Post by Michael Gleason.
43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
One of the worst teachings of recent decades is the idea that praying a prayer with all the right words saves. Praying the “sinner’s prayer” never saved anybody. We’re saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2), not because we said a prayer. If you are saved, you are saved only through faith that the Son of God took your sins on Himself as He hung on the cross, not by a formulaic prayer.
Any eloquent speaker can manipulate the emotions of his audience, get them to come forward, and make a decision. He may brag about how many people were saved, but the overwhelming majority of those decisions last as long as the emotion lasts and no longer, and then people go back to living like they did before. The decision they made and the prayer they said did not save them; it was all just emotion.
II Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.
In Luke 6:43-46, Jesus is very clear. You don’t get figs from thorn bushes. A good tree will produce good fruit, and a bad tree will produce bad fruit. If you are truly saved, it will have an impact on your life.
The church is full of people who have some knowledge of God, but their lives show bad fruit. We are in love with the world. We love the entertainment the world offers, with its violence, immorality, and crude humour. We love movies and TV programs that God hates. We load our iPods with sensual, worldly music. Rebellion against God-given authority is commonplace. Pornography, sexual immorality, and marital breakdown are running wild, even among churchgoers. We act as if forgiveness, mercy, and grace give us license to live for pleasure and God won’t care because He loves us and forgives us anyway. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16).
We bring sensual, worldly music into the church and call it “worship,” and think enthusiasm is an adequate replacement for obedience to God; but “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). The church becomes a place for entertainment, making friends, and feeling good about ourselves, and we no longer worship a holy God who hates sin and calls us to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8). Rather than taking the gospel out into the world, we invited the world into the church, and the world accepted our invitation, bringing its corruption with it, and we never objected.
As a result, many who are not saved are perfectly comfortable in the church, do not even realize that they are lost, and are rarely, if ever, challenged on the subject. Young people are leaving the church in droves; they had no true faith, and thus no real desire for God, and eventually they figure out that the world is better at entertaining them than the church. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19).
II Timothy 3:12
All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
We have created a Christianity that costs us nothing. The world doesn’t hate us and we face no persecution, because we rarely if ever confront them with their evil and God’s hatred of sin; we may tell them of God’s love, but we downplay or ignore His holiness, justice, and wrath, both in word and by living much the same as they do. Our commitment to God amounts to little more than wearing a t-shirt with a Bible verse on it, sharing an inspirational quote on Facebook, and going to church on Sunday. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:19). Persecution is less severe at some times than at others, but if the world does not hate you and you never face persecution at all, you are not living godly in Christ Jesus – you are still of the world, and the world loves his own.
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Derelict fathers allow their children to do whatever they want, even if it’s destructive to themselves or to others. God is not a derelict father. He does not allow His beloved children to wallow in the filth of sin, to keep living in rebellion against Him. He chastens us “for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). If He does not chasten you when you go astray, you are no true child of God (Hebrews 12:8).
If you go to church, and live just like the world the rest of the week; if you call yourself a Christian and then come home and partake of the filth of worldly entertainment and pop culture; if you say you love God but are living in immorality; if you claim to follow Christ but are full of pride because you don’t do certain “really bad” sins; if you can enjoy any form of rebellion against God and He is not convicting you, rebuking you, and chastening you, you are not His child; if you do not repent, the time will come when you too will hear the awful words “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23).
II Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
When we are truly saved, God takes the stony heart out of our flesh and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27). He creates in us a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). We become a new creature, a new creation. Our old, sinful nature is crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), and we are dead to sin (Romans 6:2), but alive to God (Romans 6:11). The servant of sin has been set free (John 8:34-36). God changes our desires; we begin to want to live for God, not for ourselves. Sin begins to lose its appeal to us, and we begin to desire true holiness. If this is not happening in your life, if you still love the world and the pleasures it offers, God’s love is not in you. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)
“But I gave my life to Jesus in Sunday School when I was little!”
Did you really? Or did you just have an emotional experience? If it did not have a permanent impact on your life, you were like the guy who breaks up with his girlfriend when the initial emotions wear off and he finds out it costs something to make the relationship work; were your emotions just stirred up, or were you truly committed to forsake everything – your worldliness, your sin, your possessions, your friends, your family, your reputation, everything – and live for Christ alone, no matter what the cost? If you were truly saved, God would have changed your heart and your desires; your commitment would have been real and lasting.
“But I’m no worse than anyone else in my church/youth group!”
Why does that matter? Some of them may not be saved, either. We don’t compare ourselves to those around us; we measure ourselves by the Word of God. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).
“But I know in my heart that I’m saved!” / “But God told me I’m saved!”
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). If you are a true child of God, you WILL know it in your heart by the work of the Spirit. But He does not contradict Himself and tell us something contrary to what He said in His Word. If you love rebellion against God, your assurance is either self-deception or a lie of Satan. ”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26). Our confidence must be based on the Word of God alone.
“But I believe the Bible!”
Good! but so does Satan (James 2:19). Faith is not mere intellectual assent to a set of facts. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). A faith that does not change the way you live is no true faith. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?” (Malachi 1:6). If you do not honour the Lord with your words and actions, you have no true faith, He is not your father, and you are not His son.
“Following a lot of rules doesn’t work for me. I love God; isn’t that enough?”
Keeping a list of rules will not work for anyone. We are saved by faith, not by works. You cannot earn God’s favour, and a hypocritical attempt to look good to others will not fool God. But if you truly love God, you will keep His commandments out of love for Him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). Love is not sappy emotionalism; love is a self-sacrificing commitment to put yourself and your own interests aside and seek what is best for someone else. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23), but “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:24). The kind of love that doesn’t obey is no true love at all.
Christ died to save us from sin, not merely from the consequences of sin. I am not saying true Christians are sinless, for Scripture is very clear that we still sin. But God changes our heart and our desires and we begin to hate our sin. If we drift our own way for a time, God chastens us to pull us out of our sin. A good tree bears good fruit; a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. If Christ is your Saviour, you will bear good fruit. Figs don’t grow on thorn bushes.
Perhaps I’ve been describing you. You’ve been living a lie. You call yourself a Christian, but you live for yourself rather than for God. You love the world and its pleasures. Repent and come to the Saviour today. An emotional decision will last as long as the emotions and no longer, but if you search for God with all your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
Jesus paid the price for our salvation, but when we become His and He begins to change us, we may lose a lot of things that pale in importance compared to Him. It will cost you your love of worldliness and sin. It will cost you your pride, and maybe your possessions. It will probably cost you some friends. It may cost you your family, and even your life. The world will hate and persecute you. Even some who take the name “Christian” and should be on your side will slander you as legalistic, self-righteous, hypocritical, and judgemental. Your reputation will suffer. It will cost you yourself; God calls you to put everything on the altar, and present yourself as a living sacrifice to God and live for Christ alone (Romans 12:1). The cost is high; but “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Related: A Card-Carrying Christian