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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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How Do You Know That You Know?

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

How do you know that you have been born again by the Spirit of God? Do you have assurance of your salvation? By this I mean do you have an internal sense, based on evidence in your life, that you have truly been born again and will persevere as a Christian until the end of your life? These are very important questions to ask yourself. Too often, people speak only of their salvation as a past tense experience while currently they are living in disobedience to God. They possess a false “easy assurance” of salvation because at one time in their lives they made “a profession of faith” and were baptized shortly afterwards. They accepted a watered-down understanding of eternal security and never, afterwards, seriously examined their lives for evidence of the fruit of the Spirit.

Easy assurance is a serious problem in our Christian culture. In Matthew, however, Jesus warns first century Christians not to take their salvation for granted. In the verses above, Jesus warns his followers that their righteousness must exceed the example of the scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees were very concerned about keeping the Law. They possessed an outward righteousness that appeared as an exceedingly high standard. Nevertheless, it was a religious righteousness that focused on what others could see, not a heart righteousness that led to internal purity. The righteousness of the Pharisees was all for show and none of the Spirit. Jesus was saying that going through the motions of righteous works will not gain you admittance into the kingdom of heaven. There must also be an inward transformation that has taken place. Your righteous deeds may be a sign of inward transformation, but you should never take that for granted.

Matthew 7 even shows us that it is possible to do “mighty works” in the name of Jesus, and yet to be outside of His Will and not of His Spirit. Jesus calls these people “workers of lawlessness.” How is this possible?

They made a confession of faith, but it was false because their works were done for their own glory even though they used the name of Jesus. Evil desire was still the master on the throne of their hearts. They actually walked according to their own desires and only professed obedience to the Lord. They were deceived by believing that their confession of Christ as Lord was enough to merit entrance into the kingdom. However, they were unrepentant and their lives were ruled by carnality. They had no abiding internal desire to live a holy life to the glory of Jesus Christ by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

We must heed the warning of Jesus here. The secular psychology of this age has grown in influence over the modern church. We have developed an eagerness to assure the guilty of their salvation when there is no sign of true repentance – no true evidence of desire to live a holy life. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) How can we call Him Savior, when we have no desire to obey Him and love Him as our Lord? A mere verbal acknowledgement does not equal saving faith. Again, Paul writes, “. . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. . . .” (Philippians 2:12) This is a serious issue that should not be regarded lightly. Our salvation is all of God and all of God’s Grace. It is a grace that enables us to love Jesus Christ so much that we are willing to act in His behalf by the way we live and by sharing the Gospel Truth with a lost and dying world. We must take care to persevere and watch over our lives accordingly. The inward change as we grow more in love with Christ and the outward fruit of this transformation will be our assurance.

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