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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)

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 by 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).

Conviction About Sin & Repentance From Sin

  • Conviction about sin may indicate salvation but is not proof of it. Many people “feel bad” about doing wrong without ever turning from it.
  • Judas was convicted to the point of hanging himself, but he never repented (Matt 27:5)
  • True repentance involves:
    • 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)

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.

Religious Acts

Often times when you ask someone if they’re saved you will hear a list of answers that point to some sort of religious act or involvement that is offered as proof of salvation.

  • I go to church every week.
  • I “accepted Jesus” when I was young.
  • I’m a Catholic.
  • My family is Baptist.
  • I “asked Jesus into my heart”.
  • I said the sinner’s prayer.
  • I’ve been baptized.

Now obviously most of these answers don’t necessarily mean that a person is NOT saved, but none of these answers are proof that a person is genuinely saved.

Note: The point of this lesson is not whether or not baptism is necessary or essential to salvation. I would hope that everyone would agree that the actual act of baptism, the actual act itself, the immersing of someone underwater, is not WHAT actually saves a person (the blood of Jesus Christ does) even though you may believe that baptism is the MOMENT that a person is saved.

A person who goes to church every week, or has “accepted Jesus”, or has been baptized may very well be truly saved but too often Christians point to a religious act or religious experience as the grounds for their salvation rather than being able to articulate how the sacrifice of Jesus Christ paid for their sin.

Significant religious involvement is also not proof of salvation. Our theme verse makes it very clear that people can be extremely active in religion or church and still not be saved. The Church will always have those who appear to be saved and are not (Matthew 13:40); those who are involved in the activity of the Lord’s work(Matthew 25:1-10); those who perform many works in Jesus Name (Matthew 7:21-23) and those who are involved in the Church but not wholly committed (Revelation 3:16)… and yet still not be saved.

My point is twofold. First, for you personally, make sure that you can defend and articulate your salvation based on the true Gospel message – that you are a helpless sinner (Matthew 5:3), drawn by the mercy of God (John 6:44) and saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ sacrificed to pay the penalty (Matthew 6:28) that you owed God because of your sin (Roman 6:23).

Secondly, when you are evangelizing or discipling it is important to have the other person clearly articulate their salvation rather than accepting some answer such as “I went forward at a revival when I was young”. Remember, you are dealing with the eternal destination of the person. If they are truly saved then they will not mind if you ask them to more fully explain why they believe they’re saved. If they are not saved, then you are doing them a favor by asking them to explain what they mean by such a statement and helping them to discover whether or not they have genuine salvation.

A religious act or experience may indicate that a person is saved but most certainly is not proof of it. However, separation from the world (sanctification) is.

Separation from the World (Sanctification)

Living righteously instead of worldly is solid proof of authentic salvation. There are many reasons why, but one reason is because it is impossible for an unsaved person to live righteously, consistently and separated from the ways of the world. Why?

So the very fact that a person is capable of consistently living in a righteous manner is proof of salvation because only the saved can live a sanctified life. We now have the spirit of God rather than the spirit of the world (2Corinthians 2:12) and if we remain friends with the world, then we are going against God (James 4:4).

1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (NKJV)

The things of the world are listed here in three categories:

  1. The lust of the flesh – this is the nature of sin we are born with that longs for the things that are opposed to God. The natural man rebels against God and everything about this world seeks to attract a person through the lust of the flesh.
  2. The lust of the eyes – it is through what we see that we become attracted to the things of the world. Just as the forbidden fruit was pleasant to the eye of Eve in the garden, the forbidden fruit of sinful pleasure is still pleasant to our eyes. In this age of pervasive media the lust of the eyes is fed a constant diet of immorality, covetousness, greed and sensuality.
  3. The pride of life – this is the idea that somehow we are in control instead of God and we are going to display those things in our life which demonstrate that fact: our success, achievements and possessions. When godliness decreases, the pride of life increases as man becomes haughty and arrogant, lovers of themselves (2 Timothy 3:2).

We have to live in this world, and share the Gospel with this world but we do not have to be a part of this world (in other words we don’t have to live like the world). Everything about this world is sin cursed and it will pass away in the end. So we are to live separated from what the world loves, from what the world does and from what the world is; consistently growing and becoming more like Christ (sanctification).

Lord, Help us to understand that our salvation is not based on an act that we have performed but on the shed blood of Your Precious Son. Empower us for the Holy Spirit to live a life of separation from the sin cursed world even while having to live in it for a short time. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: If someone were to ask you today “are you saved?”, what is your response? Can you respond with an articulate scriptural answer, or is your response something like “well, I go to church”? Is your life an example of living in the world but separate from the ways of the world? If someone were to spend a few hours with you, would they have any idea that you are a Christian? Can they tell the difference between you and an unsaved person?

Application: If we claim salvation based on anything other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty that we rightly owe to God for sin, we are claiming salvation falsely. Again, this is not a statement about “how” (what steps) a person is saved, or “when” (what moment) a person is saved, but WHAT saves a person. And what saves a person is the shed blood of Jesus Christ paying for the sins of the repentant believer.

If you claim Christianity but look like the world, talk like the world, act like the world, want what the world wants, live the way the world lives and there is virtually no difference between you and the world… are you part of the world, or part of Christ?

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?