This is the text of my sermon preached today at International Christian School
2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John
“The Miracle of the New Birth—Signs You Are Born Again”
Wow, I’m so sorry I’m late. You see, I had to go back to my room because I forgot something, and on my way down the stairs, I fell. And I fell really hard. So I went to the bathroom to make sure everything was ok. And while I was putting water in my face, three people grabbed me and pinned me against the wall and one person started punching me. He completely beat me up, and after I hit the floor, they started kicking me in the face. I’m pretty sure they broke a couple ribs and my nose. Anyway, I hope I’m not too late.
Wait, you don’t look like you believe me. Why?
But Mr. Zanger, let’s be serious—if three men started beating you up and punching you and kicking you in the face, there’s no way you would be here right now, talking with us. There would be signs of your beating.
Now, let me be serious—if three men overpowering me would show effects, how much more effect would God—who is incredibly more powerful than any three men—have on me.
If you say that the God of all creation has come into your life, then there is one thing that we better see—an effect.
Pray with me…
I’ll be honest with you…this is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult sermons I will ever preach. It’s frightening because some of you will be sitting out there thinking about how every one else needs to hear this sermon. Instead, YOU should be listening to this sermon. It’s scary because in preaching this, some of you might take it as me judging you and will throw me and this sermon and God and the Bible away. It’s scary because this will make some of you very angry with me. It’s scary because if I’m in error, I have brought the judgment of God upon me.
The question I want to raise today is “How do I know I’m a Christian?”
· Is it because you prayed a prayer when you were 6?
· Is it because a preacher pronounced you saved?
· Is it because you “believe”? How do you know you believe?
· Is it because you wrote “I was saved on ________” in your Bible?
· Is it because you walked down an aisle?
· Is it because you repeated a prayer after someone?
I’m here to tell you that if you believe that because you did one of those things, that is assurance that you will get into heaven, you are not basing your assurance of salvation on the right criteria.
2 Corinthians 13:5
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!
Right now, are you a Christian? The Apostle Paul is crying out for you to examine yourself. Test yourselves. Examine your lives. Examine your heart. Test your lives. Test your hearts.
Here’s my great fear for some of you in the room. You were here during any Spiritual Emphasis Week…emotions were high, you cried, and you called yourself saved. Or, somebody declared you were a Christian—I did that once, much to my shame. You went to a Worship Zone or Cross-Led Generation, and in the emotion of the event, you “accepted Jesus into your heart.”
And two weeks later, you were back to the same old sin. No change. Nothing. An emotional event, with nothing else. No hatred of sin, no great desire for God. An emotional high like winning a tournament or getting that A+ in the toughest class…but when it comes down to it, there’s no power behind it.
So here’s what I want you to do. Compare yourself tonight…not against what your heart says or what your mind says or what your parents say or even what your pastor says or against our godless culture. Compare yourself against the only thing that will never pass away—the Word of God.
Also, compare who you are in the dark. Don’t compare the mask you put on at this school to make everyone believe you’re perfect. Compare who you really are, when you’re not at this school, when you’re not around your parents…compare who you really are…in the secret.
The Apostle John wrote his gospel for one purpose, and we find that statement in John 20:30-31: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; (31) but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Did you catch it? He wrote his gospel so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.
John then wrote an Epistle, and he says these words. Turn to 1 John 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.
That last phrase is so awesome. That you may know that you have eternal life. What John is telling us is that his epistle was written so that we can have assurance.
So, I’m going to give you, from the book of 1 John and from other places in Scripture, tests for you by which you can examine yourself. The stuff from 1 John comes from Paul Washer. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Test 1: 1 John 1:6-7
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
· If you claim to be a Christian but your occupation is the things of darkness, then you are a liar!
· The word walk is important…is your life marked more by the fellowship of the light or loving the darkness?
· Do you love God? Really? Do you love God?
· If you say you are a Christian and yet your life is more about doing the things that God hates, then you are a liar.
Test 2: 1 John 1:8-10
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
· One of the greatest evidences of a Christian life is that they are sensitive to sin and that they are moved to confession and repentance of that sin.
· Oh, please hear this…we are NOT talking about SINLESS PERFECTION.
· Here’s the question: Are you sensitive to your sin? When was the last time your sin caused you to weep?
· It’s getting cold now. My wife are trying to make our apartment a home, so we went shopping for comforters the other day. We went to one store and got a price 48,000, and we didn’t like the idea of spending that much, so we tried to haggle her down, but she wouldn’t budge. So, we left. We went to the next store and saw the same comforter and asked how much, and he stated the same price. I then lied and said that we had a store that had offered it for 45,000. He said he’d go check if he could go check. The minute he left the room, I felt like I had murdered him. He came back and accepted 45,000 for it, but I felt so horrible that I gave him 48,000 and told him I had lied. I don’t know if he understood what I was talking about, but we made sure to give him the full amount.
