A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted (Part5)

May 25, 2014 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

 

Review

We are looking at the marks of a healthy church member and we are still in the fourth mark: a healthy church member is genuinely converted.   I have said again and again that one of the reasons why there are so many nominal Christians today in the church is because of misunderstanding or ignorance of the biblical concept of conversion.   Many people have this wrong idea that because they have prayed a sinner’s prayer, they have been baptized, they have transferred to another church, and become official members, or because they have come to know the deep doctrines of Christianity, that they are already converted. Nothing can be farther from the truth.   If there is to be true conversion, three things need to happen:
  • First, there must be God’s initial work in the sinner.
  • Next, there must be repentance and faith.
  • And then, there must be a total life change.
  You will be able to recognize the person who is truly converted by his fruits. The Lord Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:20). Any one who simply claims to be a Christian but does not manifest the fruit of the Spirit is not a real Christian.     We are focusing now on this third aspect of conversion, which istotal life change. This is what the Bible calls “regeneration.”   The verse from the Bible that is often used for this work of salvation is John 3:3 where Jesus tells a Pharisee namedNicodemus,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   To be regenerated is to be spiritually reborn; it is to be born of God by the agency of the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5) and by means of the word of God (James 1:18). It is not mere reformation of the external behavior in order to live a better life. Regenerationis a supernatural operation of God upon man’s spirit. And so every person who is born again has experienced a miracle. It is a divine work not a human effort to change.   When you are regenerated, you become a new creation. The old value systems, priorities, beliefs, desires, and plans are gone. Although the sinful nature is still present, slavery to self and sin has gone and God implants new attitudes and actions in a person.   The regenerate person is no longer spiritually dead. He has received eternal life and has transferred from death to life. He has crucified the sinful nature and put on the new self which is made in the image and likeness of God.   When a person is regenerated, there is a great change that happens to the soul. The soul is “renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness.” Someone said, “Love of the world is changed into the love of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the ‘mind which was in Christ Jesus.’”   That is what it means to be regenerated.

Today’s Study

Today we will continue to look at the practical aspect of regeneration. How does a regenerated person look like? If you are truly converted, how will you think and behave?   I am sharing with you eleven tests that come from the first letter of John. It is right for us to base our study on this letter because of the main theme of First John. 1 John 5:13 says,“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” This is the main theme of the letter.   Much of the material in this study comes from
  • John MacArthur, Saved Without a Doubt
  • Joseph Alleine, Alarm to the Unconverted Sinners
  • Archibald Alexander, A Practical View of Regeneration
  So what are the tests based on the First letter of John to find out if you are regenerated or not?     Last week we looked at three:

1.    Do you enjoy fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ(1Jn 1:3)?

2.    Do you walk in the light (1Jn 1:6-7)?

3.    Are you sensitive to sin in your life (1Jn 18-10)?

    Today let’s continue…

4.    Do you obey God’s Word?

1Jn 2:3 “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.”   MacArthur:   If you want to know whether you’re a true Christian, ask yourself whether you obey the commandments of Scripture. Obedience to the commands of God produces assurance—the confidence of knowing for sure “that we have come to know Him.”   The Greek word translated “obey” in verse 3 speaks of watchful, careful, thoughtful obedience. It involves not only the act of obedience, but also the spirit of obedience—a willing, habitual safeguarding of the Word, not just in letter but in spirit.   John the Evangelist clarifies this test by adding vv. 4-6:   1Jn 2:4-6 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.   How did Jesus walk?   John 14:31:“but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”   Archibald Alexander:   With cheerful readiness and steady purpose the regenerated man begins a life of obedience and active usefulness. Whatever may be his condition in life, he feels an obligation to perform the duties prescribed by God in those relations with diligence and fidelity. … As a parent, a husband or wife, a child or brother, a magistrate or private citizen, a teacher or pupil, a master or servant, a friend or stranger, the law of God is so broad that it reaches his case and embraces every relation of human life, whether natural or artificial.[For examples, read Eph 5:22-25; 6:1-4; 5-9]   MacArthur: 1 John 2:3 is a call to gracious obedience because of the penalty Christ has already paid. How can you determine if you are a true Christian? Not by sentiment but by obedience. If you desire to obey the Word out of gratitude for all Christ has done for you, and if you see that desire producing an overall pattern of obedience, you have passed an important test indicating the presence of saving faith.  

