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How We Can Know We Are OK With God

 

Pastor Joe Elick 1940-2021

1 John 3:10-4:6

I had a conversation with someone in the community just recently who's wife passed away some time ago. They had been talking with someone who told them that they had given up their former vocation to become a minister. "So I can straighten people out about what the Bible teaches," they said. Now I don't know about you, but I'm immediately suspicious of people who feel God has called them to "straighten people out about the Bible." The straightner-outer went on to tell my friend, who's still deeply grieving over the loss of his wife; "Your wife's not in Heaven you know. She's just dead. She's gone. Period." What an unkind thing to tell someone who's lost a loved one, even if it was true, which it's not. My Friend's wife loved the Lord Jesus, and for the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). I felt sad for my friend and I was reminded once again that there is a lot of false religious teaching out in the world and it can be damaging not only to those who do not know Christ, but to some who do.

One of the reasons we have a careful process for joining our church is to preserve and protect the foundational doctrines upon which this church stands from false or heretical teaching.

Roseau Evangelical Covenant Church like other Christian Churches in our community is built upon the foundation of historical Christianity and not on some individual's self-appointed attempt to "straighten people out about the Bible." The whole book of First John was written to contract some peoples' attempt to undermine the Gospel in a local church. By the time the apostle John heard about this, some folks had already been thrown into confusion.

I would like to examine with you two tests from God's Word which can help us with the assurance of our own Salvation, and give us a way of uncovering false religious teachers even if they claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The inner test: Setting "our hearts at rest in his presence" (Verse 19). Aa few years ago Dr. Billy Graham wrote a book entitled, "Peace With God," which was a best seller. Why? Because we all sense that there's something wrong with us, and someday God is going to call us to account for it. Someday we're all going to stand before God in Judgement. When I worked at Loyola Medical Center, a Roman Catholic Hospital near Chicago, it wasn't unusual for someone who was dying, or their family, to request a priest to come to their room and give them "Last Rites" to prepare them for Eternity. People can be rebellious against religion all their lives, but when they stand at Death's door, some become extremely concerned about how to obtain Peace with God.

Even as Christians we sometimes wrestle with our acceptableness with God. It's important to understand that when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, we become more sensitive to sin. We become aware of things which we never even thought about before. This makes us feel pretty bad about ourselves sometimes. Then the Devil comes along and whispers in our ear: "You're nothing but a Crud Head anyway. Jesus is not going to save someone like you. Give up this Christianity business and go back to the way you were." Also, even without the Devil's voice we begin feeling like we're not really saved. On the "feeling level" of our lives our "Hearts condemn us" (Verse 20a). But John reminds us that "God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (Verse 20b; see also Hebrews 4:15-16).

So what are we going to do when we go through experiences like these. Let's look at a test which can "set our hearts at rest in his presence."

THE INNER TEST: THREE THINGS WHICH CAN SET OUR HEARTS AT REST IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD (Not just at the final judgement but the ongoing presence of God):

1. "Believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ..." (Verse 23a). This is the initial act for bringing us into salvation. Let us be careful here however. The Greek word for believe here has Old Testament roots and it meant to "put our weight down" upon the faithfulness of God (See Habakkuk 2:4), in the It is a total response and has to do therefore with the whole self (p.58). It is this type of commitment which Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1,2. John says this type of commitment "can set our hearts at rest in the presence of God." The New English Bible puts it this way: "This is his command: to give our allegiance to his Son Jesus Christ..."

2. "...to love one another as God commanded us." This is a big issue with John. He remembers Jesus saying: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13: 34, 35). Commitment to Christ is a commitment to love others as He commanded.

3. "And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us" (Verse 24b).

J.B. Phillips translates the second part of verse 24 this way: "...and the guarantee of his presence within us is the Holy Spirit he has given us." Paul writes in Romans 8:9-16: "You, however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ...The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Surely a sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit within the Christian is a growing awareness, but John offers it as an important evidence of a right relationship with God.

False teachers building on some other foundation than the Lord Jesus preaching another gospel. Challenging our right standing before God and stealing our peace. John says it doesn't have to happen.

Next week we will look at the OUTER TEST: How to know whether or not a teacher is from God or if they are a false teacher under the Devil's control.

Until next time,

Pastor Joe

 

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