· Do I give you that story because I’m some kind of pious person? NO! I’m telling you that because God guards his children.
· Here’s the test—are you sensitive to the sin in your life? When you sin, does it pain you? Does God guard you so that you seek confession and repentance or do you just say, forget it…sin some more! That God pulls you back is evidence you are saved. To keep going is evidence that you are lost.
· Do you excuse your sin?
· If you tell me you have a new relationship with God, let me ask you, do you have a new hatred for your sin?
· Romans 6:20-21: For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
o IS THERE SHAME FOR YOUR PAST?
o We’re going to have Dominos for lunch, and it’ll be very good.
o Here’s what I know. You bring a pig in here, and he’ll go and run to the food trash and start eating that, and he’ll dive around in the garbage. He wouldn’t care that you’re watching.
o But if I were to make that pig automatically into a man, there would be incredible shame in that man for living like a pig.
o Oh, there should be shame in our lives for how we lived.
o You saw it on the panel here weeks ago…teachers in shame over their pasts. For offending God.
Test 3: 1 John 2:3-6
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
· If you keep (present tense) his commandments.
· Do you obey God?
· Does this mean to be in sinless perfection? Nope…it means your lifestyle…your pattern of life is obedience. It’s the same word that we see back in 1 John 1:7.
· If I filmed your life, what would I see?
o Desire to know God
o Desire to obey him
o Desire to have victory
o Repentance if you fail
o Do you desire to walk as Christ walked?
· Do you have a new relationship with his Word and His commands?
· If you say you know Christ and yet your style of life is a violation of God’s commandments, you are a liar.
Test 4: 1 John 2:9-11
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
· Do you love other Christians?
· Do you love to be with people who love to be with those who love God or would you rather be with people who care less about God?
Test 5: 1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
· Do you hate the evil world? Do you hate the world that crucified Christ to the tree?
· “Desires of the flesh, eyes, and pride…it is not from the Father.” Do you allow them to lead you, or do you let the will of God?
· “The World is passing away”—I blinked and I graduated college. 10 minutes ago, I was 18. This life goes so fast. Don’t waste your life.
· Is what you are devoting your life to going to rot? Or, is it going to abide?
· One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time. ~John Piper
· Go hard after Christ—do the will of God! Serve God…NOW! Seek him hard!
Test 6: 1 John 2:22-23
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
· The true Christian embraces the fullness of the person of Jesus Christ.
· He is God in the flesh. He is Lord. He is Savior. He is Prophet. He is Priest! He is King!
· If you believe that, how much are you going to his word to read what he has for you?
Test 7: 1 John 3:10
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.
· Is your desire to follow God’s law?
· Do you walk in righteousness?
· Again, what is your relationship to his word?
· Are you desiring to know his commands and practice them? Are they part of your life?
· 1 John 5:3-- For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Test 8: 1 John 3:3-8
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 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.
· Do you seek to be pure? Do you strive after holiness?
· Could you sit down with me over lunch and tell me what you’re doing to live a pure life?
· Could you explain to me how you are right now striving after holiness?
· V. 4: Or, do you make a practice of sinning. Is it habit? Is it an every day thing?
· Christ came (v5) to take that all away.
Test 9: Colossians 3:1-4
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
· What do you think about Christ?
o Is he but a trinket?
o Is he something that adds value?
o Is he a superstition?
o Or, is he your EVERYTHING?
· Is Christ more important than everything in your life? Do you desire God?
o More than your friends
o More than your computer and technology
o More than your house
o More than what people think of you
o More than your money
o More than every hope and every dream because God is worthy of my all even if it means 70 years of torture and eternity with him
I want to say one last thing:
· Some struggling believers need to hear that I am not talking about sinless perfection;
· I am not talking about “Every Day with Jesus is Sweeter than the Day Before”
· I am not saying that Christ will always be first in your thoughts all the time.
· You will not always be practicing righteousness.
What I want you to see is that Christianity is a style of life and it is a struggle to be righteous. The mere fact that you struggle with not loving him enough is evidence that you are saved; the mere fact that you desire to be holy and yet are not and it pains you on the inside is evidence that you are saved.
I want instead to wake up those who claim to be Christians and yet, who live in habitual sin and love the world or those who see Jesus as an add on…they’re in danger. He who has the son has life and he who has not the son…has nothing.
Is Christ yours?