5.    Do you reject this evil world?

1Jn 2:15 - Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.   Joseph Alleine:   Before a man has true faith, he is overcome by the world. He either bows down to mammon, or idolizes his reputation, or is a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God. Here is the root of man's misery by the fall. He is turned aside to the creature, and gives that esteem, confidence and affection to the creature—which is due to God alone.   But converting grace sets all in order again, and puts God on the throne, and the world at his footstool; Christ in the heart, and the world under the feet. 'I am crucified to the world, and the world to me' (Gal 6:14).   Before this change, all the cry was 'Who will show us any worldly good?' but now he prays, 'Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me', and take the corn and wine whoever will (Psalm 4:6-7).   Before, his heart's delight and content were in the world; then the song was, 'Soul, take your ease—eat, drink, and be merry! You have much goods laid up for many years.' [Luke 12:19] But now all this is withered, and there is no loveliness, that we should desire it; and he tunes up with the sweet psalmist of Israel, 'The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in a fair place, and I have a goodly heritage.' [Psalm 16:5-6] Nothing else can make him content.   He has written vanity and vexation upon all his worldly enjoyments, and loss and dross upon all human excellencies. He has life and immortality now in pursuit. He pants for grace and glory, and has an incorruptible crown in view. His heart is set to seek the Lord. He first seeks the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and religion is no longer a casual matter with him—but his main care.   Before, the world had the sway with him. He would do more for gain than godliness—more to please his friend or his flesh, than the God that made him; and God must stand by until the world was first served. But now all must stand by; he hates father and mother, and life, and all, in comparison of Christ.   Well then, pause a little, and look within. Does not this concern you? You pretend to be for Christ—but does not the world sway you? Do you not take more real delight and contentment in the world than in Him? Do you not find yourself more at ease when the world is in your mind and you are surrounded with carnal delights, than when retired to prayer and meditation in your room, or attending upon God's Word and worship? There is no surer evidence of an unconverted state than to have the things of the world uppermost in our aim, love and estimation.  

6.    Do you love Christ and eagerly await the His return?

1Jn 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.   MacArthur:   If you’re a true Christian, you will have hope in your heart, and your hope will be focused on Christ’s return. That hope will purify your life. Do you love Christ so much that you eagerly await to see Him face-to-face at His return and be made like Him? Are you waiting for that? Do you despise the sin in your fallen flesh and long to be like Christ? If you find yourself longing for the return of Jesus Christ, that’s evidence of salvation. It’s an indication of a new nature within, which longs to be delivered from a body of sin while becoming like the perfect Christ. If you have such holy longings and affections, you’ve passed an important test indicating the reality of your eternal salvation.

7.    Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?

  1Jn 3:5-9  But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.   John MacArthur:   Unbroken patterns of sin are characteristic of the unregenerate. No matter what a person claims about being a Christian, if he or she continues in sin, it is only a claim and not a reality. When you became a Christian, the pattern of sin was broken and a new pattern came into existence. Holy affections took over. Does that mean there’s no sin in your life? No, because your unredeemed flesh is still there. But the more you pursue those religious affections, the less you will sin.   What does that mean to you personally? If you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life, that’s evidence of holy affections. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is, as John said, “obvious” (v. 10). If you practice righteousness, you’re of God. If you don’t, you’re not. Plain and simple. If you see victory over sin in your life, if you see righteous motives, righteous desires, righteous words, righteous deeds, and if you’re not all you ought to be but certainly not what you used to be, then you have eternal life, so enjoy it.

8.    Do you love other Christians?

1Jn 3:14-15We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.   To amplify that point, go back to 1Jn 2:9-11.   9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.   Also, see 1Jn 3:16-18:   16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth   MacArthur: So here comes the test: If you claim to be a Christian but have no love in your heart for those in the church or any track record of meeting their needs, then the Apostle John says this to you: You’re in the dark in spite of your claim to be in the light. Love is a test of divine life. It signifies you have crossed over from darkness to light.

9.    Do you experience answered prayer?

1Jn 3:21-22 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.   John MacArthur:   You can know you’re a believer if God answers your prayers. … Have you had your prayers answered? Is that a pattern of life for you? If so, you have eternal life. Have you prayed for an unbeliever and seen that person come to Christ? Have you prayed for someone in great distress and seen God turn the situation around into blessing and joy? Have you sought God about a void in your life and seen Him fill it? Have you prayed for forgiveness in a clear conscience and received it? Have you asked God to enable you to present His truth to an individual or group and experienced His grace to do so with great clarity? Have you sought power in proclaiming the Gospel and experienced it? Have you asked that God would help you lead someone to the Savior, and He did? Have you sought contentment amidst trying circumstances and experienced God’s peace as a result? Have you asked the Lord to help you know Him better and experienced greater intimacy with Him after going through some hard lessons? Those are all indications that you belong to Him and He to you.

10. Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error?

1Jn 4:1-3 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.   John MacArthur   Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Christ? Suppose someone says, “I used to believe in Jesus Christ, but now I’ve seen the light: Christ really was an angelic being—or an emanation from God, a divine spirit without the human element, or just a man and not divine.” Any such heresies reflect an unregenerate heart. From the moment of your salvation, there’s one thing you’re clear about and that’s who Christ is and what He did, or you wouldn’t be saved. True believers know truth from error because the Spirit of Truth indwells them. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” John says, “is born of God” (1 John 5:1). When you believe the right thing about Christ, you’re born of God. You don’t have to be a seminary graduate or an expert on cults and world religions to distinguish truth from error. If you aren’t swayed from the basic truths of Christ’s divine person, work, and Word, that’s evidence of genuine saving faith.  

11. Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit?

1Jn 3:24 And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1Jn 4:13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”   We learn from other passages of Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin and convinces of us of our need of righteousness in Christ. If you repent of your sins, trust in Jesus, and submit to Him as Lord, that was the Spirit’s doing. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t turn away from your sin and know who Christ is and you certainly wouldn’t trust in Him as Savior and Lord.   MacArthur:   Another vital work of the Spirit is His illuminating your understanding of Scripture. John, speaking of the Spirit, said, “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and ...teaches you about all things” (2:27). When you read the Word of God, is its meaning illuminated to you? Do you understand what it says? We are not talking about obscure passages that we all struggle with, but consider the effect that reading the Word has on you. Ask yourself, Does it convict me when I’m sinful? Does it make me rejoice when I’m worshiping God and seeking to advance His kingdom? Those are signs of the Spirit’s illuminating work in your life. Have you ever ministered in a spiritual way through helping someone, giving to someone, or speaking to someone about Christ? Those are evidences of the Spirit of God. Do you actually experience His ministry in your life? In Romans 8:16, Paul explains that “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Now don’t expect Him to whisper into your ear, “You’re a Christian, you’re a Christian, believe Me you’re a Christian!” There’s no audible voice, nothing esoteric or mystical, but something very concrete. He bears witness by providing you with evidence of His presence in your life—by illuminating Scripture to you, drawing you into fellowship with God through prayer and praise, producing spiritual fruit to grace your life, and enabling you to minister effectively to others.   Let me add other manifestations of the Spirit from Archibald Alexander:  
  • The occasions of social and public worship are pleasant and refreshing to the renewed man. He is ready to exclaim, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord." ""How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
 
  • The regenerated desire the salvation of others. This desire may begin at home among his own loved ones and relatives, and friends, but it will go on to a larger circle that will include all men.
 
  • A soul that is born of God ardently and habitually desires to glorify God by all practical means. Their faculties, their learning, their influence, power, and property, are all consecrated to God. This aim is not confined to actions comparatively important, but is extended to all the common concerns of this life. In eating, drinking, plowing, sowing, and in whatever they do, they study to glorify God.
 
  • A regenerated man has his will swallowed up in the will of God. "Thy will be done," is his daily prayer from his inmost soul. When called to suffer, he bears the rod with filial submission, and though he may beg to be released from the pressure of heavy affliction, yet he asks this in submission to the will of God. If these chastisements, however grievous, can be for the glory of God, or … promote his faith and patience, he is willing to endure them, and even to have them increased.
 
  • His only wish to live, is for Christ: his strongest motive for wishing to depart, is to be with Christ. Heaven appears infinitely desirable because there, an eternity will be spent in praising the Redeemer.
  All of those things are evidences that the Spirit Himself is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  

Summary

The Apostle John gave all the tests that he did to give the true believer a biblical basis for being sure that they have eternal life or that they are regenerated and saved. Let’s review his spiritual inventory:  
  1. Do you enjoy fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you walk in the light?
  3. Are you sensitive to sin in your life?
  4. Do you obey God’s Word?
  5. Do you reject this evil world?
  6. Do you love Christ and eagerly await the His return?
  7. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?
  8. Do you love other Christians?
  9. Do you experience answered prayer?
  10. Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error?
  11. Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit?
  If you pass those tests, you can be more certain that you are regenerated. Remember what John wrote in 1John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”