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)
Religious Acts & Separation From the World (Sanctification)
- A religious act or experience may indicate that a person is saved but most certainly is not proof of it.
- Going to church, or simply going through the motions of salvation does not mean a person’s heart has truly turned to God.
- Separation from the world, ie, becoming holy (sanctification) means denying the sinful nature:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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.
Self vs. Others
If I had to sum up proof (fruit) of salvation it might be stated like this:
The truly saved person denies Self and is focused on others.
Of course the primary “others” is God and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. After that, the truly saved person focuses on the needs and desires of other humans including his family, friends, other Christians and even his enemies. After being saved, I believe you can most accurately sum up the Christian life by saying that it is a life-long process of “I must decrease, and Christ must increase” (John 3.30). I want to wrap up this series with a list of practical examples of this emphasizing the difference between someone focused on “Self” and a truly saved person focusing on “others”:
- A person focused on Self is self-conscious
- A Christian focused on others isn’t concerned with self
- A person focused on Self compare themselves with others
- A Christian focused on others compares themselves to Christ
- A person focused on Self generalizes their sin
- A Christian focused on others is specific in recognizing personal sin
- A person focused on Self has a hard time seeking forgiveness
- A Christian focused on others craves forgiveness for their sin
- A person focused on Self is protective of their rights, reputation and time
- A Christian focused on others sacrifices their personal needs for the needs of others
- A person focused on Self is assertive, self-sufficient and independent
- A Christian focused on others is humble, needs accountability and is dependent on Christ
- A person focused on Self rarely misses a chance to promote themselves either directly or subtly
- A Christian focused on others rarely misses a chance to promote Christ and glorify God
- A person focused on Self is sorry because they got caught in sin
- A Christian focused on others is convicted, repentant and turns away from sin
- A person focused on Self desires to be successful and noticed
- A Christian focused on others desires others success and welfare; and gives them recognition
- A person focused on Self focuses on the shortcomings of everyone around them
- A Christian focused on others is painfully aware of their own sinfulness and frailty while being very forgiving about others faults
- A person focused on Self is quick to be defensive and blame others
- A Christian focused on others is quick to take responsibility and look for their own faults
- A person focused on Self pursues recognition and honor
- A Christian focused on others pursues service and submissiveness
- A person focused on Self needs to be appreciated and complimented in order to not get discouraged
- A Christian focused on others relies on the appreciation and acceptance of God for encouragement
- A person focused on Self thinks about how valuable they are to God and what they can offer Him
- A Christian focused on others knows they have absolutely nothing to offer God outside of what God does through them
- A person focused on Self is evasive and protective of their private life in order to look as good as possible
- A Christian focused on others confesses their sinfulness, is transparent and vulnerable about their weakness
- A person focused on Self believes that God is lucky to have them around, and so is their Church and ministry
- A Christian focused on others realizes that they don’t deserve to even be a part of God’s work; but God is merciful and good
- A person focused on Self keeps his spiritual needs hidden and his achievements displayed
- A Christian focused on others proclaims his spiritual needs honestly and keeps his achievements between him and God
- A person focused on Self waits for the other person to come and makes things right
- A Christian focused on others goes and makes things right first, no matter the cost
- A person focused on Self doesn’t give a lot of thought about the consequences of their sin
- A Christian focused on others is grieved over what sin does to them and those around them
- A person focused on Self is afraid that people will find out what type of person they really are
- A Christian focused on others knows that we are all sinners and hates his sinfulness
- A person focused on Self is blind about their true spiritual condition
- A Christian focused on others constantly evaluates their spiritual condition in light of God’s Word
- A person focused on Self is focused on Self.
- A Christian focused on others is focused anything but Self, at all costs.
My prayer is that this series will help you evaluate the nature of your salvation first (are you truly saved…), and secondly, help make you aware of those “fruits” that should be present in your life if you really are a Christian. If you walk like the world, talk like the world, spend your time and money like the world, dress like the world, enjoy what the world enjoys and want what the world wants…. does it make sense to believe you are a Christian?
Christians look like Christ, act like Christ; walk, talk and think like Christ…. what does the mirror show you today? The world, or Christ?
Lord, Help us to look honestly at ourselves through Your Eyes. We pray for conviction and assurance. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: If your friends and family were asked, would they say you are focused on Self, or others? Would that differ from your opinion of yourself? Have you asked God His opinion?
Application: There are four versions of you: 1) What you think of yourself; 2) What you think others think of you; 3) What others actually think of you, and 4) the truth about you that only God knows. Obviously, only the fourth version is reality and so there is only one way of knowing what you really are… ask God.
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)
- 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?