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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)
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 are assured that you are saved based on facts from Scripture), and the other is emotional (you feel saved in your heart and feelings).
Intellectual assurance without emotional assurance can lack 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. 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; 1Cor 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)
For the purpose of this series let me define two things:
- A Proof (Fruit) of Salvation
- This is a characteristic or trait in a persons life which confirms that true salvation has indeed occurred
- One cannot hang your hat on a single proof and simply ignore others. If one true “proof” or fruit is present, then the other fruits will generally be present also; although they may be in various stages of growth and maturity
- A Sign or Indication, but Not Proof
- A “sign” or indication 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 does not come cheaply. It is a treasure to the soul, and like treasures, it must be sought out and mined from God’s Word. Today we will look at two characteristics of this assurance, one that is a sure proof of authentic salvation, and another which is a sign, but not a proof. First, the sign:
Good Moral Behavior
The presence of morality in a persons life is an indication that there is a good possibility the person is a Christian, but most certainly not proof of it. In the world today there has been a renewed emphasis on morality. Unfortunately, morality is being openly promoted as the way to salvation. Many large religious organizations today promote goodness (and allegiance to their hierarchy ) as the way to salvation.
There are famous radio talkshow hosts, TV programs and entertainment personalities who have become wildly popular by promoting commonsense morality and personal responsibility. While there is no doubt much civil good comes from this, and that is commendable, it also represents one of the most dangerous and insidious forms of deception.
The religion of morality is a dangerous trend
in the world today leading millions to believe that
being good is the path to heaven.
The idea is promoted that being good is the “end-all be-all” and that a loving God will have no choice but to accept the “good” person into the Kingdom of Heaven because there is no possible way that a “loving God” could send a moral person to Hell for all eternity.
The deception of “morality equals salvation” is very, very dangerous. After all, why does a good person need to be saved? Why does a good person need to admit they are a wicked sinner destined for Hell? Why does a good person have to submit themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ when the whole world agrees that they deserve to be approved of by God? Very, very dangerous.
The theme verse for our series addresses this issue quite well (Matthew 7:21-23). Notice the good, moral things that are claimed by those whom Jesus does not know: casting out demons and doing great wonders. A modern-day version of this might be something like fighting crime and injustice, feeding the hungry, saving the environment and curing cancer.
While these things can be laudable, they do not earn you a place in Heaven. However, the vast majority of people uninterested in God would typically be uninterested in giving their life for civil good, so the presence of these good works and morality MIGHT be an indicator of a person who is saved, but certainly not a proof of it.
In Matthew 19:16-21 we find the parable of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus how he could receive eternal life. Jesus replied and told him that he needed to keep the law, the Ten Commandments. At that point the young man was happy because he had indeed obeyed the rules and been a good moral person. But then Jesus reached down into his heart and addressed his sinful nature by telling him that money was more important to him than God.
The young man went away sad because even though he was moral in his conduct, his heart was not regenerated and he was not ready to give up his life for Jesus Christ. His morality in this case was not an evidence of his salvation, but a manifestation of his personal pride.
Be careful of the growing “religion of morality” that is sweeping the world today. It is the pinnacle of human pride to declare that being good makes us deserving of God and that He would not dare deny us what we have earned through our “goodness”.
Obedience to God
While morality might be a sign of salvation, obedience to God’s Word is a proof or fruit of authentic Christianity supported in numerous Scriptures. Let’s take a look at a few verses (emphasis mine):
- John 15:14 – You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (NKJV)
- 1 Peter 1:22-23 – Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, (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)
- 1 John 2:17 – And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (NKJV)
- 1 John 3:22-23 – And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (NKJV)
- 1 John 5:2 – By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (NKJV)
The Apostle John writes over and over again (1John) that obedience is a key indicator of true salvation. Why? Because genuine, sustained obedience to God’s Word is impossible before salvation when we were “slaves to sin” (Romans 6). So the very fact that we are CAPABLE of a growing, consistent and authentic level of obedience to God is a proof of true salvation. And one final verse:
Hebrews 5:9 – And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, (NKJV)
Jesus is the author, the writer, the creator of eternal salvation for all those who do what? Be good? No. For those that obey Him.
Being a good, moral person is only truly good if it comes from a regenerated (Titus 3.5) heart responding in obedience to God’s call for righteousness. Morality is an indicator of possible salvation, but not proof of it. On the other hand, consistent and growing obedience to God’s Word is a sure proof of authentic salvation.
Father, help us to come to grips with the fact that we are incapable of being good enough to earn salvation even if we were to sacrifice our entire life doing good. Empower us to obey You and through that, we ask that You would bless us with assurance of salvation. In Jesus name we ask, Amen.
Contemplation: Are you a “good” person? Do you in any way think this obligates God to bless you more, favor you more or “save” you more? What does the Bible say about man’s ability to be “good” in and of himself? Is your life characterized by a growing and consistent effort to obey God’s Word? Do you long for and have an intense desire to obey God despite failing often?
Application: It is common that as Christians we have no problem believing the Bible when it tells us the “mankind” has a sinful heart and is incapable of being good. But when it comes to believing that about ourselves individually, well that’s a different story. Before we are saved, we are INCAPABLE of any righteous act (Romans). After salvation, we are now truly “good” because God empowers us to be so, and it is for His glory and through Christ alone; manifested in our obedience to His Word.
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?