Wednesday, March 22, 2023

HOW WE KNOW WE ARE SAVED

 


 

 Many churchgoers wrongly believe that they are saved. Therefore, we wonder, “Perhaps I too am self-deceived. How then can I be sure that I am saved?” The Scriptures assure us:
 
·       For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12–13)
 
Sounds straightforward, but even if we do believe this this, we might still wonder if we are self-deceived to mistakenly believe that we are saved. However, our Lord assures us that if we are heading in the wrong direction, God will reveal this to us:
 
·       Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:15)
 
God had been faithful to continually reveal this to His people through His prophets:
 
·       Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Kings 17:13–17)
 
If our Lord was willing to show such patience with those who had stubbornly rejected Him and had sacrificed their children to demons, how much more patience will He have for those who are trying to trust and follow Him!
 
Over 100 years later, God had concluded the books of Chronicles with a similar explanation for His wrath:
 
·       The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, persistently to them by his messengers, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy., because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15–16)
 
Wouldn’t our Lord consistently also warn us if we weren’t trusting in Him! Even after a lifetime of rejecting Him, He had made it easy for His people to return to Him:
 
·       Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 3:12–13)
 
Simple enough, right! For more than 100 years, God had persistently sent His Prophets to warn Judah. However, they also rejected God’s Word and scoffed at His prophets. How much more then will God be patient with us who long for His Word and fellowship!
 
·       God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8–10)
 
 If God had loved us so much while we were His enemies, how much more now that we have become His friends! Will He not also want to maximize His investment on the Cross by saving any who are willing to come and do whatever it would take to keep us!
 
I suspect that those who are not saved stubbornly chose to believe what is clearly opposed to the Gospel:
 
·       There are many ways to be saved.
·       I am a good and deserving person.
·       Eventually, all will be saved.
·       The final judgment is just a scare tactic.
·       God loves me just the way I am. I don’t need to change!
 
To believe these any of these things is a refusal to believe the Gospel. They reject the Scriptures and God’s promise of the one way through the mercy bought by the death of Jesus. They are like the Israelites who had repeatedly been warned but rejected their God. God had wanted all of them to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9) and warned Israel that He had done all that He could for them. But they hardened their hearts against His pleadings.
 
If we want our Savior, we will confess our sins and sincerely ask God to examine and correct us—the very thing that He wants:
 
·       Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)
 
Nevertheless, many of us have an overly tender conscience. Therefore, our Lord reassures us:

·       By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:19–20)
 
If we are obedient, we can reassure ourselves that we have saving faith:

·       Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him…(1 John 3:24)
 
However, we all fall short of God’s standards. Lot had been living a compromised life in Sodom. After God rescued him, on two successive evenings, his daughters got him drunk so that they could lay with him to beget children by Him. Nevertheless, our Lord is so gracious that he is remembered as righteous Lot:

·       …He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard). (2 Peter 2:7–8)
 
In many ways, Abraham had failed God in faith and obedience. Nevertheless, our Lord remembers him as faithful:
 
·       In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. (Romans 4:18–19)
 
Therefore, God assures us:
 
·       If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:9–10)
 
If we confess our sins and endeavor to follow Him, even as we falter, we can rest assured that these verses pertain to us:
 
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27–28)

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

THOUGHTS ON SUFFERING

 


 

Suffering is not unnatural but normal. It is not a curse but a blessing leading to Christlike-ness:
·       2 Corinthians 4:10–11 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
 
It is granted by God along with the gift of faith:
·       Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
 
If Jesus had to be perfected by suffering, so too must we:
  • Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
The price of humility is suffering:
·       James 4:9–10 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
 
Therefore, we should rejoice in suffering since it produces character and hope:
·       Romans 5:3–4 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
 
Suffering turns us to God, who knows exactly when to restore us:
·       1 Peter 5:6,10 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you… And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
 
Suffering refines our faith by getting rid of its impurities:
·       1 Peter 1:6–7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ
 
We should anticipate suffering. It prepares us for a joyous return of our Savior by investing our hope in Him alone:
·       1 Peter 4:12–13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
 
We need not fear suffering for Christ has complete control:
·       John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
 
Suffering teaches us to not trust in ourselves but in God alone:
·       2 Corinthians 1:8-10 For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead: who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver: on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us.
 
When we graciously endure unjust suffering, God is honored:
·       1 Peter 2:19–21 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
 
·       God performs His greatest work through our suffering:
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 
How to endure suffering? By knowing that it is preparing us for eternity:
·       By Looking at how Jesus had endured suffering: Hebrews 12:2–3 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
 
·       2 Corinthians 4:16–18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
 
Suffering dashes dreams of temporal happiness and reminds us that our reward awaits us in heaven. Suffering corrects our priorities and directs our sights to the eternal.