Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (NKJV)
This series of lessons is meant for the person who already believes that they are a Christian and wants to authenticate that belief. We know from Scripture that many people will claim to be Christians, and even look and act like Christians, but may not truly be saved (Matthew 7:21-23;13:38). This series presents the Biblical standard by which we can measure the authenticity of our professed Christianity. Let’s review what we have covered so far:
- We should examine the motivations behind our service to the Lord to make sure they are done for His glory (Matt 7.21-23; 1 Cor 10:31)
- Allow God’s Word to search your motivations and intentions to see if they are pure (Heb 4:12)
- Diligently monitor and examine your walk with Christ striving always to change, correct and conform yourself more closely to His image; working out your salvation with “fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12)
Morality & Obedience
- Good deeds and morality might be an indication of salvation, but it is not proof. The “religion of morality” is growing in popularity today and states that being good earns you acceptance by God. It does not (Matt 7:21-23). Faith without good morality or works is dead (James 2:17), but morality without Christ leads to eternal death (John 14:6).
- A consistent growth and desire to obey God is evidence of authentic salvation. The spirit of man is incapable of this (Romans 6) before the heart is regenerated (Titus 3:5), so the presence of genuine obedience is proof of true salvation (John 15:14; 1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 John 2:17; 1 John 3:22-23; 1 John 5:2; Hebrews 5:9).
Religious Knowledge & Selflessness
- While knowledge of God and Scripture could certainly indicate salvation, it is my no means proof of it. The world has always been filled with religious people, even “Bible religious” who are clean on the outside and rotten on the inside (Matt 23:27).
- The Bible seems to indicate that the world will increase in knowledge as we get closer to the Lord’s return but true righteousness will decrease (Dan. 12:4).
- It is natural for men to claim to be wise when in fact their minds are darkened and their thoughts futile (Rom. 1:20-23).
- True Self-lessness is a proof of authentic salvation because the unsaved person is incapable of such a righteous characteristic (Rom 6).
- Genuine selflessness, demonstrated in our love and preference of others, is a fruit of the Spirit, and genuine evidence of salvation (1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:7; Romans 12:10; Romans 12:1; Matthew 20:28; Colossians 3:24; Matthew 20:16; Luke 9:48).
- True selflessness is achieved by imitating Christ (1Cor 11:1).
For the purpose of this series let me define two things:
- A Proof (Fruit) of Salvation
- This is a characteristic or trait in a person’s life which confirms that true salvation has indeed occurred.
- One cannot hang your hat on ONE proof and simply ignore others. If one true “proof” or fruit is present, then the other fruits will be present also; although they may be in various stages of growth and maturity
- A Sign or Indicator, but Not Proof
- A “sign” or indicator in the context of this series is a characteristic that NEITHER proves nor disproves authentic salvation and Christianity.
- The unregenerate heart of the sinner may still manifest these signs in some form.
- The presence of these characteristics may INDICATE salvation, but doesn’t necessarily authenticate true Christianity in the person’s life.
Assurance of salvation (whether you call it or believe it to be “eternal security” or not) is a blessing that Christians desire for obvious reasons. There are two levels of this assurance; one is intellectual (you know based on facts from Scripture that you are saved), and the other is emotional (you feel saved in your heart and emotions).
Intellectual assurance without emotional assurance robs you of joy.
Assurance based on emotions alone is dangerous and deceptive.
But both can be obtained through careful examination of your life, time spent with God, study of the Word and prayer. Today’s topics are the conviction about sin, and Godly repentance from sin. Let’s look at conviction first.
Conviction About Sin
At first thought you might think someone who is convicted of sin would have to be a Christian. But it is plain enough that the unsaved, or even children often times know when they have done something wrong. Being created in God’s image, we have a sort of natural sense of many things that are right and wrong, and along with general knowledge of societal rules and laws, we all have a sense of sin regardless of whether we are saved.
A thief knows that stealing is wrong and at least initially will probably feel guilty about it. An adulterer knows that sleeping with another man’s wife his wrong and, until his conscience is seared, will probably experience guilt or conviction. A sinner may sense deep guilt after hearing a Preacher, knowing that he is guilty of the things he is hearing.
Hearing God’s Word may convict us, even frighten us,
but conviction is no proof of genuine salvation.
In Acts 24:25, we find a man named Felix (a Roman government official) who talked with Paul about righteousness, self-control and the day of judgment. Felix became afraid, obviously convicted over what Paul was saying; but instead of responding in humility he sent Paul away and told him he would call him later. On top of that, despite his conviction over Paul’s words, Felix had a greater desire that Paul was going to give him money in order to be released from jail. Felix had access to Paul for two years but his conviction over what Paul had said never changed him.
My favorite example of conviction without salvation is that of Judas Iscariot. Judas, being one of the original 12 called by Jesus, spent three years in daily contact with the Lord. His betrayal of Christ is familiar enough to all of us but have you ever stopped and thought about how convicted Judas was of what he did?
