Saving Faith, Part 2 (Romans Sermon 76 of 120)
August 21, 2005 | Andrew Davis
Sanctification, Faith, A New Creation
I. Introduction: The Most Extraordinary Earthquake in History
I think it must have been the most extraordinary earthquake in history. I'm referring to the earthquake that shook the Philippian jail in Acts 16. I've never heard of anything like it before. An earthquake that shakes a jail to its foundations and enables all of the prisoners chains to fall off, but nobody gets crushed by a falling boulder or by a broken timber. The prison doors fly open, but no one runs away. And you remember the story, how the Philippian jailer thinking that his life was forfeit and that all of his prisoners had escaped, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, his soul hanging by a thread over eternity, over hell really, when a voice rings out from the darkness saying, "Don't harm yourself. We are all here." The voice of the Apostle Paul, saving not only his life, but his eternal soul. The jailer was trembling, and called for lights and then brought Paul and Silas out and then he asked this key question. It is the question of our soul, "What must I do to be saved?" "What must I do to be saved?" And the answer that Paul and Silas gave there is the same answer that he gives here in Romans 10:9-10. There in Acts 16, he says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household."
Here in Acts 10:9-10, he says, "If you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved." Now, a cynic may ask, "Saved from what?" "Saved from what?" I've witnessed before and I use slogans like, "Jesus is the answer," and they're saying, "What's the question?" "Jesus is the Savior." "What's the threat? From what are we being saved?" Friends we're being saved from the due penalty of our sin, we're being saved from eternal damnation, we're being saved from hell itself. That's the saved that the Philippian jailer wanted to know about, that's the saved that's in front of us here in Romans 10:9-10, and what could be more important than that? Because everyone who does not believe stands condemned already, it says in John 3, we're in dire need of a savior. Now last week, we began to look at this incredible text on the nature of saving faith and we focused in on one aspect, the content of saving faith.
Basically we said at that point that faith must have a content, that there's a focus to our faith. Faith alone doesn't save. Fanatical Muslims and Buddhist monks, as we said, may have more faith than we do, but that's not going to save them. It's faith in Christ. We saw also last week that there is such a thing therefore as absolute, unshakable truth. And that includes even what we call metaphysical truth, religious truth. There are spiritual truths that are just true. We live in a postmodern age, as we discussed last week, in which that is seriously doubted. There is therefore ultimate truth for me and ultimate truth for you, and ultimate truth for Muslims and ultimate truth for Buddhists. They just deny the concept of absolute truth. We talked about this last week, there is truth. We said thirdly, the truth precedes experience, religious experience. It's not your testimony that saves, it's not your religious experience that saves, it's the truth of the gospel, that Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. Unshakable truths, that's what we talked about last time. The truth of the incarnation and the truth of the resurrection, that was the content of saving faith.
II. The Character of Saving Faith
Now, this morning, we're going to look at the character of saving faith and the confirmation of saving faith. First the character, and the reason we need to do this is friends, the devil and his angels believe more Christian truths than you do or that I do. They know more doctrine than any of us, than all of us put together. They know all of these things and they hate them, every one. They believe that they're true. Remember how the demons said to Jesus, "We know who you are, the holy one of God." They didn't doubt the incarnation, they knew very well. It says in James 2:19, "You believe there is one God, good, even the demons believe that and they shudder." And so the content alone and believing that the content is true does not save your soul. Not alone, it's essential, but it's not all there is. The Apostle Paul isn't exchanging a legalistic life of religious obedience to laws for a dry cold, intellectual assent to a bunch of doctrines. That's not what he's exchanging here. And so, it goes far beyond that. And so what I want to say to you is that the character of saving faith is that it's a hard faith, it comes from the heart, from the core of your being. Look what it says again, Romans 10:9-10 "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved."
So we say that head knowledge by itself does not save you. The mental assent that these doctrines are true does not save your soul. Often in witnessing I've talked to people about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I love to talk about this because it meant so much in my early Christian life. Thinking about the evidence for the resurrection. I've done this before, I've said, "Now what are the options of what happened to Jesus' body? I mean could his disciples have stolen it?" Well then, what would their motive be for facing death if they knew that Jesus was buried in Peter's garden? There's not going to be much evidence and much security for facing death. Nobody's going to want to do that. So I go through all of these things and when I get to the end, I've looked at all the logical possibilities for what happened to Jesus' body, I'll say, "Well, what do you think?" And they'll say, in a flat, cold, kind of dry way, "Well, I guess Jesus rose from the dead." Do I say, "Hallelujah, you're saved! I'm so excited!" No, I know something's amiss. They assent to it, but they don't love it.
