This message marks the end of a six week investigative series at the Bible study and so I wanted to end on something that would get at the heart and truly challenge what both you and I believe in. The Test of True Belief is a great way for people who claim to be Christians to scrutinize their lives and test the faith they claim to live in. This is great for all Christians to do every so often to keep ourselves in check and reassure ourselves of our lifestyles.
To set the stage, I'd like to start by introducing the test by creating a basis of scripture to build upon, so I'll be pulling from the book of Matthew in chapter 7. Verses 13-14 say this:
"Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and easy is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate
and hard the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
This scripture tells us that, despite what the surveys may say, the number of
people going to heaven is not large, but select. So many people in today's
world check Christian under the religious preference box, but is it a lifestyle for those people full of passion reflecting Christ's love in everything they do? If so many people are claiming Christianity but only a few will make it, how can I make sure I'm truly saved? This is the major question at hand, and that's what we're going to look at soon enough.
The second piece to these verses that sticks out to me as I study it is how it describes the way to destruction as wide, broad and easy, while the path of life is called small, narrow and hard. What does your life show evidence of? The road of a true Christian is marked by periods of struggling, suffering and hardships at our own expense for others. Just as Christ struggled and suffered at his own expense for us, so too does he call us to do the same for others. If your life is comfortable and easy all the time, are you living a life of service to God and others as we're so called to do?
The second bit of scripture that I'd like to use to set the stage for this message comes a little further down from Matthew Chapter 7 verses 21 through 23 where it says:
"Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
As we begin to pick this apart, realize first that this is Jesus talking; the God-man who every man MUST go through to gain entrance into heaven. Jesus says Many who say to him Lord Lord, will Not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those people saying Lord, Lord are those who consider themselves Christians. Many people then, and in today's world who claim to be Christians will be turned away at the day of reckoning when Jesus comes back to judge those on earth!! The obvious question is Why?! These people do good things in the public eye, go to church, go to Bible studies, read their Bible, etc.... so why will they be turned away by Jesus?! That is yet another thing that we will see as we search through some false assurances and true belief evidences in scripture.
- Before we continue on, I just want to make it clear that my hope for this message is not to scare anyone away, or judge anyone at all, but to love; I love each of you with the love of Christ, so I want you all to test and evaluate yourselves so you don't waste years of your life in blindness.
Basically I'm modernizing the Apostle Paul's warning in 2 Corinthians 13:5 when he says:
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith, Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test."
Test yourselves, ask the hard questions. Challenge your beliefs, why you believe what you believe, where's your faith in, what does your lifestyle portray..... So in this message I'm going to walk you through this test and challenge my own and your beliefs. Remember that false assurances are not always by man's mind alone, but are often put in our minds by Satan; he does this because a man's false assurance of going to heaven translates into an assurance for Satan of another soul for eternity. So let's battle that deception with some cutting truth from the Bible.
1) First Challenge: Complacent in Sin 1 John 1:6-- False assurance
"If we claim to have fellowship with him, yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth."
- This person says they're a Christian, yet their life shows no change from before they were saved. An outsider looking in would not be able to tell any difference between the lifestyle of this person claiming to be a believer and any non-believer.
Desire for Godliness 1 John 1:7-- True Belief
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."
- This person, although not walking perfectly (as we are all sinners and none can walk perfectly), possesses a desire to be more like Christ that formulates the actions of their life. There is a distinguishable difference in this individual.
2) Second Challenge: Trust in Self 1 John 1:8-- False assurance
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
- Notice the word truth; Jesus is is the way, the truth, and the light, so if the truth is not in us, in effect, Jesus is not in us.
- This challenge reveals a prideful and self-righteous person with no need to trust in Christ, therefore, feeling like they have no need for a savior.
Trusts Only in Christ 1 John 1:9-- True Belief
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
- True faith realizes that we are sinners and dirty, but also recognizes, then, the greater need for Christ's salvation. This person realizes that they cannot save themself and need Christ to atone for his/her sins.
3) Third Challenge: Loves the World 1 John 2:15-17-- False Assurance
"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 everything in the world, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."
- This is relatively self-explanatory; this person makes idols out of the things this world has to offer and values them above God in their life.
Love for God 1 John 2:17-- True Belief
"The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."
- Doing the will of the Father is simply accepting that God is Lord of your life and more valuable than any worldly desire. This person recognizes that all things this world has to offer will soon perish and not satisfy, but the satisfaction God gives us leads to perpetual and eternal life in his presence.
4) Fourth Challenge: Lives for Self or for Christ? 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."
- Christ died that we might live IN him FOR him.
- The challenge here is for you to analyze your life and ask yourself this; Who is on the throne in my life? Am I living for myself, or am I living to please Christ? Are you living to fulfill your plan for your life, or are you living according to the purpose that Christ has called you to do?
5) Fifth Challenge: Fruit of the Flesh Galatians 5:19-21-- False assurance
"The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
- Do the things, any of them, of this scripture characterize your life?
Fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23-- True Belief
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
- You will never be perfect, but is there a growing trend of these things in your life?
Those five challenges are major things that any person who calls themself a Christian should test themselves with as Paul calls us to do; we test ourselves to make sure that we are truly in the faith and not living a lie in a false assurance. In concluding this message, I would just like to make a few final points of clarity. It is vital to understand that these "fruits" do not earn your salvation, for no man can earn his salvation. These "fruits" simply offer evidence for yourself that you are truly in the faith. So as you have now went through this test, I urge you, don't try to be saved by bearing these fruits; have faith in the Gospel of Christ first, and these fruits will follow your transformation. Understand that you are a sinner and have a true need for Christ as your savior, accept that, and then live in the Gospel of the grace of God.