Jesus Christ. This relationship is evident in that the wickedness of the world in their own lives is overcome by keeping His commands. The truly Redeemed individual finds freedom in keeping God's commands and delights in righteousness.

Is this you?
Is it really that simple? Yes. The implications of what it means to obey Him and walk like Him are earth shattering. You'll notice three things that identify you as a true follower of Christ or as someone who still needs His salvation.
#1. Obeying His commands. True disciples obey the teachings of Christ joyfully. First, obeying His commands implies that we know what He commanded. That means we have to know what He taught by reading His Word.
Here's a relatively simple test: Write down 5 things that Jesus taught without repeating or rewording the same thing. It has to be written as a lesson that we can obey, not simply a truth we need to be aware of (i.e. "God is Sovereign" is something Jesus taught, and a truth, but not something we can "obey". "Love God with all your heart" is something we can obey.)


How did you do?
The point is that most people remember Jesus' stories and the teaching of Paul and the Apostles (from Christ of course), but we have a difficult time remembering the lessons behind His own words in a way that we can apply them to life and fulfill His command to "obey everything He taught". The Apostle said, "This is how you know you love Him and belong to Him; you obey what He has commanded!"
Second, obeying His commands is a freeing, joyful experience for the Redeemed. The expectation is not that we will be sinless in this life (because that is inconsistent with the rest of Scripture), but that we will no longer delight in pursuing the unrighteous, selfish desires that we once enjoyed. We may make sinful choices still from time to time, but the Spirit within us will convict us, and we will respond joyfully - striving to rid ourselves of that sin and pursue righteousness instead.
This does not mean also, that we delight in trying to convict everyone else of their sin (especially other Christians). Convicting is the work of the Spirit and that conviction comes by hearing the Word of God; but as we have seen, the imperative mode of us communicating God's Word is love, not our own self-righteous condemnation ("I've already figured this out and I am obedient, so you must be a more sinful sinner than the rest of us Christians if you are not responding the same way I did upon my conviction!") Simply put - joyful obedience manifesting righteous love.
Do you study the Word of God in its entirety so that you can continue to grow in your knowledge of everything that Christ has commanded us to obey? Then, of course, do you joyfully pursue righteousness through obedience to it?
#2. Guarding the Faith. True disciples are warriors, protecting the life-giving message the world hears from the self-serving perversions of false teachers. Are you able to discern between what is true and what is not concerning God's Word? This really is the foundation of Romans 12:2. In versus 2: 20-24 of 1st John, John is simply repeating a message that Paul has been building into the young Christian Church for several decades already. This was a very familiar message to them, and they took it seriously. We know they did, because it has made its way to us in the form of a book called the "Bible" almost 2000 years later. The message is, we must know and guard the faith that was once delivered to us. True disciples know the truth.
This doesn't mean that you are not one of the Redeemed if you don't know all the Bible, but it does mean that you have a Spirit-driven desire inside of you to learn the Truth and see it victoriously applied to all of life. This is very different than being content just to know that Jesus loves you and you are going to go to Heaven because of that. Deep calls to deep, and those who thirst for righteousness and drink from the well of Living water will be satisfied with a yearning that craves more and more of that water. Sounds backwards doesn't it.
In Matthew 25, beginning in vesre 14, Jesus tells the story of three servants who are given responsibility of stewarding part of what belongs to the Master while He is gone. In the parable, the Master is God, the stewards are Christians, and the things being stewarded are the truths of the Kingdom. At the end of the story, Jesus portrays two servants who worked hard at multiplying their responsibilities (gaining more understanding about the truths of the Kingdom and manifesting it in their lives), and one servant who did nothing with his responsibility (he gave mental assent to the truth, but he did nothing with it). Christ reveals that the Master rewards the first two with more, but condemns the last servant, calling him lazy and wicked; and declaring, "to everyone who has, even more will be given, but he who has nothing, even what he does have, it will be taken away." In other words, the only way to steward the Kingdom in a way that pleases Him, is to live out Gods truth through diligent pursuit and trustworthy application, which leads to greater maturity and greater intimacy with God.
The earliest Christians did not have a Bible. They had the oral teachings of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. The rest of the New Testament writings didn't become widely circulated until after the first generation of Christians was all but deceased. Those first Christians had to guard the faith by knowing it and then living it out without apparent contradiction. That was, and remains to this day, a very important responsibility for disciples of Christ.
1st John, chapter 2, verse 20 reminds us that we are never called to do something for God that he has not equipped us for. And He has equipped us - annointed us - for this same task. So the next question is, "Do you know the story of Scripture?" Second, "Are you guarding it?"
#3. Living more and more like Christ. Fruit. True disciples grow in the compassionate outward direction of living that Jesus modeled. Walking as He did implies that we have to live out His teachings the way He did. This is huge because it involves a lot more than simply memorizing His parables and His many pithy statements. Remember, Christ began to reveal Himself in Genesis, long before His incarnation. He continued to reveal Himself after His death in ways not made evident until the writings of the Apostles. It also means much more than simply living in zealous community with other people. To walk as Jesus did and obey His commands means to understand the purpose of life as He conveyed it from the beginning of time, and to follow through with it until the end of this life.
All of this amounts to a very tall order. In fact, it is impossible. That is why we need the righteousness of Christ to cover our fragile inadequacy. Jesus is the only one who ever lived the perfect God-pleasing life. Then He willing sacrificed that perfect life so that God the Father could apply that perfect life to our shameful account. The only way to please God is to claim Jesus. Jesus tells us the only acceptable way to claim Him is to obey His commands and walk as He did. In other words, a true disciple of Christ abides in His truth.
The Great Commission tells the Church to go forth and make disciples of the world by teaching them to obey everything He commanded, not simply to tell them that God loves them.


With you for Glory