There's no life, there's no passion, there's no conversion. They're just saying, "Well you twisted my arm. I guess I really don't see any way out. I'm going to look for one, but I'm really kind of out of ideas right now on how it could be anything else or how it's even relevant to my life. So, mere intellectual assent does not save. Saving faith is a matter of the core of the personality, of the being. What we call the heart, it's a heart matter. It's a matter of the heart, it's deep and it's rooted in every part of a person's being. It's not a sham, it's not a fake, it's not hypocrisy, it's not acting. The Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus called seven times, "Whoa to you, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites." The word hypocrite means an actor, with a mask on, with a costume. That's not what it is, that doesn't save you. That's not saving faith. Rather it's rooted in love, ultimately. That we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all your soul and with all our strength, and with all of our mind. It's a fire that God ignites inside the heart, inside the soul of love for him.
Now, the heart's natural condition is not this way, the heart is naturally cold and dead toward the things of God. The heart is naturally, it says in Ephesians 2, dead in its transgressions and sins. There's no spark of life, or no initiation. There's no one who seeks God, it says in Romans 3. They suppress the truth in unrighteous, they love wickedness apart from Christ. And the heart, the natural human heart erect barriers and boundaries to the encroaching Gospel messenger. Barriers against Christ, really. Mark McCloskey in his book, Tell It Often, Tell It Well talks about these barriers, spiritual blindness, bad experiences with Christians and with the church. They go to church one time and somebody says something to them and is offensive or is a hypocrite or something, and then they feel they're free from considering Christ for the rest of their lives, as a result. There are barriers that are set up. Also, misconceptions of the nature of the gospel and character of God. Commitment to an immoral lifestyle, it's like, "If I believe in Jesus, I'll have to give that up, and I don't want to give that up so... " And they know that. So commitment to an immoral lifestyle.
Intellectual dishonesty, willing to kind of bend the rules of logic, and of their own minds in order to evade the force of the Gospel. And then there's fear, fear of what people will think if you commit yourself to Christ. All of these are obstacles and they only increase if you're talking about overseas, cross-cultural situations where you got false religions, false world views, family members that will kill you, perhaps, even if you come to Christ, there's all kinds of obstacles. And so, the heart cannot change itself, ultimately. We don't have power over our hearts. You may think you do, but we don't. We don't have the ability to choose as an act of the will, to love what we once hated, and to hate what we once loved. This is a supernatural transformation that only God can work. The radical transformation that these verses describe can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Sinful human heart doesn't have power over its own affections, over its own allegiances. Still less can it decide, "I'm going to follow Jesus, I'm going to love Jesus, I'm going to believe that Jesus is Lord, and that God raised him from the dead, and I'm going to make Jesus my Lord, I'm going to follow Him and obey Him and love Him." We don't have that power.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. This is what conversion really is. This is what it means to be born again. It's a radical transformation. Now, we've been talking here in Romans 10:9-10, after all of this incredible complexity, Romans 9, the sovereignty of God, the depths of the understanding, none of us will ever fully figure it out. And before that, eight other chapters of really deep and ultimately complex Christian doctrine. Isn't it delightful to come to Romans 10:9-10? The simplicity of saving faith. "That if you confess with the mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." But for all of that simplicity Paul makes another statement in 1st Corinthians 12:3, and he says this, "Therefore I tell you, no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." Isn't that amazing? For all that simplicity, you can't do it. You can't, unless the Spirit works within you. You won't.
Now, you know what I mean, don't you? You know that it's not just saying, "Jesus is Lord." I can make a percentage of you say the words, "Jesus is Lord," right now if I wanted to. Some of you are going like, "I'm not saying, I'm not going to do what he says. I never turn to the neighbor when they tell us. I don't do those things. When the pastor says... I don't get involved in that. I'm just here listening, I'm not here participating in a group activity, okay, I'm not doing that." But I could make at least a percentage of you say the words, "Jesus is Lord," or I could go to any unbeliever, I could write the three words, "Jesus is Lord," on a piece of paper and say, "Read this," and he or she would read it. Is that open sesame? The cave of salvation opens up, if you just say these magic words, "Jesus is Lord." That's not what we're talking about, we're saying from the heart you believe that Jesus is Lord, that God raised him from the dead. You can't do that, except by the Holy Spirit of God, that's what Paul is saying.
