Growing up I heard the preacher say, “Did you really mean it? Or did you just go through the motions?” This phrase referred to what many call the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ For many, this prayer is how you ‘get saved.’ But, is that really what the Gospel is? Is that what the Bible teaches us? If you say the words, are you truly saved & kept? Let’s take a moment to read the Bible and discuss.
He Will Not Forsake His Saints
“ Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial. Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” Psa 37:1-40
“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” Gal 3:16
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Gal 3:29
In the third chapter of Galatians Paul clarifies the statement that “this promise is for you and your offspring…” that was given to Abraham. He explains that the Law, with its rituals and harsh penalties was a parenthesis between Abraham—who was justified by faith—and Christ, who ratified the promise made to Abraham as Abraham’s offspring. Thus, only those who believe in the completed work of Christ (the offspring) in the same manner of belief that Abraham did, are considered “in Christ” and thus, righteous.
Those in Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, those who believe God, are given the status of righteous. No works of the Law are added in. No deeds of the flesh can increase the righteousness that is bestowed by God according to His promise. No baptism, no communion, no heritage of believing parents will add or subtract one thread of the wedding cloak of Christ’s righteousness that is given by the Father.
Not Inherit – Those who will not receive the promise
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
John Wesley comments: “Idolatry is here placed between fornication and adultery, because they generally accompanied it. Nor the effeminate – Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good – natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites! We may learn hence, that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought the least; nor, indeed, till we think no sin is little, since every one is a step toward hell.”
The context of the verse is Paul being astonished at the wrongs between the congregation, and that the members of the congregation were running to the non-believers and the law to get justice. There is no fellowship, and no wisdom to come from the unbelieving world. The ungodly cannot properly render justice among Christians. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers because they have no claim to inherit the things to which we have set our eyes.
The reminder is that if we live in sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality or thievery, etc. we don’t have any part of the Lord. They demonstrate that they have not been washed, sanctified and justified by the name and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and are not filled with His Spirit. Paul moves on to talk about how we should flee the things that dominate the world. We should only be devoted to God and our actions as offering to the Lord. We cannot offer anything as basic as eating and intimacy with our spouse if either is tainted by the obsessive idolizing of the world.
Slave or Free
Galatians 4:30 draws the comparison of Ishmael and Issac: “But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”
Those who are of the slave, dominated by the flesh, putting their hope in an imperfect, work-based inheritance, will not inherit the kingdom with those born of the power of God. Those born of the flesh will persecute and ridicule those born of the spirit, just as Ismael ridiculed Isaac. How do we know if we are born of the flesh or born of the spirit?
Those who are born of the flesh will believe their justification is in part or in whole, dependent upon works. It will either be in keeping of the Old Law, doing certain outward things like attending a church, attending all meetings, observing a form of baptism, taking communion, getting circumcised, etc. Those born of the spirit know that outward rituals and religious activity counts for nothing (Gal 5:6).
We have been born to freedom. We do not need to appease God through sacrifices, rituals, etc. But, Paul warns in v. 13, we shouldn’t use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. We prevent that by serving one another in love. When we don’t serve each other in love, encouraging each other, we bite and devour each other. We demonstrate we are not walking by the Spirit (v. 16). Rather, we are walking by the flesh, which is against the Spirit.
How do we know if we’re doing the works of the flesh vs. the Spirit? Paul says this in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The last part is key: “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s important to note what the ‘such things’ are. They include fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy … Many like to focus on the Big Ones: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies … But they only make up 7 of the things that are marked as evidence. The other 8 are largely ignored.
The truth is, they are all intertwined. You can’t be envious and full of jealousy unless you are committing idolatry of the things of the world. You cannot be filled with fits of anger, unless you are given to strife, feel dissension and eager to divide people. This tendency speaks to ones impurity, that they have themselves at the center of their thoughts. Self-righteous people who yearn for positions within authority and the respectful greetings in the public places are, ultimately, sensual since they are looking for the pleasure of their flesh, the pride of life.
Such people are showing that they are dominated by the flesh and are born of the flesh, the slave, and will not inherit the kingdom of God.
