The Bible could not be any clearer that those who have truly repented and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation are not the same person that they once were. Things which once characterized them should characterize them no more (Ephesians 2:1-3). They have been given new spiritual life by the Holy Spirit with a new will, new desires, and a new purpose (Ezekiel 36:25-27). What Jesus refers to as being “born again” (John 3:1-8). As Paul stated, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A saving encounter with God’s Holy Spirit changes one’s life from the inside out.
The question is then, what does this new life look like? What should one expect to see in their lives if they are truly a Christian? The Apostle John helps us out with this in his first letter. He gives the characteristics of those who are “the children of God,” “born of God,” “have come to know Jesus,” “have passed out of death into life,” are “in Jesus,” and “know the truth” and of those who are “the children of the devil,” “liars” (false professors), and deceived. He seems to be dealing with a case in a church where a group from within them left, began teaching false views of Jesus, and claimed that they were in the truth while the remaining ones could be found to be in error. John pens this letter to comfort the remaining believers that they can be assured that they have eternal life through their faith in Jesus Christ while the others would be outside of the truth. He shows how such faith inevitably is demonstrated from the new life that the Spirit gives. I think that it would be helpful to look at some of the evidences that John provides of someone who has been born again and truly trusted in Christ for their salvation. The following are just two of several that are given in this letter. We will look at a few more next month.
One evidence is a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (I John 2:3-6). The word “keep” conveys the idea of “keep in view,” “take note,” and “watch over.” Jesus also pointed out that obedience to His teaching proved one to be a true disciple of His (John 8:31) and that those who love Him WILL keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21-24). A true believer will not just throw Christ’s commandments under the rug or ignore them but seek to be obedient to them, putting them into practice in their life. This flows from their love of Him that results out of the new birth.
Another evidence is genuine love for other believers. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (I John 3:14-18). Notice the contrast that John makes here? One can know that they have spiritual life imparted by the Holy Spirit by their love for other brothers and sisters in Christ. The one who fails to show love to others within the church are still spiritually dead and do not have eternal life. And this love for the brethren is demonstrated in action. They will give of themselves for the needs of others, just as Christ laid His own life down for the benefit of His followers. Hatred of a brother or sister in Christ is not a characteristic of a true believer who has been born again. Jesus also stated that this serves as proof that one truly is a disciple of His. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Now these characteristics that John gives will not be perfect in a believer’s life but they should be present and something that one continues to see growth in. Do you notice them in your life? Is there evidence that the Holy Spirit has been working with you in these areas; taking Jesus’ commandments seriously and loving your brothers and sisters in the church? If so, rejoice in the reality of God’s grace in your life. Praise Him and ask Him to continue to work in you to become even more obedient and loving as each believer still has a way to go. More of these characteristics will be discussed next month.
Love in Christ,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Today thousands in the nation take time out of their busy schedules to commemorate and remember those who lost their lives in the horrible tragedy which occurred the morning of this day thirteen years ago. Many of us remember how that day changed the way we thought about the country, our loved ones, and even our lives. Many still are struggling with what they have seen, or with those they have lost in the tragedy. Some lives may never be the same again. While not belittling the victims of the tragedy, I want to look at what those who are still living can learn from this event.
The days following the 9/11 attacks brought several questions. Several of these questions concerned God and His role in the event. People struggled with trying to grasp any reasons God may have allowed or permitted this to happen. Some wondered if the people who went for what they thought would have been a normal day at work deserved to play the victims of such a horrible scenario.
Clearly God was in control of that day and is still in control of our world today. Scripture tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Through Amos God communicates, If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? (Amos 3:6) and Jesus says that a sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29). Even Satan himself is under the sovereignty of God. Jesus acknowledged to Peter that Satan could not test the disciples' faith without God's allowance. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31). Likewise, Satan could not tamper with Job without God's permission and He set clear boundaries where Satan would not be able to trend. In the first meeting with Satan, God agreed to let him test Job but would not allow him to put forth your hand on him (Job 1:12) and the second time God gave Job into his control but would not permit him to kill His righteous servant. Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6). This is a very comforting truth. Our lives may seem like they are spirling out of control, but the truth is that we are still in God's hands and He is working to bring things to His ultimate purpose. You may be down at your lowest, but we have hope that God IS in control and causing all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Even in the worst of times, we have comfort knowing there is a loving and good God in control who has a purpose in the suffering. God was there that day on 9/11 and, even amist the sorrow, several testimonies to His goodness have been proclaimed. His sovereign hand never left the situation!
The second major question the World Trade Center attacks spawned is one which is a common response to every huge natural disaster or catastrophe: "What did this group do to deserve this?" This was seen after the tsunami in India as well as New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. In fact, Jesus was asked a similar question about 2000 years ago. While speaking to a large crowd, a group informs Jesus about an atrocity which Pilate had committed. The exact situation is unknown to us today but we can infer that it had something to do with a slaughter of Jews during their sacrifices. Not only was this a terrible occurrence, but it took place during worship which made it even more horrendous. Jesus realized right away the question that they had concerning this issue. They thought that this plight was the result of them being greater sinners than all others. However, Jesus sought to turn their perspective completely around.
Instead of agreeing with their assumption, Jesus took the focus off the victims and placed it on the questioners. The reason this group was slaughtered was not because they were greater sinners. The ones who were killed were no more sinners than the ones commenting concerning them. (Note: This does not necessarily mean that the events God permits to occur are punishment for specific sins. John 9 makes it clear that, while a result of the curse of sin, not all infirmities and incidents are due to specific sins.) Those who died in the tsunami, in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and with Hurricane Katrina were no more sinners than those of you reading this note as well as the one writing it. We deserved the same! I will never forget a powerful sermon my pastor preached right after the tsunami a few years ago. He told us that the question is not "why them?" but should be "why not us?" We didn't deserve God's mercy to not have the tsunami happen in America, or to not have been in the Pentagon or World Trade Center on that day, as well as having the hurricane wreck havoc on the NorthEast or MidWest. As Scripture tells us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We get so used to God's mercy we have problems when He shows us His wrath.
Jesus actually warns the crowd of an even greater fate, much worse than what happened with Pilate and the later example of the falling of the tower of Siloam. Unless they repent of their sins, they will perish (Luke 13:3,5). This is Jesus' urgent plea to those who are lost in sin. Repentance means a turning from sin. It is the flip side of faith. One turns from sin in repentance and then turns toward Christ by placing their faith in Him. The likewise may refer to the sudden and unexpected death of those in the Temple and at Siloam. Those who went to the Temple that day to offer their sacrifices did not realize that they would not be returning home. The possibility of the tower falling on the group in Siloam probably never occurred to them. Likewise, if the crowd does not turn from their sins and turn to Christ they will suddenly and unexpectedly (to them) experience the punishment for their sins. The author of Hebrews tells us that it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
No one is guaranteed of their next heartbeat or breath. If we should learn something from modern headlines, it is that death is no respecter of age. If you have not turned from your sins and placed your faith in the Lord Jesus, then Jesus' plea for repentance is for you. Like those in the Temple and at Siloam, you do not know when the day will come and it will be too late. Many who left for work that morning of 9/11 did not know that they would not leave the building. Several wives did not know that they would not see their husbands again. I am not attempting to scare anyone, I just want to point out reality. For us who are Christians, this is a reminder that life is too short to waste! Let us give out Jesus' plea to those who need to hear it in our families, schools, and at our places of employment!
Praying for those involved with the attacks in any way as well as us who can learn from God's mercy,
Soli Deo Gloria!