The Need For a New Heart
And so therefore, you must have a new heart. You must have heart surgery, and I don't mean the physical organ that does such an incredible job of pumping blood through your veins day after day after day. I mean the core of your being, you must have a transformation. And that's the very thing friends, that's the very thing that God promises to do through Jesus Christ. Isn't that marvelous? That is the central promise of the New Covenant. It's the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant, the promise of a heart transformed by the power of God. Listen to Ezekiel 36:26-27. There it says, the Lord says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you and I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, and I'll put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." God has promised to take out our unresponsive, cold, dead heart of stone and give us a living heart, give us a heart that loves Jesus, give us a hard that lives for the glory of God, give us a new heart. He has that power and he alone has that power.
And that's what he's promising to do in the gospel. Then the first thing that that new heart does inside, is it sees the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. And the second thing that heart, that new heart does is believes in Jesus for salvation. It sees who Christ is and says, "I trust him, I love him, I want him." It's a heart, it's a matter of the heart. That's what the saving faith is. There's a genuineness and an honesty there, a truly turning and a truly trusting it comes from the heart. Joel 2:12-13, the prophet there, the Lord speaking through the prophets says, "Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend," [that means reap or tear] your heart, and not your garments." See Jews when they showed, they wanted to show outward shock or blasphemy, or grief or something, they would tear their clothes. Paul and Barnabas did that when some sought to worship them, and the high priest did it when Jesus said he was God, they tear their clothes. Joel says, "I don't want to see your clothes torn. Don't tear your clothes. You Jews are good at the externals."
And all of us are that way. We can externally tear the clothes, that's easy. No, rend your heart and not your garment. It's a heart transformation for Jew and Gentile alike. And ultimately, it means that Christ becomes your treasure, he becomes what you value most in your heart. Jesus told two parables about this in Matthew 13. "The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy, went off and sold everything he had and bought that fields... Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he sold everything he had and bought it." The treasure, the pearl, that's what's truly valuable. Worth everything else in your life, what is your primary treasure? Jesus becomes your primary treasure when you're saved. That's what you cherish above all things.
Like the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3, "Whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith, I want to know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, and the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in his death and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Those are words pouring out of a heart that loves Jesus, a heart that sees nothing else in God's creation as precious and valuable and worthy of being treasured as Jesus Christ. It's a heart, a matter of the heart, it's a heart faith. Demons will always know more scripture and more doctrine than we do, but they hate Jesus with every fiber of their being. We, Christians, we love Jesus. He is our treasure and Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, that's where your heart will be also."
When George Beverly Shea was 23 years old, he faced a decision: Should he accept a high-paying job as a songwriter in New York City? He had some offers he was talented. Or should he use his musical gifts to serve Christ, specifically for a Christian radio program? And as he was sitting at the piano and thinking about it, he was a composer, a poem by Mr. Rhea Miller came across him and he said, this is it, "I'd rather have Jesus." And we sang it earlier today, didn't we? "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I'd rather be his than have riches untold. I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land. I'd rather be led by his nail-pierced hand, than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin's dread sway. I'd rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today." That's what a saved heart says. Now, if that old poetical language isn't the way your heart says it, it doesn't matter. But you'll be saying it somehow. You'll be saying, "Jesus is of a greater treasure than anything else in God's world." That is the character of saving faith, it's a heart faith.
III. The Confirmation of Saving Faith
Thirdly, what is the confirmation of saving faith? Basically, the principle is this: Genuine saving faith results in an outward transformed lifestyle. You're going to present something differently to the world than you would have if you weren't a Christian. And it begins with a statement from the mouth. That's where the whole thing starts. It all begins with a confession that Jesus is Lord. Look what it says in verse 9-10, "that if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved."