Matthew 27:5 – Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. (NKJV)
Judas had gotten the money he wanted. He had already been stealing from the disciples treasury all along. But in the end, he became severely convicted of what he had done. He threw down the money and went out and hanged himself. You can’t get much more sorry (convicted) than that can you?
Isn’t repentance feeling really bad and being
sincerely sorry for the sin you’ve committed?
At first glance we might think the Judas had repented of his sin. Obviously he was deeply grieved and remorseful for what he had done. Isn’t that what repentance is all about? In contrast to Peter, whom we will look at in a moment, Judas was sorry but did not repent. Judas did not want to do the hard work of true repentance. In keeping with his character, while he was truly convicted and grieved over his sin, he chose the route of “self” and responded with a quick and easy way out by killing himself (it became apparent that it was NOT the easy way out about one second after he died).
Judas did not possess the humility and true repentance that should have taken him to the feet of the One whom he had betrayed. So remember, conviction, even deep and sorrowful conviction to the point of death, is not a true proof of salvation. True repentance on the other hand is a proof of salvation.
True Repentance From Sin
God desires the true repentance of each person. It is not enough for us to perform religious acts, or even feel sorry about our sinfulness. We must turn to God in humility and admit our sinfulness… but even that is still one step short. We must turn away from our sin and turn to God.
Matthew 9:13 – But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (NKJV)
So what exactly is repentance? There are a couple of different words in Greek used to describe repentance:
- metamelomai is a verb that means to change your mind because of regret or remorse over sin, but may or may not include a change of heart. This is the kind of repentance or conviction that Judas had.
- metanoia means to change your mind or change your life or purpose in light of knowledge that you have gained. This speaks of true repentance and a real change in your life in light of the promised forgiveness of sin.
True Biblical repentance consists of:
- A genuine realization of one’s sinfulness manifested in a feeling of guilt; (Ps 119.28; Ps 51.4)
- A longing for or need of God’s mercy in light of the just condemnation we deserve for sin; (Ps 109:21; Ps 130:4)
- A hatred for sin; denouncing and turning away from sin; (2Chr 6:26; 1Thess 1:9; Acts 3:19)
- And turning towards God in a persistent effort to obey God and not continue to sin. (1John)
2 Corinthians 7:10 – For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (NKJV)
Peter is a perfect example of true repentance. When he denied Christ he was grieved and exceedingly sorrowful (Matt 26:75). But unlike Judas, he did not demonstrate his sorrow with a selfish act. Instead, he turned to the One whom he has sinned against (Jesus; who is the ultimate target of ALL sin) and placed his trust in the mercy of his Savior. In keeping with the genuineness of his repentance, Peter then spent the rest of his life serving and obeying God.
Repentance does not include a “cheap forgiveness” in exchange
for a moment of sorrow with no intention of changing our behavior.
The apostle Peter demonstrated clearly all of the elements of true repentance: conviction, sorrow, the acknowledgment of sin, submission to God, turning in faith to God, trusting in the mercy of God, and a change of heart and life demonstrated by his desire to obey God from that moment on.
The Apostle John tells us very bluntly that if we do not confess our sin and turn from it that we simply are not saved (emphasis mine).
1 John 1:8-10 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just 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. (NKJV)
1 John 2:3-6 – Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (NKJV)
The combination of admitting our sin, confessing it, receiving forgiveness; followed by a continual, growing effort to keep God’s commandments rather than sin, is what true repentance is all about.
If you are simply sorry about your sin, but in reality there is never any real change in your behavior or life, then your conviction over sin is not evidence of genuine salvation. On the other hand, if your sorrow and guilt over sin lead you to confess that sin to God, and turn away from your sin towards God in a sincere effort to obey Him… then you are demonstrating true repentance which is an authentic proof of your salvation.
Lord God, help us to be truly sorry for sin, to confess it openly, to turn to You for mercy, and from that point forward seek to obey Your Word. Help us to examine our lives and make sure that we have Peter’s true repentance and not Judas’s self motivated guilt. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: Are you sorry over your sin? Do you feel guilt when you know you have done something wrong, something that violates God’s Word? Does your life change as a result of it? Or do you simply except some false form of “easy forgiveness” and then go about living your life the same way? Do you go ahead and sin NOW thinking “God will forgive me” later? Do you think your later repentance is genuine?
Application: Many people today who profess Christ want the forgiveness that follows repentance, without the “change of behavior” aspect of repentance. In other words, they want to continue in sin but deceive themselves by thinking “God will forgive me”. God does not forgive sin that falls short of being truly repented of which includes confession, and turning away from the sin, and doing your best (with God’s empowerment) to not commit that sin anymore. Repentance does not include a “cheap forgiveness” in exchange for a moment of sorrow, knowing full well we have no intention of changing.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?