What is the evidence of the Spirit? Or, as Paul puts it, the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
There are 9 of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with all 15 signs of its passions and desires. Paul concludes the chapter by urging us that if we live by the Spirit, we should keep in step with the Spirit (v.25), which is the opposite of becoming conceited, provoking each other and envying one another (v.26).
To keep in step with the Spirit, we must be obedient to Christ. We must adhere to the “narrow way” that is His. We must receive the kingdom of God as a child, with faith that just believes, absent proof (Mark 10:15).
Not everyone who claims to be Christian will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). Those who are disobedient, not doing the will of the Father, will not enter.
The false Christians adhere to a form of godliness that denies the Lord’s Lordship (the Power that canceled their debt. He is the Lord of the Sabbath rest. Their “godliness” clings to the belief that their works contribute to their salvation). They ultimately cling to their self-life. We must say about our self-life, as Peter had said of Christ, “I do not know the man.” (ref. F.B. Meyer). The false Christian doesn’t produce fruit. Fruit should first be defined by the fruit of the Spirit within the believer. The outworking of that fruit is a trail of people who have been changed by interacting with those sojourners who walked humbly in their midst.
The fruit of the Spirit comes about from obeying the words of Christ (Matt. 7:24). Failing to do this, will result in a loose foundation.
We need to know the words of Christ in order to obey them. He said that the meek will inherit the earth. He said we should turn the other cheek when smitten. We should go an extra mile when under compulsion from someone. We should give up our coat, if someone takes our shirt.
The best evidence of doing the will of the Father is to repent. It is the Father’s will that each should repent and believe (repent from dead works that attempt to earn our salvation by being ‘good enough’). It is His will that we turn from the wicked way of the world and live to give Him glory. That is the call for each to obey, primarily. That is the foundation of the one who abides in Christ.
Confidence Before God
Hebrews 10 outlines the basis and the confidence for our salvation: The body of Christ offered once for the atonement of the sins of the world (the only sign of the New Covenant). No additional sacrifice is needed for our sins when we have been forgiven on account of Christ’s covenant ratified in His doing of the Father’s Will that He be the sacrifice for the sins that we could not atone for with the sacrifice of animals year after year. In that single sacrifice, God has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14). The Holy Spirit witnesses the redeemed because they have God’s laws on their hearts and minds (v. 16). God no longer remembers their sins and their lawless deeds (v. 17).
The writer of Hebrews continues that we have confidence on behalf of this sacrifice (v. 19). We can draw near with a true heart of assurance of faith. We will have our evil conscience cleaned, and our bodies washed with pure water (v. 22). We then hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23). We stir one another up to love and good works (v. 24) which is the opposite of striving, divisions and dissension. We gather together to encourage each other (v. 25).
The antithesis of this is that we use our freedom from sin as an opportunity for the flesh and go on sinning deliberately (v. 26). If we do that, we’ve revealed that we did not accept His sacrifice, and there is no other sacrifice for us, because we have rejected the only sacrifice that would sprinkle our conscience clean and wash us pure. instead, despite any profession of faith, we should have the fearful expectation of judgment, fury and fire (v. 27).
If someone has done this, they should recall the former days when they heard the gospel and faced struggles and sufferings, things we’re promised if we follow Christ (v. 32). We may have shown growth at first, but if we fall away we prove that we haven’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice and we’re not true converts.
Despite the hard times and temptations, the righteous (those declared righteous by God) will live by faith. The one who shrinks back, the Lord has no pleasure in him (v. 38). The Lord has no pleasure in the one who has not been washed by the sacrifice of Christ.
The proof of salvation is that we do not shrink back from obedience in the face of persecution and we persevere.
Perseverance is not only demonstrated in what we say, for many will say “Lord, Lord!” but have not done the Father’s will. They admit to a creed, they have faith that God is supreme, they believe Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin, but they have rejected it as the only way, either consciously, or in the way they live.
Our faith is demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit, which draws us nearer to God and we walk in meekness, humility, purity, gentleness and confidence in our Lord. This results in our confession of our hope. Our unwavering hope brings us together with others who share that hope and we encourage each other in the faith & in purity and a good conscience.
Those who are not unwavering in hope, cleansed and pure, but go on having fits of rage, producing division, contention, strife, jealousy, impurity, immorality … they trample the name of the Lord under their feet and by their rebellion will find no other sacrifice able to cleans them.