The core teaching of James, chapter 2, which some people find a very troubling chapter, as though it's somehow contradictory. Paul was teaching justification by faith alone apart from works of the law, and then James comes along and says, "You got to have the works." You've got to have the works if you're going to be saved. And people are troubled by what James says in James 2:14. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds, can such faith save him?" That means there's different kinds of faith. There's dead faith, and there's demon faith, there's deceptive faith and then there's saving faith. And saving faith is a living thing and living things produce fruit. Things come, deeds come, an outward presentation to the world around comes because of true, genuine, saving faith. Says again in James 2:17, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead." Now, I think that the first action that a saved person takes, the first movement that comes is usually with the mouth. They usually say something about it. They talk about it, they say something.
Five Steps of confirmation
And that's what I think is step one of this confirmation. I'm going to look at five steps quickly of how saving faith is confirmed to the outside world.
Step 1: Confirmed by Confession With the Mouth
The first step is confirmation by confession with the mouth. Now, this word, confess with the mouth Jesus is Lord, what that means is to swear honestly and deeply, it's to make the most significant statement that the mouth can make. Like some people would do it by swearing with an oath. We get this in Matthew 14:6-7, on Herod's birthday, talking there about Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias, danced for them and pleased Herod so much. The NIV says, "That he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked for." That word is the same as what we get here in Romans 10. He confessed it, he swore it, and the word was so binding on him that even after she asked for John the Baptist head on a platter, he couldn't go back on what he had said. There's a seriousness to the word that's spoken. That's what is going on here, is a serious swearing or confession. Literally, the word means, to say with, to agree with our mouth, what God the Father does about Jesus, that He is Lord, we're saying it with our mouth.
The mouth thus becomes a window for the whole world to look into your heart. Apostle Paul put it this way, in 2 Corinthians 4:13, "It is written, 'I believed therefore, I have spoken.' With the same spirit of faith that we believe and therefore we speak." You believe something, you're going to talk about it, you're going to say something. Now, what I think happens is, the heart believes first and then out comes the words, or else it's hypocrisy. And so therefore, Jesus says that there's a direct connection between what you say with your mouth, what you believe in your heart. In Matthew 12:33-37, after Jesus' enemies said, "It is by Beelzebub, the king of demons that He drives out demons." And Jesus said, "You know, you can't just say those things. The things you say matter. What comes out of your mouth makes a difference." This is what He said, "Make a tree good, and its fruit will be good, make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruits. You brood of vipers, how can you, who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."
That's what I'm talking about, out of the overflow of what's in your heart, you're going to say something, the mouth speaks. "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Listen to this, "For by your words you'll be acquitted, and by your words you'll be condemned." Jesus said, "Just give me a list of what they've said and I'll tell you what's going on in their heart." Now, He can do that, we can't. All He has to do is have a complete list of your words and He will know whether you're saved or not. If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' you will be saved. As a matter of fact, the connection is so strong that Jesus put it this way in Matthew 10:32 and 33, "Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I will deny him before my Father in heaven." And so therefore, a verbal confession of Christ is essential to our salvation, we're going to say something about it.
We're going to say Jesus is Lord. We're going to speak, we're going to talk about what we believe, that's the first step.
Step 2: Confirmed by Prayer from the Heart
The second step that is confirmed by prayer from the heart, I get this out of Verse 13, where it says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." We usually think of that in terms of prayer, and I think rightly so. Almost every witnessing track that I've ever used ends up with something called, The Sinner's Prayer. Have you ever seen The Sinner's Prayer? I remember, I was trained in The Four Spiritual Laws, and I don't know that I could completely recite The Four Spiritual Laws, Sinner's prayer. But it went something like this, "Lord Jesus, I need you, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins, I now surrender control of my life, I want you to take the throne of my life, and make me the kind of person you want me to be, in Jesus name, amen." There's The Sinner's Prayer.
I was listening to a tape Jeremy gave me from Voddie Baucham, is a African American preacher, very powerful, I love listening to him and he's got a great sense of humor. He was talking about his friend Steve, who was leading him to Christ, and after a number of weeks of sharing, and witnessing, and talking, Voddie Baucham was alone, at one point, he was in a locker room and he realized, "I didn't need to seek any more, I didn't need any more information, I knew, I believed. I just knew it. And so, I got down on my knees and that sweaty, nasty locker room." And this is what he prayed, "God, that thing you did for Steve, that he's been telling me you want to do for me, now is good." Now, you're not going to see that printed at the back of most tracks, that's not the approach that most of us take. But he goes on and he says, "One of the best things Steve ever did for me is, he didn't change my prayer." Though we know it's not magic words that save, it's not the words of the Sinner's Prayer, is what comes out of the heart, and the person just saying, "Save me." Now, some people believe that that's the moment of justification, that until you say the Sinner's Prayer, you're not justified, I don't think that that really is possible.
