By Justin Edwards
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! - 2 Corinthians 13:5
Note - if you are not willing to test yourself as Scripture commands of all professing Christians, then this article is not for you. Neither is this message for anyone who has need of nothing. There is no hope for either one of you as long as pride enslaves you. This article is, however, for every professing Christian who has a desire to make sure their faith is genuine. Most especially, if you profess Christ but your lifestyle indicates otherwise (Phil. 3:18-19), then this is for you. And please, know that I love you - it's the reason I'm telling you the truth.
Yesterday morning, my pastor, Loran Livingston, preached one of the most powerful, Spirit-filled messages I have ever heard from him. Coming off the previous week's message where grace was emphasized, he balanced the doctrine of grace alone with the doctrine of Christ's lordship by defining, with Scripture, the marks of a genuine born again believer. In other words, the grace that saves us is the grace that changes us, without fail. Pastor Livingston began with the following passage from Romans 5:20-6:2,
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What a wonderful truth, knowing that the grace of God triumphs over the sin of His children. This means there is no sin or sinful lifestyle too great to be covered by the blood of Christ. However! Anticipating the argument from those who would suggest grace is a license to sin, Paul continues:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
"By no means!" That is the strongest language possible used by Paul to underscore that grace does not give the believer license to sin. On the contrary, Paul makes it clear the believer will not live in sin because they have, in fact, died to sin (Romans 6:3-4).
In this postmodern church age where sin is tolerated, church doors act as floodgates for the world's cesspool of sin and abominations. Fine-arts centers, mega-church businesses, and high-tech entertainment venues are replacing biblical churches preaching the pure Gospel and worshiping God in spirit and in truth. The church, collectively, is no longer conforming to Christ and is being conformed to the god of this world. The church is no longer for God's sheep, but for those with itchy ears who have turned away from the truth to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The Gospel has been tossed to the wayside, easy-believism reigns, the liberal social gospel is hailed, holiness is branded legalism, and absolute truth has been exchanged for moral relativism. So what is the consequence for watering down the Gospel and embracing worldliness into the church? Answer - a countless number of false converts with counterfeit fire insurance policies.
The church is bursting at the seams with professing Christians believing they have a license to sin. They do not obey the Gospel, they bear no fruit in the sight of God, they walk according to the flesh, and they love the world and the things of the world. Is that you, professing Christian? If you suspect your lifestyle is not one chasing after the holiness of God, then please, listen up - born again people do not act like sinners! If you believe you can flirt with the world, enjoy its benefits, and still go to heaven, you are wrong. Dead wrong, and you are playing games with your eternity.
Let me be clear - those who practice the works of the flesh as a lifestyle are not saved and they will not inherit the Kingdom of God! (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5) You are storing up wrath for yourself due to your unrepentant heart (Romans 2:5), and because you continue to disobey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, a day is coming when He will slay you with the sword from His mouth and sentence you with everlasting destruction! (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
The truth is, God's grace does not only cover His children from the multitude of sin in which they once lived, but it teaches them to desire and conform to holiness. Titus 2:11-14,
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
My dear friend, holiness is not an option for the believer. God tells us without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14); therefore, the grace He saves us with will teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and it will teach us to live self-controlled, righteous, and godly lives now.
Another test of Scripture we must look to is found in 1 John 2:3-6:
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Do you see that? We may know! If our lifestyles are not ones that habitually obey the commandments of God out of love for God, then at best we can have no assurance of salvation, and at worst, we have no salvation. Every one born of God will indeed practice righteousness (1 John 2:29) and they will love the commandments of God (1 John 5:3), which means they will abide or continue in them. 1 John 3:6-10 could not be more clear:
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
This does not mean the Christian will live a perfect and sinless life, but it does mean the Christian will strive for perfection and pursue the holiness of God because the seed of God has been planted in him (1 John 3:9). Practically speaking, this means the Christian is no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to obedience (Romans 6:17-18). It means sin no longer has dominion over the Christian (Romans 6:14) because the Christian has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). It means the desires and satisfactions of this world you used to have no longer appeal to you (Ephesians 5:8), in fact you grow sick and tired of the things you used to love. It means you grow to hate what God hates (sin), and you grow to love what God loves (purity, holiness). Sin becomes obnoxious and detestable to you. It stinks and you want nothing to do with it. You flee from it. You cut it off, including the people and the things that cause you to stumble.You no longer follow the ways of the world as you now follow the Lord Jesus Christ. One or the other, certainly not both. That is impossible (James 4:4).
There is no such thing as a continuously carnal Christian. There is no such thing as "backsliding". These are lies from the pit of hell bent on giving people false assurances of their salvation. You are either saved or you are not, and those who are saved habitually practice the things of God. Jesus said His sheep hear His voice, and they follow Him . They do not follow the voices of strangers, they obey the call of their Master (John 10:1-30). If you find yourself in a place where the joy of the world has consumed you and you realize your relationship with Jesus Christ is empty, today is the day of salvation!
The days are numbered for you, whether by death or by Christ's return. You must be born again. You must repent, or you will perish. Simply believing the facts about Jesus does not save you, you must follow Him as one of His sheep. You must put on the yoke of Christ and surrender to His rule and reign over your life. You must hunger and thirst for righteousness, and you must love His Word, obey His Word, and love His people - the Church.
I pray these words spurn you to examine your heart against the mirror of God's Word. There will, no doubt, be millions of professing Christians in hell one day because they refused to examine themselves. Please don't be one of them. I love you and I am so passionate about this because I was once a false convert myself. I don't want you to end up in hell with the false assurance you thought you would end up in heaven. If you do not desire holiness today, then you will be separated from the holiness of God for eternity. Listen to His voice. Repent and trust in Christ today.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.- John 10:11,27
I invite you now to watch this critical message from Pastor Livingston: