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)
I want to begin today by reminding you that this is not a lesson on how to be saved or the steps of salvation. These are not lessons on whether or not Baptism is essential, or whether or not the sinner’s prayer is Biblical, or at what point salvation actually occurs.
This series of lessons is meant for the person who already believes that they are a Christian and 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
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).
- Good deeds and morality might be an indication of salvation, but it is not proof.
- 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).
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 fruit of selflessness, and the signs of knowledge. Let’s look at knowledge first.
There is no doubt that Bible knowledge can certainly be an indication of someone who is saved. There is also no doubt that Bible knowledge alone does not make one a true Christian. We live in an era where resources and information about the Bible are abundant and increasing. We have endless books, teachers, television programs, radio shows and church events infusing us with more and more Bible knowledge every day.
It would seem logical to think that with this incredible increase of scriptural knowledge we would see a corresponding and parallel increase in obedience.
Daniel 12:4 – “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (NKJV)
I know that in an audience this large there will be many different stances on eschatology (the Biblical study of the end of the world, the “end times”). It is not my intention to address those doctrines in this lesson. but I quickly wanted to note this verse in Daniel because a very large segment of Christianity believes that an overall, exponential increase in knowledge is a sign that the Lord will return soon. Even if you don’t believe this verse is a commentary on the last days of this earth from a doctrinal standpoint, it still has a practical and interesting application.
Who can argue that we have masses of highly “informed” people
running to and fro today, lost concerning the meaning of life.
Disseminated through technology and information sources, we have more religions, philosophies, opinions and experts than ever before filling our minds via print, television, movie screens, the Internet and radio. And yet it is plain to see that with the increase of knowledge the confusion in the heart of man’s only grows more intense as he “runs to and fro” looking for the meaning and purpose of life.
Romans 1:20-23 – For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (NKJV)
The apostle Paul tells us that a person can clearly see God in creation, can understand that God exists through the things that exist because of Him, and can perceive God’s eternal nature. Because of this fact, no man can be excused for rejecting God. God has put before us the plain knowledge of His existence and yet the majority of humankind will become “futile in their thoughts” and will have their “foolish hearts darkened”. They have “knowledge” but not salvation.
Knowledge about God – to know that He exists, to know what His Word says and to increase in that knowledge – may very well be an indicator of a person who is saved, but it is clearly not proof that a person is saved.
Selflessness & Serving
If I could sum up the life of Christianity and what characterizes a true Christian, I would have to choose the word “selfless”. The giving up of your own life for Christ’s; to crucify the flesh; to be a living sacrifice… every moment of living for Jesus is a decision to deny self and obey God.
The characteristic of selflessness is the most difficult and unnatural trait that we will ever try to develop. It goes against the very basic nature of our sinful hearts. Our flesh will use any trickery, deception or confusion to make us believe that we are being selfless when in fact we are serving self.
1 Corinthians 11:1 – Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)
Of course Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of selflessness. He was the eternal holy God who chose to take on the form of lowly man (Philippians 2) and even after living a sinless, perfect life chose to sacrifice Himself for world that rejected Him, ridiculed Him, mocked and crucified Him.
Being a true Christian is being what? It’s being “like Christ”. And what better proof of being a Christian than demonstrating one of the greatest qualities of Christ — selflessness. Consider these verses which mark a life of selflessness (emphasis mine):
- 1 John 3:14 – We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. (NKJV)
- 1 John 4:7 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (NKJV)
- Romans 12:10 – Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (NKJV)
- Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (NKJV)
- Matthew 20:28 – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NKJV)
- Colossians 3:24 – knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (NKJV)
- Matthew 20:16 – So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (NKJV)
- Luke 9:48 – and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” (NKJV)
True selflessness is all the more a concrete proof of true salvation because we are incapable of selflessness (righteousness – Romans 6) before God supernaturally changes our heart (Titus 3:5). Before salvation we are slaves to Self. For those folks who claim Christianity but have not been born again (John 3:5-8) they will be unable to have consistent victory in this area.
- A person who professes Christianity but is not truly saved will have a life that is characterized by the consistent motivation to look out for themselves, to gain the advantage for themselves, and to generally seek what is good for themselves over what is good for others. And no matter how hard this person tries to cover up the “self” motivation, it will always show through.
- On the other hand a true Christian will certainly fail and have moments of selfishness, but overall their life will be characterized by an increasing, tangible growth in the area of serving others, denying themselves and preferring others over themselves. For the genuinely saved, selfishness will rear it’s ugly head occasionally, but selfLESSness will be the victor over the long haul.
Bible knowledge could be an indicator of a person who is saved but most certainly is not proof. True selflessness however is only possible for the true believer and in that sense is concrete proof of authentic salvation. Tomorrow we’ll look at conviction and humility.
Father in Heaven, help us to understand that just knowing the Bible does not equate to salvation. Empower us to authenticate the gift of eternal life by imitating your Precious Son through selfless sacrificial lives preferring one another in love. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you know a lot about the Bible? Does your life line up with that knowledge, marked by purity and service and selflessness? Do you find yourself frequently arguing doctrine and positions on Bible issues even while just as frequently being in conflict with others? Do others see you as a selfless servant, or a Bible bully?
Application: We have endless sources of Bible knowledge and far too often we spend more time arguing doctrinal positions rather than selflessly giving up our lives for each other. Don’t get me wrong. Doctrine is important and I have my own strong convictions as well. But if we are a lot better about arguing Calvinism, Baptism or PreMillenialism than we are about loving, serving, sacrificing and denying Self… then we are missing the boat. There is a balance to this, as in all things. If we are “love, love, love” all the while sacrificing sound truth, Biblical knowledge and doctrinal integrity, we are no better off than if we know the Bible cover to cover but are missing selfless Christ-like love.
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?