If you look at Verses 13-14, Romans 10, and there it says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they've not believed in?" Do you see that? You have to believe before you can call. Therefore, I say to you, every genuine Sinner's Prayer that has everyone prayed, they're already justified before they said a word. And what the Sinner's Prayer is, is the first fruit of a justifying faith. And it isn't the last time they're going to call on the name of the Lord, is it? They're going to be calling and calling and calling and calling on Jesus the rest of their lives, that's just the first one. And Jesus does make us vocalize our need, doesn't He? He says to blind Bartimaeus, this blind man sitting by the road, and He says, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me." And Jesus seems to be a bit dense when He says, "What do you want me to do for you?" He's not dense, He's making Bartimaeus vocalize his need. "Tell me what you need." He knows what we need before we ask. But there's something very significant about speaking what we need. "Jesus save my soul." But I'm just telling you, before you say those words in truth, you already believed them in your heart and you were already justified.
For it is with the mouth, it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved. So that's what the Sinner's Prayer is.
Step 3: Confirmed by Water Baptism
The third step is that it's confirmed by water baptism. Now, you may say, "I don't see any water in Romans 10:9-10, so, where in the world? I thought you're an expositional preacher, I don't see any water, what's going on here?" Well, what I believe is that the confession with the mouth is the first stance of an outward communication to the world, "I am a Christian." There's got to be a hearing audience that's listening to you say, "Jesus is Lord." And the Lord Himself ordained that one of the earliest things that Christian does, is testify to the outside world, Jesus is Lord, by submitting to water baptism. That's the way that we believe that we make a public confession of Christ that He is Lord, and by submitting to water baptism. And we make you stand back here... Oh, you guys are still there, I never look at you, watch you there. We make you stand right back there and there's a microphone, and the people have to read their testimony, of how they came to faith in Christ. And I've had people be afraid to do it, and they say, "Do I really have to make this public confession?"
I said, "Yes you do." But Jesus is going to help you. It's just the first step of lots of challenges in the Christian life. And that water baptism is a public confession. Now, let me say a note about the idea of walking the aisle. We've talked about this before, but I think it's a good moment to say it. In many Evangelical churches, there's an invitation to come to Christ at the end of the sermon. I actually give invitation to come to Christ through the whole sermon. Frankly, the Word of God is a constant invitation to believe and to trust. Remember what it was that saved Abraham, what did he say? What did he do? Nothing. He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, that's justification by faith. It's in the heart. So, I guess by logic, you shouldn't be coming forward, you should come out of your tent and look up at the stars. It's got nothing to do with what you're doing with your body, although it will come out as you confess your faith to the outside world. But it's faith that justifies. And so, in many of the Evangelical, Baptist churches at the end of the sermon, there's this invitation, and people are encouraged to get up out of the peers and to make their way to the front.
And that has become such a major issue that it's somewhat of a tradition, almost boarding on traditionalism. And Voddie Baucham was talking about that, He said, "I'm asking you to stay put." I want you... Or go to the back, or do something, but coming to the front doesn't do anything to you. What it does do, and the kernel of what was good about that is a willingness to be not ashamed but a willingness to make a stand for Christ, to be publicly known as a Christian." Now, that is true, and I think that's exactly what's going on here in Romans 10:9-10. But friends, coming forward wasn't really possible than an age when there were no buildings, in which they met at Solomon's colonnade, in which there were small house churches and all that, there was no building in which you could come forward to, or in, or whatever is at the end of that sentence. Coming forward doesn't save you, hearing and believing saves. And then after that, there's going to be a lot more asked of you than merely coming forward.
Water baptism friends, is the way that we begin to make a formal testimony to the watching world that we are Christians. Well, I have another one. Now, if it helps to come forward, sometimes I think it is effective to say, "Look, if you would like to come forward and pray, kneel down, if you want somebody to pray with you... " Those things are fine, and we're going to do them, that's why I continue to go forward and I still have people come up and we pray together, and that's wonderful. There's nothing wrong with that. I just want to take away the sense of a sacrament almost, away from coming forward. It is hearing the Word, preach and believing that saves. And after that, we confess with our mouth, Jesus is Lord, and then water baptism is a formal way we testify to the watching world that we are saved.
Step 4: Confirmed by a Transformed Lifestyle
Now, the fourth step is that it's confirmed by a transformed lifestyle. Ron Hamilton who does the Patch the Pirate tapes wrote a song about hypocrisy, and he said this, "Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks." Let me put that in simple terms, people are watching how you live, not just what you say. They want to see if your lifestyle lines up with what you're confessing with your mouth.
So, if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, but you live contrary to His commands, that is no confirmation of saving faith, actually, it's quite the opposite. Saving faith produces a transformed lifestyle. Saving faith can be seen not in itself, but in the fruit that comes from it. And so therefore, Paul writes at the beginning of this letter, Romans 1:8, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." Nobody can report on faith, but we can report on the fruit of faith, we can see what's happened to you. He says the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, he says, "The Lord's message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achia, your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore, we don't need to say anything about it. For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from this coming wrath." Paul says, "The Thessalonian Christians, everybody could see your changed life. You stopped doing evil things. The gross sins follow way quickly, the drunk stops drinking, the drug addict stops using. Those that are sexually immoral, they stopped sleeping together."
There's a change in lifestyle because you're a Christian, and that's genuine. And then after that, the Lord has the rest of your lives to work on the real hard issues, the root issues of pride and lust and greed, and selfishness, the rest of your life. But a transformed lifestyle will be evident for everyone to see, that's the fourth step.
Step 5: Confirmed by Perseverance Through Suffering
The fifth step is confirmed by perseverance through suffering. You know about the rocky soil, the seed falls on it, and at once receives it with joy, but since he has no root he lasts only a short time. And trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, he quickly falls away. The ultimate confirmation of saving faith is perseverance over the years. Perseverance, facing two different kinds of suffering. First, suffering in temptation, you persevere in a lifestyle of holiness, fighting the good fight of faith. 1 Timothy 6, Paul talks about Timothy's confession, he said, "Fight the good fight of faith," they're linked together. It's an internal war of holiness and righteousness.
And secondly, making a verbal confession to the outside world. Speak to your neighbors, speak to your co-workers, speak to your classmates, tell them that you're a Christian, say that you believe that Jesus is Lord, you've got to speak the words. Because we're going to see later in Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing." And earlier than that, that there's got to be a preacher. Somebody's got to be willing to say the words. You have to be willing to be counted as a Christian. You have to say, "Jesus is Lord," you have to be willing to say. Friends, nobody's going to get upset if you say, "God bless you," after somebody sneezes. Nobody is offended by the word God. Say, "Jesus", say "Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord. Christ is my savior," that's when it's going to get offensive. Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved," than Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Say the name and be willing to be counted worthy of suffering for the Gospel.
What application can we take from this? Is understanding that we've gained the nature of true saving faith. First and foremost, friends, are you saved? Are you saved? Are you saved from your sins? Are you saved from wrath on Judgment Day? Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Do you believe that God raised Him from the dead? Do you believe it with your heart?
Secondly, has Christ become your treasure? Is He your greatest desire? Is it your yearning to see Him in the face? Is it your yearning to see his glory and to be with him where He is? Is that what you want? For it says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." And you think about it a lot. Do you wonder if Christ is pleased with you? Are you thinking, "Is this a Christocentric lifestyle?" And you're thinking, you're just thinking about Christ, you love Him, He's your treasure. And is your mouth and your life confirming that Jesus is your Lord? And if your answer to that is no, then you're not saved, you're still in your sins. Come to Christ. Jesus stands with his hands extended and says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I'll give you rest." Come to Christ today. Come to Christ and believe in Him, and trust in Him for the salvation of your souls.
And if you are a Christian, does your life live up to your testimony? Have you allowed some other things to crowd out your love for Christ? Is He still the only treasure of your heart, the ultimate treasure of your heart? Do you need some weeding work done? And are you willing to stand and be counted as one of his own? Make a confession that Jesus is your Lord publicly, to a watching world. That's going to give you a hard time for making that confession, are you willing to do it? Jesus Christ is calling on us as Christians to make this confession, "Jesus is Lord," to a world that hates Him. People's souls are relying on the willingness of Christians to make that confession. Won't you do it? Close with me in prayer.