As the world has all but stopped in place as a result of the coronavirus, it is an important time for us all to stop in place; not before a virus, but before God. Where do you stand before God? Are you sure? The ultimate test of faith is death, but it is a test we only take once. The Bible says it is appointed to man to die once and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). There are no decisions points at death. Wherever we stood before God when death comes, there we will be forever. The world was struck by the suddenness of death with the helicopter accident that took the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and others on the helicopter. We realize how suddenly and completely life on this earth can come to an end. The pause in place that coronavirus has brought is a gift for us to be sure we know what death will bring us.
The Bible is a very honest book. It tells us that we each need a Savior and that there is salvation in no one else but Jesus. Acts 4:12 states in words spoken by Peter, an Apostle, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” No other name, no other religion, no other way to salvation but the name of Jesus. But how does Jesus save us? How can we be sure? We know we can have certainty as 1 John 5:13 promises. However, Jesus warned us that many people will think they are Christians and call Jesus Lord, yet death will prove they are not (Matthew 7:21-23). It isn’t that these people had salvation and lost it, but that they were never saved. Here is the danger: they thought they were saved. So how do we resolve this tension: I can know I am saved, but I also could be self-deceived? It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul wrote in 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!” The purpose of the test is to realize that Jesus Christ is in you. That is what makes true Christians different from anyone else, that Jesus Christ has come to live in them as they live in Him. So what does that look like? What is the test? Let’s take our time and make sure we understand.
There are some analogies the Bible uses to describe salvation. Let’s start out with two that are most helpful. In doing this we will also use the Apostle Paul as he describes himself in Philippians 3 as a model for us of what it looks like for someone to be saved. What it looks like for someone to be in Jesus, and for Jesus to be in him or her.
It is marriage that helps us realize that salvation is not some static condition we are either in or not. Salvation is a dynamic relationship with Jesus, comparable to a man and woman in marriage. The Apostle Paul used that analogy of marriage in 2 Corinthians 11:2 when he wrote, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Someone who is betrothed has entered into a formal marriage covenant. What makes marriage real is not the status of being married. What makes marriage real is that you live in a vital, intimate relationship in which you share life together. If we are true to the spirit of marriage we aren’t getting married for the status. We are getting married for the relationship. We desire to be married to Jesus and live in a faithful, intimate relationship with Him from the
point of our betrothal. We turn from all other loves and live in devotion to Him. Our motivation for being Christian is so much more than escaping judgment and going to the presence of God at death. We want to give our lives to Jesus and live with Him in the intimacy of a relationship in which, from the point of betrothal, we live to know Him and to share life together with Him. So, does this describe you. Are you living in a vital committed relationship with Jesus in which you live to share life with Him? We will learn more about entering that relationship, but let’s capture the thought. The point of marriage is not the status. It is the relationship the status brings. The point of salvation is not the status of being saved. It is what the status brings: to be in a dynamic covenant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another way of describing being saved is being a worshiper. As created beings we have a likeness to God so that we might be in a relationship with Him. We were made to love and worship Him. The point of worship is to give God as the One worshipped the praise, honor, glory, love He deserves. When Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman as recorded in John 4, she was a woman with a failing history. She had been married five times and was living with a sixth man without being married. Yet Jesus said He wanted to give her the gift of living water (John 4:10). He told her she was someone God the Father was seeking. He said to her in John 4:21-24, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” As those who come to God through Jesus, we become worshipers. All of life has the purpose of making
great the name of God through His Son, Jesus. All of life — our heart, our time, our talents, our treasures, our relationships — become resources to use in worship of Jesus. Revelation 5:12 says of Jesus, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Do you live to worship Jesus? Do you see all of life as opportunities to use in spirit and action to glorify Jesus? If what it means to be saved is to become a worshiper of Jesus, does that describe you?
To see what it looks like to be in a saving relationship with Jesus, we will use the Apostle Paul as he describes himself in Philippians 3. We will see four parts to his relationship with Jesus, but let us understand the Apostle Paul is not some exceptional Christian who is rare. The Apostle Paul describes himself in Philippians 3:15-17, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” So, let us examine the Apostle Paul carefully so that we can understand what it looks like to have a real and growing relationship with God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle describes his ambition in life as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ in Philippians 3:7-11, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Everything in Paul’s ambition before God is expressed in the desire and worth of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. The word “know” describes knowledge gained through a relationship. He wanted to know Jesus in truth. But we often think of truth about Jesus as information gained through knowledge. But Paul wanted so much more. He wanted to know Jesus in relationship. Let’s think of the three names Paul used for Jesus. “Christ” means “anointed one.” In Hebrew language it is “Messiah.” The Bible promised that God would raise up from the Jewish people an “Anointed One” who would bring salvation and lead us to God (Psalm 2:2). He is Jesus. As promised by God, Jesus was born of a woman, conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is an historical figure whose life we can learn about through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). He is Lord. Jesus is God to us, and we surrender the leadership of our life to Him. “Lord” becomes not a word we use as much as a life we live. As Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Let’s do a basic description of God. The Bible in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-18 gives us some basic knowledge. It reveals that there is but one God who is eternal, and it is He who created all things. We learn that while God is one, He exists eternally as three distinct persons — one, yet each unique. One is not the other, and yet together they are one. The three are God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. John reveals that Jesus was one the who created all things on the Father’s behalf using His Word and the Holy Spirit. The Bible reveals that man was God’s last work of creation. We were made in His likeness as spiritual beings. We were made to know Him and to glorify Him. In making us for love and for worship, God gave us a will, so that our choices would be meaningful. But we used our freedom to rebel. Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, denying God loving obedience and worship. God, rather than destroying us in the judgment we deserved, gave us a promise. He promised that there would be one born of the seed of a woman who would make a way for our hearts to be changed, for our sins to be forgiven, and for us to be adopted as the children of God.
