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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am Service, 2002-10-13

Text: 2 Peter 1:4-11

There are many questions that bother us in life. Some of them are not worth spending a lot of time on, as the Bible refers to them as 'foolish and unlearned questions' which we should avoid. However there are some vital questions that we should ask and obtain answers for because of their impact and importance on us and on others. In this morning's message we want to deal with a vital question - are you different from what you were before? Or to put it another way: Are you truly saved? Are you really sure of your calling and election into God's kingdom? 

I. Why You Should Ask Yourself This Question 

A. It Helps You to Avoid Living in Self-Deception 

This is an important question for Christians to ponder, as there are many who may think that they are saved, when in fact they are not. Our Lord Jesus once told a parable about the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-40). The tares represent false believers while the wheat represent the true ones. And though they look exactly alike and are all mingled together, only the wheat will finally be gathered into the barn and saved from being burnt up at harvest time. Although Jesus explained that the field in the parable represents the world, the same thing is true of the local church - not all who come to church are truly saved. Some may come to church faithfully and still not be born again Christians. And it would be really frightening to discover on the day of judgment that you were not saved at all, and you had mistakenly thought all along that you were!

Now this brings a very sobering thought to us: 'What if all of this time, I had been deceiving myself, thinking that I am a true Christian?' The Bible tells us that it is possible to 'have a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.' (2 Timothy 3:5). Jesus said that even those who call Jesus 'Lord' and done many great works in His name may not be allowed into His kingdom 'Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.' (Matthew 7:21-23)

Let us take special care not be deceived by our outward form. Let us not assume that since we have faithfully been attending church every Lord�s day, giving our offerings, and a doing whole lot of other 'spiritual' things, that we will surely be acquitted before God on the Last Day.

Let us not even assume that since we have already been long-time members of this church, and serving for many years in an exco or in the Session, that we will be favourably received by the Lord at the end of time. While all of this faithful service to the Lord is good and important, remember that they might only be an outward form. And if we put our trust in our outward performance and not pay attention to what is really inside us (the part that matters most), then we have been putting our trust in an empty shell!

Perhaps you have been coming to church more out of a sense of duty than of love, just because you feel that you have to do it and not really because you want to. If your heart is cold and not really present here in the worship service; If you find that you are just going-through-the-motions when people around you are singing and praying; If you do not find great delight in the things of God and have to force yourself to pray and read His Word, please be very careful - because these may be early indications that an unpleasant and unexpected surprise is in store for you!

Our Lord Jesus Himself said to a Jew who had all the outward forms of piety and was a religious teacher, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' (John 3:3) This means that: What makes a person a true Christian is not outward form but inward change. God must do a work of regeneration in your heart, so that inwardly you become a new creation, recreated in His image: 'Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away. Behold all things are become new.' (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Dear friends, unless you have been made a new creature by God�s working in your life, please do not assume that you have become a true Christian. The worst thing is to be complacent and assume that all is well, when all is not well. It is not worthwhile to go on living in self-deception. That is the first reason why you must ask yourself whether you are different from what you were before. We now come to the second reason for doing this, which is:

B. It Enables You to Have The Assurance of Your Salvation 

Someone may ask: Does the Bible really teach that believers can know that they are really born again, different now from what they were before? Yes it does! Many saints in biblical history have had assurance of their salvation. Let us look at Job's assurance in Job 19:25,26 'For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:' Observe the deep certainty and conviction of Job's statement - it is not 'I think that my redeemer lives,' or 'I hope that one day in my flesh I shall see God.' But it was a very certain 'Yes! I know that my redeemer lives ' I shall see God.'

King David also expressed the same assurance in Psalm 17:15 'As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.' Like Job, David is referring to the prospect of seeing God face to face after death and again we see the same sense of certainty and anticipation. The last verse of the 23rd psalm is another place where we see David expressing his firm confidence that He will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.'

The Apostle Paul also had this definite knowledge that he was saved. Look at Philippians 1:23 'For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:' Paul knew that when he dies he will immediately go to no other place but heaven to be with the Lord Jesus Christ!

Unfortunately, not all Christians can say what Job, David or Paul said with 100 % certainty. If you were to ask them whether they are saved or not, many will say frankly, 'I am not sure. Sometimes I think I am saved, but sometimes I really question whether I am saved or not. At times when I fall into temptation and sin - that's when I doubt my salvation.'

Now, there are some who claim that having no assurance of salvation is good, because it will motivate them to be more active, and not become complacent. The reasoning is like this: If we know that we are already saved, then we will feel free to live in anyway that we like, to be as worldly and sinful as we like. But if the assurance of salvation depended upon our works, then we would tend to be more 'on the ball.'

That is in fact the teaching that some cult groups have today. The Jehovah's Witnesses are one example. But such teaching would mean that all our works of obedience are actually motivated by selfish reasons. We would be serving God only because it earns us the assurance that we have a ticket to heaven, not because we love Him and willingly want to serve Him with all our hearts.

Therefore it is good for you to have the assurance of your salvation, for a very important reason: It enables you to serve the Lord with gladness, and out of pure selfless motives of love and gratitude to Him. When you have that assurance, you will no longer have this nagging worry in your mind that you may still end up in hell after everything is over. The assurance liberates you from this fear, so that you can go on to live for the Lord and serve Him selflessly. Then you will be able to sing with deep conviction the chorus that goes like this (RHC 481): 

Things are different now, something happened to me When I gave my heart to Jesus 
Things are different now, I was changed, it must be When I gave my heart to Him. 
Things I loved before have passed away, 
Things I love far more have come to stay; 
Things are different now, something happened that day, 
When I gave my heart to Him.

