“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless, I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day”. –2 Timothy 1:7-12
After John Wesley had been preaching for some time, someone said to him, “Are you sure, Mr. Wesley, of your salvation?” “Well,” he answered, “Jesus Christ died for the whole world.” “Yes, we all believe that; but are you sure that you are saved?” Wesley replied that he was sure that provision had been made for his salvation. “But are you sure, Wesley, that you are saved?” It went like an arrow to his heart, and he had no rest or power until that question was settled. Many men and many women go on month after month, and year after year, without power, because they do not know their standing in Christ; they are not sure of their own footing for eternity.
The English minister Hugh Latimer (1485-1555) wrote Nicholas Ridley to say that when he was settled and steadfast about his own salvation he was as bold as a lion, but if that hope became eclipsed, he was fearful and afraid and was disqualified for service. Many are disqualified for service because they continually doubt their own salvation.
The most important question a person will face in life is the one put to twelve men more than two thousand years ago. “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matt. 16:13). In the asking of the question Jesus revealed how He viewed Himself, for there was a self-awareness that He possessed. Jesus did not look upon Himself as the mortal son of the village carpenter Joseph and his wife Mary.Nor did Christ look upon Himself as a mere Rabbi after the tradition of Moses. Jesus looked upon Himself as the Son of Man. The title “son of man” is used often in Scripture.
The language is applied to men in general. Speaking to the prophet Isaiah God said, “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass” (Isa. 51:12).
The language is applied to specific individuals such as Ezekiel. Ezek 2:1-3 “And he [the Lord God] said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. 2 And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.”
The language is applied to the Messiah in all of His splendor and glory. The prophet Daniel was given a glimpse of the glory and majesty of the Messiah and wrote, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13).
Of all the titles that were applied to Christ during the days of His incarnation, the title of preference that He took upon Himself most often, was Son of Man. By using this title Jesus displayed His divine presence.
As the Son of Man, Jesus declared He had power to forgive sins. One day a sick man was brought to Jesus. He healed the man of his physical afflictions, but he did more. He forgave him of his sins. Matthew 9:6 “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”
As the Son of Man, Jesus displayed His sovereignty over creation. In Matthew 12:8 Christ said, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”
As the Son of Man, Jesus will demonstrate His authority over the angels, and His right to judge the universe. Jesus said in Matthew 13:41 that the “Son of man shall one day “send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity”.
Jesus saw Himself as the Son of Man of whom the prophets dreamed, and the Jewish people longed for. In that context, one day Christ asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” “And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist”. The Biblical commentary on John the Baptist is found in John 1: 6-8. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”
Born to the priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth in their old age, John grew up to be an unusual personality in that he moved to the dessert where he ate locust, and wild honey, while dressing in the skins of animals. Despite these personal distinctives, John was a man with a message, and the people gladly went out into the dessert to hear him preach. There is a principle to be recognized: if a man is sent from God and has a message, God will supply the hearers. And so the people of Palestine went out to hear John preach, despite all the hardships involved doing that.
So powerful was John’s preaching souls were brought to repentance, and then salvation. So uncompromising were his principles, that John was arrested, and put into prison. While in prison he was beheaded. Word spread that John was risen from the dead. “Lord, some think you are John the Baptist”, replied a disciple. “Others think you are Elijah.”
Elijah was the fiery prophet of the Old Testament, who appeared suddenly on the stage of human history during the days of Ahab. Ahab reigned as king over Israel in Samaria for 22 years (873 BC – 853 BC).
The first words the Bible records about Elijah are found in 1 Kings 17:1. “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
From that dramatic entrance, the spiritual authority of Elijah grew to the point that he was able to challenge, and defeat, the priest of Baal, in a battle of the Gods on Mt. Carmel. “Lord, some people think you are Elijah or maybe Jeremiah.”
Jeremiah, whose name means “Jehovah will lift up,” was the second of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He was the son of Hilkiah, a priest of Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin (Jer 1:1). The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was still young (Jer 1:6). It was in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Josiah (626 BC), a time when the nation was filled with false prophets and teachers—much like the religious community in America today.
When Jeremiah began to preach, and to call people to repentance, he was persecuted to the point he had to flee from the hostility of his fellow townsmen (Jer. 11:21) and even of his own family (Jer. 12:6). There are not many people who will tolerate being told directly, or indirectly, that their beliefs and behavior are contrary to sound doctrine. And so the movement begins to destroy the messenger in order to silence the message. That is always much easier to do than conform to the will of the Lord.
From his hometown, Jeremiah settled in Jerusalem. He thought he would keep silent. He decided he would not preach, but live in peace with all men. Why should he lift his voice to protest what people said and did? Let them have their way! But the Word of the Lord became like fire in the bones of Jeremiah. The message of God burned in his heart, and he could not keep quiet, even though he understood that those who knew him best would soon persecute him the hardest. They stopped believing in his message and methods.