This passion to know Jesus is rooted in the confidence that Jesus is the promised one. That He became God in the flesh. No one before or since has ever seen God the Father, but Jesus as His Son is the full representation of Him. Jesus has come to call us back to relationship (the bride of Christ), to love and to worship. Faith is to welcome Him, to commit to Him, to trust Him, to live a life committed to obey Him as Lord. The one who puts their faith in Jesus is spiritually born again. John put it this way in John 1:11-13, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” There was a moment in time when the Apostle turned to Jesus. He put his faith in Him. He lived to love Him, to spend his life with him (bride of Christ), to worship Him through his praise in words and actions. He followed the simple command of Jesus who calls in
Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The Apostle Paul made that change of direction in his life, and every day became a new opportunity with purpose to know and follow Jesus.
The Bible, by the work of its author the Holy Spirit, becomes the source for us to know Jesus. As we read the Old Testament, we learn of the promise of Him, and we see the need of Him. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus. It gives us the practical knowledge of what it looks like to know Him and to seek to become like Him. It gives the promise of the everlasting kingdom He will bring. The great truth about Jesus is that He is unchanging. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The same Jesus revealed in the Bible is the One who is calling me to Himself. Jesus by the Holy Spirit makes the Bible real, alive, personal. This life of living to know Jesus is resourced with the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, living in me and making it possible for me to know Jesus.
The second part of Paul’s life of faith, was a hunger to be righteous before God, knowing that only Jesus is able to make a person righteous before God. To be righteous is to be compared to the law of God and to be found innocent. The law of God in its essence is described in love. To be righteous is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To be righteous is to love our neighbor with a selfless love. Yet none of us has perfectly done this.
Before knowing Jesus, Paul sought to have righteousness by how perfectly he followed the law of God. This was a righteousness that came by works and performance. Once he knew Jesus, Paul says he saw all his works and performance was like garbage before God. Paul, like the rest of us, found he could not meet the standard. He fell short (Romans 3:23). He realized that his works, rather than being satisfying to God, had brought His judgment. His sin had separated him from God. It had earned him spiritual death, separation from God. It had brought him the warning of eternal death in judgment. The wages of his sin was death, and he could not pay the fine (Romans 6:23). The importance of being righteous, meeting the standard of God, is to be holy before God.
Holiness is vital, for without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
Paul realized the holiness before God that he desperately sought comes to those who put their trust in Jesus. A righteousness that comes by putting your full trust in Jesus, by faith. The law of God says the soul that sins must die in judgment for that sin (Ezekiel 18:20), but the law of God also allowed someone to take our place in judgment. The one who takes our place must be a man like us, and he must not be guilty of sin himself. The only person who has ever lived a sinless life is Jesus. Thus Jesus could take our place in judgment before God and the Law, and that is what He did. Jesus died taking the judicial wrath of God for our sin. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because Jesus fully satisfied the law and paid the full price for our sin, we can be declared righteous before God when we put our faith in Jesus. Paul stopped trying to be righteous by performance and found righteousness by resting in faith in Jesus.
Paul in his life in Jesus also wanted to live in the resurrection power of Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit who made Him alive. That same power now belongs to those who live by faith in Jesus. That is important personally, as I cannot live a righteous life by my own power. I was made to live with the life of God flowing in me to empower me to live for Him. As Christians we have the spiritual desire to obey and trust Jesus. Our spirit is willing, but we still lack the strength on our own to live it. We are as Jesus told Peter: our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Thus we consciously and continuously seek to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We also know we need the resurrection power of Jesus to make our service and our witness effective. We seek to minister and serve others by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us.
Fourthly, Paul wanted to share in fellowship with Jesus in suffering. The Bible says that all who live godly lives will suffer persecution. We know we have a spiritual enemy that seeks to overcome the work of Christ in us and through us. We know a true passion for Jesus will at times turn our family and others against us, but we know Jesus is with us in all of this. Paul understood that it is in suffering that he comes to best know Jesus. We know Him much better through suffering than we do in the flow of resurrection power.
The desire to know Jesus was a daily passion for Paul. He wanted to know Jesus and to become like Him. Paul knew that this passion to know and become like Jesus took daily focus. It was a relationship when, like a wife, he wanted to make his life in Jesus and share it with Him. He wanted to live a life of worship, and each day was new opportunity. He wanted to become more and more like Jesus in character, and that took a new day’s focus. He put it this way in Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
So does this describe you? If this is what it is like to meet the test of being a true Christian is this you? Do you want it to be? Every life of faith starts with a single step of faith. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your past has been, whoever calls on Jesus in genuine faith will be saved. In the Christian life it doesn’t matter so much where you are it is where you are going. Each day is the new day to follow Jesus.
You can start this new life with a simple prayer. “Dear God, I know I am a sinner. I am sorry for my sins and I want forgiveness and help to live in new direction. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who became man to take my place in judgment for my sin. I believe that He died, paying that price. I believe on the third day He rose from the dead in resurrection triumph. I believe He has made it possible for salvation to be a gift if I come to faith. I want that gift. Forgive my sins. Come to live in my life. Jesus, I will live to follow you from this day on by the grace you give. Help me do it. Amen.”
A great way to start you life of following Jesus is to start daily with the Word of God and prayer. The Gospel of John is a great beginning place. Go through it slowly. Go with a prayer, “Lord Jesus, I want to know you, help me know you through this Gospel.” From there the book of 1 John is a practical book to help us in daily life.
Let’s encourage one another on this journey. If you are making new commitment share it. Help others to know the hope and help you are finding in Jesus. Live as the bride of Christ building your home and life in Him. Live in worship of Him with each day new opportunities to bring Him praise. God bless you as you do.