Dearly beloved do these words have real meaning to you? Can you sing it with full conviction? Perhaps you now wondering how you can tell whether you are really different from what you were before, let us find out now:

II. How You Can Tell If You are Different 

A. Not Your Feelings 

Feelings are a natural part of our response. After all, man is a creature made with emotions. His feelings will be affected by his salvation. But having the assurance of salvation does not mean just having a subjective 'feeling' that you are now saved. At the moment when you first believed in Christ for salvation you may have felt a deep uplifting emotional thrill. But as your moods and circumstances change you will find that those feelings evaporate. If you depend solely on the way you feel, you cannot have a firm assurance. God has given three things by which you can have a firm assurance: 

B. The Witness of the Holy Spirit 

According to Romans 8:15,16 'For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God' Previous to conversion, it was the Holy Spirit that convicts the sinner of his sins and brings him to trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation. After conversion, the same Holy Spirit comes to dwell permanently in the new Christian and gives him the inward assurance and peace that he is truly a child of God. He does this, not by an audible voice, but by a mysterious inner prompting of the heart.

Very often this inner prompting comes unexpectedly and unsolicitedly, at the time when the Christian is reading his Bible, or hearing a message preached from God's Word at a worship service or even during a Sunday School class. The witness of the Spirit therefore works in tandem with:

C. The Testimony of the Scriptures 

The Bible contains many wonderful passages of scripture that assure the Christian of his salvation. One of them is 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life,' (1 John 5:13) God has invested His Word with power to assure and to strengthen our faith. (Rom 10:17 - 'So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.') And when a Christian reads passages like these from God's Word, the Holy Spirit takes it and personalises it to him, giving him the deep conviction that what the Bible says is personally true of him, and he really is saved. This conviction is real and not imaginary. If we are really born again Christians, our faith and assurance of salvation will consistently be strengthened each time we read and understand the promises given by God in the Scripture.

John Wesley, the English Revivalist, testified that he at first did not have the full assurance of salvation as a Christian and even as a minister of God, until one day when he was invited to listen to a preacher at a place called Aldersgate who was delivering a sermon on the book of Romans. It was then, he said, that his heart was somehow 'strangely warmed' and then he knew that the Holy Spirit had spoken to him through the Word, and he was truly a child of God whose sins have been forgiven.

D. The Evidence of a Changed Life 

While the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are sufficient to give the Christian assurance of salvation, the Bible teaches us that there is an even better way to gain assurance of salvation after that. And that is when the Christian's life grows and develops into full spiritual maturity. This shows that God is working in his life. Let us find out how a Christian grows into maturity by looking at our text. 

Beginning at v.4 we read 'Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.' We notice in this verse that the ultimate result of Christian growth is given as becoming 'partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in this world' This can be summarised as having a changed life. (cf 2 Corinthians 5:17) 

Now, this changed life does not usually come all at once, but gradually, as the next 3 verses describe: 'And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.' There are altogether 7 qualities listed here. When all of these qualities are evident in a Christian's life, then according to the apostle Peter (in vv.8-10), his profession of faith is not barren nor unfruitful and he gains greater assurance of his salvation.

The presence of these 7 qualities are indicators of a Christian's spiritual maturity. They reveal how far we have changed, since the day we came to know Christ. And so you should take a good look at these 7 qualities and ask yourself, Where are you now in the whole process? How far have you progressed in spiritual growth? These qualities provide a kind of spiritual growth scale against which we can measure our spiritual stature.

And if you find that you lack any of these qualities, you should be quite concerned. It may show that you have stopped growing to maturity, and become spiritually stunted. You are still babes or infants in Christ as the Apostle Paul calls them in 1 Cor 3:1. You still need to drink spiritual milk (Heb 5:12-13). Christ wants you to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. You cannot remain where you are, but must keep on growing spiritually, 'unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'

One reason why so many Christians lack the assurance of salvation is that they have stopped growing spritually. Their lives are not being changed. They have failed to go on to maturity in Christ. Dear friends, how much difference can others see in you now from what you were before? Have you added to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience, godliness and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity? V.8 tells us 'if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.' So please, do not neglect your spiritual growth. It is good to be diligent in growing into spiritual maturity, since v.10 says that it is by doing this that you can 'make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall'

I trust that the Lord will use this message to stir up your hearts not only to assess your own spiritual growth now, but also to take the necessary steps to boost your growth toward spiritual maturity. And this requires effort on your part. Look at v.5 and you will notice that the apostle Peter says, 'giving all diligence.' This means that we must make every effort, and that we must overcome our lethargy and inertia, and resolve to build these qualities into our lives, with God's help - virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly love and charity.

It is good for all of us to examine ourselves, and to make our calling and election sure. Dearly beloved, perhaps it is high time that you really search your hearts now and make sure that you are a true Christian inwardly as well as outwardly. Make an honest assessment of the state of your hearts right now. Ask the Lord to speak to your heart, and show you your true condition. And if you come to realise that your heart is not right with God, please do not be afraid to put things right immediately. For if you take such measures now, you will not be shocked at the Last Day with an unexpectedly unpleasant time before God, but you will be rejoicing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You can pray a prayer like this: 'Lord, please search my heart and see if I possess salvation � if Jesus truly lives within. If I am truly saved, help me never to doubt it. But if I am NOT saved, O Lord, take away the false security. I sincerely want to know the truth. Amen.'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11