“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? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
After John Wesley had been preaching for some time, someone said to him,
“Are you sure, Mr. Wesley, of your salvation?”
“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, Mr. Wesley, that you are saved?”
The question flew like an arrow to his heart.
Wesley had no emotional rest, or extensive spiritual power in his life, until that question was settled.
Many men, women, and young people go month after month, and year after year, without spiritual power, and without peace in their hearts because they do not know their standing in Christ; they are not sure of their own place in eternity.
The English minister, Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), wrote his friend Nicholas Ridley, to say that when he was confident about his own salvation, he was as bold as a lion.
However, when personal salvation became uncertain in his mind, he was fearful and afraid, and was disqualified for service.
Many professing Christians feel themselves disqualified for spiritual service because they continually doubt their own salvation.
How can a person help someone else who is uncertain about their own faith, and do not know where they themselves are going in eternity?
Billy Graham tells of a Crusade he held in a small town in the south.
During the day he went to mail a letter.
While walking the streets, he stopped a young boy and asked him if he could tell him where the Post Office was.
The little boy gave him directions.
Then Billy said he told the young boy that he was an evangelist and was preaching. If he came to the Crusade service, Billy said,
“I will tell you the way to heaven. Will you come?”
said the boy.
“You can’t even find the Post Office.”
It is good to know where we are going.
And we can know our eternal destiny if we will answer the question that Jesus posed to His disciples.
The question is recorded in the gospel of Matthew.
“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).
By asking this insightful question, Jesus revealed how He viewed Himself. There was a self-awareness that He possessed, as we all do. Jesus did not look upon Himself as the mortal son of the village carpenter Joseph and his wife Mary. Jesus knew He was different.
When He was twelve years old and staying inside the Temple for two extra days, Mary and Joseph sought for Him. When Jesus was found He said to her, “Why did you seek me? Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” Jesus meant no disrespect to Mary and Joseph. He just knew He was the Son of the Living God.
When He reached maturity and began to minister, Jesus did not look upon Himself as a mere Rabbi, after the tradition of Levi. Jesus looked upon Himself as the Son of Man, a term for the Messiah.
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. Jesus forgave him of his sins. Jesus did that so the man, and all others, might know that “the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6).Only God has the power to forgive sin.
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.” While we worship God on the Christian’s Sabbath, or Sunday, we must be careful not to make any day the object of our worship. That is the sin of the Pharisees. They began to worship the Sabbath day, more than the Creator of the Day of Rest.
As the Son of Man, Jesus demonstrated His authority over the angels. When Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death, He could have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world and set Him free. But He died alone, for you and me. No one took His life from Him. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gave His life for His own.
As the Son of Man, Jesus has the right to judge the universe. He will, and He does. Believe that with all your heart. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
Jesus saw Himself as the Son of Man of whom the prophets dreamed, and the Jewish people longed for.
With that understanding, one day Jesus 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. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:6-8).
Born to the priest, Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth, in their old age, John grew up to be a unique personality. As an adult, John chose to live in the desert, where he ate locust and wild honey. He dressed in the skins of animals. He was unusual. 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. 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 John was beheaded for hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, according to the English playwright and poet William Congreve. He wrote these lines in his play The Mourning Bride, 1697. After his beheading, a rumor arose in Judea that John was risen from the dead. That was the hope of many hearts, but it was not true. Jesus had become confused with John.
“Lord, some think you are John the Baptist”, replied a disciple but, “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 from 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 priests 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 also a great prophet of the Old Testament.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was still young (Jer. 1:6). When Jeremiah began to preach, and call individuals to repentance, he was persecuted to the point he had to flee from the hostility of his fellow townsmen, and even of his own family (Jer. 11:21; 12:6). There are not many people who will tolerate being told their beliefs and behavior are contrary to sound doctrine.
If God does not grant repentance, people will move to destroy the messenger, in order to silence the message.
“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.”
If we want to have assurance of salvation then we must 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. But what is faith? Faith is made up of three specific elements.
First, faith consists of knowledge. We must know about Jesus Christ, who is the object of all saving faith. We must know that Jesus died a substitutionary death, that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to Scripture.
Second, faith consists of assent. We must be convinced of the truth of the gospel. No one is ever saved against their will. But, know this. In the hour of salvation, the Holy Spirit makes a person willing to believed. In 1883, Daniel Whittle gave this testimony.
“I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.
But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”
A third element of faith is trust.
True biblical faith is made of knowledge, conviction of that knowledge, and finally trust in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The heart must rely upon Jesus alone for salvation. Many people rely upon, or trust their baptism, church membership, good deeds, their feelings, or their family heritage for salvation. Those who are born again rely or trust exclusively upon Jesus.
This is belief of the heart. All trust is renounced in self, or what the flesh does, and rests upon Christ for what He has done at Calvary, regardless of changing feelings.
Of course, there is practical fruit that will be produced from the root of faith.
First, those who are born again will live as children of God for a holy life brings assurance of salvation. 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 my life as a child of God, here and now, in this world. I live with a good conscience.”
These words of Paul have been written down for the edification and comfort of others. Every person struggling with salvation can discern whether they have been truly born of God by answering this question in their own heart. “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! The Christ believer can say, “I am His, and my Beloved is mine!”
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 of grace are given to the believer so that their 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 who adopts a person into the family of God gives the believer understanding of a new relationship by witnessing to the inward spirit and causing the heart to cry,
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 a child of God is conscious of sin.
Paul looked inward after his conversion and cried out, “Oh wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24, 25).
Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of an unclean people” (Isaiah 6:5).
As a disciple of Jesus, Peter fell before the Lord and cried out, “ Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).
A 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 a sign of salvation.
Fifth, another sign of being born again, which brings assurance of salvation, is rejection by the world. The world will reject the Christian message that is placed upon the heart of the believer. This too is a sign of salvation.
In 1 John 3:1 we read, “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.
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 natural desire for God and spiritual matters. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42). 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 gender. Still others are enamored with possessing as many toys as possible. Some are consumed with money and material items.
If, upon examination, the heart discovers it longs for God as its greatest desire, it is a sign of salvation.
Another sign of salvation is a love for God, and for others. A gifted evangelist by the name of Bob Harrington used to say that some people have just enough religion to “bug ‘em instead of bless ‘em.” There are people who have enough religion to make them hate, but not enough to make them love. If we claim to be Christians but do not love God, His Church, and His people, our claim is false. If we love God, we will naturally love those who are born of Him. Therefore, consider this question.
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?”
Will the Lord say,
“Welcome home my child?”
Will the Lord say,
“Depart from Me. I never knew you?”
If you do not have assurance of salvation today then the gospel command is this.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Call upon the name of the Lord for grace and mercy. Say this prayer. “Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I want to be saved. I want to go to heaven when I die. I ask Jesus to forgive me and give me assurance. Amen.” 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.