The people of Palestine withdrew their emotional support for the prophet of God. They withdrew their financial support. And they began to talk to one another how to silence his voice, and find someone they could control. But when the new voices were heard, God came down and said, “Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD” (Jer 23:32). There is a Christian tradition that the Jews eventually [at Tahpanhes] stoned Jeremiah to death. “Lord, some people think you are Jeremiah.”
Then Jesus asked the disciples, “But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Herein is the answer to the great concern on how to have assurance of salvation. Believe without reservation that the Son of Man is the Son of the Living God. Faith in Christ becomes the basis of a blessed and eternal hope. Of course there is practical fruit that will be produced from this root of faith.
First, those who are born again will live as children of God. In Galatians 2:20 Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ, and no longer I live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul knew with full assurance that he was a child of God by experience. He says, “I live,” meaning “I live this heavenly life, the life of a child of God, not in the future in heaven, but here and now in this world.” These words of Paul have been written down for the edification and comfort of others. Every person can discern whether they have been born of God by answering this question: “Am I living in this world by faith in the Son of God?” Paul lived by faith. Peter lived by faith in the Son of God. So can you, and so can I.
Second, a person can have assurance of salvation by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8:16 Paul writes, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” In the heart of every Christian there will be an internal witness of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will testify to our spirit that we are children of God. Oh, what a great source of comfort that is!
Third, the Holy Spirit will come to whisper to the heart that the divine adoption has been successful. At the moment of salvation many wonderful gifts are given to the sinner so that his state is radically and forever changed. One of the grace gifts of salvation is that of adoption. In Romans 8:15 Paul writes of how believers are adopted by God. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Because of the new birth, the believer begins to immediately recognize God as heavenly Father. The Spirit of adoption gives the believer understanding of a new relationship by witnessing to the inward spirit and causing the heart to cry, “Abba, Father”.
Fourth, there will be a new consciousness of sin. Those who are not born of God are not worried about sin. They have no consciousness of it. But the people of God are conscious of their sin, as we read in Romans 7 and other places. This consciousness of sin will increase throughout the lifetime so that the believer will feel compelled to say with Paul, as he did near the end of his life, “I am chief of sinners.” Being conscious of failures, and sins against God Almighty, is another sign of salvation.
Fifth, another sign of salvation is that the world will reject the message that is placed upon the heart of the believer. In 1 John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” If the world does not like you as a Christian, it is a sure indication that you no longer belong to this world, but to the family of God.
I hope young people in particular will listen to this point, and take notice. Always fear the approval of the world! If you have the approval of the world, there may be something wrong with your lifestyle. But if the world hates you for Christ’s sake, then you may have some confidence that you are a child of God.
Sixth, there will be a desire for God. If a person is a child of God, there will be a nature desire for God and spiritual matters. In Psalm 42 we read, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”
It is not wrong for the heart to examine itself and to ask, “What do I pant after?” “What do I desire more than anything else?”
For some, it is the smell of the leather in a new Lexus 430.
For others it is a relationship with the opposite sex.
Still others are enamored with possessing as many toys as possible.
If upon examination the heart discovers it longs for God as its greatest desire, it is a sign of salvation.
A final sign of salvation is a love for God, and for others. A clever evangelist by the name of Bob Harrington use to say that some people have just enough religion to “bug em instead of bless em”. Other people have enough religion to make them hate but not enough to make them love. It was not too many days ago in the state of Georgia a group of white young people in high school decided to hold a prom, and not invite their black classmates. Cultural prejudices still run deep in the south. Knowing southern culture, it would not be unsafe to say that many of the young people, and their parents, would profess to be Christians. But their religion has not taught them to love. If we claim to be Christians but do not love God and His people, our claim is false. If we love God, we will naturally love those who are born of Him.
In his book Too Busy Not to Pray, Pastor Bill Hybels invites Christians to do the following. “Sometime when you’re in an airport, observe the difference between passengers who hold confirmed tickets and those who are on standby. The ones with confirmed tickets read newspapers, chat with their friends or sleep. The ones on standby hang around the ticket counter, pace and smoke, smoke and pace. The difference is caused by the confidence factor.
If you knew that in fifteen minutes you would have to stand in judgment before the Holy God, and learn your eternal destiny, what would your reaction be? Would you smoke and pace? Would you say to yourself, “I don’t know what God’s going to say. Will it be ‘Welcome home, child,’ or will it be ‘Depart from me; I never knew you’? If you do not have assurance of salvation, then let me invite you to call upon the name of the Lord for grace and mercy. Tell God you are a sinner, and by faith will receive Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Then, you can thank God for the unspeakable gift of eternal life. You can leave here today confident that you are His, and He is yours. Amen.